Refutation of the disinformation about Monica Pignotti

Posts tagged ‘Florida State University’

Monica Pignotti and Florida State University: Setting the Record Straight

As detailed in the lead article on this blog, I have been the target of an ongoing internet smear campaign for the past two and a half years, which has included the posting of highly defamatory fabrications about my life and career by individuals who are upset by my expression of concern and criticisms of the claims being made by proponents of certain mental health interventions.  The purpose of this posting is to set the record straight regarding my relationship with Florida State University (FSU). Here are the facts:

  • I attended FSU from 2006 to 2009 as a PhD Student/PhD Candidate..
  • I graduated from FSU with a PhD in 2009.
  • While I was a PhD candidate I was a teaching assistant and also independently taught courses at the College of Social Work to undergraduates.
  • All PhD Social Work Students and Candidates at FSU are paid a set amount every year for their first three years (at the time I was there, it was $12,000 per year, although it may be more currently). In exchange, the student is a research assistant for the first two years and teaches during the third year and in some cases later years for as long as they are a student/candidate.
  • All of my teaching at FSU was done under the above arrangement. I only taught as a PhD Candidate.
  • FSU Social Work has a policy against hiring their own PhD students as tenure track faculty and since priority for non-tenure track is given to existing students, once someone graduates, they do not teach at FSU, not because they were ‘fired’ but because that is the arrangement.
  • I have not been “fired” from FSU.
  • No student ever complained about my teaching. Since FSU is very diligent about giving their instructors feedback, they definitely would have let me know if anyone had.
  • I received acceptable teaching evaluations. Several students commented that they found me highly approachable, easy to talk to, kind, tolerant and open minded. One of the questions on the evaluation asked if the instructor was arrogant and 0% (none) of my students agreed with that statement (I mention this because the lie has repeatedly been posted that my students found me arrogant and dogmatic when precisely the opposite was the case).
  • I never, at any time, was involved in any kind of sexual misconduct whatsoever.
  • I never, at any time made any derogatory remarks about faculty, students or anyone else at FSU.
  • I left FSU in good standing in every way.
  • Since graduating from FSU, I have delivered a number of guest lectures to both Graduate and Undergraduate social work students at FSU, the most recent being two in October 2011. These were lectures that I was invited to give, something that obviously would not have been possible, had I been “fired”.
  • To anyone with a legitimate reason, I can provide references of people I actually worked with at FSU who can verify all of the above.

The following falsehoods have been posted about me and FSU:

  • The lie that I flunked out of FSU. Click here for proof that I graduated.
  • After I presented irrefutable proof from the FSU website that I did, in fact, graduate, the lie was posted that I was allowed to graduate only because FSU was afraid I would sue them. This is ludicrous defamation, not only against me, but also FSU. FSU would never allow someone to graduate out of fear of lawsuit. In fact, PhD students and candidates are evaluated on a yearly basis and FSU has not hesitated to dismiss PhD students or candidates who were not performing up to par. I passed all my evaluations, fulfilled all the requirements ahead of schedule and was the first in my particular cohort to graduate. My transcript, which I will provide to anyone with a legitimate reason for needing to see it, demonstrates that I fully and honestly met all the requirements, including a 3.9 GPA and passing my preliminary examination and dissertation.
  • The additional lie was posted that I graduated and then was “fired”. Again, this is false. All of the teaching I did at FSU was as a PhD candidate. I held no other position at FSU because, as I mentioned above, they have a policy against hiring their own graduates in tenure track positions and give priority to their candidates for all the others, so there are no open slots for graduates to teach there. The fact, verifiable via my references, is that I left FSU in good standing in every way.

The following absurd fabrications were posted about me and FSU. Although absurd and unlikely to be believed, I want to state them here, for the record, just to demonstrate how sick and ugly this smear campaign has gotten. I am not mentioning the names of the faculty members because I do not want to add to the way in which their names have already been denigrated.

  • The lie that I called a faculty member a “bag lady”. I would never call anyone by such a derogatory name.
  • The lie that I denigrated a faculty member for wearing sexy clothing and called her a “tramp”. Again, an absurd lie.
  • The lie that I propositioned two faculty members who are a married couple and that they reported me and had me fired for “voyeurism”. I was not fired and this is a complete fabrication.
  • The lie that I called for the end to the College of Education and that their dean asked to have me “fired”. On the contrary, I hold a certificate in statistics and measurement from the FSU College of Education and have never said anything negative about them.
  • The lie that I “wasted class time” talking about my experiences in Scientology and “time travel”. I have never discussed my experiences in Scientology with any of my classes, nor have I discussed “time travel”.  The only time I have discussed Scientology at all is when I presented some scholarly qualitative research that was done on it, which was a relevant topic of the course being taught.
  • I have also been denigrated by smear campaigners for talking about Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Since I have published research and other peer reviewed articles on TFT, this is a legitimate topic and in fact, I have been invited by faculty members to guest lecture to their classes on TFT and present the research I published in a peer reviewed journal, a controlled study showing no difference between TFT Voice Technology (VT) and a sham VT control group. I also was a guest lecturer, by invitation, to a group of PhD psychology students at SUNY Binghamton. Again, this was all by invitation by people who obviously found my work in that area of enough value to their students to want me to speak to them on that topic and I obliged them. The feedback I received on my presentations was very positive.
  • That I “wasted class time” talking about “being single”. Although I have done no such thing, what I have done is spent time presenting on discrimination and stigmatization against people who are single. Again, I have published research on this topic in a top ranked social work journal. This is a legitimate topic, given that diversity is part of the social work curriculum and in fact, I was invited by one of the FSU faculty members to speak to his diversity class on this topic.

