Posts Tagged ‘Psychopathy’


There’s a standard psychological list to assess psychopathic tendencies, The Hare Psychopathology Checklist. It’s a list of 20 traits common to psychopaths.

The traits are ranked on a scale of 0 to 2, with 0 being entirely absent, 1 being somewhat present, and 2 being strongly present. The Checklist ranks someone as a psychopath if their score is 30 or above out of a possible score of 40.

One of the points on the Checklist “revocation of conditional release” is entirely dependent on class status (doesn’t apply to the rich — they’re never in the system in the first place) — and another is almost entirely so, “juvenile delinquency” is almost entirely class-dependent (the rich get “diverted” and their records erased), so let’s disallow those two criteria. That leaves 18 checkpoints. Let’s see how Trump does, taking a score of 27 (75%) as indicative of psychopathy:

  • glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • criminal versatility

My best estimate, based on abundant public evidence, is that Trump scores 33 out of 36, well up into the psychopathy range.

What’s your estimate? Why? (Please leave a comment.)

And why isn’t the press addressing the urgent matter that we have an apparent raving psychopath with his finger on the nuclear button?

 


Here’s the latest installment in our ever-popular Internet Crap series, which mixes links to sick and absurd but amusing crap with links to useful crap. Enjoy!

  • Feeling a bit down, a bit left out, like you just don’t fit in? You might be a psychopath. Then again, you might not. Find out now with Channel 4‘s  Psychopathic Traits test. Their Spot The Psychopath game is also good, clean fun.
  • If you’re a writer, you’ll want to check out Ralan.com. It has by far the best collection of useful links for writers that we’ve ever seen. (Thanks to Ted Weber, author of Sleep State Interrupt, for this one.)
  • We hear a lot lately about Donald Trump and fascism. For a good, short dissection of the topic, check out Chris Hedges’ “Trump and the Christian Fascists.” (If the title of the piece aroused your curiosity, no, veteran journalist Hedges is not a militant atheist — he’s an ordained Presbyterian minister.)
  • If you’ve ever wondered why so many MLM and other scams target conservative religious believers, wonder no more. Mette Harrison does a good job of explaining it in “10 reasons Mormons dominate multi-level marketing companies” on the Religion News Service site.
  • The Guardian reports that earlier this year, a 21-year-old Spanish student, Cassandra Vera from the Murcia region, was convicted of “glorifying terrorism” and sentenced to a year in jail for a series of jokes she posted on Twitter in 2013. The funniest one concerned the 1973 assassination of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, the Spanish prime minister during the last years of the Franco dictatorship.  Carrero Blanco was killed when the Basque terrorist group ETA detonated a huge bomb beneath a street as Carrero Blanco’s car passed over it, with the explosion hurling the vehicle nearly 70 feet into the air. That’s a long set-up for Vera’s joke, but necessary to understanding it. Here’s the joke, and it’s worth the wait: “ETA launched a policy against official cars combined with a space program.”
  • In these days of “fake news” and deliberate muddying of the waters by the president and his enablers, how do you tell what’s real from conspiracy theories? Hero whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was viciously persecuted by the Obama administration and spent nearly two years in jail as a result, tells us how in “How to Challenge Media Narratives Without Being Called a Conspiracy Theorist.”
  • Ever wonder what’s the most effective thing individuals can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Environmental Research Letters reports that, as should be blindingly obvious by now, the most effective individual action by far is to have fewer kids. (Of course, organized crime — the Catholic Church, LDS church, et al. — will never admit this, because they don’t care about the environment nor the common good; they just want more money and more blindly believing foot soldiers.)
  • We seem to constantly hear about the “civilizing effects” of religion. Here’s a prime example from a deeply devout area, in this case a deeply devout Islamic area. The title says it all in the CNN report, “Pakistani village elders order retaliatory rape of 17-year-old girl.” One can only imagine what these people would be up to without the “civilizing effects” of their “great religion.”
  • Since no Internet Crap post would be complete without at least one link to a cybersecurity how-to story, here you go. The Intercept has an enlightening piece in comic-book format titled “How to protect yourself against spearfishing: A comic explanation.”
  • If you were puzzled as to why so many Alabama “values voters” were ready and willing to vote for an alleged (have to get that in there) pedophile, Kathryn Brightbill does a good job of explaining it in her Los Angeles Times op ed, “Roy Moore’s alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles.”
  • Finally, in still more religion news, the AP reports that “a woman shot her boyfriend in the head after he asked her to kill him because he thought the leader of a cult they belonged to was a reptile posing as a human.”

And . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer front cover(Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer; Ace, 2016, 351 pp., $27.00)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

There’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike in Canadian science fiction writer Robert Sawyer’s new novel.

On the positive side, this is the most ambitious sci-fi novel I’ve read in ages. The writing is skillful — among other things, seamlessly switching between first person and third person narration — and the primary character is believable and sympathetic, if a bit on the irritating side. Sawyer uses the novel as a platform to talk intelligently about philosophical and ethical big issues — something all too rare in contemporary science fiction: Quantum Night makes you think. As well, Sawyer obviously did a thorough job of researching the novel’s background, the supposed quantum-related nature of consciousness — an area in which I’m totally out of my depth.

