NIHILISM, SOLIPSISM, AND ABSOLUTISM
AS APPLIED TO THE DESTRUCTION
OF THE HUMAN CHARACTER
ALBERT D. BIDERMAN
Bureau of Social Science Research, Inc.
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Georgia
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York · London
MANIPULATION OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR Copyright
© 1961 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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THE INTERROGATOR AS MALINGERER,
AND INTERROGATION AS THE SYSTEMATIC ACTUALITY
AND DISSIMULATION OF PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
While the psychopathology of an interrogator has been an historic and traditional asset, in a completely deniable and unacknowledged set of values, and given in entirely different terms and descriptions as measures of the potential for success in the use of interrogation procedures, the psychopathology of a successful interrogator must fall below an upper bound for protracted and enduring success. If the details of the handling of the subject [“S”] while in the custody of military, intelligence, or law enforcement personnel, comes to the attention of the public (which is a subject worthy of a body of study in its own right), the appearance of the procedures used as being blatantly psychopathological can compromise a host of military, intelligence, and law enforcement operations; military missions, intelligence programs, and criminal convictions may lose most or all of their value, personnel may have to be replaced, and training costs may increase proportionally.
The incidence of public and political embarrassment for administrative or supervisory personnel is not generally considered a positive development either. Political authority is delegated by the public at large, with a minimum condition that the power and authority so transferred be used in ways that are not inimical to the narratives of ordinary daily life. The appearance of that authority being used to further the pathological impulses of those in authority clearly constitutes sufficient grounds for that delegated authority to be revoked by the public, and placed in more capable hands.
It therefore becomes necessary for interrogators to dissimulate a level of psychopathology they do not actually possess. While the systematic use of Nihilism, Solipsism, Credentialism, and Absolutism require a level of psychopathology which is not blatantly abnormal, (this is all that is required of the pedagogist in general, active and passive indoctrinaires, and the interrogation instructor specifically, after all) the specific methodologies of interrogation do require a notable simulation of psychopathology, and the subject must be thoroughly convinced by the performance, at the risk to the interrogator of their original sense of character within a normative narration; will their protracted, repeated, and demanding role in narratives of moral conflict eventually become a personally and socially pathological reality?
If you play such a role in your profession, this analysis has as much value to you as it can have to anyone.
MALCOLM L. MELTZER
Historically, the problem of psychopathology has been the development of techniques which would discover and make apparent emotional pathology that is not immediately evident. Screening tests, lie scales, observational and interview procedures have all been devised with the primary intent of unmasking the potentially or actually disturbed individual who masquerades behind a front of defensiveness and superficial social conformity. [Personnel being certified to exercise positions of authority are routinely examined for their mental and psychological competence, in part to avoid the worst and most provocative abuses of that authority.] The opposite type of unmasking, i.e., of the feigning or simulation of emotional illness which is not in reality present or is exaggerated to an extreme degree, has received comparatively less attention. Murphy (65) has written an excellent history of malingering and has shown that the problem of simulation has been present since Early Greek and Biblical times. Although the simulation of psychosis or of epilepsy has a long history, more attention has been given in the past to the feigning of diseases of single organs, and the development of laboratory techniques which would differentiate the sick from the well. The malingerer, on his part, has shown amazing resourcefulness in keeping abreast of the literature and in devising counter counter-measures.
The simulation of mental illness by captured prisoners of war is a potential, and perhaps effective, technique for evading interrogation. In almost all cultures, the mentally ill person cannot be held accountable for his actions, is considered incompetent, and is not expected to give a rational account of himself, his past, or his environment. [emphasis mine] The prisoner of war, faced with coercive interrogation, and reluctant to betray his country and friends, might choose this as an honorable alternative which favors self-preservation. Certainly this has become more frequent among persons charged with serious crimes in courts of law. The increasing popularization of the mental health movement and the publicity attendant to the M'Naghten Rules and the Durham decision may lead to a further confounding of criminal acts and mental illness. This chapter is not concerned with the moral or ethical aspects of this problem [Should this be surprising? Why not?], but rather is directed toward understanding how malingering may become a factor in situations involving the interrogation of a resistant source by a captor.