These are the facts about my relationship with FSU. If anyone has further questions, I will be glad to address them.

Anonymous Poster Responds to Monica Pignotti Statement of Support with More Lies

The anonymous poster has now responded to the Statement of Support for Monica Pignotti.

In this statement, thus far as of May 17, 2011, signed by 47 psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals, reasonable requests were made, that:

We, the undersigned, unequivocally oppose the cowardly and unethical behaviors of the internet posters, and strongly affirm Dr. Pignotti’s right to raise legitimate criticisms of their therapeutic practices without fear of false and defamatory attacks. Criticism of therapeutic practices that lack empirical support and may be harmful is vital for the profession and we are deeply concerned that smear campaigns could discourage others from engaging in public scrutiny of these and other practices. We call on the internet posters to stop such practices immediately. We further call on the posters to publicly identify themselves and to voice their criticisms in the form of clear descriptions of their concerns, using recognized venues such as peer-reviewed articles rather than in the form of baseless personal attacks.  Additionally, we ask that any prospective employers of Dr. Pignotti not allow the actions of these posters and the fact she has chosen not to remain silent, to impact their hiring decisions.

The response was all too predictable, although it will be interesting to see whether the individual, if he does decide to harass the universities of the people who signed, will have the courage to put his own name to this or will try to do the harassment anonymously.

[Update: Since this response was received and I passed it along to those who already signed and those who I asked to sign since then, my support is only growing stronger and some of the new signers have provided me with the complete contact info for their affiliation and no one has withdrawn their support, in spite of the fact I fully informed them of this threatening response. Obviously these are people who are not going to allow bullies to intimidate them by threats to tattle to their institutions when they have done nothing wrong.]

I post the response, in full, to demonstrate how malicious this smear campaign has become [my responses are noted in blue].  Nomen Nescio, Latin for “name unknown” is a generic name of an e-mail address that renders the sender anonymous. It hides their IP address, making such e-mails or postings very difficult to trace. Other common generic names under which the smear campaigners have posted include George Orwell and Anne Onime.

From: Nomen Nescio <nob…>
Date: May 8, 11:01 am
Subject: Monica Pignotti: EPIC FAIL
To: alt.religion.scientology

Monica Pignotti has sealed her fate.

There will be NO compliance with the “demands” in the statement on her website.

[Interesting, since what was called for (the word “demand” was not used in the statement) was quite reasonable: For the anonymous posters to identify themselves and rather than attack me, clearly state their actual concerns in recognized venues. Instead, they choose to continue their current smear campaign consisting of red herrings, personal attacks and outright fabrications. The response is that there will be “NO compliance” with our request that they conduct themselves as decent human beings. This says more about them than it does about me or those who signed.]

Many of the signatories to her strident manifesto, such as Bruce Thyer, have vested interests in concealing the truth about her. Efforts to disseminate the TRUTH about her will continue, unabated.

[No “TRUTH” has been concealed about me. I have been more than open about my past, far more than most people are about their activities of their youth and most of what has been posted about me are lies that, if the poster put his name to them (e.g. saying I was fired from FSU when I was not), would likely be actionable in a court of law.]

In addition, the institutions whose faculty members have been foolish enough to sign this document will be contacted and retractions will be demanded. If these people wish to speak out, let them speak on their own.

[It will be interesting to see if this harassment is also conducted anonymously and if so, how universities would respond to “demands” and threats anonymous individuals who are upset because they are being asked to conduct themselves as decent, honest human beings. Whether or not the complainers identify themselves, they are in no position to “demand” anything.]

Some facts about Monica Pignotti:

1) She dropped out of college to join Scientology. She spent years in this crazy cult, and rose to the highest levels, containing scientifically unsound beliefs about alien warlords and the atom bombing of volcanos. While in Scientology, Monica Pignotti became romantically involved with Quentin Hubbard, one of the children of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

[It is no secret that I was involved in Scientology, although I was never “romantically involved” with Quentin although he was an adult when I knew him. What this neglects to mention is that this is ancient history. I left and repudiated Scientology in 1976, 35 years ago, returned to and completed college and eventually went to graduate school and got an MSW and an PhD]

[2) After leaving Scientology, Monica Pignotti became a devotee of Roger Callahan and his bizarre therapies, Thought Field Therapy and Energy Therapy. These systems claim to heal by tapping the body and at the most advanced levels, diagnosis is performed over the phone. Pignotti stopped practicing energy therapy and used her inside knowledge to criticize it.

