REALLity Check

by David Bloomberg

There has been a great deal of interesting media activity lately. Here are some of the high (or low) points.

On the FMS Front(line)

As many of you already know, PBS had a special four-hour Frontline investigation, "Divided Memories," into repressed memories. I have only had a chance to skim it so far, but between what I've seen, what I've talked to people about, and the over 20 reviews I've read, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that it will appear in my "REALLity Checklist -- 1995 in Review" as the best investigation.

Every one of those reviews I read have discussed how unbiased the piece was. Similarly, every person I've seen discussing it on the "repressed memory survivor"-type computer conferences has attacked the show as completely biased against them. Since much of the documentary simply allowed the therapists to talk or show their methods, I find it difficult to understand how this is biased -- their own words and deeds did them in.

I think TV Guide said it best in their review: "Although the presentation is evenhanded, with equal time going to accusers and accused as well as to mental health professionals on both sides of the issue, the result is a devastating indictment of the repressed-memory crusade."

At almost the same time as the Frontline piece, George Franklin's repressed-memory-based murder conviction was overturned by an appeals court. Briefly, Franklin's daughter claims to have suddenly recalled witnessing him kill a friend of hers when she was a young girl (the girl's body was found, bludgeoned to death, but the case was never solved). As it turns out, the "memories" did not return suddenly, but under therapy in a "relaxed" state close to hypnosis. She revised her tale to fit in any discrepancies (for example, she originally "recovered" a memory of being raped by a black man, but changed it to her white godfather).

Both Dateline NBC and Joan Beck, in a Chicago Tribune Op-Ed piece, discussed whether the "memories" were repressed or therapy-induced. Now that his case has been overturned, we can hope that either the state will realize that they have no actual evidence to retry the case, or that the court will recognize the unsound nature of Franklin's daughter's "memories."

And in the "It Was Bound to Happen" department, claims of repressed memories entered into the OJ trial in March. Max Cordoba, a black man who the defense claimed was threatened and racially insulted by Detective Mark Fuhrman, originally did numerous interviews in which he denied that it ever happened. Now, however, he claims to have recovered the memory of it happening.

This former Marine sergeant says he was so scared when Fuhrman supposedly pulled back his jacket and displayed his gun to Cordoba (without ever touching it), that he repressed all memory of it. Need I say more?


On April 3, the State Journal-Register published their finest article ever. Ok, so maybe I'm a little biased. In case you haven't guessed, the article was about REALL.

Doug Pokorski, who wrote an article about us before our first meeting and who has followed our progress since then, wrote a two-year update on our activities. He especially focused on my recent appearance on the Downey show, getting pushed by Dorothy Allison, but expanded on many of our other activities and topics.

It's this type of media exposure which helps us to reach others in the community who may not know about REALL. Thanks, Doug!

Downey Update

Incidentally, Dorothy Allison's predicted date for a major break in the murder case she was supposed to solve has long since passed. Several weeks after that date, the police found a skull and a hand which belonged to the same woman -- Allison didn't predict that. But they appear to be no closer to actually figuring out who committed the crime. With clues such as "he has bad knees" and "he drives on this road" coming from Allison, the famed psychic detective, I just can't understand why they haven't solved it yet...

Wonder of Wonder, Miracle of Miracles

Miracles, miracles, everywhere -- but especially in Italy, where there are supposedly at least a dozen statues crying bloody tears.

Some of these cases have already been debunked, according to a Chicago Tribune story (4/9/95), such as one in which the "blood" was tinted olive oil and another in which it was red paint. One is particularly intriguing, though, because a test has shown that the tears are, in fact, real male human blood. A judge has ordered that the blood be DNA tested to see if it matches anybody in the family who owns it. No word yet on the results.

Time magazine had a special issue on miracles, but there was nothing in it that was new. As you may know (if you already read the Chairman's column), I was invited to appear on Oprah to discuss miracles, but instead put them in contact with Joe Nickell, who did appear.

Homeopathy & Vaccinations

Once a week, Channel 49 (in Springfield, 3 in Champaign/Urbana) has short pieces by Dr. Dean Edell. On March 16, he talked about homeopathy and some disturbing news from Britain.

As he pointed out, while homeopathy is based on ideas that are completely contradicted by everything we know about physics, it is still gaining popularity. He pointed out that taking homeopathic drugs won't harm you, but they won't cure you either.

However, a recent study in England shows that those who believe in homeopathy may be causing harm to their children due to those beliefs. This study showed that more than 20% of parents who refused to vaccinate their children did so because of their beliefs in homeopathy. Some of the parents were quoted saying homeopathy is "the best way to protect my child." One said homeopathy, and not vaccinating, allows "the body to experience normal illness." As Dr. Edell pointed out, we hope the "normal illness" the child experiences isn't polio or whooping cough.

So while homeopathy, itself, won't hurt these children, their parents' ignorance may.

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