Former Mankind Project journal editor plans YouTube revolution

Reid Baer doesn’t go quietly.
Former Mankind Project (MKP) member-only journal editor is planning an online meeting for men who dislike MKP for one reason or another and those who are remaining in it. Mr. Baer was recently fired from the editor position for several vague reasons, one of which was using New Warrior in his online screen name. MKP claims such use is a copyright violation.
If using New Warrior online is a copyright violation then get ready for an orgy of violations. Here is Baer’s plan. He wants men who have interest or who have ever been involved with MKP to go to this YouTube page and register as a New Warrior. Currently, there are only a few names (e.g., NewWarriorObserver, NewWarriorMan2). We could all go over and be NewWarriors. Like NewWarriorDrowssap or NewWarriorEddy or something (I think NewWarriorMary would be kind of humorous). Anyway, the “event” will be 12/1 and 12/2.
MKP also recently terminated the contract of long-time MKP administrator Drury Heffernan. The reason given was the need for someone to improve MKP technological capabilities. Whatever the reasons for these changes, MKP’s numbers are dropping and the financial crunch continues. According to Baer, the organization needs to become more transparent. The release of Baer indicates that the group has opted for maintaining the secret lodge-like approach. The Houston Press article and Scinto case which triggered it have clearly had an impact on MKP.
For more information, see my page on MKP.

Mankind Project self-destructing?

After a steady rise in influence and numbers, the Mankind Project may now be in decline. More about that in a bit.
Today,
Chris Vogel writes about a dispute within the murky inner-circle of the MKP which has become public. Vogel writes:

Here’s some news for you readers who’ve been keeping up with The ManKind Project, the controversial so-called men’s self-help group that detractors have criticized for targeting members of 12-step recovery groups, practicing therapy without a license and maintaining a dark cloak of secrecy regarding its “New Warrior” rites and rituals.
Reid Baer, the former editor of the non-profit organization’s monthly publication, the New Warrior Journal, says he was fired from the position because the group’s leadership is tired of him demanding more transparency to the public.
“The problem,” Baer tells Hair Balls, “is that they have been a secret organization for so many years that they don’t know how to stop being secret. I fought for stuff for five years and I think they just got tired of me telling the truth, because I would interview men who had dissenting views, and they hated it.”

Nice that Baer confirms what has been obvious: MKP deliberately keeps practices secret from initiates and requires participants to keep these activities secret. Baer’s firing may have been multi-determined though, as Vogel explains.

But, Baer concedes, that was not the official reason he was let go from his $10,000 a year post. According to a letter Baer says MKP’s Executive Director Carl Griesser wrote him, Baer, a former journalist turned poet on the Internet with his own Wikipedia entry, was terminated because he uses the nom de plume “NewWarriorMan.” In his letter, Griesser says the name “New Warrior” is a registered trademark of The ManKind Project and therefore Baer cannot use it.
Baer says that while MKP has trademarked similar phrases to the one he uses, his specific Web name is not one of them.
Griesser also complains in his letter that Baer made the “unilateral decision” not to publish the organization’s periodical in November (to which Baer says his supervisors made the call) and is concerned with “some especially offensive videos in recent weeks.”
One such video Griesser points to, taken by Baer, shows the poet drop trou in front of the camera, bend over a desk, smack lube across his backside and then say, “Go ahead, I’m ready.” The segment is titled, “Jack Nicholson is ready for Barack Obama, et al.”

Thanks to the Houston Press, and several websites, including this blog, men who want to know more about the MKP can find out almost everything about a New Warriors Training Adventure via an Internet search in advance. So Baer argues that MKP should become more transparent, saying,

“Some of the things we do we keep from the public because the surprise value of it, historically speaking, has had more impact. But now that we’re in the Google world, I have for the last five years been campaigning to be more transparent and to share more about what we do on the weekends because men now, before they go, will Google ‘MKP,’ and if all they see are the bad stories, a lawsuit, this and that, then that’s not doing us any good. And so for them to fire the very guy who wants to put good information out there is insanity.”

Another reason Baer may have been fired is to save money. MKP is not doing well and has recently informed members of significant financial problems.

The Mankind Project is currently facing one of the biggest financial challenges of its life. Due to a significant decline in men enrolled in NWTA’s, and despite $30,000 in budget cuts over the past three months, we are facing a projected shortfall this year of $75,000. We need your help.
Historically, about 90% of the revenue generated by the Project has come from tuition from our trainings. The rest is raised through contributions, primarily to the Chairman’s Campaign. For the first
time in 23 years, our average number of men per training has decreased significantly – by about 10%. We expect to initiate 2849 men this year, down from a high of 3209 in 2005. We are budgeting
for a similar decrease in 2009.

