by Harrison Koehli
from Sott Website
Blocked by the State Security Services from contact with the West, their work remained secret, even while American researchers like Hervey Cleckley and Gustave Gilbert were struggling with the same questions.1
The last known living member of this group, a Polish psychologist and expert on psychopathy named Andrzej Łobaczewski (1921-2007), would eventually name their new science - a synthesis of psychological, psychiatric, sociological, and historical studies - "ponerology", a term he borrowed from the priests of the Benedictine Abbey in the historic Polish village of Tyniec.
Derived from poneros in New Testament
Greek, the word suggests an inborn evil with a corrupting influence, a
fitting description of psychopathy and its social effects.
This way, if any were arrested and tortured, they could not reveal names and locations of others, a very real threat to their personal safety and the completion of the work.
Łobaczewski only shared the names of two Polish professors of the previous generation who were involved in the early stages of the work,
Błachowski died under suspicious circumstances and Łobaczewski speculates that he was murdered by the State police for his part in the research.
Dąbrowski emigrated and, unwilling to renounce his Polish citizenship in order to work in the United States, took a position at the University of Alberta in Canada, where he was able to have dual citezenship.
A close reading of Dąbrowski's published works
in English shows the theoretical roots of what would become ponerology.3
In perhaps the first explicit mention of "political psychopathy", he remarked that the extreme of ambition and lust for power and financial gain "is particularly evident in criminal or political psychopathy":6
In a passage decades before its time, he observed that less "successful" psychopaths are to be found in prisons, while successful ones are to be found in positions of power (i.e., "among political and military national leaders, labor union bosses, etc.").
He cited two examples of leaders characterized by this "affective retardation", Hitler and Stalin, to whom he referred repeatedly in his books8 and who both showed a,
Dąbrowski and Łobaczewski experienced this horror firsthand.
In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland using a false-flag operation that has come to be known as the Gleiwitz Incident. This was part of the larger SS project Operation Himmler, the purpose of which was to create the illusion of Polish aggression as the pretext for "retaliation".
In other words, the Germans needed a plausible excuse or cover story to invade the country. Germans dressed as Poles attacked a radio station and broadcast anti-German propaganda in addition to murdering a German-Silesian sympathizer of the Poles, Franciszek Honiok, and placing his body at the scene.10
The Nazis used these operations to justify the invasion, after which they instituted a regime of terror that resulted in the deaths of an estimated six million Poles. As part of a larger goal of destroying all Polish cultural life, schools were closed and professors were arrested, sent to concentration camps, and some murdered. Psychiatry was outlawed.
According to Jason Aronson of Harvard Medical School, the Nazis murdered the majority of practicing psychiatrists.
Only 38 survived out of approximately 400 alive before the invasion.11
During this tumultuous time Łobaczewski worked
as a soldier for the Home Army, an underground Polish resistance
organization, and his desire to study psychology grew.
Thankfully, due to public protest, the majority was released a few months later and despite the University having been looted and vandalized by the Nazis, survivors of the operation managed to form an underground university in 1942.12
Regular lectures began again in 1945 and it was probably then that Łobaczewski began his studies under professor of psychiatry Edward Brzezicki 13,14 Łobaczewski probably also met Stefan Szuman, a renowned psychologist who taught at Jagiellonian, at this time.
Szuman later acted as Łobaczewski's
clearinghouse for secret data and research.
Thus the "Stalinization" of Polish education and
research picked up where Hitler left off. Łobaczewski's class was the last
to be taught by the pre-Communism professors, who were considered
"ideologically incorrect" by the powers that be. It was only in their last
year of schooling that they fully experienced the inhuman "new reality"
which was to inspire the course of Łobaczewski's research for the rest of
The dictatorship provided intensified conditions and opportunities to improve his skills in clinical diagnosis - essential skills for coming to terms with this new social reality. He was also able to give psychotherapy to those who suffered the most under such harsh rule. Early on, as others involved in the secret research observed Lobaczewski's interest in psychopathology and the social psychology of totalitarianism, he became aware that he was not the first to pursue such research and was asked to join their group.
Originally, he only contributed a small part of the research, focusing mostly on psychopathy.
The name of the person responsible for
completing the final synthesis was kept secret, but the work never saw the
light of day. All of Łobaczewski's contacts became inoperative in the
post-Stalin wave of repression in the 1960s and he was left only with the
data that had already come into his possession. All the rest was lost
forever, whether burned or locked in some secret police archive.
While working on the first draft in 1968, the locals of the village in which he was working warned him of an imminent secret police raid. Łobaczewski had just enough time to burn the work in his central heating furnace before their arrival.15 Years later, in 1977, the Roman correspondent to Radio Free Europe, to whom Łobaczewski had spoken about his work, denounced him to the Polish authorities.16
Given the option of a fourth arrest or
"voluntary" exile to the United States, Łobaczewski chose the latter. All
his papers, books, and research materials were confiscated and he left the
country with nothing.
He was terrified to learn that,
In short, the U.S. was infected with the same sickness and the "freedom" they offered was little more than an illusion.
In the case of scientists living abroad, the Polish secret police's modus operandi was to suggest certain courses of action to American Party members, who then gullibly carried them out, unaware of the real motivations for their actions. Łobaczewski was thus forced to take a job doing manual labor, writing the final draft of his book in the early hours before work.
Having lost most of the statistical data and
case studies with his papers, he included only those he could remember and
focused primarily on the observations and conclusions based on his and
others' decades of study, as well as a study of literature written by
sufferers under pathocratic regimes.
He enlisted the help of his compatriot, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had just previously served as President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser and who initially praised the book and promised to help get the book published.
Unfortunately, after some time spent corresponding Brzezinski became silent, responding only to the effect that it was a pity it hadn't worked out. In Łobaczewski's words,
In the end, a small printing of copies for academics was the only result, and these failed to have any significant influence on academics and reviewers.
Suffering from severely poor health, Łobaczewski returned to Poland in 1990, where he published another book and transcribed the manuscript of Political Ponerology - A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes onto his computer.
He eventually sent this copy to the editors of Sott and Red Pill Press, who published the book in 2006. His health once more failing, he died just over a year later, in November of 2007. While other scientists conducted important research into these subjects over the years, Łobaczewski's book remains the most comprehensive and in-depth.
It is truly an underground classic.
M.C. Roessler 2010
A Wall Street Psychopath?
As chairman of its Board of Directors until his arrest in December of 2008, Madoff saw his firm (and himself) rise to prominence on Wall Street, developing the technology that became NASDAQ, the first and largest electronic stock exchange in America, in the process.
A multimillionaire with over $800-million in shared assets with his wife and high school sweetheart, Ruth Alpern, Madoff was well-regarded as a financial mastermind and prolific philanthropist. He exuded an aura of wealth, confidence, and connections, and many trusted him as a pillar of the community.
Sounds like a great guy, huh?
As his firm's website made clear at the time (it has now been removed):
It's funny how things change with a little perspective and a pattern emerges only in retrospect.
It wasn't until
December of 2008 that the public became aware that this "personal interest"
was anything but one of integrity, and that image stopped being taken for
In what has been described as the largest investor fraud ever committed by single person, Madoff defrauded thousands of investors out of just under $65-billion in an elaborate Ponzi scheme, paying returns to investors from money paid by other investors, not actual profits.
By moving funds in such a way, Madoff created an image of money that rivaled his own as a man of good character. The illusion of consistent, high returns, lured thousands into a deal too good to be true, offered by a man too good to be true. According to the media portrayal of events, Madoff described the investment fund as "one big lie" to his sons, who promptly informed the authorities.
Madoff was arrested the next day and his assets were frozen (as were those of his wife and sons later on).
In the aftermath, Madoff had succeeded in ruining the lives of thousands, driving some victims to suicide. He ended up pleading guilty to eleven counts of fraud, money laundering, and perjury, among others. Although Madoff ran his companies with an iron fist and claimed he was solely responsible for defrauding clients, investigators were unsatisfied that one person alone could hide fraud on such a massive scale for so long.
Subsequent investigations have so far placed six
former associates under criminal investigation,2 while multiple lawsuits are
underway against Ruth Madoff and her sons.3
Jerry Reisman, a prominent New York lawyer, described Madoff as,
Even when he was scrambling to secure funds to keep up his dead-end fraud, associates noticed no signs of stress.
In a 2007 roundtable conversation, viewable on Youtube,5 Madoff makes some telling comments.
