31 May 2012

Is the Root of Evil the Psychopathic Mind?

by Randall Clifford, Activist Post

As such a useful tool of exchange, money is not inherently evil. Money can be a springboard to such evil as bailout-begging banks too monstrous to fail gambling with taxpayer wealth - you know, private profits, public risk. Casino financialization with taxpayers as a backstop. The $700 billion TARP bailout actually being a $23.7 trillion bailout. But the root of all evil is the human brain.

New research has exposed, shall we say, the root of the problem. Pathocracy is its flower.

Definition: pathocracy (n). A system of government created by a small pathological minority that takes control over a society of normal people (from Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes, by Andrew Lobaczewski).

A small minority of people are born psychopaths; they inherit a genetic deviance linked to certain structural abnormalities of their social brain.

(Read more on SOTT.net)

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28 November 2011

Sott.net interviews Dr. Lobaczewski

11 November 2011

Is There No Shame?

Is There No Shame?

Jim Quinn for The Burning Platform

[…] This is an institutional cancer that eats away at the fabric of our society. It is not isolated to Penn State. It is a societal sickness that threatens to overwhelm every facet of our lives. There is a constant thread that runs through every incident that comes to light. In 99% of the cases it is men protecting men. Money and greed always trump morality and truth. The exact circumstances can be observed in the priest abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the last five years. Pedophile priests have existed within the Catholic Church for decades. The Penn State situation shows that pedophiles exist everywhere in our society. The bottom line is that they are sick men and need to be locked up and kept away from little boys. […]

Wall Street bankers exhibit the epitome of psychopathic behavior, showing lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as average individuals by feigning emotions. These Wall Street bankers will never willingly accept responsibility for their actions. They continue to use their wealth and power to control the politicians in Washington DC and the misinformation propagated by the corporate media they control. They own and control the Federal Reserve and will print money until the whole system collapses in a spectacular implosion that destroys our financial system. They only care about their own wealth, influence and status. They have no shame. [...]

(Read the full article here.)

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07 November 2011

Foxes and Reptiles: Psychopathy and the Financial Meltdown

Foxes and Reptiles: Psychopathy and the Financial Meltdown

by Jonathan Zap for Reality Sandwich

The present financial meltdown may only be the latest example of the incalculable harm done to civilization, and countless individual lives, by psychopaths, a subspecies of Homo sapiens. The purpose of this essay is twofold. First, I will provide a brief tour of the psychopath subspecies so that you understand who they are and how they operate. You probably already know psychopaths, and it is overwhelmingly likely that at some point in your life a psychopath that you encounter personally will try to harm you. Second, I will draw the correlative between psychopathy and the present financial meltdown and provide a suggestion of a relatively simple change that could decrease the likelihood of the sort of abuses that could lead to future meltdowns.

(Read the full article here)

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22 May 2011

Review: Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

Harrison Koehli Sott.net

"I've always believed society to be a fundamentally rational thing, but what if it isn't? What if it is built on insanity?"

So asks Jon Ronson in his latest book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. Ronson is probably best known for his book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was adapted for the big screen and starred George Clooney. It documented a slightly loony group of American Army men who were convinced they could walk through walls and kill goats by simply glaring at them menacingly (apparently they took the phrase "looking daggers" a tad too literally). He also wrote a book on fundamentalists, extremists and radicals, even tailing David Icke for a spell. For research, of course. Having already spent much of his career peering into the fringe boundaries of normality, The Psychopath Test pushes him further into the sphere of madness and the science that attempts to explain it. The result is entertaining, sometimes informative, yet a mixed-bag that never really answers the questions he set out to tackle.

I'm going to avoid giving a chapter-by-chapter rundown of the book. As I said above, it's an entertaining, and easy, read. I'm not a particularly fast reader but wolfed this one down in three sittings over two days. So if you've the time, cash, and/or inclination, check it out. Rather, I want to focus on what I'll call the good, the bad, and the so-so. Ronson gets a lot of things right. First of all, he's a great writer. The book is peppered with entertaining, funny, and somewhat disturbing accounts of his interviews with people he comes to believe are genuine psychopaths. Pitting a self-described neurotic, over-anxious journalist against some of the world's most dangerous criminals and manipulators is a recipe for a good story, and in this regard, Ronson delivers.

Like Martha Stout (whom Ronson quotes in the book), author of The Sociopath Next Door, Ronson does a great job introducing the concept of psychopathy to readers who otherwise wouldn't be interested in scouring dry textbooks on the subject. He treks across the world interviewing potential candidates: from a convicted UK man who tried to fake madness in order to avoid prison, only to be placed in an institution for the criminally insane; an ex-death squad leader from Haiti who was supported and protected by the CIA; to ex-CEO of Sunbeam, Al "I believe in predators" Dunlap, who gleefully fired thousands before being charged with corporate fraud. Finding them, he confronts his interviewees about their own psychopathy, with surprising results. Many deny it, of course, while not-so-subtly revealing the opposite in their answers to Ronson, who dutifully jots down his diagnoses on his notepad. Dunlap, on the other hand, managed to turn each item of the Psychopathy Checklist into a "Leadership Positive". To Dunlap, hey, being a psychopath ain't that bad at all! More on that below.

Then there was the failed experiment at Oak Ridge, in Canada, where psychopathic offenders were treated with LSD and encouraged to "share their feelings", engaging in group therapy where they acted as each other's psychotherapists. The inmates showed remarkable improvement and were released into the world, reformed beings eager to start life anew. At least, that's what the doctors thought. But the therapy had simply taught them to be better manipulators, and it seemed to have gone to their heads. Their recidivism rates ended up being even higher than ordinary psychopaths. It's good to see this kind of anecdotal knowledge about psychopathy reach the mainstream. As psychopathy expert and author of the Psychopathy Checklist, Bob Hare, says, psychopaths are born psychopaths. You can't treat them. This is one of the highlights of the book: the scattered airport-hotel conversations Ronson had with Hare over the course of his research for the book. For example:

Bob said it's always a nice surprise when a psychopath speaks openly about their inability to feel emotions. Most of them pretend to feel. When they see us non-psychopaths crying or scared or moved by human suffering, or whatever, they think it's fascinating. They study us and learn how to ape us, like space creatures trying to blend in, but if we keep our eyes open, we can spot the fakery. (p. 100-101)

"I should never have done all my research in prisons. I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well."

I looked at Bob. "Really?" I said.

He nodded.

"But surely stock-market psychopaths can't be as bad as serial-killer psychopaths," I said.

"Serial killers ruin families." Bob shrugged. "Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies."

This--Bob was saying--was the straightforward solution to the greatest mystery of all: Why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: psychopaths. That part of the brain that doesn't function right. You're standing on an escalator and you watch the people going past on the opposite escalator. If you could climb inside their brains, you would see we aren't all the same. We aren't all good people just trying to do good. Some of us are psychopaths. And psychopaths are to blame for this brutal, misshapen society. They're the jagged rocks thrown into the still pond. (p. 112)

"If some political or business leader had a psychopathically hoodlum childhood, wouldn't it come out in the press and ruin them?" I said.

