The Psychopathic Great Game
August 17, 2013 – 4:16 am
Updated September 16, 2013
The world goes through repeated human crises on all scales of size and severity and in all fields of endeavor, followed by a period of relative stability, only to repeat the exercise in a different location or in a different context with a different cast of characters. Suppose now that these crises are driven by individuals of certain authoritarian dispositions: Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Jeff Skilling, Bernie Madoff, and the Boards of Directors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2008, to name a diverse sampling. Now further suppose that there is a distinct psychological pattern that encompasses all these characters and behaviors. This pattern is identified by psychologists as psychopathy.
James G. Long had the dubious distinction of having worked for four managers early in his career who displayed psychopathic-type behaviors as confirmed by a professional psychologist.
He then finished his working career in petrochemical project management at Enron, the largest psychopathic corporate failure in history, for which failure he takes no credit. As a result of these experiences, he has actively pursued the study of psychopathy from an engineering and organizational standpoint for many years.
All public figures herein identified as psychopathic are found in the public record and are described as psychopathic, sociopathic, or psychotic, and display behaviors similar to behaviors of confirmed psychopaths. The serial murderers and many of the corporate psychopaths described herein were identified by psychologists as psychopaths in testimony in courts of law.
Psychopathy has recently developed as a field within psychology, and there has been much technical and psychological progress in the last few decades. Public awareness of what it is that the psychologists are learning typically trails by decades. Professional psychologists rigidly define and measure certain traits which define psychopathy, though the actual behaviors are quite diverse. Professional psychologists insist on a formal assessment of psychopathy which includes personal interviews of the subject and his family, friends, and associates and an extensive record review of the subject and his history, including medical and legal history. Assessing psychopathy is primarily the measuring of anti-social and narcissistic traits in the context of the psychopath’s life.
No psychopathic assessment of Hitler was ever made. Not only would Hitler and his associates have refused to participate, but the first clinical description of psychopathy was completed after WWII began. By the same token, Dr. Robert Hare, the leading expert on psychopathy, refused to give an opinion on the psychopathic state of Saddam Hussein. Psychologically, Dr. Hare was correct in this refusal, but this leaves a gaping hole in the historical record. It is certain that psychopaths existed before current psychologists got around to defining the subject. We can absolutely state that Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Gilles de Rais, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin. and Idi Amin were anti-social and narcissistic, but to what degrees? All totalitarian dictators and some of the participants in recent financial and political crises are assumed to be proto-psychopaths, and will be discussed in this context for the historical clarity that such discussion affords, based on the available evidence. This viewpoint is subject to debate and distortion.
Psychopathy is about control. Individual psychopaths often fit into certain narrow categories — domains — including serial murderers, organizational and financial fraudsters, corporate abusers, political deceivers, etc. Some psychopaths are defined, not so much within a specific domain, but by a general irresponsible and disruptive behavior. Political psychopaths are historically the most destructive type. Very recently, financial psychopaths have collaborated with political psychopaths to create massive economic damage. Each psychopath is to a large extent unique due to his own unique psychological make-up and due to who and what it is that he wishes to control. Despite this wide diversity in behavior, psychopaths do have common characteristics that consistently lead to unanticipated and destructive outcomes. Psychopaths expend great amounts of effort to appear normal and even exemplary in order to further their criminal purposes. This has been seen many times, and still it comes as a surprise each time.
One would not expect Bernie Madoff to be suddenly exposed as a serial murderer because Madoff’s domain was financial fraud, not serial murder. But if a political psychopath amasses sufficient power, he may well become an overt mass murderer like Adolph Hitler and not a covert serial murderer like John Wayne Gacy. If all psychopaths were similar they would be quickly recognized, just as those subject to psychoses were recognized in pre-history. Whatever mental disorders psychopaths may have, they do not lack in originality.
The various monochrome revolutions of recent years are revolts against political psychopathy. This includes the current Syrian, Turkish, and Egyptian revolts, but some of these revolts now pit psychopath against psychopath. This is not an unusual occurrence; witness the on-again, off-again love affair between Hitler and Stalin, two psychopaths each trying to use the other.
The current expressions of psychopathy rival the psychopathic financial and political turmoil of the 1930s. The current agitation, in numerous locations worldwide, is very similar to Europe and Germany near the time of Krystallnacht, and we are now seeing similar officially-condoned ethnic threats in the USA. Only in a psychopathic state could whites be blamed when a brown man shoots a black man in self-defense. The far more common black-on-black crime barely generates any notice at all. Various constituencies profit from the psychopathy of class, religious, or ethnic strife; it was always thus.
