Saturday, February 26, 2011

If you Google Monica Pignotti, Please Read This First

If you Google "Monica Pignotti" (pronounced peen-yocht-tee) I am asking that people read this posting first in order to provide some background for other material that may come up under my name on Google and other internet searches.

To date, a recent informal analysis that anyone can verify by doing the searches themselves, showed that there are more than 1000 such postings which indicate that someone is spending a great deal of time and effort attempting to discredit me. Bizarre anonymous postings proclaim I am a kook, a professional cultist, a Scientologist, a quack, a terrorist, a racist, a religious bigot, a hatemonger, a home wrecker, a sex toy, a prostitute who exchanges sexual favors for endorsements, an adult bookstore employee, "unfit to teach", a paid shill, a book burner, mentally ill, a narcissist, internet addict (akin to calling the victim of rape a sex addict), obese, have poor hygiene, am a fraud and more. Of course, I am none of those things.

Additionally the lie that I was "fired from FSU" and when I offered a link to FSU's website providing irrefutable proof that I graduated, they made up another lie that I was "allowed to graduate" but "fired" -- this too is demonstrably false and I have the references from people who knew and worked with me at FSU to substantiate that I left FSU only because I graduated and left in good standing in every way with respectable teaching evaluations. The fabrications of sexual misconduct are particularly ludicrous, given that because I have in my distant past, been a victim of rape, I have been extremely selective about having any kind of sexual relationship with anyone and in recent years, by my own choice, have not been in any kind of sexual/romantic relationship whatsoever.

I am none of the names I am being called. Why, then, are people angry at me? It seems to come with the territory of what I do. What I am is a whistleblower and someone who has scholarly publications on potentially harmful mental health practices and obviously this is seen by some of the zealous proponents of these practices as akin to being a terrorist. It's one of the occupational hazards of what I do, which is investigate and expose questionable mental health practices. Additionally, do not assume any quotes attributed to me are accurate, as another tactic of the cyber smear campaigners is to put quotes around words I never wrote, or to alter my writings in such a way that it changes the meaning, or the favorite of the propagandist, quoting things out of context. More recently, after publishing some of the data from my dissertation in a peer reviewed journal, which is a completely accepted, legitimate and highly encouraged practice, the anonymous smear campaigners are saying this is "fraud". No, publishing ones dissertation data is completely legitimate and doing so is considered a plus.

To date 47 of my colleagues have had the courage to sign a statement of support for me with regard to the the anonymous smear campaign against me.

I am not alone and have joined a long line of scholars such as Susan Clancy, Richard McNally, David Gorski, and Elizabeth Loftus just to name a few who have been maligned with smear campaigns for doing nothing more than wanting to learn and reveal the truth about the topics they study. As scientific mental health scholars who dared to venture into territories of other people's vested interests and/or deeply cherished beliefs, those unable to refute them, attacked and threatened them. Now, it is my turn to be attacked for wanting to investigate, learn and disseminate the truth about interventions directed against perhaps the most vulnerable in our society: foster and adopted children and individuals with developmental disabilities.

As noted in the description of this blog, one of my professional missions is to shed light on evidence or lack thereof for certain widely practiced mental health interventions. My CV reveals a number of peer reviewed publications on this topic, both single-authored and co-authored with highly respected psychologists, with social work scholars and developmental psychologists and child advocates and I recently was granted a PhD from Florida State University.

However, such criticism has come with a price and as a result, I (along with some of my colleagues) have been the target of anonymous attacks on the internet that have no basis whatsoever in fact or present facts in such a selective way as to distort the truth. For example: I have never called for the eradication of the internet as lies that come up on a Google search in my name falsely claim. A statement I made in the heat of a debate where I was under heavy personal attack, was taken out of context. The fact is, I am all in favor of internet and other technology and probably have used it in my teaching more than the average instructor does. Had the remark I made been put into context, readers will find that I simply made the uncontroversial observation that the internet is tool that can become a double-edged sword: it can do a great deal of good or a great deal of harm when it is used as a tool of cyber abuse as has been done to me and a number of others -- a statement I would imagine few would disagree with.

I cannot prove who is behind those attacks other than the obvious fact that attackers are in some way, supporters of the approaches we have criticized, as evidenced by the fact that in a number of postings, the attackers simultaneously praise the therapies and key proponents who we have criticized while attacking us.

There are a number of interventions being practiced, even by certain licensed mental health professionals, that make strong claims for their effectiveness in absence of evidence and some may even be dangerous. Such approaches are typically promoted on the internet by self-proclaimed "experts" and in the media using testimonials and anecdotes and/or self-published books, in absence of evidence in the form of peer reviewed randomized clinical trials to demonstrate safety and efficacy. In the past few years my colleagues and I have published a number of critiques of certain therapies for children. These critiques have upset supporters of such therapies to the extent where they have found it necessary to engage in anonymously posted smear campaigns that have made allegations about me as well as a number of my colleagues, as well as an advocacy organization that exposes such practices. The allegations against us have no factual basis whatsoever or consist of highly selective out of context distortions about us.

All kinds of anonymous bizarre allegations come up on Google searches on my name that are so far off the charts, I have been told by colleagues I respect that they do not even deserve the dignity of a response so I will not attempt a point by point rebuttal. That would be like playing whack-a-mole with the seemingly endless variations and waste time that I can better spend continuing my scholarly work.

For anyone who has questions about my credibility with the scholarly community due to anything they have read about me online, I would urge people to look at my publications and speak to my colleagues who are highly respected people in the profession who can vouch for me. I can provide references upon request to any person willing to give me their name and a verifiable professional affiliation and I can provide documentation of all my credentials and the fact I have a completely clean record. I am not the first person to be attacked in this manner, nor am I likely to be the last.

In many ways, the internet is still very new and how we choose to deal with such matters today may well determine what happens to people in the future who take a stand and suffer unjust consequences. The more who are willing to take a public stand, the less power people with no substantive rebuttal who instead find it necessary to engage in such attacks will have. Thank you for understanding.

Note: This posting has been imported from my Psychourney Blog, Monica Pignotti, MSW. That blog (along with all the psychjourney hosted blogs on Typepad) was discontinued as of February 15, 2011, due to the closing of its host, Psychourney.

which had the following comments:

Thank you Monica for speaking your truth on this! I am one of many who appreciates your courage and perseverance. David

Monica Pignotti's Response:
Thanks for your support and also thank you for speaking up against the very ugly behavior that has been occurring on Fairfax Underground for the past year or so. Some people have advised not to respond to this ugliness at all, but I disagree. I see this as a social psychology phenomenon where most people, when encountered with a publicly abusive situation stand by and say/do nothing. Saying nothing doesn't make these folks go away. On the contrary, the smear postings continue to appear on Fairfax Underground even though I have not been responding to any of the recent ones (the website owner who apparently supports this smear campaign, has actually blocked me from posting there anyway). In my opinion, the way to stop these cyber thugs and bullies is to do exactly what you did: call them out on their horrible behavior. The more people willing to stand up and let them know that what they are doing is not viewed as cool or okay, the better.