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The Last One Forgotten

ON OCTOBER 6, 2017, BRUCE PERKINS CELEBRATED his 73rd birthday in the Louis Powledge prison unit near Palestine, Texas. His fellow inmates at Powledge include Warren Jeffs, the convicted pedophile, former head of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints, and Eddie Ray Routh, who was convicted in 2015 of murdering Christopher Kyle, the military sniper featured in Clint Eastwood’s film American Sniper. Unlike Jeffs and Routh, Perkins does his time in anonymity rather than in infamy, his case having been completely ignored by the press for a quartercentury. In 1993, Perkins was sentenced to four 30- year terms for aggravated sexual assault, based on testimony from what were almost certainly false memories. He is the longest-serving, and last-remaining prisoner in the U.S. whose conviction was facilitated by therapists during the moral panic of the 1990s, when the American mental health industry seemed to have lost its mind.

The panic was part of a broader aberration in clinical psychology, a discipline that in the 1980s and 1990s still lingered in a Freudian cloud. Those were also the years of alien abductions, multiple personality disorders, and satanic cults. All of those strange ideas obsessed over unconscious and repressed/recovered memories. And they all disappeared astonishingly fast. By the 2000s, extraterrestrials had stopped abducting people, devil cults had disbanded, the American Psychiatric Association had downgraded Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) to “dissociative identity disorder,” and psychologists had quit recovered memory therapy. Bruce Perkins, on the other hand, has never quit prison. He’s a reminder that the abuse of a pseudoscience often outlives the pseudoscience itself.

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A review of The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning.
A review of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker.
A Review of It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear by Gregg Easterbrook.
A new Netflix documentary purporting to provide proof of alien visitation fails to deliver: A review of the film Unacknowledged
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