The thesis herein is that professional psychologists have very recently developed the tools to recognize a psychopath, but voters and citizens are as yet insufficiently aware of this admittedly complex subject. Some do not care, and some may support and even encourage psychopathic actions, just as most of the German people and the German Army General Staff supported Hitler, until they learned, too late, to regret it. Organizational psychopaths and their supporters invariably achieve a long or short period of common purpose, depending on the psychopath’s internal needs. Psychopaths regularly waste lives and treasure in pursuit of their own selfish goals, and do not care who among supporters or opponents is hurt in the process. When a psychopath’s supporters are thrown under the bus or shot in the back of the head, it causes much astonishment for the supporters, but it is business as usual for a psychopath. Psychopaths have no loyalty to anyone, and care only about how to manipulate one individual or group against another to the psychopath’s own perverse advantage.
There has been much speculation on Obama’s background, qualifications, and mental status. Obama has contributed to the speculation by concealing and distorting his record. The mental status of the person occupying the most powerful political office in the world would seem to be of primary importance, above all other factors. This is an examination of those factors.
The Great Game — Context
The Great Game was nominally a contest between the psychopathic Russian Empire in the North and the psychopathic British Empire in India, fought out for roughly the whole of the Nineteenth Century and centered in Afghanistan and surrounding states and statelets. This remains a troublesome area to this date. The Soviet Union substantially exhausted itself in Afghanistan in the 1980s, thereby contributing to the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Unfortunately, Russia has reconstituted itself as a destructive psychopathic state rather than a destructive Marxist psychopathic state, which is no great improvement, but does guarantee continued corruption and inefficiency in Russia. The USA has spent substantial blood and treasure in pacifying Iraq and Afghanistan in the first and second decades of the Twenty-First Century, a prolonged work in progress with no assured outcome except further strife and expense.
The troubles and the human costs in Afghanistan during the last two centuries were encapsulated early in Kipling’s haunting poem:
When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
From “THE YOUNG BRITISH SOLDIER”
by Rudyard Kipling
The occasion of this poem was the disastrous British retreat on foot and horseback from Kabul in the frigid winter of 1842 involving some 16,000 British and Indian troops, family members with wives and children, support personnel, and camp followers. Exactly one British military person, the singular Assistant Surgeon William Brydon, survived the trek and the ambushes, though a few native sepoy (sepahi) stragglers evaded and eventually returned to Indian territory. The human and financial costs in Afghanistan continue to this day. Indeed, Afghanistan has always been a psychopathic society at least from the time of Alexander, so nothing has changed in this regard for many centuries.
Psychopathic societies, with certain cultural variations, are universally marked by controlling leadership, by corruption, by intolerance, and by routine and sometimes ritual child abuse, such as female sexual mutilation. All dictatorships are believed to be psychopathic, and often make great effort to appear otherwise.
Over two hundred years ago, French psychologist Philippe Pinel identified a condition he identified as “insane without delirium.” In modern terminology, this might be rendered as “insane without overt indications of psychosis.” Dr. Hervey Cleckley’s book, The Mask of Sanity, 1941, was the first clinical description of psychopathy, and was based primarily on Dr. Cleckley’s own observations of drunks and bums in rural Georgia.
Dr. Cleckley’s “mask” explicitly referred to a fabricated and attractive persona wherein the appearance of sanity was artfully constructed to cover a personality disorder which has variable unattractive manifestations. In the extreme, psychopaths do appear to be insane. Psychopaths are quite rational in their actions, but are given to extreme insane-like behaviors to create fear and to manipulate their victims. Higher ranking victims are also manipulated, but more often with reasonable, sometimes creative, behavior and by fawning flattery. Psychopathy is multi-dimensional and multi-variant, which has made the definition and understanding of psychopathy very difficult. Psychopaths follow an extreme self-centered and uncaring value system compared to most people. Thus Dr. Pinel and then Dr. Cleckley, later and in somewhat more detail, have described the same condition.
Dr. Cleckley, based on his own limited observations, speculated that there may well be criminal psychopaths, organizational psychopaths, and professional psychopaths. Sure enough, in the 1970s a series of serial-murder psychopaths caught the public’s attention: Charles Manson, Dean Corll, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and others. What caught the publics’ attention was the spectacular nature of the serial murderers’ crimes, not the psychological details.
Twenty years later, the 1990s saw the rise to prominence of the corporate psychopaths, facilitated by the rapid advances in technology and communications. “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap at Sunbeam Corporation, Bernie Ebbers at WorldCom, and Jeff Skilling at Enron were each identified as psychopaths by professional psychologists, each destroyed billions of dollars of value, and each disrupted thousands of lives and careers. There were many similar but lesser-known cases near this time.
More recently, Australian Dr. Clive Boddy analyzed and documented the damages psychopaths do within organizations, and made a convincing argument that financial and political psychopaths drove the 2008 worldwide financial collapse. Dr. Boddy’s book is Corporate Psychopaths: Organisational Destroyers, 2011. Few have commented, as yet, on the psychopathic nature of the Libor scandal, though $700 trillion in derivatives are involved, just as the world financial situation becomes more unstable.
In some form or another, psychopaths often are alienated during their growth process, and they frequently appear to suffer neurological impairment, which may or may not be related in some as yet undefined way to their alienation. Psychopaths create a false and charismatic persona to compensate for their own perceived inadequacies, they attempt to control others for their own selfish benefit, and they pretend to feelings that they are actually incapable of holding, for the purpose of manipulating their victims. Psychopaths are both parasitic and predatory.