[That was 20 years after leaving Scientology. Again, this is no secret that I practiced TFT, although the “diagnosis” is not mental health or medical diagnosis. TFT is simply tapping on acupressure points on the body (like acupuncture without the needles — hardly considered “bizarre” and actually acupuncture is accepted in many mainstream hospitals although I have my own criticisms of it). I did not practice “Energy Therapy” and have no idea what it is, nor does Callahan have any therapy by that name. Perhaps the misinformed person is thinking of Energy Psychology, also not Callahan’s but an offshoot of TFT that I never practiced). As for TFT, I stopped practicing it over 7 years ago and many of the people who signed this statement have been aware of this since I left and have given me great support. This will hardly come as news to them.]

3) Pignotti entered academia. She was dismissed from a teaching position at Florida State University (FSU) for several reasons. First, she made obscene sexual propositions to faculty members. Second, many students complained that she wasted classroom time with anecdotes about time travel, Scientology, Roger Callahan, being single, and her dislike of geology.

[This is a libelous statement. If the poster put his name to it, this would be actionable in a court of law, possibly even as libel per se. I was not fired from FSU, nor did I engage in any of the activities mentioned, although I have on a number of occasions been invited to guest lecture classes on the topic of  Roger Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy and pseudoscience and also on discrimination against single people. Those lectures, where I presented my research on TFT and reviewed research on single people, were well received and legitimate and no complaints were made about them and lecturing on those topics certainly would not be grounds for dismissal. I have no idea where the reference to “geology” came from since this is not my area of expertise and have never said I “disliked” it. Anecdotes to illustrate a point are an acceptable and highly encouraged aspect of good teaching. I obtained my PhD from FSU and left only because I graduated and FSU does not hire their own graduates in tenure-track positions. My teaching at FSU was not as a faculty member, but as a PhD candidate to fulfill a yearly stipend I and all PhD students and candidates received the first three years in the program and possibly beyond, but cease upon graduation.]

[4) Monica Pignotti spent several years aligned with a fringe medical group. The head of this group, Larry W. Sarner of Loveland, CO, has bachelor’s degrees in political science and mathematics, and is unqualified to evaluate psychological interventions. Sarner bilked lenders and investors out of several million dollars on a scheme to develop and deploy voting machines. Even though Pignotti, for whatever reason, has parted company with Sarner, she continues to insist that his voting machines worked.

Red herring alert!

[This is a huge distortion and the voting machine part is a red herring. Larry Sarner is Executive Director of a non-profit advocacy organization I was involved with called Advocates for Children in Therapy. I served on their informal professional advisory board for four years. It is not a “medical group” and it would seem that the only people who have taunted the word “fringe” to describe it are proponents of the practices it has exposed (on the contrary the APA-endorsed APSAC Task Force Report cited publications from people in ACT while they advised against the practices ACT criticizes). The impetus for this smear campaign against several people involved in ACT is because we dared to criticize and expose potentially harmful “attachment”, coercive restraint and other similar therapies for children. I have “continued to insist” nothing about voting machines (I made one statement two years ago on a Randi forum which is taken out of context, where I also called them on this red herring, irrelevant to the practices of the therapist we were criticizing). I couldn’t care less about whether they worked or not and I had no involvement in the Sarner voting machine case whatsoever (it was concluded a decade before I even met Mr. Sarner), although based on court documents and docket sheets I have examined, these statements are false, as the cases were all civil, not criminal cases and he was never charged with fraud. The “voting machine” matter is a huge red herring.]

5) Pignotti applied for a position at New York University (NYU). She did not get it. She concocted a fantastic story about how her personal information was compromised, and she demanded that NYU conduct a full investigation.

[I did not “concoct” any fantastic stories. The fact is that although I did not discuss publicly my application for a faculty position, someone, somehow, by some unknown means found out about what should have been kept confidential and posted several times that I applied and then, that I did not get the position, before I received such notification. Lies have been posted about this matter when, in fact, I was considered a qualified applicant and simply did not get it because they decided someone else was a better fit for the position than I was. I have never challenged their decision, which I completely accept,  nor do I intend to. My concerns of how information was leaked, resulting in the obscene postings is a legitimate concern. It is reasonable that applications for faculty positions ought to expect that they will not have the information of their having applied, be publicly posted accompanied by lies about the reasons they did not get the position.]

NYU refused, and has stated, publicly, that they are glad they did not hire her.

[NYU has made no such public statements that I am aware of. If NYU had made any public statements about me of that nature, surely the anonymous posters would have been delighted to link to them or produced documentation, which they have failed to do. Instead, as usual, what we have are unsubstantiated, bald assertions.]