Speaking about modern exchange firms, Madoff coolly says,
This coming from a man who had been doing just that for years and possibly decades!
No wonder, given his propensity for deceit, that
Madoff and his firm were extremely secretive, finding ways of keeping their
illegal activities hidden, for example, refusing to provide clients online
access to their accounts and ordering employees - against regulations - to
delete email after it had been printed on paper, as reported by Lucinda
Franks in her piece for The Daily Beast.6
He cultivated ostensibly close friendships with the late Norman F. Levy and philanthropist Carl J. Shapiro while robbing them blind in the process. Madoff spoke of Levy as his "mentor of 40 years" and always deferred to him.
In return, Levy considered Madoff his,
Carmen Dell'Orefice, Levy's then-girlfriend, remembers,
She described Madoff and his wife as quiet and inconspicuous and expressed the cognitive dissonance often experienced by victims of conmen like Madoff when the truth behind the image is finally revealed:
Levy's son Francis said his father believed in Madoff:
Joseph Kavanu, a former law school peer of Madoff's shared similar disbelief with Julie Creswell and Landon Thomas Jr. in their piece for the New York Times:
In reality, there were two Madoffs:
One source described to Seal how Madoff ruled his two sons through,
Madoff also ruled his office with an iron fist, controlling the work environment down to the smallest detail. He was obsessed with order and control.
A family friend related,
Another insider said,
From the descriptions of those who knew and interacted with him, a picture emerges of Bernie Madoff as arrogant, superficially charming, glib, manipulative, deceitful, emotionally cold, domineering, and heartless, in short, all the hallmarks of a successful psychopath.
Unsurprisingly, journalists and experts alike have suggested exactly that J. Reid Meloy, forensic psychologist and author of The Psychopathic Mind, Florida forensic psychologist Phil Heller, and former FBI agent Gregg McCrary, have all said so in print 8 & 9, and several prominent researchers including Adrian Raine suggested the same at the 2009 conference for the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy in New Orleans.
In what I'll show over the course of this series to be typical psychopathic fashion, Madoff fought his way to the top, wooed the regulators, and built his fortune by conning those he saw as worthless, even screwing over his so-called friends.
However, as Meloy told Creswell and Thomas,
The term had come to describe individuals whose emotional life and social behavior were abnormal, but whose intellectual capacities were undisturbed. In contrast to psychotics whose grip on reality is clearly disturbed, as in paranoid schizophrenia, psychopaths are completely sane. They have a firm grip on reality, can carry on a conversation, and often appear more normal than normal.
But at the same time, while talking to you about
the weather or the economy, they may be deciding the best way to con you out
of your life savings or perhaps get you to a secluded location where they
can rape or murder you.
In the course of his (or her, as probably one in four psychopaths is female) development, the psychopath's inability to feel and thus identify with the emotions of others blocks the development of a "moral sense" that allows normal individuals to care for others and treat them like thinking and feeling beings.
Psychopaths just don't care. To them people are things, objects.
When they're no longer useful they can be
discarded or destroyed without a second thought.
Cleckley coined the phrase "mask of sanity" to illustrate the disparity between the image of normality and the psychopath's essential abnormality.
While the label has come to be almost strictly associated with serial killers, rapists and arch-villains, Cleckley was quick to point out that the vast majority of psychopaths are not violent, and,
Their actions are antisocial in that they violate the almost universally agreed upon "rules" of social behavior.
course, this often takes the form of crime, but many psychopaths operate
successfully within the boundaries of the law, wreaking havoc
interpersonally or monetarily.
On the one hand psychopaths are superficially charming and of good intelligence. They lack any delusions or other signs of irrational thinking and are free of nervousness and anxiety. In other words, they present an image of good "mental health" that can disarm even the most experienced judge of human character. However, a close analysis of their life history and interactions with others reveals some striking deficits beneath the mask.
Psychopaths are also notoriously insincere, liberally inserting lies and innuendo into their talkative stream that usually go unnoticed. They are usually impulsive, acting on whims, and seeming to live entirely in the present, unhindered by concerns for past failures and future consequences.
As such they often show remarkably poor judgment and an inability to learn from punishments or the threat of future ones (psychopathic criminals have the highest recidivism rates). They are unreliable, often moving from job to job and city to city, finding new victims and living parasitically off of others' kindness and naiveté. They also have a pathological sense of entitlement. The center of their own universe, they are incapable of love, lack any sense of remorse or shame, and show a general poverty of any deep emotional life.
This is the core feature, shared equally by all
psychopaths: the inability to feel empathy.
While institutions exist to deal with illness and crime, when it comes to psychopathy,
Psychopathy arguably accounts for a grossly disproportionate amount of damage to society.
Cleckley was convinced that the first step to deal with this immense problem was to "focus general interest" and "promote awareness of its tremendous importance."12
Thankfully, significant contributions have been made in recent years towards such a goal by writers like Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, clinicians Martha Stout and Sandra Brown, and popular media portrayals such as the documentaries, The Corporation and I, Psychopath.
Unfortunately, even with these efforts, public
knowledge about psychopathy still falls far short of ideal, the "conspiracy
of evasion" persists, and the problem rages on. For a disorder affecting
more people than schizophrenia,13 and causing exponentially more
harm to society, the fact that psychopathy is not a generally understood
concept is alarming.
Working with criminal populations, Hare further
refined Cleckley's list of psychopathic traits for the PCL-R, settling on
twenty characteristics of a prototypical psychopath.
As he puts it:
They see empathy, remorse, and a sense of responsibility - all the qualities usually considered as the epitome of goodness and humanity - as signs of weakness to be exploited; laws and social rules as inconvenient restrictions on their freedom; and antisocial behavior as deliberate "nonconformity", a refusal to "program" by society's artificial standards.
Love, kindness, guilt, and altruism strike the psychopath as comical and childish naiveties for "bleeding hearts", and psychopathic serial murderer Ted Bundy even called guilt,
While they may convincingly profess to love in
the most romantic and meaningful verbosity to their partners, these displays
are soon replaced with domination and exploitation, as Sandra Brown shows in
her 2009 book Women Who Love Psychopaths.
Naturally, in a universe of one, Hare observes,
They may very well ask,
And in our decaying society, many would not disagree.
But what the psychopath sees as a carefree life
of excitement and entitlement usually amounts to little more than the
pursuit of immediate moments of pleasure and feelings of power, whether
fleeting or more long-lasting.
So, from an early age they learn to fit in by copying normal human reactions and behaviors.
They learn when it is appropriate to cry, show grief, guilt, concern, and love. They learn all the facial expressions, common phrases, and social cues for these emotions they do not feel. And as such, they deceive others with false displays of sadness, grief, guilt, concern, and love, and they manipulate our reactions to get what they want.
That's how a psychopath is able to con you out of money by playing on your sense of pity and compassion.
Normal people, unaware of the differences between psychopaths and themselves, assume that these displays of emotion are evidence of actual emotion, and so the psychopath succeeds in going unnoticed, like a wolf in sheep's clothing.
This "practice" at appearing human is expertly portrayed in Mary Astor's novel The Incredible Charlie Carewe, which Cleckley recommended,
This "act" is a matter of survival for a psychopath, lest their "inhumanity" be discovered.
After all, most people do not react positively to a child or adult who potentially can, as Hare put it,
Psychopaths also keep up their "psychopathic fiction" by being charming conversationalists.
They expertly tell "unlikely but convincing" stories about themselves, easily blending truth with lies. Not only can they lie effortlessly, they are completely unfazed when caught in a lie. They simply rework their story, to the befuddlement of those who know the truth. They may feign remorse, but are equally skilled at rationalizing their behavior, often portraying themselves as the victims (and blaming the real victims).
One female psychopath complained that no one cared about how she felt, having lost both her children. In fact, she was the one who had murdered them. In cases like this, the mask slips ever so slightly, as when the less intelligent psychopath attempts to use emotional concepts he cannot understand.
One inmate told Hare,
However, he didn't,
Even their violent outbursts of "rage" are carefully controlled displays.
One relatively self-aware psychopath revealed,
Another, confused when asked how he felt, was asked about the physical sensations of emotion and responded,
Capable of only the most primal body-based
feelings, the psychopath has no intense emotions to be in control of; any
display of such is an act with the intent to manipulate.
In his 2007 update on the last twenty years of psychopathy research, Robert Hare comments:
Or, as he put it in Without Conscience:
In line with this understanding, psychopathy can be detected at an early age.