MKP is now holding re-initiation weekends where men who have been through the weekend Training Adventure can do it all over again. Despite the gay friendly nature of New Warriors, NARTH, JONAH, Richard Cohen, and Northern Ireland’s Paul Miller continue to recommend New Warriors as a kind of reparative therapy intervention to reduce same-sex attraction via an enhancement of masculinity feelings.
Back to Mr. Baer; he is not too happy about the copyright issue and has created another YouTube identity at NewWarriorMan2.

AHO!

Mankind Project on marriage: Is this good or bad advice?

Jim Belushi is a funny guy. He apparently is also into “the men’s movement.” He gave an interview to the Mankind Project’s journal (which normally is password protected) you can read via a link on the MKP website. The interview was conducted by MKPer Reid Baer and contains what is portrayed as wit and wisdom about true masculinity in the context of relationship with a woman. The title of Belushi’s book is “Real Men Don’t Apologize” and there are some rules he recommends:
Here are Belushi’s 5 Commandments for his wife:

Thou Shalt Not Shush Me
Thou Shalt Not Steal
Thou Shalt Never Banish Me to the Couch
Thou Shalt Not compete With me
Thou Shalt Not Expect an Apology for Something I am Not sorrieth For

There are many more tributes to the frat guy approach to masculinity. Here is another:

“Women say they want a man who is kind, gentle, compassionate, polite, considerate and nurturing,” Belushi intoned. “Bullshit! They just described a chick! Women really need a man who is mysterious, powerful, passionate, confident, unpredictable and a little dangerous. That’s the guy they will sleep with … the most interesting person in the world to a woman is someone they know nothing about. The stuff they come up with in their own head is a lot more interesting than you. That’s why so many women out there have a crush on Tony Soprano. He cheats on his wife, works in an illegal business and kills people.”

And then more specific to the masculinity work of MKP, Belushi advises:

“I’ve been doing men’s work for a long time because I’ve had to … to survive,” he said. “There’s a lot of healing that we men need because we’ve got some wounds to deal with. Women may want to fix them, but they can’t. We have to use the tribal approach and let the men work with the men.”

So women cannot help men be men. This is a common theme in the MKP stuff I have read. Women are of some other tribe and the coming together is apparently not for companionship or for mutual completion. In fact, I am not sure what (other) role women play for men when I read

“Love without sex is friendship, sex without love is spring break, and if you want companionship, get a dog.”

Ok, let me open it up. Does this look like a respectful, winning approach to heterosexual relationships? This is one of two featured interviews on the MKP page, so they must think this is good stuff. I am wondering what wives think reading this interview — (“Is that what my husband will come home expecting?”). Readers, chime in here…
PS – This is the thought for the day (7/23/08) on the MKP website:

Thought for the Day:
When a man finds his own heart, he outgrows his unreal romanticism about women, as well as the neurotic need to please them.

Call me neurotic but I like to make my wife happy. And besides, I do not know what that even means. To me, it sounds like, when a man gets self-centered, he puts himself first. Is the MKP vision of manhood a guy who finds some great thing to conquer and then puts that mission in first place?

Mankind Project clarifies stance on reparative therapy

Within the last day or so, Mankind Project members received an email from Executive Director, Carl Griesser with an alert to a new feature on the MKP website.

…the next time you visit www.MKP.org you will find a rainbow flag with the word Friendly superimposed as a navigation button linked directly to a slightly modified version of the reparative therapy statement. The Executive Committee and our IT Team believe this is an effective way of indicating our welcoming attitude to all men, while making the statement easily accessible to the public.

Click on the link and you will find the following article titled Sexual Orientation & the Mankind Project:

· The ManKind Project creates trainings and circles in which men are invited to discover their deepest truths.
· We welcome men of all sexual orientations: gay, straight, and bisexual, as well as those who identify as having unwanted same sex attraction, to do their own work as they define it, to respect the identity and value of others, and to take responsibility for the impact their words and behaviors have on others.
· We support each man in pursuing his path to deeper authenticity. We do not provide therapy nor endorse any particular therapy, including reparative therapy. Any group or organization that states or implies otherwise does so without our permission.
· We do not, and will not, attempt to change a man’s sexual orientation.
· We stand firm in support of gay and bisexual men. We support men who believe that homosexuality is a normal part of the spectrum of human sexuality and of mature masculinity.
· We will not tolerate proselytizing for any religion or belief and do not tolerate discrimination on our trainings or in our communities. We support our training and community leaders in identifying and challenging discriminatory language and behavior.