"They find ways to bury it," Bob replied. "Anyway, Early Behavior Problems don't necessarily mean ending up in Juvenile Hall. It could mean, say, secretly torturing animals." He paused. "But getting access to people like that can be difficult. Prisoners are easy. They like meeting researchers. It breaks up the monotony of their day. But CEOs, politicians ..." Bob looked at me. "It's a really big story," he said. "It's a story that could change forever the way people see the world." (p. 118)

Later, Ronson confronted Hare with a criticism he'd heard from another professional, saying that Hare talked about psychopaths as if they were a different species. And in what appears to be a one-half "cover-your-ass" and one-half "here's what I really think" reply, Hare said:

"All the research indicates they're not a different species," said Bob. "There's no evidence that they form a different species. So he's [the critic, that is] misinformed on the literature. He should be up to date on the literature. It's dimensional. He must know that. It's dimensional." ...

Bob looked evenly at me. "I'm in the clear on this," he said. There was a silence. "My gut feeling, though, deep down, is that maybe they are different," he added. "But we haven't established that yet." (p. 268)

And in a conversation with Martha Stout, he asked:

"What if the wife of a psychopath reads this?" I asked. "What should she do? Leave?"

"Yes," said Martha. "I would like to say leave. You're not going to hurt someone's feelings because there are no feelings to hurt." She paused. "Sociopaths love power. They love winning. If you take loving kindness out of the human brain, there's not much left except the will to win."

"Which means you'll find a preponderance of them at the top of the tree?" I said.

"Yes," she said. The higher you go up the ladder, the greater the number sociopaths you'll find there."

"So the wars, the injustices, the exploitation, all of these things occur because of that tiny percent of the population up there who are mad in this certain way?" I asked. It sounded like the ripple effect of Petter Nordlund's book, but on a giant scale.

"I think a lot of these things are initiated by them," she said.

"It's a frightening and huge thought," I said, "that the ninety-nine percent of us wandering around down here are having our lives pushed and pulled around by that psychopathic fraction up there."

"It's is a large thought," she said. "It is a thought people don't have very often. Because we're raised to believe that deep down everyone has a conscience." (pp. 113-114)

The reference to Petter Nordlund alludes to the mystery that got Ronson started on the path that led to The Psychopath Test. Several neurologists and other academics had anonymously received a cryptic manuscript entitled Being or Nothingness. One of them contacted Ronson to solve the mystery, which he did. So what was the answer? What was the "missing piece" to make it all make sense and crack the code?

Yes, there was a missing piece of the puzzle ... but the recipients had gotten it wrong. They assumed the endeavor was brilliant and rational because they were brilliant and rational, and we tend to automatically assume that everybody else is basically just like us. But in fact the missing piece was that the author was a crackpot.

"Can't you see it? It's incredibly interesting. Aren't you struck by how much action occurred simply because something went wrong with one man's brain? It's as if the rational world, your world, was a still pond and Petter's brain was a jagged rock thrown into it, creating odd ripples everywhere."

"Petter Nordlund's craziness had had a huge influence on the world. It caused intellectual examination, economic activity, and formed a kind of community. Disparate academics, scattered across continents, had become intrigued and paranoid and narcissistic because of it. They'd met on blogs and mesage boards and had debated for hours, forming conspiracy theories about shadowy Christian organizations, etc. One of them had felt motivated to rendezvous with me in a Costa Coffee. I'd flown to Sweden in an attempt to solve the mystery. And so on." (pp. 28, 31)

Like Martha Stout and Bob Hare told Ronson, we assume that people are the same, all trying to live decent lives and be "good". But that is not the case. And when something totally foreign intrudes on our humanity, when the predator barges into our lives looking for a meal, we grossly misinterpret it, projecting our humanity onto it, reading too much into it (or too little), like the word-salad of some raving eccentric. And it comes to affect us in ways we'd never imagined nor anticipated.

It was this question that prompted Ronson to ask if it could really be true that psychopaths rule our world, that they shape the form and function of our society. Could this simple, yet radical, idea explain it all? From the "brutal excesses of capitalism itself" to the utter callousness of profiting off the destitution of entire industries? As one "enormously wealthy money-man" told Ronson, nothing has changed in recent years. "And it's not just in the U.S. It's everywhere. It's all over the world." (p. 167)

What does this mean? After a chance encounter with psychopathy researcher Essi Viding while researching the mysterious manuscript, a colleague of hers relates this story to Ronson: "She was interviewing a psychopath. She showed him a picture of a frightened face and asked him to identify the emotion. He said he didn't know what the emotion was but it was the face people pulled just before he killed them." (p. 10) Another psychopath said that to him, killing people was like "squashing bugs."

Think about that.

But anyways, that's the good. As for the so-so, Ronson never really comes to an answer to the question of "could it be true?" He just leaves it hanging without actually doing any real digging. Despite the opinions he quotes, which I think make a pretty good case for answering in the definite affirmative, he never comes to a conclusive answer, describing his efforts as leading to mixed results. Early in the book he writes:

"I could really be on to something ... It really could be that many of our political and business leaders suffer from Antisocial or Narcissistic Personality Disorder and they do the harmful, exploitative things they do because of some mad striving for unlimited success and excessive admiration. Their mental disorders might be what rule our lives. This could be a really big story for me if I can think of a way to somehow prove it." (p. 34)

But it looks like Ronson just didn't look hard enough. His search might have led him to another mysterious manuscript, but one with much more importance and which actually gives clinical answers to these "tough" ideas and questions. Of course, I'm talking about Andrew Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology, which just barely made it out of Communist Poland, the first copies destroyed, stolen, and lost and its researchers hunted, arrested, tortured, killed, and silenced. Lobaczewski survived long enough to write the book from memory and contact a publisher who recognized the importance of what he was saying: yes, psychopaths rule the world, and this is how it works. He was saying it before anyone else, too, but his work has been largely ignored and suppressed. Recent books like Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect, Martha Stout's The Paranoia Switch, Hare and Babiak's Snakes in Suits, Barb Oakley's Evil Genes, and Paul Lawrence's Driven to Lead are good and welcome efforts, but they barely scratch the surface of what Lobaczewski presents in Ponerology.

With that said, because Ronson lacked the key to understand what is REALLY going on, I'm going to focus on a few areas where he isn't all that clear and comes to some wishy-washy conclusions. Some of his errors are just "so-so", but some are plain bad.

