A book about the SRA scare by Paul R McHugh

July 7, 2009

I’ve come across some reviews of a book, written within the past year, about the recovered-memory aspect of the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare: Try to Remember: Psychiatry’s Clash over Meaning, Memory, and Mind by Paul R McHugh.

A review by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, in Metapsychology, contains the following:

If you read carefully the acknowledgement section, as I did, and look into the background of the publisher, you will discover another aspect of the author’s public life. Paul McHugh, in addition to being a psychiatrist, is part of the right-wing cum religious network which was has been so influential in the United States since the 1980s. The Dana Press, which published this book, operates as part of the Dana Foundation, headed by William Safire, speechwriter and ardent supporter of Richard M. Nixon. And so the “memory wars” in this context turn out to be part of the “culture wars” in United States politics, with promoters of repressed/recovered memories being on the left, and their opponents being on the right.

This is not accurate. In fact, the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare cut across the left/right divide, with both supporters and opponents on both sides. As Beit-Hallahmi goes on to say:

I must admit that this idea took me by surprise. While the fantastic accusations against parents certainly reflect a refusal to respect tradition and authority, and feminists were prominent among them, the sex and Satanism allegations drew the support of many religious individuals and organizations. Most of those who challenged the repressed memory movement were by no means right-wingers.


McHugh’s political and religious views clearly have no bearing on his sound analysis of what ails psychiatry and the whole “mental health” industry in the United States and around the world.

I agree.

Here are some other reviews:

These reviews are a good overview of the “recovered memory” aspect of the panic.

Also I found an interesting relevant news article, Unraveling The Secret Of “Alters”: Doctors Are Of Two Minds About Multiple Personality Disorder by Tracy Smith, CBS News, March 8, 2009. Personally I suspect that McHugh may be going a bit too far with his denial that MPD/DID exists at all.

3 Responses to “A book about the SRA scare by Paul R McHugh”

  1. Raven Says:

    So… because McHugh’s book is published by a publisher connected to a foundation headed by William Safire… that means McHugh’s own personal opinions are in line with Safire’s?

    This seems quite a dubious argument, amounting to guilt by very distant association.

    Poll the published authors you know. How many of them say their political or religious opinions line up in every respect with their publishers’ opinions, and their publishers’ associated organizations’ heads’ opinions?

    Good grief, how many newspaper reporters agree with their own publishers? Those are two groups famous for differing.

  2. Diane Vera Says:

    Apparently Paul McHugh does not agree with William Safire about everything, but he nevertheless apparently is a religious right winger — at least if he’s the same Paul McHugh discussed here, referencing a New York Times article in which “McHugh describes himself as religiously orthodox, politically liberal (he is a Democrat) and culturally conservative — a believer in marriage and the Marines, a supporter of institutions and family values.” He seems to be a major enemy of the transgender community.

  3. Raven Says:

    Mmm. A little bit of cognitive dissonance for me, at the clash of “religious right winger” with “politically liberal”.

    Generally the term “Religious Right” refers, not to “religious conservatism,” but to the “religious front of *political* conservatism” — which is why, for instance, the movement supported non-churchgoer Ronald Reagan against the devout Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter and Methodist Walter Mondale.

    It might be clearer to call McHugh a “religious conservative” and not mix in the “right-winger” term when its political overtones would in this case be misleading.

    Of course, the source you cite naturally has some rather strong feelings about McHugh, but that may not be conducive to clarity on the subject.

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