6) Pignotti considered applying for a position at Brigham Young University (BYU) which would have required adherence to the BYU honor code. Pignotti wrote a scathing blog post denouncing the Mormon faith.

[I have not “denounced the Mormon faith”. In fact, since the age of 14, I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I have consistently defended the Mormon faith, even while inactive. Some cult experts such as Steven Hassan consider it a cult and I have defended it as not being a cult and have praised them for their open disclosure of their Honor Code.]

7) Pignotti associates with violent criminals. As an example, Robert Clark, who uses the pseudonym “henri” who has been convicted of making bomb threats against both churches and weather stations.

[I have no association with “violent criminals”. This statement is false on two counts 1) Rob Clark has never been charged with or convicted of any such criminal activity. If he had been, surely the Scientologists would have included documents on their Religious Freedom watch but not even the Scientologists make that claim about him. As I understand it, Clark has since become an attorney and 2) I have no association with Rob Clark whatsoever. The fact that he has been involved in some internet discussions on a public forum I was also on, does not mean I am associated with him. In fact, although he has at times defended me, on several occasions he attacked me.]

So there you have it, folks. The response is brazen as ever. Since no names were even mentioned other than mine in the statement of support and it clearly stated that the posters were unknown, it will be interesting to see what kind of threats the anonymous individuals will make if they do decide to harass those who signed. Will “Nomen Nescio” threaten to sue us all? That would be an interesting case. While “John Does” have been named as defendants, it is difficult to imagine how a “John Doe” or a “Nomen Nescio” could be a plaintiff in a defamation case, which would likely be laughed out of the courtroom.

The anonymous cyber smearers can repeat the lies about me until they are blue in the face but they will still remain lies, no matter how often they are repeated.

Monica Pignotti and NYU: What Really Happened

For more than a year now, the malicious lie has been posted that I was “fired” from Florida State University and declared “unfit to teach”, along with all kinds of other nonsense. As stated previously, this is entirely false and I have references and positive teaching evaluations that prove otherwise. It has become very obvious that someone is very hard at and spending an inordinate amount of time posting falsehoods about me on a regular basis, to try and make sure I do not get a faculty position by posting such lies and hoping the people doing the hiring believe them or perhaps wrongfully blame me as the victim that I must have done something to deserve this. What I did was expose what I consider to be abuse in the name of “therapy” (for example, using outdated prone restraint methods on children with behavior problems rather than empirically supported methods). This is why I am being targeted although 47 of my colleagues have been courageous enough to take a stand with me.

Now, in five separate postings, this lie is being extended to New York University (NYU) [Update May 20: there have now been a number of additional postings falsely asserting that NYU has made a statement that they have not and other false statements about this matter). For example, one posting claims that I was denied a position at NYU because of information that came up on an FOIA request on me for FSU. This is utterly absurd, since the only teaching I did at FSU was as a doctoral student and I only left because I graduated and left in good standing in every way. I was never faculty at FSU in the first place. My teaching was done as a PhD candidate under a stipend that all PHD students/candidates get and do teaching or research in exchange. I graduated and left in good standing and have the references to prove it. Another posting lied that NYU discovered I had a criminal record when the truth, which can be easily verified by a background check is that I have no criminal record whatsoever for anyone to discover, not even so much as a traffic ticket.

Before I go any further, let there be no misunderstanding. Please note that I am in no way intending to blame NYU for what I am about to describe happened nor am I accusing any of their faculty or personnel of anything. The person posting these malicious lies, whoever it is, appears to not have a conscience when it comes to lying and may well be a sociopath. Sociopaths can be very clever and even though I am sure the people at NYU did everything possible to protect the information I sent them, such people can find ways to get around these kinds of setups through no fault of the people concerned. It could have happened to virtually anyone.

Already my cyber stalker is frantically trying to misportray me as spinning conspiracy theories. No, I am not. The fact is that when a person applies for a job, their application is supposed to be kept confidential and in my case, the confidentiality of my application was breached. Postings were made that I had applied for this job when I had not publicly revealed that anywhere. Postings were made saying that I did not get the position before I was notified. How this happened is unknown and that is what I am requesting be investigated. This is a reasonable request because if there is a leak somewhere — whether that leak be due to computer hacking, someone snooping or someone violating the confidentiality of job applications, someone gossiping to friends about who applied or something else — it needs to be fixed so future applicants won’t have this happen to them. I am not blaming anyone, but I do have the right to know what happened. The fact is that the confidentiality of my application was violated, someone, somehow through some unknown means gained access to information they should not have had and a matter I chose to keep private was posted on the internet. That is an issue that needs to be taken very seriously.

