Huffington Post Censors Mothers’ Rights Activists


This article is cross-posted with permission from Ms. Blog.

Earlier this month, Arianna Huffington announced the Huffington Post’s latest section: HuffPost Divorce. Her plug: “Breaking up is hard to do… but reading about it isn’t.” Upon Monday’s launch, however, there appeared a column that women’s rights advocates took very hard: a piece by Dr. Richard Warshak promoting the discredited “Parental Alienation Syndrome,” or PAS.

Parental alienation is a dangerous custody-battle concept that has been used primarily against mothers, and in particular, mothers trying to protect themselves and their children from hostile or abusive ex-partners and fathers. As R. Dianne Bartlow explained in her Summer 2010 Ms. article, “There’s Nothing Friendly About Abuse”:

PAS theorizes that most accusations of child abuse (especially sexual abuse) made during a custody battle are actually fraudulent. Not only are the charges false, says the theory, but they are deliberately undertaken by one parent (in most cases, the mother) to “alienate” the child from the other parent (generally, the father).

Frighteningly, PAS has allowed abusive or otherwise hostile fathers to gain custody of their children and then forbid the children contact with their mothers.

Yet parental alienation is not accepted as a valid theory by the American Psychological Association, and was rejected from the DSM-V. Without a real psychological definition, it has devolved over the years into a label for any negative testimony about the father by the mother (even if it’s true). It’s also now promoted as gender-neutral, but the parent most often labeled the “alienator” remains the mother. It’s also one hell of a cash cow for psychologists who make a living from it.

In keeping with all this, Warshak’s post, “Stop Divorce Poison”, gives an overly simplified description of “alienation” that could describe nearly any hostile or cantankerous relationship: “persistent bad-mouthing, lies, exaggerations, overlooking positives, and drum-beating negatives.”

A half dozen domestic violence and motherhood activists, including myself, descended upon Warshak’s column to leave comments describing how discredited PAS really is. But, as I witnessed and others report, by the evening of November 9, most of the comments (nearly a dozen) posted by critics had been deleted in the space of five minutes. According to those I’ve spoken with, deleted comments contained valid source material from professional organizations citing:

  • how discredited parental alienation really is
  • how parental alienation did not make it into the DSM-V
  • how it is used primarily as a weapon by abusive fathers against protective mothers

Here is an example of a comment that was removed:

 

Another activist and I wrote to David Flumenbaum and Arianna Huffington to inform them about the censorship of opposing, critical views. Both of us received an email in return from Social News Editor Adam Clark Estes, who wrote:

I’ve double-checked the comments and all of those missing were removed in accordance with HuffPost’s commenting guidelines. You can read more about those here:

www.huffingtonpost.com/p/frequently-asked-question.html#moderation

That said, we’re in touch with Dr. Warshak about his comments and will do our best to keep the conversation flowing in the future.

When considering the above screenshots (pure facts devoid of non-objective commentary) it’s unclear which part of these guidelines apply:

(I) The Huffington Post welcomes all users to join our community and to comment and treats all members of the community equally.

(II) We want the Huffington Post to be home to open, transparent conversations in which people connect, discuss, share ideas, and debate the issues.

(III) We are also committed to maintaining a non-toxic atmosphere.

(IV) In order to preserve a functional and civil conversation, we do not allow trolls, trollish behavior, or stalking.

(V) Members of the HuffPost community deserve to be free from spam, and we do not allow posting the same comment multiple times within one thread or on multiple threads.

It’s frustrating that the supposedly progressive HuffPost has given a platform to Dr. Richard Warshak, one of parental alienation’s most fervent supporters, but won’t give the same platform to its commenters.

On November 10, activists returned to the article to comment; it remains to be seen if their comments will be deleted–or whether they’ll fall victim to HuffPost-moderation’s thin skin. If a blog can delete comments opposing their viewpoint, then what’s the point of comments? You might as well change the name to “compliments.”

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  • jo

    I was censored by him – many times. He’s only kept comments up that agree with him – even if they’re downright lies (like PAS passes the Frye & Daubert test standards).

     

    He’s also acting like he helps battered women – more lies. Battered women have lost their children to exes who claim alienation. The only proof they need to use is that their kid fears them. Some help.

     

    He is a fraud. The only thing he cares about is making money off his books, DVDs, and unethical & costly ($40,000) “treatment center” that forces (sometimes by the police) children to be reunited with a parent that could’ve physically or sexually abused them.

     

    He’s poison.

  • dvsurvivoradvocate

    In my mind, having a “discussion” about PAS is confusing because PAS is made-up fiction so it’s almost like arguing the existence of the Tooth Fairy.  So Warshak says “It does TOO exist” and we say “No it doesn’t; here’s the proof” and that’s threatening enough for him to just erase us altogether.  

    I don’t understand how a media outlet like The Huffington Post can actually support such non-sense but what’s truly more disturbing is courts and professionals accepting the fiction as fact, with abused and traumatized children as the result.  

    Putting a dollar (or $5 – the going rate I hear) under the pillow doesn’t change the fact that you’re down a tooth.  Abuse is abuse and we don’t need any fairy tales to distract, sugarcoat or divert our attention away from that fact.