Ronson starts off with a look at the DSM, the manual for psychiatrists that lists every "known" mental disorder, their symptoms, and the checklists for determining if a person suffers from a particular disorder (or several). Ronson cracked open its pages and "instantly diagnosed myself with twelve different ones. ... I was much crazier than I had imagined." Indeed, with everything from Arithmetic Learning Disorder, to Parent Child Relational Problem, to Caffeine Induced Disorder and Nightmare Disorder, it seems like the DSM writers "had a crazy desire to label all life a mental disorder." (pp. 34-35) The disorders end up sounding like the outdated ones of past centuries, for example, drapetomania, "evident only in slaves ... the sole symptom was 'the desire to run away from slavery'" (p. 54)

Ronson meets up with some Scientologists who are vehemently critical of psychiatry. Even the mention of the words "mental disorder" raises eyebrows. One of the Scientologists, Brian, introduces Ronson to Tony, the guy who faked madness in order to avoid prison. According to Brian, "He's completely sane! He faked his way in there! And now he's stuck. Nobody will believe he's sane." Despite the fact that that wasn't exactly true (his doctors knew he was sane, but they also knew he was a psychopath, which is why they were keeping him), it's pretty ironic to read about the Scientologists' zealous crusade against psychiatry. Here's why.

First of all, they've got a point. There is much "gullibility and inexactness [in] the psychiatry profession" (p. 42). The sheer number of disorders, for which there are no scientifically verified etiologies, and number of people "afflicted" by them is enough to raise questions. And it seems that the more complicated human behavior gets, the more it is labeled a disorder. But on the other hand, the Scientologists seemed to be dismissing real problems that cause people and families suffering by reflexively labeling everyone "sane" to suit their ideology. While noticing the contradiction, Ronson gets stuck in the middle-ground, writing in the final chapter:

I think the madness business is filled with people like Tony [a "semi-psychopath" in Ronson's words], reduced to their maddest edges. Some, like Tony, are locked up in DSPD units for scoring too high on Bob's checklist. Others are on TV at nine p.m., their dull, ordinary, non-mad attributes skillfully edited out, benchmarks of how we shouldn't be. There are obviously a lot of very ill people out there. But there are also people in the middle, getting overlabeled, becoming nothing more than a big splurge of madness in the minds of the people who benefit from it. (p. 267)

But Ronson is confusing categories, causing him to come to bad conclusions. In fact, the solution to the problem can be found on page 58 of his own book, in a quote from Tony's doctor, Professor Maden:

I e-mailed Professor Maden: "Isn't that like that scene in the movie Ghost when Whoopi Goldberg pretends to be psychic and then it turns out that she actually can talk to the dead?"

"No," he e-mailed back. "It isn't like that Whoopi Goldberg scene. Tony faked mental illness. That's when you have hallucinations and delusions. Mental illness comes and goes. It can get better with medication. Tony is a psychopath. That doesn't come and go. It is how the person is."

There's a difference between "mental illness" and psychopathy. Mental illness is what non-psychopaths may or may not have: emotional problems caused by trauma, toxins, abuse, etc. Psychopathy is completely different. Yes, psychopaths may have some apparently useful qualities, but they're incidental to the underlying psychopathy. Yes, they may be charming and good talkers, but that's an act. Yes, they may not kill, but they manipulate and harm others in different ways. It's just the way they are, and that's the point Ronson seems to have trouble digesting. And it's those very psychopaths occupying the middle ground that can be so dangerous. They're the Al Dunlaps, the Bernie Madoffs, the Benjamin Netanyahus, the Dominique Strauss-Kahns that wreak havoc on entire economies and societies. Or, if they never get that far to the top, they're the impossible bosses, the abusive husbands, the corrupt lawyers and police officers.

But getting back to the Scientologists, why did I say their zealotry was ironic? Well, it turns out that in 1966 L. Ron Hubbard moved from his home in the UK forever. As a Scientologist told Ronson while visiting Hubbard's home:

"The conclusions he was coming to ..." Bob said. An ominous tone had crept into his voice. ...

"What was the nature of his research?" I asked.

There was a silence. And then Bob quietly said, "The antisocial personality." (p. 52)

Hubbard seems to have identified the problem, but his followers are making the same mistake Ronson does, to the point where they actively petition the release of those very same "antisocial personalities", whom Hubbard said "cannot feel any sense of remorse or shame. They approve only of destructive actions. They appear quite rational. They can be very convincing." Interesting turn of events, eh?

Perhaps that's the problem. "They can be very convincing." We see the ripples in the pond, but the jagged rock remains invisible, cloaked behind a veil of normality. White becomes black, right becomes wrong, peace becomes war, and sanity becomes madness. In fact, that twisting of meanings is a clue to psychopathy. They're masters of "doublespeak", creating verbal traps and impossible situations that leave non-psychopaths bewildered. Perhaps that's the solution to the catch-22 of modern psychiatry? A certain degree of "mental illness" is human, even healthy. Like an immune reaction in the body, it's the normal response to the affront of psychopathy on a healthy mind. Workplace bullying, soul-killing jobs, abusive relationships, economic depression, modern warfare, chronic stress, social hysteria - these are not normal human conditions. They are symptoms and effects of psychopathy.

But the more we react to true madness (of the psychopathic kind), the more we are labelled as mad. And the real enemy goes unnoticed. Could that say more about psychiatry, and those pushing for such an antihuman approach, than the people diagnosed and drugged in response? As Tony told Ronson, "It's like witchcraft. ... They turn everything upside down." (p. 62) Remember drapetomania? Remember Al Dunlap's "Leadership Positives"? He had said of "grandiose sense of self-worth", "If you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will." Manipulative? "I think you could describe that as leadership." Impulsivity? "Quick Analysis." Shallow affect? That "stops you from feeling 'some nonsense emotions.'" Lack of remorse? "[F]rees you up to move forward and achieve more great things." (pp. 156-157) The answer was staring Ronson in the face, but he never made the connections.

Dr. Allen Frances had told Ronson:

"The way the diagnosis [of childhood bipolar] is being made in America was not something we intended ... Kids with extreme irritability and moodiness and temper tantrums are being called bipolar. The drug companies and the advocacy groups have a tremendous influence in propagating the epidemic."

"Psychiatric diagnoses are getting closer and closer to the boundary of normal ... There's a societal push for conformity in all ways ... There's less tolerance of difference." (pp. 244, 245)

Couldn't Ronson see the connection between the "Al Dunlaps" of the economic/corporate world and psychiatric/pharmaceutical drug-pushing world? That the missing key is psychopathy? That that is the reason for this push to label normal people "mentally ill" and keep us and our children drugged up, sick in mind and body, while the truly ill are the ones reaping the benefits?

Ronson was actually on to something when he wrote:

All that talk of snakes adopting human form reminded me of a story I once did about a conspiracy theorist named David Icke, who believed that the secret rulers of the world were giant, blood-drinking, child-sacrificing lizards who had shape-shifted into humans so they could perform their evil on an unsuspecting population. I suddenly realized how similar the two stories were, except in this one the people who spoke of snakes in suits were eminent and utterly sane psychologists, respected around the world. Was this a conspiracy theory that was actually true? (p. 138)

No, they're not lizards. Rather the secret rulers of the world are rich, blood-lusting, child-raping psychopaths. Remember the comments about "squashing bugs"? These people just don't give a shit about mass-murder, raping mothers in front of their children, or children in front of their parents. They don't care about nuclear meltdowns, oil poisoning the Gulf, lung-cancer-causing pollution, disease-causing diets. They are absorbed by it. Fascinated. They get a kick out of making people suffer and driving them crazy. Literally. They're the kind of cretins that will cut themselves and blame it on their wives for custody of children in a divorce, stab their "best friend" in the back if by doing so they can frame someone else and get some kind of payoff. Dirty tricks. Fun and games. They're cunning, manipulative, and ruthless. And this is where Ronson goes from so-so to just plain bad.