I provided a link to this statement in a previous post. Essentially, some reparative therapy clients/therapists were recommending the New Warriors Training Adventure to same-sex attracted men as a means of enhancing their sense of masculinity. Reparative therapists believe male same-sex attraction derives from a sense of distrust of men and a disconnection from natural masculinity. Via the reparative drive, he sexualizes his desire for masculine closeness and seeks homosexual relationships. Get a man feeling all masculine and his SSA disappears. Perhaps one of the clearest statements of this hypothesis and the proposed remedy is David Pickup’s the Workout program.
Mr. Pickup recommends the New Warriors Training Adventure and notes on his website that he serves as training coordinator of the Los Angeles branch of the Mankind Project. This is the branch which hosted Joseph Nicolosi, Narth co-founder and father of reparative therapy, at a training session in 2005. This session was quite controversial and eventually led to the MKP statement.
The email to MKPers provided this rationale for the new rainbow link:

Men,
As many of you are aware, the Project Council approved a Position Statement on Reparative Therapy in February 2007. Based on initial text prepared by Jim Mitchell, I prepared a statement which was then revised by a group of gay, bi, and straight men, and men who identify as having Unwanted Same Sex Attraction (USSA). We decided that it was necessary to take this stand because many men were being referred to the NWTA by reparative therapists and groups who had little or no experience with MKP (as well as by some reparative therapists and USSA men who had been through the training.) It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings. I sent the statement to the reparative therapists and groups I knew about, and have continued to do so when I learn of others. I asked organizations which implied on their websites that MKP offered or supported reparative therapy to remove such statements and any links to our website. Some complied with the request, though not all.

I got a chuckle out of this sentence: “It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings” since the MKP is so secretive about what men can expect. In any case, I believe it is valuable for MKP to indicate to men that they do not adhere to the masculinity enhancement model of reparative therapy for men who might be encouraged by reparative organizations/practitioners to seek NWTA for that purpose.

Mankind Project – Calling all spirits

I have started a page devoted to the Mankind Project on the blog. The initial topic is the practice of calling in spirits which opens weekly the Integration Groups (I-Groups). This practice is an aspect of creating sacred ritual space for the various processes (Guts Work, etc.) that take place in these meetings. Like many pagan and earth spirituality rituals, the I-Groups begin with casting a circle of sacred ritual space. Then an invocation is given to call in the spirits of the directions (Calling in the 7 Directions – east, west, north, south, up, down and within) and any other spirits that may be important (grandfathers, etc.).
I suspect for some of the initiates, this is regarded as a formality with no thought that any real spirits are being or even could be summoned. However, in reading stories and accounts written by MKP writers and leaders, it seems to me that some of them take this more literally. In any event, given that Christian ex-gay groups continue to recommend MKP and NWTA, and given that MKP are secretive about these practices, I want to provide this information for people in order to make an informed decision about participation. A work in progress, I will add to the page as I get new information.

Houston Press: A new retreat for the Mankind Project

Chris Vogel has an article in the Houston Press which follows up the settlement of the Scinto wrongful death lawsuit. Near the end of the article, Mr. Vogel quotes my blog post where I provide details of the settlement. I continue to believe the remedies are minimal and much more disclosure should be made to potential participants. Vogel refers to the informed consent issue and additional concerns while recognizing that many men believe the MKP has been helpful to them.

Thousands of passionately loyal members claim the group provides life-altering training and vehemently dismiss detractors. However, there is a contingent of critics who say the organization practices therapy without a license; targets vulnerable members of 12-step recovery groups; purposefully withholds the details of the program, thus keeping potential participants from making a fully informed decision whether or not to attend; and does not screen applicants who may be too emotionally frail for the rigors of the ­program.
It is these criticisms and concerns that Kathy and Ralph Scinto tried to address through the terms of their settlement.

I wish the Scinto family well and pray they are able to find peace and healing. I also hope this prompts the MKP to disclose the details of the processes and methods used. If these methods have any inherent potency, then disclosure should not diminish the effect.

Abeo: Ex-gay in the UK?

The Irish Iris Robinson controversy appears to have quieted down somewhat. I noted last week that Northern Ireland’s “first lady” entered controversial waters by declaring homosexuality an abomination, with subsequent embellishments. Mrs. Robinson further recommended therapy for gays to change via a psychiatrist, Paul Miller, who advises Mrs. Robinson on health matters.

As noted in my initial post on this topic, I wrote to Paul Miller to ask him if he endorsed the bioenergetics techniques of Richard Cohen. This was a relevant question since Dr. Miller organized a training led by Mr. Cohen in November, 2007. Dr. Miller did not directly answer that question but instead referred me to the website of his organization – Abeo. What is Abeo?

