A Perfect Storm of Inaction


"(I)n a society composed entirely of honest whistleblowers the introduction of just one 'company man' inevitably resulted in the complicit behaviour spreading like a virus to the whole society."  And so we learned from two University of Bath doctoral students that a "tendency to follow the herd rather than whistleblow may be part of our evolutionary past".  But among embattled whistleblowers, formulations of this question occasionally emerge: "If organizing is the weapon of the oppressed, why are we stuck on mobilizing?"  Then came Spring 2015 and answers from  Shreya Mandal, JD, LCSW through her article, Why Calling It Trauma Minimizes American Torture.


Dr. Mandal explains:


When applying international human rights standards to issues such as violence against women, incarceration, detention, etc. the U.S. standard falls egregiously short in its medical semantics for domestic torture. In this regard, there is a sense of imperialism that is attached to the word, 'torture,' as if it is something primitive and only happens within the boundaries of indigenous cultures, not westernized ones. Yet, it is a nation like the U.S. that is in the technological position to carry out torture practices whether in broad daylight and in plain view or clandestinely.

A 2007 peer-reviewed study confirmed that ". . . psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, and forced stress positions, (do) not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanism of traumatic stress, and their long-term psychological outcome."   See, Başoğlu M, Livanou M, Crnobarić C. Torture vs Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment:  Is the Distinction Real or Apparent?. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007; 64(3): 277-285. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.64.3.277.  In fact, "(v)arious forms of ill treatment, whether physical or psychological, might share the same mechanisms of traumatization as torture and therefore lead to similar psychological outcomes."  See, Başoğlu MMineka  S. The role of uncontrollable and unpredictable stress in post-traumatic stress responses in torture survivors. Başoğlu MedTorture and Its Consequences: Current Treatment Approaches. Cambridge, Mass Cambridge University Press 1992; 182-225.

In 2005, the nonprofit corporate sponsor of this project, The Third Degree, spearheaded outreach to the entire U.S. Congress for Americans who "have had their patience and emotional stability wrenched by seemingly unaccountable government agents and agencies."  The same constituents were among those inspiring a 2010 submission to the United Nations as part of America's Universal Periodic Review.  Yet in 2015, their quest for relief must again extend to foreign shores as evidenced by the project at hand.  Surely such a protracted ordeal (i.e., both the advocacy and underlying legal difficulties) lessens if not eliminates the ability of those involved to sustain both monochronic endeavors and also thoughtful, multi-faceted advocacy characteristic of major, effective reform efforts. Other conduct, such as maladaptive behavior consistent with severe traumatization, generally undermines the credibility and effectiveness of activists, particularly those pursuing fundamental reform of America's legal system.  So it can be no surprise that America's grassroots legal reform community seems filled with people paralyzed by frustration or capable of little more than ad hoc protests, almost no matter their credentials and resources.  Such a profile is befitting any cognizable group of people regularly persecuted if not tortured through U.S. legal system abuse.