Here is what actually happened with NYU. It is interesting and telling to note that until today (April 18, 2011) I have not discussed nor even mentioned anything about this matter. I have not discussed it on the Internet or even on Facebook. I make it a point never to discuss by name any faculty positions I apply for before a final decision has been made, for obvious reasons. Yet although it is a bald-faced lie that I was declared “unfit” for the position (in fact, I was declared by the search committee head “a qualified applicant”), someone seems to have gained inside information that I had applied for a faculty position at NYU’s school of social work and that I did not get it. How this information was obtained remains a mystery, since I am sure that the people on the search committee are completely ethical and would never have leaked it. It appears that someone snooped or someone snooped and then told someone else who posted this.

The anonymous poster, whoever it was, was apparently aware that I had not gotten the position before I received my rejection letter and announced the fact that I did not get the job in a very nasty way, accompanied by lies about the reasons why. The posting was made shortly before I got my formal rejection letter (via e-mail).

I notified the search committee chair about this to apprise him of the situation and he expressed serious concern and expressed his sincere compassion about what I was having to endure with regard to the internet smear campaign (I sent the head of the search committee links to all the postings so he could see the outrageous lies in them). While it is true I did not get the position, it is completely false that I didn’t get it because they considered me unfit to teach or that it had anything to do with any of the lies that were posted about me such as the lie that I have a criminal record, which of course I do not. The head of the search committee has now given me permission to make it publicly known that he and the other search committee members considered me one of a number of strong, qualified applicants who applied for the position and their decision was in no way meant to reflect poorly on me.

The NYU faculty position I applied for was an administrative program coordinator position for an MSW program at a campus outside of New York City. When I applied, I fully realized that this was a long shot for me and my chances of getting this were slim, simply because I have no administrative program coordinator experience in a university setting. I have such experience in a hospital setting, but I am well aware they must have had plenty of applicants who did have such experience in a university setting and understandably they would be a better fit for the position than I was. My main strengths and the bulk of my experiences are in research, clinical and teaching, not administration but I was willing to accept such a position, given the desirable location, high quality of the university and the fact that I did at least have some experience in a hospital, although not a university setting.

The job market this year is especially competitive, tough and challenging and for a school as popular as NYU is, I am sure they are being completely truthful that they did have many qualified applicants and I am honored that they considered me among their pool of qualified applicants even though I ultimately was not selected for the position. I completely accept that that’s the way things are on the job market. Hundreds can apply for a given position, but only one person can get the job. It doesn’t mean that the applicants not selected were “unfit” or even that they were in any way inferior to the one chosen. It only means that the person selected was considered a better fit for that particular job.

Just to give people an idea of how tough this job market is, someone I know who teaches at Rutgers mentioned to me that about 120 people applied for one social work faculty position on their Newark campus. I would imagine that a comparable number would apply for an NYU position, as jobs in the NYC area are very popular and desirable.

What is disturbing is that the information that I applied and did not get the position was somehow discovered by someone who was apparently snooping where he/she did not belong. The matter was investigated but unfortunately it looks like at least for now, whoever did these postings has gotten away with it. Maybe next time whoever this is, won’t be so lucky. At some point the person will go too far and get caught, just as most overconfident sociopaths do.

Also note that this does not have to do with a breach in internet security on my end, because whoever did the postings knew that I did not get the position before I was notified, hence that information was not on my computer. Moreover, if someone had actually gained access to my private e-mails, there is much more information about my job search for jobs I actually had a much better chance of getting where I was on short lists that they could have sabotaged that could have been far more damaging to my job search, but were not discovered. The only place that was found out about was NYU and since I haven’t posted publicly about this until now, this leads me to believe that the breach occurred somewhere at NYU where someone gained illegal access to my application material, either by hacking into their computers or somehow gained access to my materials by snooping where they were physically located or some other way that I can’t even conceive of because I have to confess I have no experience or expertise in criminal activity such as that.

I predict that now postings will appear saying I “admitted” that NYU declared me unfit to teach or some other malicious lie. If this happens, fair warning to my cyber stalker, I will post a link to this blog article exposing the lies and distortions about what really happened.

This is yet another example of how malicious this smear campaign has gotten and how it appears to have extended beyond the internet. However, sometimes people get overconfident and do eventually get caught. At this time, I do not know the identity of the individual(s) doing this. However, it is interesting to note that at least some of the therapists whom I have criticized, by their own admission, had serious behavior problems themselves as youths and so with such a history, I have to wonder if perhaps such problems carried over into adulthood, but at this point I do not know if that is the case.

Part of the reason that I am posting this is that some people have laughed this whole smear campaign against me off as a trivial prank by some internet troll. The fact that inside information about my job search that was not available anywhere on the internet was obtained is one more piece of evidence that it is far more serious than that and that someone is also doing snooping off the internet.  This is very serious business and in some states, such cyber stalking especially when it involves illegally gaining access to information, may be considered a crime. It is certainly nothing to laugh off and blame the victim for. For people who are tempted to laugh this off and think it is nothing, first walk a mile in my shoes.