  • tyler-collins

    I am only here because other protective mothers have coaxed me into coming back. I value a right to free speech. When I want a nice safe place to talk I can go somewhere where only people with like opinions gather. In a public forum such as this I expect to see both sides in black and white and a variety of opinions. Protective mothers have gag orders to deal with and to have them further censored on pages written by a person who is in support of PAS is more than a slap in the face. Normally I permanently boycott businesses that do this, and encourage many others to do so. As I said, other protective mothers have encouraged me to give your publication a second shot and I have read some really great articles on here. Because of the gag orders, when you censor one protective mother, you censor the voice of a thousand more. The ones with gag orders have to speak through the ones who don’t have one.  Thank you for this article, we do appreciate it. It is ashame how the judges in family court give their power away to psychologists, guardian ad litems (who are not attorneys in many states but have taken as less as 4 hours of training), child protection workers and volunteers by following their “expert” opinion on what has taken place. If a judge follows the laws, PAS is not allowed. If they follow the loopholes that allow the corrupt experts to testify, it gets in. The abuser does indeed succeed in further abuse to the mother, which is his goal. What he doesn’t realize is the harm this causes in the children. If you have ever seen the video of Jean Paul Lacombe as he is taken off the bus, screeming his dad hits him, and hearing the police man assure him that his father will not hurt him, you can begin to understand that when authorities do not believe the children, those children will grow up not respecting authority. I see a future of women in children who will not report abuse or call the police. I also see a future of women and children who will not seek help for mental illness, even if it is needed for PTSD issues, because it will be used against them in court. These men who are pushing this PAS are not able to see what it is doing to our society as a whole, but it will show in this next generation.

  • crowepps

     The abuser does indeed succeed in further abuse to the mother, which is his goal. What he doesn’t realize is the harm this causes in the children.

    I think abusers DO realize the harm they cause their children but they consider causing that harm both unavoidable and irrelevant, since the entire focus of all of their behavior is THEMSELVES and their own mental health issues.  They literally aren’t capable of parenting children because they’re still stuck in childhood and dealing with ‘mommy issues’ themselves.

     

    That’s obvious when you hear their defense of men who have killed their children during custody disputes.  “If SHE hadn’t MADE HIM do it by FORCING HIM OUT” — Women leave abusive men when they finally get it that the men are so sick that they are CAPABLE OF killing their own children.  The fact that his response is to make every attempt to do exactly that proves HER point, not his.  He’s nuts now, he was nuts BEFORE she left, and he was nuts before she ever met him.

  • mariekw

    The only time I have ever seen what may be a case of PAS was when the FATHER was telling the children all kinds of lies to alienate them against their MOTHER.

  • crowepps

    I’ve also seen cases where grandparents and an aunt were telling the children all kind of stuff about a parent.  Even saw one case where the person trying to manipulate the kids was a babysitter.

     

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be lies, either.  It is totally inappropriate to tell children truths about adult issues like which of the parents cheated on the other or when somebody started dating or what’s going on in the custody case or what a psychologist or drug treatment professional said during a court required evaluation.  All of that weirdness is about the needs of the dysfunctional adult who wants to score off/punish someone.

     

    It is also totally inappropriate to try to guilt trip the kids with garbage like ‘I sure will miss you on Christmas but Mom won’t let me come over to see you’ or ‘Mommy will sure have a lonely summer while you’re having fun with Dad’.   It is NOT the children’s responsibility to meet the needs of the adults.

  • duketate

    Everything I have seen on this blog regarding Huffington Post Censors Mothers’ Rights Activists – so far – has been gender bashing. Most of you tend to describe the issue in overly simplified terms, and as being just one sided – with mothers being wronged.

    Majority of commenters – including the blog author, a self described “erotic romance and sex writer” – do not offer any professional counter arguments except quoting self proclaimed experts on the subject with no formal training in psychology or psychiatry.

    It would be much more interesting if this was a two-way conversation, instead of being a whining forum.

     

  • arekushieru

    Everything I have seen on this blog regarding Huffington Post Censors Mothers’ Rights Activists – so far – has been gender bashing. Most of you tend to describe the issue in overly simplified terms, and as being just one sided – with mothers being wronged.

    If that’s the case, then you can’t read very well, not only the comments but the actual article, itself.  Gardner, himSELF, said that PAS cannot have pre-existing scientific validity and is an initial offering, ONly.  So, he’s in aGREEment with the “self proclaimed experts on the subject with no formal training in psychology or psychiatry”.  Does that make HIM a “self proclaimed expert(s) on the subject with no formal training in psychology or psychiatry”, then?  If not, one has to question why you believe something that even the  more accredited side (or more accredited side, i’y’ho) disagrees with, or, if so, why you accuse only one side of a lack of credibility.  Methinks you doth protest too much.  And NEIther did any of the commenters make one-sided comments.  They have presented credible evidence to support the fact that  the *majority* (not all, as you seem inclined to believe that majority ‘really’ means) of domestic abusers are men.  The *majority* of men who like to use any means available to them to control their victims (who are USually women, meaning NOT always, since they are sometimes men).  One such method is to accuse mothers of PAS.

    In fact, you haven’t provided ANY evidence, at all, whether it be to refute the idea that the majority of domestic abusers ARE men, to refute the idea that PAS is simply another tool that an abuser can use OR to refute the idea that PAS is not a real, medical, scientific diagnosis.  Guess it’s not WE who are the whiners, eh?