By the age of 10 or 12, most psychopaths exhibit serious behavioral problems like persistent lying, cheating, theft, fire setting, truancy, class disruption, substance abuse, vandalism, violence, bullying, running away, precocious sexuality, cruelty to animals. One psychopath smiled when he reminisced to Hare about tying puppies to a rail to use their heads for baseball-batting practice.26
However, the exact causes (and possible steps to prevent it in infancy and early childhood) are still unknown.
Children predisposed to psychopathy who do not show obvious signs later in life probably become successful at avoiding detection because of such factors as increased intelligence and abilities to better plan and control their behavior.
While the vast majority of research has been
conducted on prison populations, because of the relative ease of research
opportunities, the concept of the successful psychopath (whether that means
he is not criminal or simply doesn't get caught) is a relatively recent
topic of interest for specialists and is not yet clearly defined or publicly
understood, just as the term "psychopath" was in the early twentieth
These men achieve the heights of power, and they
Snakes in Suits
But except for a short mention by Cleckley, the idea of a successful psychopath - ordinary by almost all external standards - has remained shrouded in that pervasive "conspiracy of silence". As this series progresses, it will become clear why this is the case and what exactly are the ramifications of such a dangerous gap in knowledge and awareness.
So far the only in-depth presentation of the problem of successful psychopaths has been Paul Babiak's and Robert Hare's book Snakes in Suits, published in 2006. The book is essential reading, and has the potential to save your life, literally.
The information it contains is universal and can be applied to
interactions on any social level.
Many in the industry thought psychopaths wouldn't be able to succeed in business. They thought that psychopaths' bullying and narcissistic behaviors would be off-putting to potential hirers, and that their abuse and manipulations would inevitably lead to failure within the company. In fact, the so-called "experts" couldn't have been more wrong.
They seemed to have neglected the uncanny ability of psychopaths to present an image of extreme normality, and even excellence, to their victims.
that is what we are to them: victims, potential "marks", suckers.
Their extreme narcissism was apparently mistaken as a "positive leadership trait", and the murky morality and internal chaos typical of the mergers, acquisitions, and takeover environment seemed perfect for their type. Not only would they do well under the pressure - not having the ability to feel fear or stress - the potential personal rewards were too great to refuse, for the business and the psychopath.
As Babiak put it,
Ironically, the very traits sought by corporations and other powerful entities are often the ones that do bring about their inevitable demise (witness the fall of Bernie Madoff, Enron, Nazism).
And they are the traits we have been conditioned to see as ideal. For example, through the "rose-colored glasses" of those who do not know better,
In short, when we call a psychopath "persuasive and courageous" we should actually be charging a commission for doing the psychopath's PR for him, because that is all it is.
It's like selling bleach and calling it holy water!
On paper these qualities may look promising, but as coworkers, and especially as bosses, psychopaths are domineering, intimidating, frightening, and dangerous. Quick to take credit for others' work and to hire and fire employees on a whim, they tolerate only praise, are extremely short-sighted, and genuinely lack the insight that makes a good leader.
One psychopath, described by Babiak, was,
Even when leading superficially "normal" lives,
psychopaths still cause problems in ways that fly under the radar of the law
- economically, psychologically, emotionally.
But no matter in what environment the psychopath finds himself - a romantic relationship, a corporate strategy, a planned heist, an election campaign, a political coup... the list of possibilities is endless - he uses the same, three-phase,
In the first phase, the psychopath assesses the value of his "ally" and potential patsy - what he or she can do to further the psychopath's aims. Psychopaths are experts at identifying and pushing others' "buttons", their,
Others' strengths are utilized and weaknesses exploited.
Next, the psychopath uses messages carefully crafted for the specific target, utilizing information gathered in the Assessment Phase. He then adapts his manipulation to accommodate any new feedback from the target in order to maintain full control.
As Babiak and Hare write:
Sounds an awful lot like the work done by intelligence agencies, doesn't it?
When psychopaths rule
Koehli Martin Roessler
Psychopaths also use a variety of manipulation techniques, for example, gaslighting.
When told a lie often enough, and with seemingly absolute certainty, normal people tend to doubt their own perceptions.
In this phase, the psychopath ruthlessly exploits his victims, using them to acquire money, position, control, and power.
When a person has ceased to be useful, they are discarded in the final, Abandonment Phase. Loyal to none, this often has devastating effects on those who were deceived by the psychopath's façade of lies and "good intentions".
Whether a spouse who has been drained
emotionally, an old woman whose bank account has been emptied, or a "friend"
whose connections have finally paid off, the psychopath inevitably throws
them out and moves on to the next target.
First, psychopaths use their charm and gift of gab to feign leadership qualities, thus gaining entry into the company. Once hired, they identify possible targets and rivals among coworkers - from talented but naďve peers whose work can be stolen to secretaries who control access to important executives - in the assessment phase.
Babiak describes the four groups of people that psychopaths employ in their games.
Pawns are ordinary coworkers who have "informal power and influence", and who are deftly manipulated by psychopaths into wanting - or needing - to support and please them.
Patrons are high-level individuals with formal power. By
developing rapport with patrons, psychopaths secure protection from the
attacks of lower-level workers who see through the mask. Patsies are pawns
who have lost their usefulness and have thus been discarded. Lastly,
organizational police are individuals like auditors, security, and human
resources staff who are more experienced in detecting manipulation in the
By creating conflict among the other employees, they divert attention away from themselves, preferring to operate behind the scenes and above the storms that they create and manage. In the confrontation phase, psychopaths discard rivals and pawns (now patsies), frequently using techniques of character assassination, framing, and other tactics using so-called "facts" that deviate significantly from the truth.
They get away with this by relying on the highly placed patrons with whom they are now cozy. And in the final, ascension phase, they ultimately unseat their patrons, taking for themselves the positions and prestige of those who once supported them.9
In the psychopath's game, people exist solely to be
manipulated, and he pursues his aims at any cost, even if that means
backstabbing everyone who supported him in his ascent.
Oddly, given the number of political
scandals and their striking similarities to their corporate cousins, the
idea that psychopaths infiltrate governments - with disastrous results - has
yet to receive the attention it deserves. In fact, the political massacres
that are occurring today - the dark aspects of human history that both
fascinate and repel us - and the corruption that inevitably leads to them,
have their roots in the presence of psychopaths in positions of power and
University programs, academic societies, conferences, professional textbooks and manuals, all exist to get a handle on the problem and aid in prevention of these sorts of crimes. But what about their role in crimes against humanity? I haven't been able to find one academic paper examining the role of psychopathy in politics, whether in so-called democratic systems or overt dictatorships.
Just as researchers at first doubted the ability of psychopaths to succeed in business, and the problem remained unexamined, the problem of psychopathy in politics remains steadfastly ignored. Political scientists refuse to look at psychopathy, and psychopathy experts refuse to look at politics.
The results of such blindness are evident in history - and the present - for anyone to see.
...and on and on.
As Babiak and Hare explain it,
Interestingly, the list of his victims lacks any US banking names or other serious institutional investors, who normally require the type of information that Madoff's firm kept off limits. In fact, the business was suspected as a fraud for nearly a decade, with evidence of misconduct from as far back as the 70s. And yet serious investigations were held off until his sons turned him in.
Many knew for years, but remained silent, allowing Madoff to continue the scheme that would ruin thousands. Conveniently, Madoff's niece was married to a senior compliance official at the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2005 and Madoff himself bragged about his close relationships with SEC regulators.
Madoff's firm had close ties to Washington's lawmakers and regulators, with Madoff sitting on the board of the Securities Industry Association, and Madoff's brother sitting on the board of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).
In Creswell's and Thomas's piece for the New York Times, a close associate of Madoff's relates that,
Not only was Madoff's fund a perfect money laundry for potential co-conspirators, he was protected by his close ties to the "organizational police" of the SEC and his domineering control over his employees.
According to Babiak and Hare,
By controlling underlings and wooing
regulators, Madoff protected himself from exposure. It was only after his
arrogance got the better of him that it all fell apart.
Criminally versatile psychopaths move from victim to victim, acquiring a tally of,
The corporate psychopath not only affects everyone in the company's staff; his misdeeds have the potential to ruin the lives of thousands. But the political psychopath, in a position of the utmost prestige, power, and influence, has the potential to rule - and ruin - empires.
His influence reaches level of society and his decisions have the
potential to affect billions.
