Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Rise of the Sour Cream, Part 6 (Psychopaths)

[This continues the series of excerpts from Chapter 22 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom.]
The Poison Cream

“It's all about me, and nothing is my fault.” That could be the motto of any narcissist, but especially of the psychopath. Not all psychopaths are violent. Some are white-collar criminals. Some stay within the law, though seldom within normal ethical boundaries – and they fool people with ease. The white-collar psychopath is a talented deceiver. He uses his personality, his mind, and his silver tongue to separate people from their money, to acquire high-paying jobs, or to reach positions of power. He is the ultimate narcissist; and as far as can be determined he has, literally, no conscience. He is, however, charming, persuasive, often charismatic – and a world-class liar. He could run a red light, hit your car, and convince you that it was your fault. He is “cream” that is not only sour, it is poisonous – and he uses that characteristic to climb the ladder of power.

Psychopaths are almost certainly over-represented in political office. They like power, and their charm and lack of conscience help them obtain it.[1] They use that charm to distract citizens from the real issues, and to gloss over illogical thinking. They appear so wonderful that we seldom notice their logical fallacies, dishonesty, and other problems. Should we notice those defects, they are good at diverting our attention, making us ignore obvious problems.

The political psychopath is essentially a white collar criminal, expert at manipulating others. He is outgoing and makes friends easily, though the friendships are often short-lived. He creates an image of himself as a wonderful and inspiring leader – and inspiring he is! He collects dedicated followers who fail to think critically. He will typically have a group of pawns and patrons who pave his way to advancement. Those pawns and patrons refuse to believe any evidence against him.[2] He gets things done, but seldom to the betterment of the country. His motivation is his own selfish ends, and he will do what it takes to reach those ends. Our liberty depends on keeping him out of office.

How can we, citizens untrained in psychology, recognize the psychopath? Sorry, we can't. Even those qualified to diagnose the condition cannot do so at a distance. That is the bad news. The good news is that we do not need a solid diagnosis. We need only know that a candidate has signs consistent with the condition. Any candidate having most of the characteristics of psychopathy is qualified only for rejection, be he a true psychopath or not.

Psychopaths are described as “without conscience, incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves.”[3] They will have most of the following traits:

Lack of remorse
Lack of empathy
Refusal to accept responsibility
Lack of goals
Poor behavioral control
Adolescent antisocial behavior
Adult antisocial behavior[4]

Those traits are red flags, the growl before the dog bites. They warn us to avoid the candidate, though the personality of the psychopath distracts from that warning. Note, however, that lack of goals will not show up in the political psychopath. That psychopath does not lack goals, he has very ambitious goals – all relating to himself.

Psychopaths may even fool the experts. For example, a former policewoman with psychological training worked on a crisis line two nights a week. She prided herself on her “ability to detect aberrance in other humans – both because [she] had that innate skill and through experience and training.” She was greatly impressed with a wonderful young man who worked with her. Even when evidence of heinous crimes emerged, she had difficulty accepting his guilt.

The former policewoman was crime writer Ann Rule. Her young coworker was Ted Bundy, one of the most prolific and cruel serial killers in U.S. history.[5]

Like Ted Bundy, non-violent psychopaths and similar people are world-class deceivers; they will snare us unless our caution matches their deception, unless we look beyond the facades. Difficult though it may be, we must keep psychopaths and similar people far away from positions of power.

At present psychopathy is poorly understood, even the terminology is a bit uncertain. Psychopathy, sociopathy, personality disorder, and perhaps others names can apply. We know neither its cause it nor how to treat it. Indeed we know of no good way to recognize it. That lack of knowledge is a disadvantage, but with care we can keep such people out of office. Research is ongoing; maybe by the time you read this we will know more.

Next we will discuss why the perverse have an advantage in seeking power.

[1]  Although this is a popular treatment, it does draw on some research. However as far as I can determine, research in this area is still in its infancy.
[2]      Paul Babiak, PhD and Robert D. Hare, PhD, Snakes in Suits, When Psychopaths go to Work, Harper 2006. Those characteristics are described throughout the book.
[3]      Ibid, p19
[4]      Ibid, p17
[5]     Ann Rule, The Stranger Beside Me, Pocket Books 1989, pxxxvi. Note that this book has been re-published several times with added information and commentary each time. Previous editions may lack this particular quote.

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