I wrote last week about a bogus online personality ‘test’ of 48 questions that Jobcentre Plus is forcing claimants to complete on behalf of the DWP – bogus because whatever answers you select, or even if you select none at all and just click next, you get the same or very similar answers.
From further investigation, it became apparent that this ‘test’ – forced on claimants as a ‘Jobseeker Direction’ that can result in ‘sanction’ of benefits if not obeyed – is being used as a tool to manipulate and intimidate terrified benefit-claimants, with the result that many could lose benefits simply for not being computer-literate, or even literate at all. That this is being done in a context of claimants committing suicide because of the fear of losing their benefits is utterly immoral.
That series of posts has been one of the most commented-on that I’ve written – and the more information that comes out, the bleaker and more damning the picture gets. That the ‘test’ and the issues around it show a callous disregard for human welfare and even human life on the part of Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Tory front bench is hardly contestible. But there is an even more damning revelation.
The ‘test’ that the DWP ‘borrowed’, and is forcing unemployed people to take on pain of losing their benefits, was devised by a US psychologist alleged to have devised psychological-torture interrogation programmes for the US military and the CIA.
The questions the DWP has ‘borrowed’ come from the ‘Values in Action Inventory of Strengths’ test devised by Christopher Peterson and Martin ‘Marty’ Seligman. In 2001, Marty Seligman allegedly convened a ‘counter-terrorism and psychology’ meeting at his home, attended by, among others, the alleged creator of the CIA torture program, Dr. James Mitchell, and CIA Director of Behavioral Sciences Research, Kirk M. Hubbard.
Following this meeting, the CIA hired Dr Mitchell’s firm, Jessen and Associates, to devise an interrogation programme. In the same year, 2002, Kirk Hubbard invited Prof. Seligman to give a 3-hour lecture to the Navy SERE school in San Diego on his ‘learned helplessness’ concepts – a lecture attended by Mitchell, Jessen and Hubbard, and co-sponsored by the CIA.
Later the same year, the APA (American Psychological Association) amended its ethics rules to allow psychologists to ‘override’ their ethics when following orders from the CIA and the military, and the ‘enhanced interrogation’ programme – including the now-infamous ‘waterboarding’ technique and locking detainees in a ‘dog box’ – was launched.
A series of meetings, seminars and ‘workshops’ spun off from this, and an ethics ‘task force’ was launched by the APA to oversee the process – with 6 of its 10 members being psychologists employed by the CIA and military.
The results of the programme have been publicised, with journalists and even the occasional supportive politician undergoing waterboarding to see whether it’s as bad as has been claimed. As far as I know, no one has been able to bear it for very long.
In 2010, anti-corruption procurement processes were bypassed to aware a $31m, ‘no-bid’, sole-source contract to the University of Pennsylvania’s ‘Positive Psychology Center’ for training US soldiers in resistance to interrogation. The unit is directed by Prof. Seligman.
These may sound like ‘conspiracy theory’ ravings, but they are documented facts. You can read about them in a document published by the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology here.
That the DWP is threatening people with the removal of their benefits if they don’t take a test that provides meaningless answers is deeply worrying – and caused me to use the term ‘psychological torture’ to describe it.
But that the DWP and its contractors are using a test devised by a man who appears to be closely-associated with actual psychological torture by military and intelligence organisations makes the whole matter even more damning – and one that should be occupying the attention of Parliament and the media.