They are equally relevant to the study of political psychopathy and can be rephrased as follows:
Jim Kouri, who served on the National Drug Task Force, has trained police and security officers throughout the United States, and is currently the fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, answers the first question in an editorial for examiner.com:
Politics is a dog-eat-dog world. Not only must politicians be relatively thick-skinned to handle attacks on their character, they must be capable of dishing it out in return.
Psychopaths lie with ease; they do not have any
moral scruples when it comes to character assassination, empty promises,
shameless self-promotion, cutthroat tactics, and using any means to justify
the end. These qualities give them the leading edge over their more honest
(and often naive) competition.
Their use of a party mask (no pun intended!) is
so common that it can easily be called their primary modus operandi.
...and many will answer: 'the President'.
Psychopaths seek positions of power and influence, and politics offers publicity, prestige, and other perks. It also provides positions of ultimate authority over military, industry, and entire populations.
In a world where psychopaths are understandably
viewed as morally repulsive, often finding themselves at home in the
criminal world, politics offers an opportunity to create a new world, to be
free from the ridiculous (in their minds) moral and legal rules of society.
Blagojevich was impeached for attempting to
auction off newly elected President Obama's vacant Senate seat. However,
even before his impeachment, the signs were obvious. In his profile of the
governor for February 2008 issue of
Chicago Magazine, David Bernstein portrayed
Blogojevich as narcissistic, arrogant, vindictive, charismatic,
irresponsible, impulsive, untrustworthy, and with presidential aspirations
The list of printable insults included "greedy," "dumb," "paranoid," and "phony.""
They described dramatic displays of temper over items as trivial as office stationary, "alleged illegal hiring and political kickback scandals", his unapologetic lateness for meetings and even funerals, and a litany of political failures and embarrassments.
As Bernstein puts it, for the man who once bragged of his "testicular virility" in standing up for himself against the offender in the stationary incident,
Cool under pressure, Blagojevich obviously saved his temper for more profitable situations:
A Democratic insider adds,
Called a "liar" and likened to a "used-car salesman" by lawmakers after one incident,
In fact, he spent much of his time in office,
But despite the rumors, innuendos, and outright accusations,
In short, Blagojevich shows all the hallmarks of a political psychopath, albeit a fairly obvious one.
And he surely isn't the only one. Just as the
'best' psychopaths are those who evade detection, living lifetimes of
successful crime, the best political psychopaths operate in such a manner as
to hold on as long as possible.
These psychopathic offenders are often considered the worst of the worst in courts and prisons. However, these factors seem only to affect the expression of psychopathy.
As Dr. Hare says in filmmaker Ian Walker's excellent documentary, I, Psychopath, on the diagnosed psychopath and self-styled narcissism guru, Sam Vaknin, while psychopaths often tell of some traumatic childhood that made them the way they are, psychopaths come from all backgrounds, good or bad.
Speaking of successful psychopaths like Vaknin, he says,
In fact, Vaknin makes a perfect case study for the type of psychopath that is most dangerous to political institutions, and thus entire nations.
Best known as an Internet guru for "malignant self-love", Vaknin was arrested in Israel in 1995 for major securities fraud. The documentary follows Walker, Vaknin, and Lidija (Vaknin's wife) as they visit several European institutions to test if Vaknin is indeed a psychopath.
Vaknin ends up scoring 18 (out of 24) on the
PCL-SV (Screening Version), developed by Dr. Hare, a score higher than the
majority of offenders in US correctional facilities, and the cutoff point
However, according Walker, Vaknin, like many of the so-called successful psychopaths now being studied by Hare, Bakiak, and others, is not an "archetypal, textbook" psychopath.
Contrary to the criminal populations, Vaknin is never physically violent. He has also been married to the same woman for ten years, while most psychopaths are seemingly incapable of such 'commitment', engaging in a string of short-term relationships. (His emotional treatment of her is another matter, however.)
Most interestingly, he is remarkably self-aware, and his insights agree with what the experts have to say.
For example, in total seriousness, Vaknin had the following exchange with Walker:
After subjecting Walker to a series of degrading insults (a regular occurrence during filming), and with Walker still visibly in shock, Vaknin coolly, and with disturbingly sadistic insight, described the process to him:
This type of self-aware psychopath is perhaps the most dangerous to humanity.
When his instinctive drive for domination of others is coupled with the means to attain to positions of power, he is not only free of the restraints of conscience by nature, but finds himself largely above (or indeed the architect) of the laws that are meant to protect normal human beings from the the deviant impulses so clearly defined by the psychopathic mind.
As a president, politician, military or
corporate chief, a vast number of people are literally at his mercy.
Fearful children - fearful adults
Grist for the psychopath's mill.
Too self-absorbed to recognize what their child truly requires of them, many parents betray their own child's weakness and dependency on his caregivers - his emotional need for comfort, security, trust, and the loving acceptance of those closest to him.
Having missed out on these important periods of growth, this boy, now a parent himself, may come to feel threatened by the emotional needs of his own child, becoming dependent on his own children and spouse to provide what he never had. The vicious cycle spirals on, and in turn, his own children learn to stifle their needs, deny their own feelings, and live as hollow reflections of the needs of their father.
When a child must meet the emotional needs of a parent, and not the other way around, the parent-child relationship is inverted.
Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and
Robert Pressman call this the 'narcissistic
family dynamic', and the problems it causes are directly relevant
to the vast geopolitical problems the world currently faces.
As much as they may deny it, they are motivated by the very fears they experienced as children - afraid of being alone, not belonging, uncertain, unloved, confused, abandoned. They find shelter from the pain in some literal or symbolic arms of embrace, yet it is incomplete in some way, like the 'security' of a sinking ship or of a castle built on foundations of sand.
Not wanting to let go, and face that pain again, they shore up their defenses - a rallying of troops to give 'the people', their own fragmented personalities, a sense of security. But such a cover-up is built upon and dependent on lies, things half-seen through the lens of denied and distorted emotion.
We may be denying that we are in a relationship
with a psychopath, someone who, despite the abuse and mental torture they
subject us to, offers us some sense of comfort and stability in life. Or we
may deny our own betrayal of our loved ones' emotional needs: the child we
criticize and deform according to our own twisted ideals or the lover we
demand to be someone they are not.
Just as we rally our mental forces to hold onto that equilibrium we desperately fear losing, we rally our military forces to protect us from enemies that do not exist, covering up problems at home that dwarf those projected 'out there'. How does this come to be?
So far in this series, I've
psychopaths - individuals devoid of conscience, incapable of
remorse, and hungry for power - and their infiltration of
- two seats of power in the modern era.
In the last article I quoted a diagnosed psychopath, Sam Vaknin, describing how he used emotional abuse and insults to break down his victims.
It was just one example of the special
psychological knowledge possessed by psychopaths, refined after a lifetime
of observing and interacting with 'others' whose foreign emotional reactions
strike them as so comical and ridiculous. When this special knowledge is
translated onto the global stage, you get geopolitics and all the propaganda
and lies that accompany it.
To a psychopath, true freedom is simply license to use, abuse, and torture other people - physically, emotionally and financially. Any hindrance on that bloated sense of entitlement is a nuisance he dreams of removing by instituting a social system of his own creation.
This is the true definition of 'totalitarianism', 'fascism', or a 'new world order' - a system of government where the psychopath is not arrested for beating his wife, killing his enemies, making emotional wrecks of his family and close acquaintances, stalking those who know his true nature and threaten to reveal it to more of those 'others' who so persecute him. In our world, the 'war on terror' is the means to this end.
New terms like 'homegrown radicalization' and
'extraordinary rendition' are created, while familiar terms are appropriated
and special meanings for those 'in the know' are instilled alongside the
ordinary meanings understood by the common people.
But, as many have come to know, there is much more to the 'War on Terror' than meets the eye.
The long history of
COINTELPRO-type operations in the US, whereby groups deemed to be
potential 'dissidents' are infiltrated and co-opted in a direction favorable
to the National Security State, along with
surveillance of anyone deemed a potential 'threat' by the
political psychopaths in power, makes it absolutely certain that any
potential 'terrorist' group in the US has long since been identified,
observed, and infiltrated by US intelligence and law enforcement. In fact,
this has been the case the world over.
These groups formed the basis of national resistance movements against the threat of Communist takeover.
Unbeknownst to many involved, they were sponsored largely by NATO and the CIA. When it became clear that the threat of Communist invasion was minimal (these movements were active in such countries as Italy, France, Belgium, and West Germany), the focus shifted from external threats to potential internal threats - local Communists and the 'threat' they posed to the then-current power structures.