ABEO is an umbrella organization, set up by Dr Paul Miller, of like-minded mental health professionals who want people to be all that they can be; so that they may experience deeper joy in their lives. Our tag-line, ‘joy through change’ captures the heart of this vision.

What does ABEO mean?
ABEO in Latin means, ‘to pass away’ or ‘to come to an end’, but in Nigerian it means ‘my arrival brings joy’. By taking this name we want to show that our mission is to show that all of us experience pain of different sorts, however, when faced with issues that bring pain into our lives we can be empowered to overcome them and experience joy through finding healthy adaptations to meet our core needs.

There is much emphasis on this site about meeting core needs, especially masculinity. There are pages on manhood and gender identity which look familiar to anyone conversant in reparative drive perspectives on same-sex attraction. On the Gender Identity page, links are provided to Jonah, NARTH, Mankind Project, New Warriors Training Adventure, Internation Healing Foundation (Richard Cohen), and People Can Change.
The approach to therapy is called “gender affirming therapy” and is designed to address same-sex attraction through enhanced masculinity.

Abeo says:

Where a person experiences unwanted SSA we can provide expertise and therapy to help the person meet their core unmet needs in a way that allows them to resolve their SSA and so move towards a fuller expression of masculinity and a heterosexual expression of that gender identity.

Abeo also offers training to mental health professionals, which presumably included the Cohen visit to Northern Ireland. About the training, Abeo says:

ABEO also provides training to those professionals working in the area of unwanted SSA. Through links with NARTH, JONAH, the International Healing Foundation and a number of international experts we are seeking to spread evidence based skills that will help professionals working in this area.

Given the aspiration of teaching “evidence based skills,” the links provided are puzzling. Where is the evidence that the kinds of masculinity-building interventions promoted by these organizations “resolve” SSA toward a “heterosexual expression?” As we have noted, MKP in the US has been through all of that with many manly gay warriors happy to dispute these claims.

Another aspect of this story that is interesting to me is that I expected this site to be more Christian-based given Iris Robinson’s strong words of a referral. MKP and NWTA certainly do not point their participants to Christianity as a means of manly identity. The UK Scouting Association issued an advisory warning scouting groups not to rent camps to the MKP. In the US, the ex-gay organizations can be divided into those who seem to be faith-based and those that are based in the men’s movement. If that division is real in the UK, it seems clear from a review of Abeo that the men’s movement ex-gay wing got a major plug from the first lady.

Records temporarily sealed in Scinto vs. Mankind Project

Last Friday (6/6/08), a Harris County, TX judge partially granted a motion to seal the Scinto wrongful death case. The Mankind Project wanted the case marked confidential and the Exhibit A removed from the settlement document. Exhibit A spelled out changes agreed to by MKP which I reported here last week. As it stands now, the case is “sealed temporarily” with another hearing to be held on July 18, 2008.

Mankind Project of Houston settles wrongful death lawsuit; some mental health oversight required

Some months ago, I reported extensively on the Mankind Project with attention to their signature program, the New Warriors Training Adventure. My interest in MKP and NWTA was provoked by a Houston Press article detailing the suicide of Michael Scinto. Mr. Scinto had attended a NWTA and reported distress thereafter. His parents Kathy and Ralph Scinto believed his death was linked to his experiences on that weekend and filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his estate in August, 2007.
In April, 2008, the case went to mediation and was settled. Although the parties to the dispute have signed a confidentiality agreement, the terms of the settlement are available for review on the Harris County, Texas District Court e-docs website. You will need to register (name, email address), verify your email and then change your password but the process is free. Once registered, search the name Scinto as Plaintiff and you will find all documents related to the case.
The terms of the settlement are found in a 20 page, May 20 document titled, Defendant’s Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. The Scintos and their attorney won $75,000 split roughly three ways. Furthermore, MKP of Houston is required to make some changes in procedure. The changes involves screening of applicants, disclosure of activities and means to exit the weekend. Anyone who registers can preview all of the court documents for no cost. I summarize the highlights here:
-MKP of Houston agreed to have its pre-New Warrior Training Adventure Adventure questionnaire reviewed by a licensed mental health professional for recommendations about how it can be improved. However, the MKPH board must approve changes before they can be implemented.
-Each application for the NWTA must be screened by a mental health professional who has personal knowledge of the weekend. The screener shall determine whether the applicant shall be accepted or not with the decision written on the application.
-The following changes will be made within 30 days of a required MKP of Houston Board review of the website:
1. Change the website to provide adequate information from which potential applicants can make an informed decision about whether to attend the NWTA.
2. The website shall disclose that a mental health professional will screen applications to determine suitability for participation.
3. The website will need to disclose that people who wish to leave the NWTA are free to do so.
4. Applicants will be told that the NWTA may involve optional nudity and certain elements of Native American traditions.
-MKPH agrees to develop a written protocol which will allow any participant to leave NWTA safely with MKPH assistance. Participants requesting to leave shall be allowed to do so immediately unless the action would result in further risk of harm. Once a request is made, the participant is not required to do any other activities unless the participant changes his mind.