Early in Dr. Cleckley’s investigation of clinical psychopathy, he observed that psychopaths show an intense interest in therapy sessions, not for the purpose of becoming well, but in order to become more competent and more functional as psychopaths. Therapy teaches psychopaths how more normal people act, and from there how to exploit “weaknesses,” such as a normal person’s trusting nature. In prison, Charles Manson took a Dale Carnegie course and befriended convicted pimps in order to learn how to control people, particularly women.
Psychopaths may well expect to ultimately fail as a result of traumatic and alienating events in their earliest childhood. Hitler blamed his failures on the German people, a typical scenario. Psychopathic failure invariably produces massive social and financial costs for both supporters and opponents of the psychopath in proportion to the scale in which the particular psychopath operates, from Adolph Hitler to Jeff Skilling to Casey Anthony.
The “Good Enough” Society
Dr. Lyle Rossiter describes, in meticulous detail, the development of personality from infancy to adulthood. Dr. Rossiter’s book is The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, which follows the personality developmental model as described in Dr. Erik Erikson’s book, Identity: Youth and Crisis. Dr. Rossiter posits a broad “good enough” model of parenting which covers a big majority of people, leaving them free to pursue their own private and community interests and talents while maintaining a responsible and productive life. Deviations from this “good enough” parenting may contribute to troubled lives. In the extreme, Dr. Rossiter’s model describes political madness as witnessed by the official corruption of Leftist political elites.
Three primary mental disorders (among many lesser disorders) are commonly recognized and are often confused with one another. Thinking disorders, also identified as psychoses, include paranoia and schizophrenia and were recognized in pre-history. Mood disorders were first clinically described in the late Nineteenth Century and include depression, mania, and bi-polar conditions. The primary personality disorder is psychopathy and it was first clinically described in 1941 by Dr. Cleckley, with constant revisions and updates as experience and knowledge increased. It is typical of psychopathy that co-morbidities may be present, including thinking disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse, kleptomania, sexual deviation, etc. Thinking disorders and mood disorders by themselves are rarely harmful except to the person suffering the disorder. Wars, social calamities, and financial disasters are usually associated with psychopaths, or more rarely with just plain old ignorance and stupidity (dot.com bubble, 1996-1999).
The most widely-used tool to determine psychopathy is Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Check List – Revised (PCL-R), based largely on Dr. Cleckley’s preliminary work from fifty years earlier. Since Dr. Cleckley’s first observations, research in the field of psychopathy has advanced rapidly. When Dr. Cleckley first described psychopathy, he lamented that the subject was so complex that he was “a voice crying in the wilderness.” Dr. Hare, continuing Dr. Cleckley’s work, has built a distinguished career and consults for the FBI, the RCMP, and various law-enforcement agencies on criminal and psychopathic matters. As yet the general population has not identified and embraced the clinical findings related to psychopathy, and the fraud and banditry continue in private and governmental affairs, at great cost to “good enough” taxpayers.
The current PCL-R consists of twenty-one items, primarily classed as anti-social behaviors (such as parasitism, irresponsibility, and delinquency) and narcissistic behaviors (such as dishonesty, manipulation, and callousness). Each of the twenty-one items is scored by a professional, with a score of 0, 1, or 2 assigned to each item. With a maximum total score of 42, a score of 30 or greater is generally considered to be psychopathic.
Most adults, with Dr. Rossiter’s “good enough” upbringing and with no neurological abnormalities, score low in the single digits on the PCL-R. Criminals generally score higher on anti-social behaviors and narcissists tend to score on the self-centered items. While about one percent of the population scores in the psychopathic range, psychopaths are ambitious and Dr. Hare now notes that perhaps four percent of high ranking individuals may be psychopathic. This may have very serious implications as organizations become larger and more powerful.
Many psychopaths display alienation, but the alienation takes different forms. The single most common characteristic of psychopaths is a dysfunctional childhood, often including physical or sexual abuse. Abuse is itself alienating. Examples of psychopaths who were abused in childhood include Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Robert Maudsley aka Hannibal the Cannibal (the real-life model for Hannibal Lecter), and John Wayne Gacy. Alienation is often associated with national or religious values (or lack thereof, or change thereof) and personal identity; Napoleon was not French but Corsican, Lenin was not Russian but Kalmyk and Turkic, Stalin was not Russian but Georgian and Stalin once studied for the priesthood, Hitler was not German but Austrian, Bashar al-Assad is Alawite in a Sunni nation, and Obama is of mixed parentage, American and Kenyan, with exposure to Indonesian Muslim influences and to radical Marxist influences on both sides of his family.
At the opposite extreme from the abused child, psychopathy may be the result of a child being “spoiled rotten,” perhaps accompanied by emotional deprivation. By spoiling a child, a privileged psychopath may be created — born in first place. Examples include Vladimir Lenin, Ted Kennedy, Jeff Skilling, Bernie Madoff, and various corporate psychopaths.