Update: A recent posting hinted that a “vigilant” group of unidentified individuals wrote a letter to NYU. This appears to be similar to what happened at FSU when a number of faculty members received a rather rambling, disjointed e-mail that smeared me and made accusations that I made postings on a blog that was not my blog that I had no responsibility for. Fortunately, they were not taken seriously and several of the faculty members forwarded the e-mails to me in order to make me aware of what was going on. All were sympathetic to me and opined that these anonymous e-mails had no credibility and appeared to be coming from an unstable individual and they expressed their condolences to me for having to deal with this. Apparently these individual who is writing these anonymous letters has no self-awareness as to how he/she comes across to others.

A few months before that Ronald Federici wrote a letter of “complaint” to the Dean of the College of Social work at FSU. I do not know if he was involved in the contacts that were allegedly made with NYU. Fortunately, the Dean at FSU chose not to take an action with regard to that letter and let me know that he considered it irrelevant to my work at FSU. To add insult to injury Federici also attempted to sue me for the commentary I wrote about his complain to my dean (Exhibit H). However, in the dismissal hearing, the Federal judge ruled that my comments did not constitute defamation and were opinion. Yes, I do indeed have the right to defend myself.

Monica Pignotti Taught Multiple Perspectives on Feminism

I just can’t imagine who has the time to go through everything I have written online with a fine toothed comb and grasp at any straw they can to slam me. My guess is that someone with no other life is either devoting their life to finding anything they can to malign me or it is someone’s job. In any case, the latest in the smear campaign against me is an anonymous posting slamming me as “harassing students” for making the  following statement:

I am probably the only one in my department who exposed students in my diversity class to both the writings of radical feminists and the writings of more conservative feminists, such as Christina Hoff-Sommers (who I actually agree with
on a number of points) because I wanted them to have both points of view.

I committed what one of my cyber stalkers apparently considers the sin of actually exposing students to multiple perspectives on feminism in a diversity class. Imagine that! Not sure if this individual feels it is horrible I taught about radical feminism or horrible I taught about Christina Hoff-Sommers’ work (who is highly critical of radical feminism) or horrible that I gave students multiple perspectives and encouraged them to think critically about whatever they read. That’s the whole point. I don’t just teach perspectives that I agree with because the whole purpose of education, by my philosophy, is to teach students how to think, not what to think. In other words:

Teaching students how to think in a rational, critical manner, is education.

Teaching students what to think is not teaching or education at all; it’s indoctrination. If students just absorb material like sponges and then just uncritically regurgitate it back on some test to please the instructor, that is a complete waste of time and of the good money they are paying to get an education. Of course there are certain facts and skill sets that need to be taught and learned, but at the end of the day, it is how they think, not what they think, that counts and makes them a professional rather than a mere technician.

The final assignment I gave that class, by the way, was to have them pick a controversial issue, identify what their position is on it and then turn around and play devil’s advocate, producing the very best arguments they can find for the opposing position and then write about their conclusions and what they learned from doing so [I did this very thing on my potentially harmful therapies blog, by the way, when I gave the very best arguments I could possibly find for prone restraint and thoughtfully examined them]. I always graded students on the quality of their arguments and students who produced well-written, sound arguments got high marks, regardless of whether I agreed with their position.

It this is their best shot against me, someone must be getting pretty desperate. Talk about grasping at straws. And of course the post is continued with the usual untrue and completely unsupported assertions that I was fired from FSU and that I “ranted” to the class about various topics I did not. This is easily refuted by references I am happy to provide from people who actually worked with me at FSU. Who will people believe? Those who worked with me and know me or an anonymous coward? A real head scratcher — not.

Although I have yet to identify the anonymous individual is or individuals are who has been posting libelous material about me and yet lacks the courage to put his name to what he or she posts, it is interesting to note that whoever they are, have been literally flooding the internet with libelous and defamatory postings of all kinds about me since the dismissal of Federici v Pignotti. Perhaps whoever it is was unhappy with the outcome?

Just a guess on my part but it is interesting to note that during the three months this case was active, there were very few derogatory postings about me and even those were quite mild, compared to the overtly libelous ones that have been posted since March 4, 2011. And before anyone attempts to put words in my mouth, again, please note that I am not accusing Dr. Federici of making these postings, but whoever the anonymous individuals are seem to have stepped up their activities posting untrue statements about me since the dismissal. While a few might just be internet trolls jumping in on the action, it is a big stretch to think that all of the posters are just trolls, given the timing and the nature of the postings and that some had knowledge of things that were not in the public domain that a so-called “troll” could not have found out about by being online.

Proof that Monica Pignotti Graduated from Florida State University with a PhD

To refute the latest lie that is part of an ongoing, anonymous and highly defamatory smear campaign which appears to have greatly escalated since Federici v Pignotti was dismissed even though note that I am not accusing Federici himself of personally posting this, lies are being posted by an unidentified anonymous person about me that I “flunked” out of FSU and got my diploma from a website. Click here for proof that I did, in fact graduate with my PhD:

Graduates of the FSU College of Social Work Doctoral Program

On that page, it shows that I did indeed, successfully defend my dissertation and graduated from Florida State University.  Graduates are listed in chronological order from earliest to latest, so scroll down to near the bottom of this page where the most recent graduates are listed and my name will be found as follows:

Monica Pignotti

The Use of Novel Unsupported and Empirically Supported Therapies by Licensed Clinical Social Workers.