The CIA funded and supported various extremist
right-wing groups in this cause. Neo-Nazi groups and other extremist groups
were infiltrated and controlled by the CIA and the secret services of the
various European countries.
Left-wing groups and individuals were blamed by the governments, who then entrenched their power with the support of terrified populations when they turned to them for 'support' and 'security'. However, the attacks were actually carried out by the very groups that had been infiltrated and controlled by the governments - groups who were then protected by these governments, like in the Milan bombing of 1969 which killed sixteen, or the Tuscany railroad bombings in the early '70s.
Similarly, as former BBC Middle East correspondent Alan Hart observes (see his Zionism - The Real Enemy of the Jews), Israel and its intelligence service, Mossad, has long-since infiltrated every Arab government and 'terrorist' organization.
In fact, Mossad had agents tailing several of the alleged 9/11 hijackers in the months prior to the attacks (see Justin Raimondo's The Terror Enigma).
Not to mention the fact that Osama Bin Laden had
CIA asset until the day before 9/11, as had many of his fellow Mujaheddin in their fight against the Soviets.
Why? As Hermann Goering said to his captors at Nuremberg,
More truthfully, attack them, tell them they
have been attacked by 'communists' or 'terrorists', then denounce the
'liberals', 'bleeding hearts', and 'peace-lovers' as 'terrorist
In recent years, Russia, Britain, Israel, and the United States have all been caught red-handed attempting such deceptions. Put simply, political psychopaths are in control of the governments of our world. Goaded on by a disdain for human morality, a drive for power and influence, and a desire to create a world where they are the ones calling the shots, they have created an enemy to strike fear into the hearts of humanity and to exploit the fear that is already present. Terrorism does not exist; at least not in the way governments and the media present it.
Terrorist groups have long been infiltrated, created, or otherwise controlled by these political psychopaths. In essence, these men and women have murdered their own civilians and blamed a fictitious enemy in order to gain popular support for a cause that will never be won.
The 'War on Terror' is an endless one, because these people do not and cannot see an end to their power. And while we denounce the 'evil terrorists' and the 'homegrown radicalization' of our own citizens, the political psychopaths merely see us as suckers, mindless actors in a play of their own creation.
They are like the con man who says,
If anything is to change, and if we are ever to end this ridiculous 'war' against an abstract noun, two things are needed.
Without ponerology, things will only get worse.
USHMM Photo Archives
View of the defendants in the dock at
the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg.
The answer may actually be in the question: it is revolutionary, but not in the sense you're thinking!
You see, most revolutions are either caused,
influenced, or hijacked by psychopaths and quite often this is done by what
is called "abuse of psychiatry."
As Lobaczewski wrote,
Thus, such governments generally control
psychology and psychiatry via control of funding and ideationally alert
"thought police" in academia, and the myriad ways in which normal people
unconsciously respond to a pathological environment begin to be defined as
illnesses and "psychiatric solutions", including drugs, are promoted to
force normal people to live in a pathological world and think it is normal.
Anyone who is too knowledgeable about
psychopathy will be accused of anything that can be trumped up, including
psychological abnormality. They're "crazy", "paranoid", "mentally unstable",
At the same time, still other psychopaths - not
yet at the top - rely on the violent emotions of fanatic revolutionaries and
oppressed peoples, goading them on and riding the waves of popular
discontent into the halls of power, crushing their "enemies" in the process.
It's always useful to get rid of a lot of normal people. traumatize everyone
else, and keep people thinking that now they have revolted against the
oppressors and all will be well again!
Lacking the ability to corral people into wars
against exaggerated (and often illusory) enemies, the psychopaths' network
of support would crumble, and the emperors would be left naked in the
streets, for all to see.
And they know that, if those contemptible others - that is, all the rest of us - were to see them for what they are, they'd be locked up, or worse. That "injustice" - living in a world that would limit their "freedom" to prey on others - is what goads them on to create a nightmare world for the rest of us, with all the injustice of Orwell's vision and all the dead-end absurdity of Kafka's allegories. And once they have power, they intend to keep it.
Objective science is thus a dangerous thing to
political psychopaths and must be silenced at all costs.
With a basis of objective ideas about pathology,
it's fairly easy to spot these theories. They're the ones that focus
exclusively on a particular ideology (i.e. "it's capitalism!", "it's
socialism!", "it's fundamentalist Christianity!", "it's Islamo-fascism!"),
or are based on assumptions downplaying the role of psychopathology in the
very real problems of evil in the world.
Researchers of psychopathy for the most part deal with issues they can study up close: brains, criminals, simple behaviors. They stay out of politics, because it's both difficult to study, and not favorable to the pocketbook. Politics is for political scientists and historians. As for the political psychologists, most of them are unaware of the problems of psychopathy because of the nature of specialization (and a multitude of bogus theories) within psychology itself.
It could be said that specialization itself is
one of the greatest gifts to psychopaths the world over. There's little
chance of scientists pooling their knowledge and forming a united front
posing any danger to the status quo when no one knows what the other is
However, the pathocrats running the prison, who
made this opportunity a reality, quickly squashed any future possibility of
gaining the much-needed data that could be gleaned from their captives. I am
referring to that time right after the Allies won World War II, and a
representative selection of Hitler's top officials were held to be tried for
war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Military
Tribunal in Nuremburg.
Luckily, while the defendants were still living,
a few American psychologists were able to glean what they could, and one of
them - Nuremberg prison psychologist Gustav M. Gilbert - even wrote a
book, The Psychology of Dictatorship which could have been the foundation of
a new science.
Those reading references to Gilbert's work, which reach valid conclusions though using dubious proofs (the Rorschach test is all but completely discredited in today's fields of experimental psychology and psychiatry, especially when it comes to psychopathy), will unfairly conclude that there is little value in his work. Ironically, Gilbert hardly mentions his Rorshach tests in the book, and yet this is where ALL attention has been focused when anyone talks or writes about the psychology of the Nuremberg war criminals.
So, what did Gilbert really say?
As one textbook of the time stated:
As if social circumstances were some nebulous force completely divorced of human motivations!
Unfortunately, this is still
the prevailing view among historians. Today it's called "structuralism" -
Hitler wasn't the problem per se, the whole Nazi structure was.
(Never mind that psychopaths and other pathologicals have inter-penetrated the social structure with a ramified network of mutual pathological conspiracies and are busily causing those very problems!)
But with these assumptions guiding the historian's hand, any relevant characteristics of the individuals comprising that structure, and giving it force and meaning, are equally dismissed offhand. Thus, any patterns to be noticed in the nodal points of key positions of power fade into the background.
By downplaying the features of the single
individual (e.g. Hitler), the theory is willfully blind to the results
caused by a network of similar-minded (but not normal) individuals (i.e. the
psychopaths within the whole Nazi network: the SS, lawyers, bankers,
businessmen, military men, etc.).
But despite their popularity, these theories cannot account for the strikingly foreign nature of the times they seek to study and explain. In the minds of many, Hitler's Germany was one of those "exceptions". The brutal and anti-human nature of the Nazi regime - the "new reality" to which the Germans and their victims were subjected - became clear to the world over the course of the war, and it horrified humanity.
As Field Marshal and Nuremberg defendant Wilhelm Keitel related to Gilbert,
When Gilbert asked Rudolf Höss, commandant at Auschwitz, if he had ever considered whether his millions of victims deserved their fate,
In this world, the leaders possessed the qualities of,
As Gilbert later wrote, the post-war trials led to,
This speculation on the part of the public was simple common sense, because one can't hope to understand a system like Nazism without a good understanding of individual AND social psychology.
The Germans were experiencing the full force and
iron grip of a macrosocial psychopathic reality.
And as usual, the truth is not quite so simple; the competing options are not mutually exclusive. As historian of ideas José Brunner notes, "one can notice a surprisingly broad area of underlying agreement" between the opposing opinions of Nazi leaders as "sane or psychopaths".6
In Gilbert's work (and later, Lobaczewski's), an understanding of psychopathy, psychopathology in general, and normal social influences helped place the discussion in a more realistic and empirical middle ground.
"Anomalies" like Nazism involve a complex network of psychopathic individuals who inspire the system as a whole, individuals with various other mental pathologies, and normal people who get caught up under their collective spellbinding influence.
While leaders can and do play a crucial role in history, Gilbert writes:
USHMM Photo Archives
at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg.