Twice in the book he relates his annoyance at being called either a "shill" or "stupid" for not believing the 9/11 and 7/7 conspiracy theories. While Ronson may be a smart guy in many regards, when it comes to "conspiracy theories", I've gotta go with his detractors. In a section on one of the survivors of the 7/7 attacks, Rachel North, he writes: "Only the most extreme magical-thinkers among [the 9/11 truthers] were 7/7 conspiracy theorists, too: while 9/11 obviously wasn't an inside job, 7/7 OBVIOUSLY wasn't an inside job." (p. 183) Yet the only point he ends up demonstrating is that a lot of conspiracy theorists are stupid and grossly misguided. No, the 7/7 attacks weren't a "fake stunt" using "pyrotechnics and stuntmen and actors and special-effect blood." Yes, Rachel North was a real victim of the attacks. Yes, real planes flew into the World Trade Centers. But none of that dismisses the fact that the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks were false-flag operations, using real bombs, causing real death and destruction, ruining lives and bringing devastation to thousands of families. Yes, making light of the atrocities and harassing victims is callous. But no, looking for the truth, paying attention to details like the locations and physical features of the blast holes of 7/7 is not callous. Is a police detective callous because he tries to discern the point of entry and exit of a bullet wound? No, he's just trying to find the truth, so that there can be real justice. Ronson's diatribe against conspiracy theorists is as shameful as those conspiracy theorists who spout nonsense and DO act in callous ways. But even then, there's more to this than meets the eye.

Rachel North's critics accused her (as Ronson's accused him) of being a "shill", a government agent spouting disinformation. Ronson also devotes several pages to a discussion of David Shayler, ex-MI5 officer, 9/11 and 7/7 conspiracy theorist, "no-planer", cross-dresser, and second coming of Jesus. Yes, the guy is completely insane. That's a given. What Ronson ignores is the fact that David Shayler is the real agent in this whole drama! He's the self-professed government agent. He even admitted to dressing as an anarchist at a demonstration during his "stint" with MI5.

Let me spell it out. First let's start from the big picture. Psychopaths rule our world. The experts agree on that. The higher to the top you get, the more psychopaths you find. They're in business, banks, politics, intelligence, military, media, academia. They're also cunning, manipulative and ruthless. They're the evil bastards in Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels who get off by killing people and then blaming it on someone else. Now, I'm sure not many will disagree with me when I say: politicians lie, intelligence agencies are secretive. They conduct many "black operations" often involving killing innocent people. Corporate interests steer politicians. They also own the media and do not promote news that would have negative consequences for themselves. Again, psychopaths saturate all these industries. Their leadership often overlaps. They have mutual interests. And again, they're psychopaths. Now, how hard is it to believe that some of these evil bastards would commit real atrocities against their own people and blame it on some boogieman in the interests of global hegemony? Remember Hitler? Remembering Goring and Himmler and Goebbels? They were psychopaths too. Remember the Reichstag fire? Remember the control of the media, the use of scapegoats, the incestuous relationship between corporate, media, military, economic, and political powers? Is it not completely freaking obvious that there is no evil thing these whackos wouldn't do? That they have done such things in the past and will CONTINUE doing them? And don't you think they'd have agents set up to make anyone exposing these deceptions look loony? Yes, there are stupid conspiracy theorists. There are also stupid skeptics and debunkers. That's beside the point of what actually happened.

Whether it's police agents dressed as "anarchists" at protests who instigate violence, UK troops posing as Iraqi insurgents with bombs and guns, Israeli operatives creating fake Al-Qaeda cells, or any other counterintelligence-type operations, this is STANDARD operating procedure. And it's people like Ronson who stare at the ripples in disbelief, unable to see the jagged rock staring them right back in the face.

Anyways, I'm ranting. One more small point before I wrap up. Noting the absence of psychopathy in the DSM, Ronson wonders whether there had been some "backstage schism in the psychopath-defining world". It turns out there was. Lee Robins, a sociologist, rallied to exclude it, focusing only on "overt symptoms" instead of personality traits such as empathy. This is a telling point, which I deal with in this article. In it, I also give my thoughts on the "dimensional vs categorical" debate. My intuition is similar to Hare's. Psychopaths are different. They have the shape of a human, the outer form. They walk, talk, speak, eat, and breathe. They may even collect McDonald's toys or statues of predators, like the psychopaths interviewed by Ronson. But when it comes to the inner essence that makes us human, that part of another that we come to love and appreciate, no, they are not human. They are an intraspecies predator. Not quite human. While Ronson does an admirable job bringing the topic of psychopathy, and the idea that it runs our world, to the mainstream, he never really gets to the meat of the matter. He collects some of the clues, but lacks the key to give a wider understanding. For that, you need Political Ponerology. There may not be anything new in The Psychopath Test for regular readers of SOTT, but I did find it enjoyable for its case studies and Ronson's quirky and engaging style. So check it out. Just be sure to round out your reading with something a bit more substantial.

Read more!

22 August 2010

Time for Change: Why the Corrupt Few Wreak So Much Death, Destruction, and Suffering on the Rest of us

by Time for Change Democratic Underground
Perhaps the most important question of our time why, throughout human history, have despicable characters repeatedly risen to the pinnacles of power. The 20th Century alone witnessed an estimated 140 million war deaths and another 16 million from genocide. Mass starvation kills millions in an era when there is plenty enough food to feed the world. And not coincidentally, in the world today 40% of the world’s wealth is held in the hands of 1% of its inhabitants, while the bottom 50% owns only 1% of the world’s wealth. That means that the top 1% owns 40 times more than half the world’s population. There are of course numerous reasons for this sorry state of affairs. But certainly the tremendous wealth and power disparity in the world, along with the abuse of that power by so many who have the most of it explains a great deal. Why have so many despicable characters throughout history acquired the ability to inflict so much suffering on the rest of humanity?

I have read two books in particular that provide much insight into this issue: “The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer (This link is to a free electronic version of Altemeyer’s whole book); and, “Political Ponerology – A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes” by Andrew M. Lobaczewski. Both books talk about much the same process, but Altemeyer approaches it from the individual psychological perspective, whereas Lobaczewski approaches it more from the societal level. Both books were recommended to me by fellow DUer Larry Ogg.