There are psychopaths for whom there are no known associated factors that contribute to their psychopathic state — no known abuse, alienation, or neurological conditions can be identified.
Neurological Correlates of Psychopathy
Dr. Hare and others have done extensive studies of neurology and of neurological testing in association with their studies of psychopathy. One notable finding was that psychopaths commonly exhibit a tight little saw-tooth pattern typical of infants in electroencephalogram (EEG) readouts. Not only that, but parents of psychopaths may exhibit this same immature pattern, even though the parents themselves show no signs of psychopathy. Dr. Hare, working with two graduate students, once prepared a comparative report based on the EEG readouts of psychopaths and non-psychopaths. The paper was rejected because the experienced psychologists who edited the paper questioned the patterns, even though the patterns were legitimate data from psychopathic subjects.
Psychopaths also tend to abnormal patterns in radiological tracing using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and in brain blood flow measurements using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans. The consensus now is that neurological damage or neurological abnormality plus social factors may contribute to psychopathy. An open question now is: “Can child abuse create neurological damage and abnormal neurological readouts?”
Psychopathic Characteristic Alerts
Psychopaths are constantly on the lookout for people they can exploit and control, and have an excellent nose for doubt, fear, weakness, and loneliness.
Charisma is instant grounds for suspicion of psychopathic behavior. Psychopaths can change from obsequious behavior toward senior personnel to abusive behavior toward subordinate personnel, and vice-versa, in a moment. Unexplained and untypically high rates of personnel turnover are likely the result of an organizational psychopath. A statement such as “I am a tough son-of-a-bitch” is at once bullying, disrespectful toward the parents who abused him, and dishonest; psychopaths invariable get poor results, not tough results.
The psychopath’s first priority is to control other people — physically, emotionally, sexually, financially, politically, or some combination, depending on the psychopath’s experiential domain. This is in radical contrast with Dr. Rossiter’s “good enough” citizen, who relies on co-operation and negotiation to achieve goals. An organizational psychopath who is the product of an abusive upbringing may be just repeating the abuse he suffered in childhood with his subordinates as victims, and he may be seeking revenge on his parental figures or on the world. Privileged psychopaths are typically “spoiled rotten” and their childhood experiences tell them that they can do no wrong. When they do wrong, they can often talk or buy their way out of trouble.
Psychopaths are quite rational, it is their value system that varies from the norm. Psychopaths may (or may not) demonstrate superior intelligence. Psychopaths have a near total lack of affect — no empathy, no sympathy, no guilt, no remorse, no conscience, and no sense of humor.
Karl Marx, a psychopath, exhibited much love and consideration for his wife and children but, in contradiction, kept them in abject poverty. Several of Marx’s children died of starvation-induced illness during childhood and his daughter Laura died of suicide in 1911. Much of Marx’s limited income was from loans or direct gifts from friends and supporters, and from eagerly awaited inheritances. Marx was known to complain when an elderly relatives’ death came too slowly. No one takes Marx seriously at this late date, but psychopaths and their supporters, quite oblivious to Marx’s psychopathy, adopt Marxism as an element in the mask they construct to cover their fraudulent behaviors. The thesis here is that Marx’s economic constructs have never worked in practice and have no validity; they are nothing more than pseudo-intellectual elements in the psychopathic mask, designed to increase the power and influence of Marxist psychopaths. Workers are victims and designated losers in every Marxist system. Young Blacks are Obama’s strongest supporters and chief victims.
Psychopaths’ supporters enthusiastically follow their leader. Islam and Marxism are the only two major philosophical (?) systems that make sacraments of dishonesty, of destruction, and of death, and both are, at least among their most ardent followers, psychopathic in nature.
A psychopath’s behavior is commonly learned in childhood abuse. Daddy (or mommy) treated him (more rarely her) badly but the child was required, not only to endure, but to learn how to minimize the punishment that was inflicted. Abused children learn to be sensitive to nuances and learn to be manipulative and flattering. Abused children also learn that big people can beat up little people. Callousness and poor behavioral controls are two items in Dr. Hare’s PCL-R, and these characteristics manifest as bullying behavior when a psychopath deals with subordinates. Flattering, even obsequious, behavior is normal when psychopaths deal with superiors. Consequently, superiors and subordinates of a psychopath have profoundly different perceptions of the psychopath. This split perception is almost universal. Only occasionally will a psychopath make a sufficiently bad mistake that he loses his organizational support.
Keep in mind that some solid families with educated and successful children have one child that is psychopathic. There is no good explanation for this, and the parents are fearful and traumatized, and concerned that they did something wrong.
The Psychopath’s Mask
To control other people, psychopaths create a false persona to disguise their real intent, as described in Dr. Cleckley’s book, The Mask of Sanity. The mask may be physical; John Wayne Gacy wore a clown costume to attract boys and young men in order to violate and kill them, and Ted Bundy used fake bandages and fake arm and leg casts to attract young women whom were then murdered. Organizational psychopaths often accumulate degrees, awards, honors, and certificates to enhance others’ perceptions of the psychopath’s own mediocre performance and criminal behaviors, with the objective of committing fraud and deception.