I was not “fired” from FSU. I left in good standing in every way and only because I graduated and have the references to prove it and my dissertation committee chair, Professor Bruce Thyer (a family man who is very much in love with his wife, contrary to the defamatory filth has been posted about us) and others will vouch for me.

Although Ronald Federici and some of his colleagues, none of whom have ever met or worked with me, attempted to complain to my Dean in July of 2009, his attempts to complain about me were to no avail and my Dean chose not to take any action on this “complaint” because he considered the allegations to be completely irrelevant to my work at FSU, where in addition to successfully passing every step of the process and being the first one in my cohort to graduate, I earned a 3.9 GPA. Note that even Dr. Federici admits that I do have this PhD in an otherwise highly derogatory piece he wrote about me that is linked to his website so I am not accusing him of posting the anonymous posting, but the anonymous poster, whoever that may be is posting lies about me saying I “flunked” out when FSU’s own website shows that I did, in fact graduate.

Monica Pignotti: An Objective Account of My Work

Much lip service has been paid to the word “objective”. There have been people who are obviously selectively presenting the most negative parts of my past they can find, while ignoring the rest. I provide the following link, not to toot my own horn, but to provide some balance to the selectively negative and inaccurate misinformation that exists on the internet, written by people who are upset by my scholarly criticisms.

There is, however, an account on the internet of my experience that I do consider objective: When Pseudoscience Takes Hold: in Clinical Psychology: The Saga of Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Read it here. Although this was written by someone who is a Doctoral Candidate at Florida State University, Michael D. Anestis, M.S., he has never met me in person (he is in a different department that is across campus from the one I was in at FSU) and had never even corresponded with me until he contacted me after writing this article about me, so he has no reason to have any sort of favorable bias towards my work or an unfavorable one. Here is an excerpt:

I have two goals for today’s post:

  1. To discuss the impressive (on multiple levels) work of Monica Pignotti. Pignotti not only conducted the only trial to date involving an empirical investigation of TFT components, but also published a remarkably honest description of her journey from a devotion to scientific principles to a time spent as one of the most prominent TFT proponents, and then back to the scientific community.  Furthermore, she published retractions of prior work she had published in which she had made strong claims regarding the efficacy of TFT.  I have never before seen a professional hold her own work up to scrutiny on a public stage in this manner and I find myself remarkably impressed by her actions.
  2. To explain the many flaws in the claims of TFT proponents, while demonstrating the many ways in which it exemplifies the core of pseudoscience.

In accomplishing these goals, it is not my intent to criticize anyone personally or to imply that there is malice involved in the proliferation of TFT.  That being said, it is well within the bounds of this endeavor to openly critique the methods utilized to support the claims of efficacy for TFT and to discuss the dangers of therapeutic modalities that charge excessive sums for training and require that trained individuals keep the specific techniques secret.

And this:

Pignotti’s Journey

There is simply no way I can do justice to this story in a short PBB summary tucked into a larger article on TFT in general, so I hope that you will take the time to read the original article, which was incredibly well-written (see our References page for the full citation).  In short, Pignotti received her master’s in social work (MSW) in the early 1990’s with a strong background in research methods.  At that time, she had every intention of pursuing a Ph.D. in a scientifically-oriented program.  She first heard about TFT through a list serv and immediately attacked it as pseudoscience.  After an extensive exchange with a number of people on the topic, she eventually got in touch with Callahan himself and realized that they shared some common background info (e.g., they both graduates from the University of Michigan) and their conversation turned civil.  Callahan asked Pignotti to try the technique out on herself and she obliged (of course, she was told to keep the methods secret).  Much to her own surprise, when she tried an algorithm for anxiety, her own anxiety immediately disappeared and she felt an “emotional high.”  By her own admission, this experience led Pignotti to stop thinking critically about TFT.  Incredibly complimentary and supportive interactions with Callahan further contributed to this shift in mindset.

Shortly after this experience, she began a meteoric rise in the TFT community.  At her peak in this community, she was the fifth person to ever receive VT training, she was Callahan’s go to person to take phone calls from his clients when he was not available, she was the only person in the US allowed to teach an approved training of TFT Diagnostics, and she had co-written several pieces on TFT.  In the Pignotti (2007) article, she elegantly describes how, even with her impressive research background and education, the promise of TFT was alluring enough to pull her in and lead her away from her training.