Bob Altemeyer is a retired psychology professor who spent most of his life researching authoritarianism. Lobaczewski was a Polish psychiatrist and one of several scientists who took part in the research and the writing of “Political Ponerology”. But he was the only one left alive by the time it was completed. Lobaczewski and his fellow scientists were victims of one of the most evil repressive regimes of world history – Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. Lobaczewski describes the history of the manuscript for the book:
The original manuscript of this book went into the furnace minutes before a secret police raid in Communist Poland. The second copy, painfully reassembled by scientists working under impossible conditions of violence and repression, was sent via courier to the Vatican. Its receipt was never acknowledged – the manuscript and all valuable data lost. In 1984, the third and final copy was written from memory by the last survivor of the original researchers: Andrew Lobaczewski.…After half a century of suppression, this book is finally available.

Altemeyer describes in great detail what he refers to as authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders. Both are required in order to produce what Lobaczewski refers to as a pathocracy, which he defines as a social movement, society, nation, or empire wherein a small pathological minority takes control over a society of normal people. The pathological minority habitually perpetrates evil deeds on its people and/or other people. In other words, the pathological minority rules society with an iron fist, in their interests alone – and to hell with everyone else: Wars for profit, with massive casualties; millions of refugees; massive destruction of infrastructure; torture; you name it… No price is too high to pay to attain and maintain their own wealth and power. Some people refer to such as system as tyranny. But I think that pathocracy is a more descriptive term.

Authoritarian leaders

Altemeyer’s explanation – The psychopathology of authoritarian leaders
In contemplating the success of the dark forces who create and rule over pathocracies, it behooves us to understand their nature. Altemeyer refers to them alternately as “authoritarian leaders” or “social dominators”. He describes them like this:

High scorers (on the test that measures the traits of authoritarian leaders) are inclined to be intimidating, ruthless, and vengeful. They scorn such noble acts as helping others, and being kind, charitable, and forgiving. Instead they would rather be feared than loved, and be viewed as mean, pitiless, and vengeful. They love power, including the power to hurt in their drive to the top…. Social dominators thus admit, anonymously, to striving to manipulate others, and to being dishonest, two-faced, treacherous, and amoral. It’s as if someone took the Scout Law (“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, ...”) and turned it completely upside down…
This description is in fact almost identical to what psychologists refer to as the psychopathic personality. These people have two big advantages over the rest of us. First, they have no inclination to be bound by the rules that the rest of us are bound by. And secondly, they have their authoritarian followers (more about them later) to give them lots of aid and support.

Altemeyer gives an example from U.S. politics of how these authoritarian leaders relate to the rest of the world:
A stunning, and widely overlooked example of the arrogance that followed (9/11/01) streaked across the sky in 2002 when the (Bush) administration refused to sign onto the International Criminal Court. This court was established by over a hundred nations, including virtually all of the United States’ allies, to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and so on when the country for whom they acted would not or could not do the prosecuting itself. It is a “court of last resort” in the human race’s defense against brutality. Why on earth would the United States, as one of the conveners of the Nuremberg Trials and conceivers of the charge, “crimes against humanity,” want nothing to do with this agreement? The motivation did not become clear until later. But not only did America refuse to ratify the treaty, in 2002 Congress passed an act that allowed the United States to punish nations that did join in the international effort to prosecute the worst crimes anyone could commit! Talk about throwing your weight around, and in a way that insulted almost every friend you had on the planet.

Lobaczewski’s explanation
In the preface to Lobaczewski’s book, Laura Knight-Jadczyk explains why we find so many psychopaths in our political system:
In the past several years, there are many more psychologists and psychiatrists and other mental health workers beginning to look at these issues in new ways in response to the questions about the state of our world and the possibility that there is some essential difference between such individuals as George W. Bush and many so-called Neocons, and the rest of us…

We also began to realize that the profiles that emerged also describe rather accurately many individuals who seek positions of power in fields of authority, most particularly politics and commerce. That’s really not so surprising an idea, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to us until we saw the patterns and recognized them in the behaviors of numerous historical figures and, lately, including George W. Bush and members of his administration… Politics, by its very nature, would tend to attract more of the pathological “dominator types” than other fields. That is only logical, and we began to realize that it was not only logical, it was horrifyingly accurate; horrifying because pathology among people in power can have disastrous effects on all of the people under the control of such pathological individuals.

Lobaczewski notes that most psychopaths don’t have much general intelligence or even any particular skills of a productive nature. But the ones who pose great danger to society are quite good at manipulating people and political infighting. Lobaczewski explains:
Once the process of poneric (evil) transformation (to a pathocracy) … has begun and advanced sufficiently, they perceive this fact with almost infallible sensitivity: a circle has been created wherein they can hide their failings and psychological differentness, find a world where they are in power and all those other, “normal people”, are forced into servitude.

A description by Barry Lynn from an economic perspective
Barry Lynn doesn’t talk about psychology or use any psychological terminology. His book, “Cornered – The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction”, is all about economics. It describes how people whom Altemeyer would refer to as Authoritarian Leaders, Lobaczewski would describe as evil, and others would merely call psychopaths or sociopaths have convinced most Americans into accepting an economic system that benefits only the rich, at the expense of everyone else. They call this system the “Free Market”, and its detractors often refer to it as “Free Market Fundamentalism”. But far from being free, it is a system based on “freedom” of corporations to form monopolies, and it is a system created mainly to benefit those who created it. Lynn explains:
In the last generation, we have been taught to believe in a philosophy of what is sometimes called “free-market fundamentalism”… This philosophy is designed not to illuminate real-world phenomena but to hide the real-world use by the rich of such man-made institutions as the corporation and the marketplace – and sometimes even our own government – to seize our properties and our liberties… My goal is to reconnect us with our traditional understanding of how markets operate and what purposes they serve, to thereby restore our ability to use markets to help protect our most important interests.

Human gullibility and sycophancy – The authoritarian followers

Altemeyer’s explanation – The gullibility of authoritarian followers
Gullibility is one of the trademarks of the authoritarian followers, who provide crucial support for their authoritarian leaders. Altemeyer defines authoritarian followers as having three core characteristics: 1) high degree of submission to authority; 2) willingness to attack other people in the name of the authority; and 3) highly conventional attitudes

Altemeyer discusses the submission to authority, lack of independent thinking and need for approval that characterizes the authoritarian followers:
Authoritarian followers seem to have a “Daddy and mommy know best” attitude toward the government. They do not see laws as social standards that apply to all. Instead, they appear to think that authorities are above the law, and can decide which laws apply to them and which do not – just as parents can when one is young…

If you ask subjects to rank the importance of various values in life, authoritarian followers place “being normal” substantially higher than most people do. It’s almost as though they want to disappear as individuals into the vast vat of Ordinaries.

Though they habitually use the rhetoric of righteousness, they tend to be full of hatred, and their behavior quickly turns ugly when they are under stress. Altemeyer explains:
They get off smiting the sinner; they relish being “the arm of the Lord.”… which suggests authoritarian followers have a little volcano of hostility bubbling away inside them looking for a (safe, approved) way to erupt….

