“This was in six different newspapers in January and February.” Adding; “The big failing internally, and this is where Mark comes into the picture, is the deliberate incuriosity of the senior executives; there is a culture of avoiding knowledge so as to evade responsibility.”Mr. Thompson, who has since moved to New York to serve as the chief executive and president of the The New York Times Company, later admitted another reporter had made him aware of Newsnight’s Savile investigation, but only after the report was buried. Appearing on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation radio program, The Current, psychologist and author of the forthcoming book, ‘Betrayal Blindness,’ Dr. Jennifer Freyd describes a kind of institutional amnesia that takes hold of people who so completely fear losing their sinecures. Freyd’s research began with children betrayed by family members, people essential to the child’s survival, and the repression of memory psychologically necessary for the victim’s existential continuance. In these cases, the need to live trumps the sense of injustice and impropriety done, a sense arguably inherent, in effect short-circuiting danger signals that would otherwise trigger a fight-or-flight response. Extrapolated to an institutional setting like the BBC, where producers, directors, talent handlers, (and even lowly technicians) may be privvy to rumours, the choice to acknowledge and inform against wrong-doing could jeopardize not only an individual’s career, but could possibly endanger the show employing all her colleagues. Dr. Freyd outlines a few key points, saying: Often people betrayed personally seem to not remember the betrayal. They don’t acknowledge it, or speak to others of it; as if it’s something, “in the corner of their eye, not something they’re looking directly at.” Like the proverbially “last to know” spouse being cheated on, denial is refuge. From their observations at the University of Oregon, Dr. Freyd and her colleagues formulated a theory and conducted studies to understand this apparently willful ignorance, coming up with the concept of “betrayal blindness.” Freyd observes, for a person caught in this dilemma of choosing either to know what is going on, or protecting the relationship, especially where the survival of the victim is, or is believed to be at stake, protecting the relationship will come first. Of the Savile case she notes:
“Some individuals were presumably aware of what was going on, and made the conscious decision not to deal with it because it would get in the way of their own goals. But, in order for this to stay undercover, the way it did for so many decades, it also requires a lot of good people, who would want to tell the truth, didn’t let themselves fully know what was going on. So, the institution setting is a kind of trust situation, where people need that institution, need it for a number of goals that they have, and by being aware they risk their own comfort within that institution. So, without consciously knowing it, they push the information away; they don’t speak out, they don’t fully know, and thus they collude with the perpetrator and with the individuals who do know and don’t want to talk about it.”In her essay, ‘Lies in a Time of Threat: Betrayal Blindness and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election,’ Eileen L. Zurbriggen cites Freyd’s work, applying some of her findings to the electorate, or mass mind. Zurbriggen remarks upon exit polls taken during 2004, where Bush supporters, by a large margin, claim “honesty” to be among their core concerns in choosing a candidate. The release of these polls, at a time when the litany of Bush administration lies leading to the invasion of Iraq were widely known perplexed the researcher. To make some sense of the dissonance, Zurbriggen invokes the Betrayal Trauma Theory, or ‘BTT’. Most extensively studied were victims of child abuse, where BTT finds memory impairment increases the closer the perpetrator is; that is, if the abuser is a family member, or someone perceived to be existentially integral, the victim suffered correspondingly greater. She argues, because the president embodies a protector figure, specifically amplified in the case of “war time” president, George W. Bush, voters who perceived Bush as their defender were unable to recognize, even after the facts were known, his layers of lies and misrepresentations leading to war and disaster. According to Zurbriggen, it may not simply be that Bush supporters just didn’t want to know the truth about his mendacity, or were merely too dim-witted to realize it. She offers, they were being taken in by a psychological correlative linking threat perception to an inability to recognize BS. Or, as she puts it, a “blindness to deception.” With another American election on the near horizon, and Bush era threat mongering an accepted strategy for both camps, it’s important we now remember to be unafraid. If we are to choose between easy and hard truths, let’s leave the road well-travelled and allow courage be our companion. There are real dangers out there to be sure, and we cannot face them properly if habituated through terror into denial. Zurbriggen offers advice for the necessary separating of lies from truth, saying;
“Political activists have long argued that resistance and social change are most effective when they are collective (rather than individualistic) projects. One reason for this effectiveness may be that taking collective action breaks the feeling of dependence on politicians and the government, leading to many positive outcomes, including an enhanced ability to judge the veracity of governmental pronouncements.”Yes, there are real monsters, like Sir Jimmy Savile and his perverse crew out there, but they can only do harm when allowed to remain in the shadow of our fears. Author Chris Cook is managing editor at www.pacificfreepress.com based in British Columbia, and also radio host of the weekly public affairs program, Gorilla Radio, regarded as one of the best, and long running shows in the alternative media sphere. See more of Chris’s articles here at his Gorilla Radio’s blog.