Facing trial were top-position Nazis such as,
The Nazi war criminals held in Nuremburg
provided the first opportunity for psychologists and psychiatrists to study
key members of a corrupt and criminal political regime. Unfortunately, as
we've already seen, it was a short-lived opportunity.
Like Hannah Arendt, who later covered the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Israel and coined the term "the banality of evil" to describe Eichmann's seeming normality, nonchalance and apathy, Kelley saw the Nazis as basically ordinary people caught up in the machinery of military orders and bureaucracy. Unable to find any signs of obvious pathology in the defendants, he labeled them "sane" and deemed Nazism a strictly "socio-cultural disease".9
The psychopaths, occupying that nebulous middle
ground between sanity and madness, thus flew under the radar of Kelley's
inquiring eye. In short, Kelley was duped by a collective mask of sanity,
the mendacity of which he could not fathom.
Today, we're seeing just how true this statement
Interestingly, Kelley established a strong rapport with Göring, the creator of the Gestapo and concentration camps, taken by his intelligence, charm, "courage", and image as a family man, in other words, some of the very qualities mistaken by many corporate employers as good "leadership qualities".
Kelley even committed suicide in 1958 using the same method Göring used the day before his scheduled execution - by swallowing a cyanide capsule.13
Cleckley once remarked that his secretaries
could always tell which of his patients were psychopaths - they were the
only ones who could convince him to lend them money - and it seems that
Kelley, too, fell under the sway of a smooth manipulator. This is not to
suggest that either Cleckley or Kelley were not insightful enough, but
rather sharply emphasizes the abilities of a "good" psychopath!
In his many conversations with Göring, Gilbert was able to make several insightful and often entertaining - although equally disturbing - observations about him, which are recounted in his book.
Because the book is rare, I have compiled some
of the most telling anecdotes and direct quotes illustrating Göring's
USHMM Photo Archives
Göring presented himself as impulsive, egocentric, aggressive, sensation seeking, unable to tolerate frustration, superficially charming, glib, remorseless, and callous - all the hallmarks of psychopathy.
He showed insensitivity to danger, admitting,
His mother allegedly stated,
Göring's first memory, related to Gilbert, was that of,
As a child playing soldiers with his peers, he
would similarly bash the heads of anyone questioning his leadership to "let
them know damn quick who was boss." 15
However, he "presented a front of utter amiability and good-humored bravado", i.e. a charming "mask of sanity" which he used whenever it suited his purpose.
He received a very high IQ score of 138 and,
However, Gilbert observed that his intelligence was more characterized by,
As a young man, he naturally joined the military, as it provided an outlet for his aggression, tendency to domination, and showmanship.
Aware of the nature of the military hierarchy, he was rigidly subservient to his superiors, knowing that,
Just like a modern corporate psychopath, Göring identified those with whom he needed to ingratiate himself (e.g. officer-instructors at the academy) and those he could get away with treating disdainfully (e.g. civilian teachers).
The model of a corrupt politician, Göring took bribes for tax-exemption and successfully managed his "business interests" (e.g. arms dealing).
As Göring himself said to Gilbert,
In short, Göring exploited the ideology and structure of Nazism for his own personal ambition, greed, and sadistic need for power.
And yet, he still gave seemingly blind support to Hitler. Why? This is a question that puzzles many psychopathy researchers and even causes them to doubt the possibility that psychopaths could ever maintain a stable position in any political or corporate system.
After all, psychopaths are notoriously self-serving and impulsive.
They are loyal to no one and quick to turn on their so-called "associates" and "friends". But for intelligent psychopaths like Göring, subservience to superiors is not loyalty per se. It is mere lip service that allows them to reap the benefits of their environment.
Think of Karl Rove and George Bush - Rove played his part of cunning underling because that's where he gained the most benefits.
Just as psychopaths will often abide by prison
rules to secure parole or lighter sentences, even feigning religious
conversion, they will work within a political structure like Nazism because
they have an interest in doing so. Whereas in a normal society psychopaths
are persecuted by non-psychopaths because of their antisocial attitudes and
behaviors, in a system like the Nazi dictatorship, the rules change. In a
society with no higher authority than themselves, they have an interest in
maintaining it, even if that means sucking up to a delusional fanatic.
Self-promotion and the resulting backstabbing is just as much a part of the game. And Göring was an expert. At Nuremburg, he repeatedly showed a typical ease of yarn spinning and shirking of responsibility to others, demonstrating the real nature of his so-called "loyalties".
He was caught in several obvious contradictions and lies during his testimony and was quick to denounce his fellow Nazis, shouting frequent outbursts such as the following:
As Gilbert points out, however,
Sounds a bit like the American pundits who lambaste the very "Islamic terrorists" they funded and trained in the '70s and '80s, doesn't it?
Alliances are only alliances when they're convenient. As soon as they're not, all bets are off. Gilbert was able to observe Göring's manipulative "divide and conquer" modus operandi in operation:
After seeing film evidence of the atrocities of the regime, many of the defendants broke down crying in shame, but Göring had a different reaction.
On April 18, 1946, Göring offered his infamous glimpse behind the psychopathic mask of fascism to Gilbert, quoted in the last installment of this series. ("All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.")
And on an another occasion, he said:
Göring wholly embraced the psychopathic "dog-eat-dog" worldview.
For him, as for the psychopaths dictating "war on terror"-inspired foreign policy today,
This is the stark reality behind the political propaganda of "national interests" dished out for public consumption in the world.
Gilbert's most dangerous conclusion was equally blunt:
That's what he concluded and he wrote it in his book.
That is why no one has heard of him, why none of his research or conclusions have been implemented in the practice of politics the world over, and why the Nuremberg defendants had to die. It's why political psychologists are still focused on testing for "political biases among voters" and other interesting tidbits that miss the mark when it comes to the truly important issues.
And it's why the only thing anyone remembers
about the Nazis at Nuremburg were their Rorschach protocols!
There is no singular "Nazi mind", just as there isn't an "Islamic mind" or even a "Western or American mind" that is the source of all evil. Fighting "Islam" or even "American imperialism" will get us nowhere.
The fact is, psychopaths exist in all human groups and they play an essential role in the politics of corruption, gaining support from individuals - normal and disordered. In short, the very qualities we often identify as those of a typical politician are those of a psychopath. They are present in all governments, and, given the right conditions, they create and maintain systems of oppression that know many labels: fascism, dictatorship, authoritarianism, communism, theocracy, and even democracy.
As long as we focus on the name, we ignore the
cause, and we play right into their hands.
I hope you are all getting the point of this series so far: psychopaths are a big problem in our world! But it's not that simple.
Take an analogy. Timmy is sick. He caught a bug at school the other week and is down for the count. Thankfully for his parents, they're somewhat eccentrically obsessed with health and cleanliness and had immediately placed Timmy in a microbiologically sterile bubble in their guest bedroom, before proceeding to decontaminate the entire house and its occupants.
The pathogen that threatens the health of those
he might come in contact with is successfully locked in. (Unfortunately for
Timmy, so is he!) However, Timmy's parents didn't factor Sunshine, the
family's pet pit-bull, into their anti-infection equation.
The infection then spreads throughout the neighborhood, city, and eventually, the world, as local businessmen who don't mind an aggressive pat down from the TSA and exposing their genitals to puerile airport security personnel via Peeping-Tom-Technology, travel to very serious and important business meetings.
So, what's the point of this? Simply put, psychopaths need a number of things to have their effect in lieu of the direct interaction of personal relationships. Among a psychopath's best tools to spread his malevolence are fanatic bulldogs and the cold theories of human nature that determine the intellectual climate of a society.
It's through these intermediaries that our
bodies and minds are systematically infected - ponerized.
As for the second type of psycho-puppet, they're a bit trickier to spot. Often intelligent, and highly influential in society, the pervasiveness of their theories in modern Western culture offers them some degree of camouflage. But when those theories are put to the test, they don't fare too well.
Unfortunately for us, very few actually question
them, and they're the cause of many of the world's biggest problems.
In the last fifteen years, levels of trust among Americans have dropped 15%; feelings of social anomie, loneliness, and unhappy marriages are on the rise; people have fewer close friends, babies have less physical contact with their parents, and American children's well-being ranks twentieth in a list of 21 nations. Keltner traces this overall decline in social well-being to what he calls the Homo economicus ideology of human nature.