They usually avoid anything approaching a fair fight. Instead they aggress when they believe right and might are on their side. “Right” for them means, more than anything else, that their hostility is (in their minds) endorsed by established authority, or supports such authority. “Might” means they have a huge physical advantage over their target, in weaponry say, or in numbers, as in a lynch mob. It’s striking how often authoritarian aggression happens in dark and cowardly ways, in the dark, by cowards who later will do everything they possibly can to avoid responsibility for what they did. Women, children, and others unable to defend themselves are typical victims. Even more striking, the attackers typically feel morally superior to the people they are assaulting in an unfair fight…

Our world and our country are full of these kinds of people. They are the kinds of people who followed, admired and supported Hitler. They are very gullible and easily manipulated by authoritarian leaders. They form the hard core base of support for people like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and all of FOX News.

Lobaczewki’s explanation – the role of sycophancy
It is more than just gullibility that explains the phenomenon of the authoritarian follower. Can you imagine John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, or David Petraeus going against the will of George W. Bush on any matter when he was in power? That would be highly unlikely because their positions of high power depended entirely on putting all their energy into anticipating the needs of and pleasing their “leader”. George Bush started out the same way. As governor of Texas, all his efforts went into pleasing his corporate cronies. In return, they rewarded him handsomely by ensuring his material wealth and serving as a power base for his climb to the presidency. Lobaczewski describes the process as one of sycophancy:
They initially perform subordinate functions in such a movement and execute the leaders’ orders, especially whenever something needs to be done which inspires revulsion in others. Their evident zealotry and cynicism gives rise to criticism on the part of the more reasonable members, but it also earns the respect of some its more extreme revolutionaries. They thus find protection among those people who earlier played a role in the movement’s ponerization, and repay the favor with compliments or by making things easier for them. Thus they climb up the organizational ladder, gain influence, and almost involuntarily bend the contents of the entire group to their own way of experiencing reality and to the goals derived from their deviant nature.

Carl Boggs’ perspective – The myth of American Exceptionalism
Carl Boggs discusses in his book, “The Crimes of Empire – Rogue Superpower and World Domination”, how American elites have so inculcated the doctrine of American Exceptionalism in the minds of the good majority of Americans that few have the intellectual or moral capacity to resist it:
Whatever occurs under the aegis of Washington decision-making is, by definition, noble, beyond the reach of ethical or legal condemnation. Mistakes are made, but the ends themselves simply cannot be questioned. Some opinion-makers insist that the U.S. represents an entirely new kind of empire, more benign and less exploitative than previous empires. It follows that the actions of a benevolent empire demand more flexible criteria for judgment… Those standing in the way of U.S. power often find themselves depicted as impediments to human progress, as enemies of democracy and Western civilization, perhaps even as the reincarnation of Hitler and the Nazis.

It is symptomatic of this state of mind that Barack Obama, in touting his opposition to the Iraq War while trying to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, repeatedly emphasized that he was not opposed to all wars, but only to stupid wars. He never once claimed opposition to immoral wars – presumably on the assumption that it was unimaginable that his country would ever engage in an immoral war. My point here is that some degree of the authoritarian follower mindset occupies the minds of the good majority of Americans – and probably the good majority of all people.

The role of ideology and human susceptibility to its promises

Lobaczewski writes a lot about the role of ideology for individuals or groups in the ponerogenic process that leads to pathocracies. The ideology itself is usually not inherently evil (although it may be, as in the case of Nazism), and the ideology does not generally characterize the movement or group. Rather, the ideology serves as a mask, to hide the actual intentions of the group. Lobaczewski explains it like this:
It is a common phenomenon for a ponerogenic association or group to contain a particular ideology which always justifies its activities and furnishes motivational propaganda…. Human nature demands that vile matters be haloed by an over-compensatory mystique in order to silence one’s conscience and to deceive consciousness and critical faculties, whether one’s own or those of others.

If such a ponerogenic union could be stripped of its ideology, nothing would remain except psychological and moral pathology, naked and unattractive. Such stripping would of course provoke “moral outrage”, and not only among the members of the union.

The fact is, even normal people, who condemn this kind of union along with its ideologies, feel hurt and deprived of something constituting part of their own romanticism, their way of perceiving reality, when a widely idealized group is exposed as little more than a gang of criminals.

A perfect example of this explanation, in my opinion, is the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. If George Bush and Dick Cheney had told the American public, in their run-up to war, that it was necessary to invade and occupy Iraq in order to open up tens of billions of dollars worth of economic opportunity for their corporate cronies and to gain access to Iraqi oil, the American people and even their corporate news media would have been hard pressed to drum up much enthusiasm for war. Instead, we were provided with (especially after the “weapons of mass destruction” excuse was proven to be a lie) the ideology of democracy (We’re doing it to bring democracy to the Iraqi people) and anti-terrorism (We have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.)

The last paragraph of Lobaczewski’s that I cite above explains why so many normal Americans are willing to accept the lame excuses of psychopaths hiding behind a wall of ideology. Acknowledging that our leaders are no more than criminal thugs and psychopaths is just too painful for most Americans. It is much more comfortable for them to believe that their country goes to war for idealistic and generous purposes.

Let’s now consider how four different ideologies, none of which are inherently evil, have been corrupted for political purposes:

One could make a good argument that the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which after all provided the full justification for our country becoming a sovereign nation, contains the true, uncorrupted version of Americanism. There are two salient ideas expressed in that document, which also happen to be the epitome of liberal/progressive values: 1) That everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and 2) Whenever a government becomes destructive of those rights, the people have the right overthrow that government.

For right wing ideologues, “Americanism” has become the ideology that says that the United States of America is so superior to all other nations that any action it takes with respect to other nations should automatically and unquestionably be considered morally right. For an American citizen to think or act otherwise is to border on treason.

“Americanism” in that form has been used to declare wars against nations that pose no threat to us and to overthrow numerous democratically elected governments that likewise posed no threat to us.

Consider this speech:
As long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny – prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder – violence will gather… and raise a mortal threat.

There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends upon the survival of liberty in other lands. The best hope for freedom in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

That speech invokes the best of the American dream and ideals. There was just one problem with it. It was spoken by George W. Bush as a means of justifying an action (the invasion and occupation of Iraq) that had nothing whatsoever to do with the wonderful sentiments expressed in his speech. He was merely using a great ideology as a mask to hide his true motives.

Christianity contains some core values that any liberal/progressive could be proud to live by. Jesus Christ preached that we should love our neighbors, treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, and be charitable towards the poor. In short, he embodied the best of liberal values. Accordingly, Christian groups have done some great things over the centuries, including playing a leading role in the abolition of slavery in the United States.

But Christianity has also often been used to justify evil actions, including wars of aggression and torture of “non-believers” with the aim of getting them to convert to Christianity. Some, even today, still use Christianity to justify slavery, as Patrick Buchanan did in his attempt to put his criticisms of Barack Obama in the best light:
The Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these: First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Capitalism carries the potential, by means of providing incentives for productivity, to act as an engine of economic growth that provides tremendous benefits to a society. Forget for a moment that there is no such thing as pure capitalism, or that society works best economically when it uses some combination of capitalism and socialism. My only point here is that (I believe) capitalism has the capacity to provide benefits to people when used as one component of an economic system, with sufficient controls.