As far as I can tell, this settlement is only applicable to MKP of Houston with no requirement that MKP elsewhere implement any of these points. Given the lawsuit involved a wrongful death charge as well as claims of performing psychotherapy without a license, I would say these changes are minimal, but important. I think they are valuable and provide recognition that some form of oversight, minimal though it is, is important. While I suspect that MKP of Houston will have no problem getting a mental health professional to perform this screening function, I would recommend any mental health professional performing this duty check first with his/her liability insurance carrier to make sure such a
review is covered activity.

Mind Games: The gap between therapists and researchers

Researching rebirthing in the context of the Mankind Project, I ran into an article by social psychologist, Carol Tavris titled, Mind Games: Psychological warfare betwen therapists and scientists. Tavris mentions rebirthing as a process for which there is no evidence, but her reasoning could be applied to other approaches as well (e.g., holding therapy, bioenergetics, etc.).

Here a couple of excerpts:

Our society runs on the advice of mental-health professionals, who are often called upon in legal settings to determine whether a child has been molested, a prisoner up for parole is still dangerous, a defendant is lying or insane, a mother is fit to have custody of her children, and on and on. Yet while the public assumes, vaguely, that therapists must be “scientists” of some sort, many of the widely accepted claims promulgated by therapists are based on subjective clinical opinions and have been resoundingly disproved by empirical research conducted by psychological scientists. Here are a few examples that have been shown to be false:

• Low self-esteem causes aggressiveness, drug use, prejudice, and low achievement.

• Abused children almost inevitably become abusive parents, causing a “cycle of abuse.”

• Therapy is beneficial for most survivors of disasters, especially if intervention is rapid.

• Memory works like a tape recorder, clicking on at the moment of birth; memories can be accurately retrieved through hypnosis, dream analysis, or other therapeutic methods.

• Traumatic experiences, particularly of a sexual nature, are typically “repressed” from memory, or split off from consciousness through “dissociation.”

• The way that parents treat a child in the first five years (three years) (one year) (five minutes) of life is crucial to the child’s later intellectual and emotional success.

Indeed, the split between the research and practice wings of psychology has grown so wide that many psychologists now speak glumly of the “scientist-practitioner gap,” although that is like saying there is an “Arab-Israeli gap” in the Middle East. It is a war, involving deeply held beliefs, political passions, views of human nature and the nature of knowledge, and — as all wars ultimately do — money and livelihoods. The war spilled out of academic labs and therapists’ offices and into the public arena in the 1980s and ’90s, when three epidemics of hysteria caught fire across the country: the rise of claims of “repressed memories” of childhood sexual abuse; the growing number of cases of “multiple-personality disorder” (MPD), from a handful before 1980 to tens of thousands by 1995; and the proliferation of day-care sex-abuse scandals, which put hundreds of nursery-school teachers in prison on the “testimony” of 3 and 4-year-old children.

She continues…

But psychotherapeutic nonsense is a Hydra: Slay one set of mistaken ideas, and others take their place. Recovered-memory therapy may be on the wane, but “rebirthing” techniques and forms of “restraint therapy” — physically abusive practices that supposedly help adopted or troubled children form attachments to their parents — are on the rise. In Colorado, 10-year-old Candace Newmaker was smothered to death during rebirthing, a procedure in which she was expected to fight her way through a “birth canal” of suffocating blankets and pillows. The two therapists convicted in Candace’s death are now serving time in prison, but efforts in Colorado to prohibit all forms of “restraint therapy” were defeated by protests from “attachment therapists” in the state and throughout the country. After Candace’s death, one member of the Colorado Mental Health Grievance Board noted with dismay that her hairdresser’s training took 1,500 hours, whereas anyone could take a two-week course and become “certified” in rebirthing. Yet the basic premise — that children can recover from trauma, insecure attachment, or other psychological problems by “reliving” their births or being subjected to punitive and coercive restraints — has no scientific validity whatsoever. 

In the rest of the article, Tavris calls practitioners to base our interventions on research and to take a skeptical stance toward our work in order to avoid confirmation bias.