Professionals and people in positions of authority are almost never allowed to see a psychopath without his mask in place, and consequently superiors have no comprehension of what it is like to work under a psychopath. Straight politicians, professors, professionals, and executives are almost totally clueless about the nature of psychopathy, because they live in a more orderly world and see the extreme negative effects that psychopaths have on workers’ health and well-being only in the abstract. Psychopaths invariable put on their masks when dealing with those that might have the power to negatively impact them. If this appears improbable, recall Napoleon’s and Hitler’s effects on their enablers. Psychopaths, such as Hitler in his mask, are quite impressive to straight, well-meaning authorities until after the damage is done. These authorities see only the fake and charismatic mask, and are deceived, or self-deceived.
For example, it is highly improbable that a Harvard graduate, or anyone in an obvious position of authority, would ever see a psychopath without his mask in place. Psychopaths are very much in tune with nuances, and anyone with educational or hierarchical trappings will be treated with the utmost respect and deference. It is far more likely that a Harvard graduate would be discovered to be a privileged psychopath, such as Jeff Skilling.
The Two Faces of the Organizational Psychopath
Dr. Cleckley described the psychopath’s mask as an attractive cover for a very unattractive personality, but he did not dwell on the other side of the mask which is much more obvious in an organizational setting. In non-organizational settings, such as the ones in which Dr. Cleckley spent most of his career, a psychopath can be described as erratic and irresponsible, but acting in a sincere and attractive manner when he wants something such as gaining release from jail. In an organizational setting, psychopathic crime is common but jail is not, Rod Blagojevich and Bernie Madoff being rare exceptions. An organizational psychopath typically has a charismatic mask to impress people that need to be impressed, and a vicious, tough-guy personality for others, not unlike the way an abusive parent treats a child.
A psychopath is often described as two-faced. This is a major sticking point when a subordinate tries to explain his perceptions to the organization’s upper management. Never having seen the negative side of the psychopath’s personality, upper management knows that something is wrong because of the personnel turnover and high costs. But the smooth-talking psychopath does not appear to be the problem, creating a conundrum for upper management. Psychopaths who do get into trouble within their organizations are commonly transferred but are rarely fired, and continue their psychopathic depredations in a new context. Rahm Emanuel and Jon Corzine are primary examples.
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Socialist after WWI who moved to the Soviet Union and became an associate of Joseph Stalin. Gramsci recognized the limits and disadvantages of mass murder, and proposed a “Cultural Communism” in which cultural institutions were to be infiltrated and captured for the greater glory of Marxism. Targeted institutions included political parties, academia, the media, churches, lawyers and legal associations, and labor associations. Of all the troubles in America, the institutions that Gramsci targeted now have the biggest problems, from Newsweek and WaPo to unemployed college graduates to corrupt and declining labor unions.
Marxism was ostensibly for the benefit of the workers, but no Marxist Revolution has ever been led by workers. When given a choice, workers usually reject Marxism, and labor unions are often led by radical and sometimes criminal organizers posing as champions of labor. Marxist revolutions are typically led by lawyers (Lenin, Castro) or warlords (Mao, Kim). The people who promote the “dictatorship of the proletariat” are not proletariats and would not know a spanner from a double jack. The very people who promote psychopathic goals are often non-laboring types whose production cannot be measured except by money, such as the Boards of Directors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who perpetrated the $10 billion accounting fraud on the American taxpayer.
Confusion and Denial
Drs. Cleckley, Hare, Boddy, and Rossiter have presented a coherent and internally consistent explanation for psychopathic phenomena that, on the surface, make no sense. That does not mean that everyone agrees with the good doctors. Journalists in particular present material as fact, when it is, at best, incomplete and at worst, utter nonsense. The obsequious treatment of Obama by some journalists did not protect them from governmental snooping, much to their astonishment. They will be even more astonished when they are thrown under the bus, but they probably will not be shot in the back of the head.
Some psychologists are not much better. There are honest disagreements and wild flights of imagination. Psychopaths have neither wisdom nor virtue, contrary to what at least one professional psychologist has said.
The “bible” of psychologists, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), has been through five editions and many revised printings since its inception after WWII. The DSM was first presented reflecting historical and wartime medical understanding. The new DSM Fifth Edition has been criticized for trivializing mental disorders; is preference for one parent over the other really a mental disorder (“parental alienation disorder”)? The DSM committees also exhibit a strong preference for disorders for which there is available pharmacological relief, at a price.
Psychopaths generate professional conflicts, as well. A leading professional human resources (HR) association favors the term “bully boss” and in effect denies the possibility that bullying is a mental disorder, while acknowledging that their bully boss generates huge personnel turnover and costs. Bullying behavior is but one aspect of psychopathy.