Yet, capitalism is used as justification for all manner of policies that hurt people, such as George W. Bush’s veto of health insurance for children. Bush (as well as the whole U.S. Republican Party) liked to characterize his view of capitalism as “free market”, and as such he uses that ideology to push for international agreements that primarily benefit his corporate friends.

But in fact, there is nothing “free market” about the Bush administration brand of capitalism, if indeed it can be categorized as capitalism at all. Rather, their favored economic system was one in which their corporate cronies were given billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to perform functions for which they had little expertise, with little or no oversight from government. The result was billions of dollars of missing money, with no investigations to determine where the money went. That’s a mighty strange brand of capitalism.

James Petras, in “Rulers and Ruled”, describes how so-called “capitalism” has worked out in recent years in so many countries:
Given the enormous class and income disparities in Russia, Latin America and China, it is more accurate to describe these countries as “surging billionaires” rather than “emerging markets” because it is not the “free market” but the political power of the billionaires that dictates policy

Countries of “surging billionaires” produce burgeoning poverty, submerging living standards. The making of billionaires means the unmaking of civil society – the weakening of social solidarity, protective social legislation, pensions, vacations, public health programs and education…

The growth of billionaires is hardly a sign of “general prosperity” resulting from the “free market”… In fact it is the product of the illicit seizure of lucrative public resources, built up by the work and struggle of millions of workers… It has little to do with entrepreneurial skills.

Communism has been defined as “a socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of a classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production.” Its initial popularity can be attributed to its promise to greatly reduce economic inequality in societies that were previously characterized by huge levels of economic inequality. That is a worthwhile goal IMO.

My own view is that the best economic system is one that uses a combination of free market incentives to increase productivity, combined with government provision of essential goods and services that don’t respond to free market incentives (such as the running of our elections), progressive taxation, and regulation to ensure such things as worker and environmental protection and the prevention of monopolistic practices. Whether or not pure Communism is capable of providing a viable and productive economic system is a question I can’t answer and is not highly relevant to this discussion.

The Russian Revolution of October 1917 brought Communism to Russia, which it maintained for more than 70 years. However, soon after its introduction it began to be seriously corrupted, to the point where by some time in the 1920s it is probably accurate to say that it wasn’t Communism at all. By that time an empire had evolved (called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) into a solidified Totalitarian system, and a small elite ruled over everyone else with an iron fist and had control over all of the country’s resources. Under the iron rule of Joseph Stalin, economic plans were put in place that resulted in the deaths by starvation of about seven million people. This was not a classless society, nor was it stateless, nor was it based on common ownership of the means of production. Yet the myth of a Communist state prevailed in the USSR until it broke up in 1991.

Pathocracies in perspective – what Americans need to understand

Lobaczewski makes the point that pathocracies cannot be permanent because they contain so many internal contradictions. But we should not take much satisfaction in the inevitable fall of pathocracies, since they so frequently do such tremendous harm before they fall. It would be far better if we could learn to prevent their rise or to counteract them before they do too much harm.

One of the many great insights of the founders of our country is that they anticipated the rise of pathocracy in the nation that they founded. They therefore wrote into its Constitution numerous plans for the balancing of power and for the peaceful removal from office of chief executives or others who proved to put their own needs and desires above those of our nation. It was a great idea. But it can only work to the extent that the American people have the courage to at least open their eyes to the dangers of unscrupulous rulers.

There are many today who would say that the United States of America is fast becoming a pathocracy, or has already become one. It exhibits many of the signs:
It has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, and that rate is largely racially determined; its annual military expenditures are more than eight times greater than any other nation in the world, and almost as much as the rest of the world combined; it is the world’s greatest contributor to the climate change that threatens to destroy human civilization; it has committed myriad war crimes, including torture and aggressive war, and then refused to investigate them; it refuses to participate in the International Criminal Court – the international community’s tool for preventing and punishing crimes against humanity; and income inequality has increased in recent decades to such unprecedented levels that the U.S. is now the most unequal country of all the “rich” nations of the world.

This would be a much better country if most of us were to adopt the following attitudes:

Be skeptical about what our politicians and other elites say and why they say it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that their professed ideology necessarily has much to do with their true motivations. I’m not saying that they’re all liars. I’m just saying that we need to keep an open, skeptical mind on the subject. So instead of taking their rhetoric at face value, weigh their actions more than their rhetoric. (For example, if we invaded Iraq to bring democracy to them, why did we kill over a million of their civilians, and why didn’t we leave for many years after it became apparent that they wanted us to leave?)

Don’t for a minute believe that the possession of wealth or success in life makes it less likely that a person is a psychopath. Wealthy successful psychopaths are far more dangerous than the ones who end up in jail for drug-related or other charges. And the most dangerous of all are national leaders with psychopathic tendencies.

And for God sake, don’t EVER think that just because the only people who are being abused, tortured, and killed by your government are of some other race, ethnic group, or religion – Muslim, for example – that that means that they (your government) aren’t likely to turn on you next.

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Ponerology 101: The Truth Behind the War on Terror

Human relationships are plagued by fear. This cycle all too often begins in our first relationship with our parents. 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.

Such children, like their parents, seek some source of comfort, some sense of security, but not knowing where to look and what to look out for, they often find it in all the wrong places: their own children, their lovers, their work, some religious or political cause. 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.

I find it fascinating how these dynamics of a single human soul mirror so well the delusions of the many. 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 described psychopaths - individuals devoid of conscience, incapable of remorse, and hungry for power - and their infiltration of corporations and politics - two seats of power in the modern era.

Manipulating mass emotion, particularly fear, is their modus operandi. It's commonly said that politicians exploit fear, but what is missing from this truism is an understanding of exactly what motivates them to do so, why they're so good at it, and the extent to which they go about doing so. Psychopaths understand human behavior, often better than we understand ourselves. 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.

Yes, psychopaths crave power and will do anything they can to hold on to it, but even that does not get to the heart of the matter. If a psychopath is not born into a position of influence and power, where he has license to do whatever he feels compelled to do without recourse, he feels like a slave in a system he cannot quite understand. He is hindered by incomprehensible laws, arbitrary social customs and interpersonal rules that make no sense to him. He is not free to be himself. 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.

In an interview in 1989 entitled "Recollections of 23 Years of Service to the US", Pentagon insider Col. Fletcher Prouty described how the days of traditional warfare were over. The new wars would be economic, and the new enemy would be terrorism. This is exactly what has happened (see Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine). 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 ECHELON 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.

In the aftermath of WWII, and with the advent of a new 'Cold War', various stay-behind operations were formed in the countries of Europe (see Daniele Ganser's NATO's Secret Armies). 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.

What was the result? A series of terror attacks struck the civilian populations of these 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 been a CIA asset until the day before 9/11, as had many of his fellow Mujaheddin in their fight against the Soviets.