Keltner mentions just a few such theorizers: the already-mentioned Freud, Ayn Rand, Machiavelli ("in general [mankind] are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain"), and George C. Williams (Natural selection "can honestly be described as a process for maximizing short-sighted selfishness").
To this list we may add Karl Marx (for whom material conditions shape consciousness) and Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679), who thought that so long as there were no strong authority to keep them in line, humans were naturally,
In other words, human nature is so wretched (i.e. self-serving, distrustful, malicious) that a strong authority (i.e. church or state) is needed to keep society from descending into social chaos.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
As Keltner describes it, such a view of human nature offers only part of the picture. Without the very real qualities of equality, compassion, cooperation, gratitude, love, laughter and nurture, our families and societies would fall apart.
These emotions and values are what bring, and
keep, people together, and coincidentally (or not), they are the very
qualities lacking in psychopaths.
One such model is the "Game Theory" of mathematician and Nobel Prize winner in Economics John Nash, whose life was whitewashed in the Hollywood film A Beautiful Mind.
Importantly, Nash was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, although in my opinion "schizoidal psychopathy" is a better fit. His arrogant, cold-hearted, and disturbed mind is dealt with at length in Sylvia Nasar's biography of the same name.
Nash's view of human nature influenced the
development of his "game" scenarios, which in turn greatly influenced
official Cold War policies.
If your opponent "screws you", however, you lose more than you would if you screwed him as well. The choice with the greatest payoff is thus to betray your partner, who in turn betrays you.
According to Nash, as well as other economic theorists like Friedrich von Hayek and James M. Buchanan, this is how humans actually operate:
Thus, Homo economicus.
Life is one big game of
screwing others over, and coming out on top.
And while these theories of economic and political "freedom" were embraced by politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and continue to determine economic and government policies in Western societies, as Curtis concludes, when they are put into practice they actually lead to "corruption, rigidity, inequality."
See how far Timmy's bug can spread?
Religious traditions have taught their believers to view themselves as "special" and set apart from the rest of humanity, which is seen as wretched, brutish, amoral, and Godless. (In other words, Homo economicus-lite; only the others are evil.)
It is so universal that it seems to be a rule among religious sects, whether in the Talmudic view of goyim, the Christian view of the "un-saved", or the Muslim view of the kafir. So, too, in political theories. As the game theory tests showed in The Trap, normal people tend trust one another.
It is what Hare called our "intra-species
predator" - psychopaths - who are themselves distrustful by nature, and who
then inspire distrust in others; it is they who are selfish, and inspire
selfishness in others; and it is they who wish to be the ones controlling
the 'rabble of humanity'.
For example, from ancient India and Iran to Europe of the Middle Ages, methods such as the "red-hot iron ordeal", where the accused is found guilty if he suffers burns from a red-hot piece of metal, have been used as methods for lie detection. Obviously both the guilty and innocent will be burned, but authorities defended their techniques with any number of cockamamie explanations.
In the present day, torture techniques whose true nature is softened by euphemisms such as "advanced interrogation techniques" are used to break down the accused to the point where they will confess to anything, as was the case with alleged 9/11 "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times in a single month.
Mohammed confessed to a litany of crimes, which included targeting a bank founded four years after his arrest. The applications aren't always so extreme, however. In court, jurors easily doubt the testimony of a seemingly 'mentally-imbalanced' (i.e. emotional) person, especially when it is his or her word against a cool-headed, well-respected psychopath who lies with ease and absolute certitude.
The injustice of the situation, and the
unbelievable chutzpah displayed by the psychopath, is enough to drive an
innocent party into an emotional fit, ruining their credibility.
While the Greeks were more concerned with literature, mythology, and strictly philosophical philosophizing (among other more questionable activities), the Romans took a more utilitarian approach. With large populations to control and a deficit in understanding of human nature (what is it with half-wits ruling vast portions of the globe, anyways?!), the administrative and political practicalities of empire outweighed the Greek ideals of sober reflection and discovery.
Their legal system became a 'one-size-fits-all' enterprise conceived for the "statistically average" (and equally non-existent) human. Not even the Jesus peoples' notion of the "kingdom of God" - which caused quite a stir among the plebes in the first century after Jesus, basing itself on natural human relationships of respect, love, and understanding - managed to temper the Roman mentality when Christianity was assimilated into the empire's political machinery in the fourth century.
In short, we inherited this Roman tendency to
submit human nature to The Law and not vice versa.
By our ignorance of their existence, they remain
hidden in plain sight. In fact, humans are not all the same. Psychopaths
have very little in common with the rest of humanity, and it is they who
exploit the gap between our unrealistic beliefs and the actual truth of the
matter, as in the legal cases mentioned above.
Because of their own shallow emotions and unstable personalities, they have trouble seeing in others the qualities that they themselves lack, like true empathy, altruism, and cooperation. Instead, they tend to create baroque and icy theories with no basis in reality.
They project their own limitations into
self-evident, 'universal' values, and when their books are mass-produced,
and their ideas spread throughout the public, academia, economics, and
politics, that spells trouble.
As anyone with a mind knows, this is patently absurd.
Visualization, imagination, and higher emotions are just a few of the essential human qualities denied by behaviorism. Rather, the behaviorists attempted to extrapolate human qualities from the observation of animals - their reflexes, formed habits, and learning processes. While much was learned in the process, it led to a vicious circle within psychology.
By denying truly human qualities and abilities, they ended up with grossly lobotomized theories of human nature.
As John B. Watson infamously said:
As was the case with Nash and Hobbes, these theories tell us more about the minds of the theorists themselves than about humanity as a whole.
Taken as a group, behaviorists can actually tell us something about the true variety within human nature. Because psychology is the only discipline where both the subject and object of study are the same, it's easy for subjective errors and faulty core assumptions to slip into the reasoning process.
Studying the core assumptions about human nature present in the writings of influential scientific, economic, and religious thinkers is a powerful aid in beefing up our sense of smell. We might just catch a whiff of a truly pathological mindset. But such a keen sense can be a dangerous thing.
Psychology, after all, is the first science to
be outlawed and Stalinized in a society governed by pathocracy, because of
its potential to identify the true nature, causes, processes, and weaknesses
of the system.
The fact is, even if we may tend to live our lives with some modicum of humanity, societal beliefs affect us all. Schizoidal misanthropy affects us all. But besides these very tangible effects, besides the fact that their ideals are spread and implemented by our leaders, belief systems limit the range of concepts with which our minds can 'play'.
They're like blinders on a carriage-horse. When
we leave out what is human, and forbid anything ponerological, we'll be
lucky if the carriage doesn't smash to pieces when it is run off the cliff
of time and history.
But just as our health depends on the functioning of our immune system, our psychological and societal well-being depends on the degree of our knowledge about ponerology. If the "trap" set by the theories mentioned above is the fact that they are speculative and divorced of any relation to human and social reality, the obvious solution is to come to a solid understanding of human nature - the human individual in all its scope and variety.
after the workplace bullying of Ted Genoways (left).
Heck, I might as well add "effluents" to that list. After all, an interaction with a psychopath will leave the same taste in your mouth and may just end up killing you. Plus, it rhymes.
example of Kevin Morrissey, managing editor for the Virginia Quarterly
Review, who was
driven to suicide after repeated harassment and belittlement
by his boss, Ted Genoways.
They don't break the law (at least overtly) and can come across as ideal and highly successful citizens. But whether it's after years of pushing boundaries, tearing down a person's will to live with soul-eating mind-torture, or the "collateral damage" caused by the toxic chemicals their corporations release simply because they just don't care and can make a quick buck, successful psychopaths kill too.
The main difference is, they kill a lot more,
and they get away with it.
And not only does the five-phase process occur within the cutthroat dynamics of "power politics", it also occurs as the group as a whole strives for and achieves political domination. Or, to add a little color to counter that somewhat academic exposition: scum rises to the top. It's how it gets there that is interesting, and those early stages are the most elusive and poorly studied.
Until Lobaczewski wrote his book, that is.
Likewise, groups with political aspirations value psychopathic traits, and schemers like Stalin's handler, L.P. Beria, for example, are a perfect fit.
Politicians must be charming, convincing, facile liars, willing and able to destroy others' characters and lives to support their rise to power. Contrary to the whimsical fancy of hardcore fans of one political team or another, politicians cynically adopt whatever party label suits their purposes, "Left" or "Right".
But such labels are merely means to an end,
tools to be exploited, as is everything else in the psychopath's
environment, leading to the alienation of those who eventually learn that
there's a whole lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing" behind the
national games we term elections.
whom he is rumored to have sexually abused.