An article, (“Tough Boss or Workplace Bully?,” June 1, 2009, Teresa A. Daniel, SHRM Journal), differentiates between a tough, productive, efficient manager and a bully boss who presides over an inefficient and wasteful organization. This article ignores the possibility that the bully boss has a severe personality disorder. The article cites studies that indicate that perhaps half of all workers may work for a bully boss during their lifetimes, and estimates the losses from bully bosses in the billions of dollars. Callousness and poor behavioral controls are signature psychopathic characteristics of the bully boss and of the psychopath, and a deeper investigation of the bully boss will reveal a psychopath. There is no functional difference between HR’s bully boss and psychologists’ psychopathic boss, but bully bosses usually are kept in position for long periods because uninformed upper management retains executives who have serious personality disorders. The psychopath’s serious mental disorder typically includes a faked charisma that is useful to prolong his tenure.
Another article, (“Even a Viper Boss Can Change for the Better,” Bill Leonard, August 1, 2012, SHRM Journal), cites the works of both Dr. Hare and Dr. Boddy and then makes the bold statement: “Bailey, whose clients include 500 companies, says he has never encountered any executive he would classify as a psychopath.” This is a statement of the psychopath’s successful efforts to conceal his true nature behind a mask, and, even more, a statement of the general cluelessness of senior executives who are supposed to prevent fraud and inefficiency in their areas of responsibility. Contrast this with the corporate psychopaths described by Dr. Hare in his book, Snakes in Suits (co-authored by Dr. Paul Babiak). No high-ranking person is likely to see a psychopath without his mask, and ignorance of psychopathy is widespread in upper levels of management. For the record, professional psychologists report that psychopaths almost never show improvement, and may become worse as a result of what they learn in therapy. After middle-age, psychopathic behavior tends to taper off.
Historically, there have been many tens of millions of enablers for the relatively few political psychopaths that have achieved the world stage. The enablers may range from the sympathetic to the true believer, but they are usually not psychopathic themselves. Ernst Rohm, high among Hitler’s closest friends and supporters, had many psychopathic traits, but he died following The Night of the Long Knives on Hitler’s orders. Rohm was a thug and street fighter, and he was thrown under the bus to appease the German military who sought a more cultured and refined appearance for their own thuggish ambitions. Enablers not only accept the psychopath’s fake persona, but may become fanatical in their support of the psychopath and their belief systems which the psychopath encourages and exploits.
Psychopaths are adept at exploiting or creating crises in order to manipulate enablers for the achievement of their own selfish goals. One is reminded of Rahm Emanuel’s famous psychopathic dictum, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” What Emanuel, a privileged psychopath, could do is to follow the law, but he has a long history of violating the laws he is sworn to uphold. Emanuel is also a noted bully and a central figure in the Freddie Mac scandals and fraud, after he was kicked out of the White House for his obnoxious behavior in the failed Hillarycare effort. Now Emanuel is mayor of Chicago. Poor Chicago, the next Detroit.
In spite of the psychopath’s charismatic persona, in the final analysis he has no regard for anyone but himself. After WWII, Germans lamented that they could have believed and followed that silly little Austrian Corporal, Hitler. The racist Reverend Jeremiah Wright was thrown under the bus when it was politically convenient to be rid of this turbulent priest. Lenin, the self-proclaimed champion of the down-trodden, shot and starved about five million Ukrainian peasant kulaks because they fit Lenin’s eccentric profile of the exploitive capitalist class. Soviet agriculture did not recover for over seventy years after the Marxist Revolution in Russia, and only after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Reverend Wright may count himself lucky that he did not join the fate of the kulaks or of the thirty million starved and executed Chinese peasants under Mao.
A very recent article (“Concepts and implications of altruism bias and pathological altruism,” Barbara A. Oakley, April 9, 2013, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) describes the sometimes negative results that follow nominally positive altruistic efforts. In sequence, the pathological altruism article discusses teen pregnancy, housing, foreign aid to Africa, and the national debt, and demonstrates that each “altruistic” effort has made matters worse, or much worse, depending.
Not listed in the Oakley article is the War on Poverty. LBJ’s War on Poverty took an average of $220 billion each year from the productive economy for thirty years ($6.6 trillion total) at the end of which the total national debt was just under $6.0 trillion. The War on Poverty, which paid money to poor women and children only if males abandoned their families, substantially destroyed Black family life in the USA. Before 1965, over 80% of poor children lived in a family unit with two parents; after 1995, only one-third of poor children lived with two parents.
Dysfunctional families appear to contribute to psychopathy, and the War on Poverty certainly created homeless young men who went into crime and drugs. The prison population started increasing sharply exactly fifteen years after the government started paying out money when no male was present in a household. President Clinton cancelled the War on Poverty because of massive corruption and ineffectiveness, and in response to the complaints of state governors who were left with related expenses that their states could not afford. At the same time, the housing bubble was growing out of hand and resulted in an even greater financial catastrophe. Now major cities are going bankrupt and the financial status of the Republic continues to deteriorate. The national debt has gone from essentially zero to $17 trillion in just thirty years.