Over the course of several years, Pignotti began developing nagging discomforts with particular aspects of TFT.  These discomforts were sometimes met with anger by other TFT proponents and sometimes simply explained away in a manner that would not hold weight in a scientific debate, but which felt compelling in the midst of a saga like this. Eventually, however, her discomfort became strong enough that she felt compelled to collect data on her own, as Callahan refused to engage in such activities along with her.  She randomly assigned clients (n = 66) to receive either Callahan’s algorithms or a completely arbitrary pattern of tapping and found that the two groups exhibited equivalent outcomes.  In other words, Callahan’s specific algorithms had no impact on the outcome.

For a while after conducting this study, Pignotti did nothing with the results.  She was still working through her thoughts with respect to TFT and whether to stay the course with this direction she had chosen in life.  In 2003, Pignotti discovered two books that, ultimately, played a pivotal role in her eventual reversal of her position on TFT: Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology by Scott Lilienfeld, Steven Lynn, and Jeffrey Lohr and Remembering Trauma by Richard McNally.  After reading these books and having a subsequent frank and extended conversation with Dr.McNally, Pignotti found herself at a crossroads that ultimately led her back to her roots.  She had come to realize that the methods used to explain and promote TFT ran completely counter to her scientific ideals and she ceased practicing TFT with clients.  In 2005, she published the results of her study (Pignotti, 2005) and, just recently, she graduated with her Ph.D in social work.

I can not overstate how impressive it is that Pignotti not only wrote the article that details this saga, but also published public retractions of prior work she had written hailing TFT’s efficacy.  Her actions are an impressive display of devotion to the principles of science and the goal of ensuring that misinformation is put in its place, even at her own expense.  In a profession in which many of us are loathe to admit to even our smallest of errors, this represents a stunning and invaluable gesture.

Click here to read the entire article.

Mr. Anestis also wrote an excellent review of another recently published article that I co-authored.

Although, of course, my detractors have tried to argue from authority, make obscene innuendos about my relationship with him when he and I have never even met in person, belittle Mr. Anestis and the article by pointing out that Mike Anestis is a “student” (actually he’s a Doctoral Candidate who will soon be defending his dissertation and will be doing his final predoctoral internship in 2010-11), many people don’t realize what it really means to be “only a student” in clinical doctoral psychology programs in major research one universities such as FSU. These programs are highly competitive to get into in the first place and they have very rigorous standards for completion, in both clinical practice requirements and scholarly research.

Typically, a good PhD clinical psychology program receives from 200-400 applications and only accepts around 6-8 new students each year. There are even very bright students with stellar GPAs, high GRE scores and impressive publications, who cannot get into such programs, so people who do get in, are the proverbial cream of the crop.  One guide for graduate programs in clinical psychology advised people who were having difficulty getting in to consider going to medical school for psychiatry instead, since medical school is easier to get into than a PhD Clinical Psychology program in a good university.

This is very different from PsyD programs in free standing, non-university based professional schools of psychology which, although most are accredited and legitimate, accept many students each year, provided they can pay the tuition and meet minimal requirements. A graduate of such a freestanding PsyD program is no position to trash a PhD candidate such as Mike Anestis, who has completed all his coursework and his dissertation in a highly rigorous program, for both clinical work and scholarly research. This is not to say all PsyD’s are bad, I know some very good ones, but the good ones usually don’t turn up their noses at PhD candidates.

I consider this a highly accurate, fair and objective account of my work, so if people do not care to read my lengthier account, I highly recommend Mike Anestis’ synopsis. The blog contains a number of other highly informative, excellent articles as well.

P.S. To the commenter who perhaps thought she was being helpful by telling me to “get a job”, I have a job and as I always have, I fully support myself.  I do not “talk to myself in comment threads”. I respond to refute the lies that are being spread about me, just as rape victims sometimes choose to fight back. Click here to read more dos and don’ts about what I feel, based on my own experience, is and is not helpful to victims of cyber abuse. At this point, we have no research, so experience of the victims is all we have.

Your assumption that I do nothing but post all day long is incorrect. I do work and in addition to that, I have had two additional articles accepted for publication in the past few months. Your comment is not the least bit helpful to me and only tells me how little most people understand cyber abuse. This only makes me more determined to stand up to my cyber abusers and help the world to understand this very new form of abuse that few people have any clue about. Put yourself in my shoes, get some compassion, and stop blaming the victim. Just because I take time to stand up to cyber abuse does not mean I do nothing else. I work for a living, as always.

Thankfully, not everybody is gullible enough to believe the lies that have been posted about me. Thankfully, there are people in the world who have the intelligence, insight and sensitivity to understand that my standing up to a cyber abuser is a legitimate choice and does not make me crazy and such people, unlike the commenter, appreciate that I am in a situation where I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Thankfully, there are people willing to hire me who recognize that I continue to be the stable, dependable worker I have always been who gets the job done and I have been told by several employers I have worked for over the years, that they feel lucky to have me. For those who want to believe the negative propaganda against me, their loss. And again, I am not claiming I am perfect or “unlimited awesome” as one of the cyber punks put it. I am a human being with strengths and weaknesses and here, I am highlighting my strengths in order to provide some balance.

Tag Cloud