When you put these facts together, they paint a striking picture. Western intelligence agencies have long had inside access to various 'terrorist' groups and used them in a self-described 'strategy of tension'. And yet the US and its allies are currently fighting an endless war against these nebulous groups that are in fact CIA assets. Why? As Hermann Goering said to his captors at Nuremberg, "It is always a simple matter to drag the people along [to war] ... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." 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 sympathizers'.

If we look closely at any 'terrorist attack' in the last 10 years - even the foiled attempts - we see a long list of connected intelligence assets, FBI agents acting as 'Al Qaeda recruiters', informants, and patsies manipulated for the cause. 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, "Well if they were so stupid as to believe me, they deserved it!"

If anything is to change, and if we are ever to end this ridiculous 'war' against an abstract noun, two things are needed. First, we need to take steps towards removing political psychopaths from office, making it impossible for psychopaths to achieve any position of political, corporate, or economic power. Giving psychopaths power and influence and expecting them to be adequate leaders is like expecting a blind man to drive a bus. Psychopaths are color blind when it comes to issues having to do with the well being of humanity. Second, we must come to grips with our true history, and what is really behind the spin of the current 'war on terror'. We are arresting, torturing, and murdering innocent people along with patsies whose controllers get away with everything because they operate behind the scenes. Without ponerology, things will only get worse.

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13 July 2010

Ponerology 101: The Political Psychopath

Ponerology 101: The Political Psychopath by Harrison Koehli, sott.net, June 13, 2010 Before their research into corporate psychopathy, Paul Babiak and his colleagues raised several questions in need of answers. They are equally relevant to the study of political psychopathy and can be rephrased as follows:
- How could a psychopath outshine other candidates and achieve success in politics? - Why would a psychopath want to enter politics? - How long could a psychopath successfully operate in such an environment?
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:
Quite simply, most [psychopathic] serial killers and many professional politicians must mimic what they believe are appropriate responses to situations they face such as sadness, empathy, sympathy, and other human responses to outside stimuli. ... If violent offenders are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.
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. Politics is little different than any other con-job. In a Ponzi scheme, for example, the con artist targets members of an identifiable group, whether religious, racial or age-based. Regardless of whether or not the scammer is a member of the target group he pretends to represent the group. While political psychopaths are instrumental in the rise of totalitarian political groups, they play an equally important role in apparently Democratic governments. Their use of a party mask (no pun intended!) is so common that it can easily be called their primary modus operandi. But why would a psychopath enter politics in the first place? Simply ask the question, "Who is the most powerful person in the world?" 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. Scanning recent headlines, we regularly see examples of the corruption and fraud typical of white-collar psychopaths:
In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US-directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme. (Patrick Cockburn, "A 'fraud' bigger than Madoff", The Independent, February 16, 2009) Defense Department Cannot Account For 25% Of Funds - $2.3 Trillion On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ... said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat. ... "According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions," Rumsfeld admitted. ... Rumsfeld promised change but the next day - Sept. 11-- the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten. ("The War on Waste", CBS, January 29, 2002) Israeli police have recommended charging the country's hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, with several counts of corruption as part of a bribery investigation, in a move that could lead to his resignation and a significant government reshuffle. Lieberman, head of a popular far-right party, is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and obstruction of justice in a case dating back over nine years. If charged and convicted on all counts he faces up to 31 years in jail. (Rory McCarthy, "Israeli police recommend corruption charges against Avigdor Lieberman", The Guardian, August 2, 2009)
In 2008, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich came under similar media scrutiny, with several commentators speculating as to his mental health. 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 (how typical!). After interviewing more than 20 associates of Blagojevich ("from current and former members of the governor's administration and his campaign staff to state lawmakers, Democratic benefactors and operatives, academics, pundits, and political prognosticators"), Bernstein noted that several "resorted to colorful, four-letter language when describing the governor. 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, "all the withering criticism, negative newspaper headlines, and next-to-nothing approval ratings should feel like a kick to the groin. But if he's fazed, he doesn't show it. In public, he looks easygoing, unshaken, even self-assured. He still cracks jokes and smiles that big, toothy grin." Cool under pressure, Blagojevich obviously saved his temper for more profitable situations:
"He can't control himself," says Miller. "I've heard people say that on his own staff." A Democratic insider adds, "Rod sometimes just goes out of his way to have a fight, just because he can. It's as though he relishes them." ... Last summer, the downstate newspaper the Peoria Journal Star declared that the governor was "going bonkers." Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a "sociopath," and they insist they're not using hyperbole. State representative Joe Lyons, a fellow Democrat from Chicago, told reporters that Blagojevich was a "madman" and "insane." "He shows absolutely no remorse," says Jack Franks, the Democratic state representative. "I don't think he gives a damn about anybody else's feelings. He tries to demonize people who disagree with him; he's got delusions of grandeur."
Called a "liar" and likened to a "used-car salesman" by lawmakers after one incident, "in an unprecedented move, they demanded that Blagojevich put any promises on paper in so-called memorandums of understanding." In fact, he spent much of his time in office "fending off accusations of ethical irregularities within his administration." But despite the rumors, innuendos, and outright accusations, "Blagojevich has claimed - sometimes indignantly - that he has done nothing wrong. He blames the scandals on "a few bad apples who violated the rules" and who deceived him." 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. Robert Hare, in his 1970 book Psychopath: Theory and Research, as well as James Blair, Derek Mitchell, and Karina Blair in their 2005 book The Psychopath: Emotion and the Brain, observe that negative environmental conditions such as low socioeconomic status, abuse, and poor parenting, along with low IQ, are often associated with high psychopathy scores, particularly among those who engage in persistent, violent criminal behavior. 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, "If you're very bright, know how to dress well; you have, say, the gift of the gab; you're raised in an affluent family background; [then] you don't go in the bank and rob it, you get in the bank and become a director..." Sam Vaknin 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 for psychopathy. 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:
Vaknin: "I like to present a facade of the self-effacing, modest person. It gives people the impression that, underneath it all, I'm human." Walker: "But you are human, aren't you?" Vaknin: "I firmly believe that you want to believe that, yes. ... [The psychopath] regards people as instruments of gratification and as disposable things to be used. ... The vast majority of psychopaths, like an iceberg, are underwater, and like an iceberg, they are inert. They do nothing. They're just there. They torment their spouse by being unempathic, but they don't beat her or kill her. They bully coworkers, but they don't burn the office. They are not dramatic. They are pernicious. Most psychopaths are subtle. They are more like poison than a knife, and they are more like slow-working poison than cyanide."
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:
"Your body was flooded instantly with adrenalin and its relatives like norepinephrine ... Now when these moments pervade the bloodstream, your brain reacts. It shuts down certain centers and activates others. This is called the stress reaction, or stress syndrome, actually. Then when the abuse recedes, the adrenalin levels begin to drop. As they drop, the entire system goes into mayhem. So what bullies usually do, they start and stop, start and stop. That achieves the maximal stress syndrome, and this is the great secret of bullying. Never overdo it. Small doses. The victim will do the rest. - Although you are shaking much less [now] ... I must do something about that."
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.

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