There is a long standing political element behind the very recent identification of “pathological altruism.” Marxist psychopaths describe people who support pathological altruism or other Marxist programs as “useful idiots” but non-Marxists are more apt to call them “useless idiots.” Pathological altruists at one time referred to themselves as “the best and the brightest,” but that became a bad joke as they were, in fact, the worst and the dimmest; the so-called best and the brightest consistently make matters worse and expect someone (taxpayers) to rescue them, as in Detroit. Pathological altruists are certainly not elite though psychopath enablers aspire to elitist status through their close association with the psychopath. It never occurs to the psychopath’s enablers how much damage is being done until after disaster overtakes.
Psychopaths and Enablers
Dr. Cleckley described psychopaths as without affect which means, among other things, without empathy and altruism. But Ms. Oakley describes the psychopath’s enablers as misguided empathetic altruists. Psychopaths themselves have zero empathy or altruism but use the pathological altruism of their enablers to accomplish their own selfish, destructive goals, to everyone’s disadvantage.
Psychopaths typically jump to the head of the parade for any controversial program (climate, green energy) they can adapt for their own selfish purposes. From a position of power and trust granted to them by their enablers, psychopaths bask in wealth and influence and carbon emissions, even as the chosen goal becomes more expensive and less achievable.
Stress and the Psychopath
Psychopaths are quick to exploit stressful situations when large masses of people are in a state of anxiety, such as the Weimar Republic in the 1930s. If there is no stressful situation one can be arranged, such as our own current national debt.
Psychopathy and the Law
Over the years, professional psychologists have established an increasingly coherent and complete view of psychopathy until now they can offer professional opinions that are well received in courts of law. This represents much progress since Dr. Cleckley compared himself to a “voice crying in the wilderness.” Dr. Hare has written articles on the psychopathic nature of the multi-billion dollar Enron debacle, and he has written extensively on major legal proceedings involving psychopathy. The “FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,” July 2012, was dedicated to “Psychopathy” and the introduction was written by Dr. Hare.
The Literature of Psychopathy
When encountered, psychopaths are singular, memorable, and rare, but statistically there may be some 1.3 million psychopaths in the work force. Of these psychopaths, some unknown percentage qualifies as organizational psychopaths ambitiously pursuing higher ranking positions.
There are relatively few good treatments of the psychopathic condition in literature. One of the most prominent is The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, a distinguished semi-fictional WWII story. A derivative stage play and movie, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial starring Humphrey Bogart, followed the original book. In the court-martial play and movie, the part played by Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg had Captain Queeg identified as paranoid, but this was just a few years after Dr. Cleckley had defined clinical psychopathy, and psychopathy was little known in those years. Queeg displayed unmistakable psychopathic characteristics. It was not until the 1970s and the serial murder cases (Manson, Corll, Bundy, Gacy, and others) that psychopathy was widely noted, and at that time the awareness of psychopathy was primarily limited to the sensational aspects of the serial murderers, not to the fine points of the psychology of the psychopath.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris was both a book and movie. The Hannibal Lecter character was inspired by the life of Robert Maudsley (aka Hannibal the Cannibal) who remains in solitary confinement in Great Britain to this day. There were a number of sensational books and movies in the same genre about this time.
Captain Bligh of the Mutiny on the Bounty had all the characteristics of a psychopath. Captain Bligh is noted for his role in three mutinies at a time when mutiny in the British navy and in the British Empire was almost automatically punished by death. Captain Bligh’s superb navigation of a small overloaded ship’s boat for thousands of miles is the stuff of legend, but his personal characteristics are the stuff of a psychopath.
G.K. Chesterton wrote a series of short stories under the title, The Poet and the Lunatics. The first of these tales was entitled “The Fantastic Friends” and includes a character by name of James Hurrel. Though the overall title was The Poet and the Lunatics and many of the stories featured psychotic persons, Hurrel was no lunatic (psychotic), but he had all the characteristics of a rational psychopath. Chesterton was extremely observant and, before Dr. Cleckley had defined the term, Chesterton produced a reliable description of a fictional psychopathic character, surely based on a real live psychopath.
Psychopathy and the Citizen
After thousands of years of social and political development with advances, retreats, and slow progress, the first state closely based on a non-psychopathic philosophy of government was founded on the North American continent in 1776. In spite of some psychopathic remnants, primarily slavery and the treatment of Native Americans, the philosophy was republican and this republican philosophy led to the spectacular success and progress of the new state. Well over one hundred nation states worldwide have modeled themselves on the United States of America Republic within the last century.
“Good enough” republican forms of government tend to emphasize individual development and individual autonomy growing from a matrix of family values. In the American Republic, the original function of the government was to keep out of the way of the citizens, except within narrowly defined areas (defense, foreign relations, and national and international commerce, for examples). Psychopathic states, including Marxist states, tend to cultivate tribal or group control where the child is the possession of the tribe or the state, a position the USA is now replicating with disastrous results for everyone except the psychopathic leadership.