People like politicians who kiss babies and promise to do "good" things. Imagine an aspiring politico releasing this press bio:
Ain't gonna happen, despite the fact that it's probably true (see Dave McGowan's work on pedophile rings in high places, for example).
However, once power has been entrenched, other than a thin facade for the sake of the cameras (and the already-mentioned fans) and foreign observers, the political psychopath is relatively free to drop his mask and display his true nature. Beria was a typical example, as was Hermann Göring in the Nazis. Everyone knew they were "monsters" and they made no bones about it.
After all, who was going to do anything about
Outside the group are political rivals, critics,
and existing authorities who threaten to curb the group's hold of power
and/or who need to be threatened or otherwise "enticed" to give their
support. And, of course, there are those who know where the skeletons are
buried. They're just a heart attack or "freak single engine plane crash"
away from no longer being a problem.
In the third, manipulation phase, political psychopaths take advantage of all these groups, creating and maintaining their own psychopathic fiction on a mass scale, spreading positive propaganda about themselves and negative propaganda about their perceived (and often entirely created) "enemies", and creating and stage-managing the conflicts that solidify their positions.
The incestuous marriage of corporate, economic,
military, and political power ends up creating a virtually unconquerable
system of control.
After all, these men were the leading figures (i.e. the leading social conformists) in the functions of state, law, church, and capital, and their desire to be among the new ruling elite proved much stronger than their willingness to face a disgraceful fall down the social ladder, or worse, be labeled an "enemy of the state" (G. Gilbert, The Psychology of Dictatorship, pp. 154 - 5).
These men were products of the authoritarian
culture that permeated Germany before Nazism, in which submission to
authority was a cultural norm, no matter the nature of that authority. In
the face of this "new reality", men like the one-time chancellor of the
Weimar Republic, Franz von Papen, took the path of least resistance and
appeased the psychopathic aggression they witnessed.
Scientists still want to keep their jobs and
funding, military men and women want their promotions, and state employees
large and small know on which side their bread is buttered.
Psychopaths are masters at testing their limits. As they get away with increasingly brazen acts, they keep pushing the boundaries until it's too late to make a difference.
The political psychopath is free to take the fourth, confrontation phase to the limit.
Rivals do not just lose their positions; they are slandered, arrested, tortured, and murdered. Law enforcement and the courts pose no threat; they're in the Party's back pocket (remember phase three). The media is censored and controlled, and all material critical of the government is discredited by specially chosen "experts". Idealists who were useful in the early stages of the Party are discarded now that their support is no longer useful.
Entire populations become scapegoats, which serves the functions of,
As Babiak discovered about corporate psychopaths, "organizational chaos" not only attracts them to companies, but it provides them "cover".
At such times,
Normal people tend to avoid such environments, but psychopaths thrive in them.
Just as corporate psychopaths exploit organizational chaos, political psychopaths exploit social chaos. After all, group loyalties and hostilities provide the soil in which political conflict and aggression thrive. Long-held prejudices and stereotypes persist and become grist for the mill of ambitious politicians.
The tensions, fears, frustrations, and
aspirations of significant numbers within the population are easily
manipulated by providing politically expedient outlets for aggression.
Evolution justified ethnic struggles based on pseudoscience, and economic laws implied "implacable class warfare".
The Nazis began as rebels but gained the support
of many Germans through their masterful manipulation of popular opinion.
They eventually achieved power by intensifying social conflicts and
maintained it by a reign of terror.
This process is further facilitated by propaganda.
Those members of the targeted group who react defensively are seen as proof of the stereotype, and those who try to conform to the discriminating majority are seen as a sinister fifth column - "surely they cannot have good intentions!"
Social discrimination actually fosters the development of group differences, which can then be identified as evidence for the stereotype. For example, slaves may have been kept uneducated, becoming evidence for their own "mental inferiority"; the intelligentsia killed and the people deemed "backwards" and "primitive".
New realities are simply created and then taken as "evidence" for whatever those manipulating reality seek to promote.
As Gilbert remarked,
Perhaps the most significant patsy in history (aside from Lee Harvey Oswald, of course), Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was accused, tried, and executed for the crime. In fact, the latest German research has shown this was another "false-flag" operation on the part of the Nazis. According to testimony heard at Nuremberg, the fire was part of Goebbel's propaganda campaign and was carried out in collusion with Göring and the Berlin Storm Troops.
A self-inflicted wound, the Nazis staged the fire so that they could then use it as "evidence" of a communist plot against the government.
The "state of emergency" caused by this
"Communist threat" necessitated extreme measures. Soon after, the Enabling
Act was passed, which essentially gave Hitler unlimited powers.
Finally, Himmler was given extraordinary police
powers to suppress all "dangers to public security," in accordance with a
new law providing the death penalty for such undefined offenses. (Gilbert,
Gilbert's study has been forgotten by mainstream psychologists, and Lobaczewski's has been completely ignored. In fact, American Psychiatric Association members (e.g., CIA contractor James Elmer Mitchell and his colleague Bruce Jessen) even helped develop and participate in the CIA's "advanced interrogation" of "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo bay and CIA black sites.
Rather than coming to understand the realities
of torture in order to stop it, American psychologists are actively engaging
in it, using the same tortured logic used by Hitler and Goebbels seventy
years ago. If there's one sure sign that a government is psychopathic,
that's its use and justification of torture, and the spineless denials and
redefinitions to excuse its utter barbarity.
The psychopath determines that he needs someone to perform a certain action. So, he sets up a situation causing the person to react in the desired manner. In this way he manages conflicts that neutralize threats and promote his own self-image. On the mass scale these manufactured realities reach dangerous heights of criminality.
Ambitious politicians use their influence among secret police, military, and intelligence to perpetrate attacks on their own civilian populations, which are then blamed on a created "enemy". Public reaction follows the predicted vector and the politicians offer the "solution" (prepared in advance) of war against the enemy.
This cynical and twisted reality is not an
isolated phenomenon. It is standard operating procedure among major
In the first, an individual psychopath like Göring achieves entry and influence within a political movement. In the second, a political group manipulated by psychopaths takes control of a country. In the third, they expand their influence, invading and taking over other countries in the hopes of securing world domination.
This grand cycle of world government - to which Hitler and the Nazis aspired and yet were unable to accomplish - was and is the desire of all great empires. Its necessity is clear. If the dictatorship contains itself within its own borders, it risks losing its power to outside forces, whether from invasion or the influence of outsiders on its own populations, thus stirring anti-government movements within its own borders.
Dictatorships must constantly expand their influence in order to stave off the "dangerous" ideas of more liberal governments.
That is not to say that they will ever be successful, just that
it is the nature of those involved to ever grasp for more, lest they lose it
all. In fact, while such governments can stabilize their power for decades
(e.g., the Soviet empire) or even centuries (e.g., the Roman empire), so far
the rule has been that they all suffer defeat, whether from within or
For example, psychopaths may play their political game before or after a Party has gained power. The constant jockeying for power within the system of government is an essential feature, as seen in the various "purges", convenient "suicides", and "disappearings" that have always characterized corrupt empires.
While such governments strike most of humanity as harsh and oppressive, the free license provided by a police state is ideal for the political psychopath.
I've have already mentioned several of the essential features of pathocracy identified by Gilbert: social unrest, brute force against enemies within and without, a favorable constellation of leadership groups with mutual interests, and crucial events facilitating the consolidation of dictatorial power.
Psychopathic leaders also require authoritarian followers, and an authoritarian social framework:
In an authoritarian society, people submit to the protection of leadership, accepting their decisions and forfeiting their own ability to make their own choices.
When this system is taken away - as a result of radical social change often initiated by war or revolution - the citizens' toleration for insecurity lessens and they readily accept appeals to the old, conservative ways.
The world has seen this process in action in the "global war on terror".
The attempt by Western governments to "export democracy" inevitably results in a regression to conservative, authoritarian regimes. The Taliban has regained its influence in Afghanistan after the United States and its allies invaded in 2001, ostensibly to "bring freedom" to the Afghanis. Similarly, Iraq is now a democracy in name only and is plagued with corruption, occupation, and daily military atrocities.
Again, the "conspiracy of silence" makes its presence known. The scum and effluent rises to the top. Eventually, however, it gets to the point where every almost-normal individual can smell its stench and putrescence. The Egyptians have recently caught a whiff.
Hopefully the rest of
the world will catch on