This is best illustrated in schooling. Non-psychopathic schooling promotes inquiry and initiative. Psychopathic schooling, such as Islamic madrassas, promotes rote memorization. Current American psychopathic schooling promotes self-esteem without estimable accomplishment, a devastating distortion of values. A criticism of current education in the USA is that we spend more and more money to achieve worse and worse results. This is a deliberate effort by callous and un-altruistic psychopaths such as the terrorist Bill Ayers, who leads pathological altruists and the children toward scholastic disaster. School control is not a function of the federal government under the Constitution. It would be better to return control of schools to states and local communities and encourage those models that perform best.
Wilson and FDR re-introduced an elitist element into the republican ethos and the republican ideal has been steadily eroded for nearly a century. There are myriad recent violation of Constitutional principles and the law: “Fast and Furious,” Solyndra, Government Motors, gun control, and sanctuary cities, as examples. The American Republic is becoming increasingly corrupt and psychopathic. After about 1960, psychopathic behaviors in our government became prominent and institutionalized. The psychopathic Soviet Union died of operational inefficiency and institutional corruption, a model we might best avoid. Without the rule of law and without the social cohesion most capably provided by families, we will become no better than any psychopathic state.
One of the anti-social items on Dr. Hare’s PCL-R is “irresponsibility,” and irresponsibility is becoming a way of life (and fetal death) in the United States of America, as it was in the Soviet Union on a grand scale. Social Security and Medicare will separately and independently bankrupt America within the foreseeable future, and to these we have added the housing bubble, ACA, and the prolonged Great Recession aggravated by the academic bubble. We are concurrently racking up huge debts, destroying our ability to repay those debts, and encouraging an irresponsible citizenry following an increasingly psychopathic and irresponsible leadership.
Psychopaths’ enablers persist in their delusion of elitism and do not believe that they are wrong, even as the situation approaches collapse. Similar past examples include the collapse of Germany and Japan at the end of WWII, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the collapse of Enron, the collapse of Detroit, the incipient collapse of the so-called MSM, and the threatened collapse of the American educational system.
There is now no law that prohibits a psychopath from being elected to office, nor a psychotic person, for that matter. But psychotics are obviously disturbed, while psychopaths are rational and appeal to certain gullible persons with whom they can bond, if only temporarily. Dr. Hare once questioned the possibility of requiring psychological validation of political candidates, an excellent but problematic idea that has gone nowhere. As a minimum, candidates for political office might be required to make full disclosure of their personal history, scholastic records, and associates. Conviction for any crime should end any political career and end any position of trust and responsibility. The “free press” failed miserably in their duties to the Republic when the current administration sought public office. Domestically, the worst products of psychopathy now threaten: bureaucratic overload and ineptitude, disrespect for law, social disintegration, and financial bankruptcy. This is exactly the situation that prevailed in the Soviet Union in 1991. We have done this to ourselves, and we will correct it ourselves or we will face a very bleak future.
Psychopathy and the World
Internationally, psychopaths have played a major destructive role in world history. Individual psychopaths come and go, but Islamic psychopathy has been active for 1500 years, and Marxist psychopaths have been active since the Industrial Revolution. The German and Japanese psychopathic systems were stopped cold in 1945, at great cost, and this is the first time in world history this has happened. But then this was the biggest opportunity in history to observe aggressive psychopathic actions on such a scale. Japan and Germany are now model, responsible democracies.
In the great scheme of things, it appears that psychopaths build psychopathic systems using whatever divisive issue or issues that are available. It is quite immaterial what the issues are, psychopathy is about the psychopath, and issues, supporters, and opponents are but pieces on the game board of psychopathy. Psychopaths enlist whatever followers, pathological altruists, adventurers, disaffected elements, or dupes that can be conned into action to play his game. The corruption and destruction builds until the situation becomes sufficiently alarming. Then the psychopaths collapse, are eliminated, or are repressed, and the cycle begins anew or eventually revives, as in the case of Islamist or Marxist terrorists. We seem to have a choice; terminate terroristic psychopathic behavior, or let it fester for years or centuries. The human and financial costs of psychopathy are huge and are borne by everyone, and the only persons who gain are the psychopaths, whose only gain is temporary self-aggrandizement and permanent infamy, both of which are undoubtedly attractive to a psychopath.
When psychopathy is widely recognized for what it is, stopping it can be fairly simple. Psychopaths invariably begin as delinquents or scofflaws, and corrective action should be sure and swift, and should result in loss of freedoms. Bureaucracies create intricate regulations that are expensive to administer and that create confusion that can be exploited by larcenous psychopaths. Psychopaths should be limited in their access to jobs in banking or finance, for example.
The current great potential and great threat is technology. How big a threat are atomic weapons in the psychopathic hands of Iran and North Korea? What price will we be willing to pay to contain these and other threats? The answers to these questions will shape our future, and the future of the world.