On the negative side, it’s difficult to buy the political background in which Quantum Night is set, especially that in the U.S. border areas (where I live). As well, Sawyer sets up an essential (for the secondary plot) series of events (riots) for which he provides no explanation.  Beyond that, from the point of view of psychology (an area in which I do know a bit), it’s very difficult to buy Sawyer’s underlying deterministic premise about the nature of consciousness and how it varies in the population. Beyond that, Sawyer provides the most nauseatingly graphic description of violence I’ve ever read; I found the scene so disturbing that I put down the book for several days before deciding that I really did want to see how the novel concluded.

Yet despite the gruesome violence, Sawyer adheres to the standard sci-fi bowdlerization of sexual scenes. Why? Why is sex more taboo than explicit, horrifying violence in sci-fi? (The only exceptions to that prudishness that immediately come to mind are some of the works of Walter Mosley and Richard K. Morgan.)

Quantum Night begins with a cringe-inducing series of scenes in which the protagonist, academic psychologist Jim Marchuk, a specialist in diagnosing psychopathic tendencies, learns that he has no memory of six months of his life as an undergraduate, and that he apparently did terrible things — things totally out of character — during those six months.

Marchuk shortly reconnects with his girlfriend from those lost six months, Kayla Huron,  a quantum physicist who, to quote the endflap, “has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness,” and not coincidentally has developed what she considers a foolproof method of diagnosing psychopathy.

Her discovery is that the quantum state of electrons in certain portions of the brain determine whether a person is a “philosopher’s zombie” (“p-zed” — a non-self-aware being with no inner voice who merely responds to external stimuli–in Sawyer’s schema 4/7 of the population), a psychopath (a self-aware being without empathy–according to the schema, 2/7 of the population–an astoundingly high proportion, far higher than the common estimates of 1% to 5% of the population), or a self-aware being with empathy (1/7  of the population). I have essentially no knowledge of quantum physics nor brain physiology, so I have no way to judge whether this is plausible; however, Sawyer always does his homework, so I suspect (in terms of quantum physics and brain physiology) it is, however barely. (The breakdown of the numbers of p-zeds, psychopaths, and self-aware, empathetic people is purely arbitrary, purely a plot device.)

There are, however, nonphysiological reasons to doubt that it is plausible. If people were pure behavioral animals reacting mindlessly to external stimuli (p-zeds), they wouldn’t react radically differently to identical stimuli and wouldn’t be almost universally at least somewhat emotionally disturbed. (We’re talking about the garden varieties of emotional disturbance here, such as anxiety and depression, not trauma-induced PTSD.) Pertinently, the most effective type of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, is, to simplify, based on the premise that what people (often subconsciously) tell themselves largely determines their emotions: change what you tell yourself — deliberately tell yourself rational instead of irrational things — and you’ll minimize your emotional disturbance. And it works. So there go your “philosopher’s zombies,” who by definition don’t tell themselves anything.

Sawyer sets all this against a backdrop of ever-worsening rioting (for no apparent reason) in both Canada and the U.S., pogroms against Mexicans in Texas (based on a law restricting legal protection — including protection against murder — to U.S. citizens) , and belligerent psychopaths in both the White House and Kremlin. (What else is new?)

The unmotivated rioting is difficult to buy, the pogroms are equally difficult to buy, and it’s inconceivable that any U.S. court, no matter how reactionary, would ever declare such a law redefining murder constitutional, even in Texas. And if pogroms ever would break out down here along the border, it’s absolutely certain that there would be armed resistance; people would not meekly accept it.

The reason for this dire background is to set up a secondary plot — what can our heroes do about these things?  This is unfortunate, as the primary plot — Marchuk’s journey of discovery about what he did and why — is more than adequate, and the secondary plot seems implausible.

Even worse, much of the philosophical discussion in Quantum Night revolves around utilitarianism, the philosophy that ethical behavior is that which promotes the greatest good for the greatest number. Sawyer seems very much in favor of this concept. So far so good. However, he goes beyond this and seems to be making the case that it’s okay, in fact ethically necessary, to play god with the lives of other people as long as you consider it necessary to the “greater good.”  In other words, the ends justify the means. (My apologies to Sawyer if I’m misreading him, but I don’t think I am.)

This is a horrendous belief, one that is an integral part of the foundation of some of the worst forms of totalitarianism. Leninism, a conspicuously utilitarian political philosophy (which is supposed to produce the greatest good for the greatest number), is the example par excellence, and its terrible results when imposed are too well known to enumerate here. Suffice it to say that a very large number of human problems, both individual and societal, are a direct result of those (such as Sawyer’s protagonist) who consider themselves more enlightened than the great unwashed masses and play god with the lives of others — for their “own good,” of course.

Still, despite its warts, Quantum Night is well worth reading. The writing is first rate, Sawyer provides much thought-provoking discussion of philosophical and ethical problems (mostly in chapter introductions recounting Marchuk’s class lectures), the characters are believable and somewhat sympathetic, and the plot will have you on the edge of your seat throughout most of the book.

Recommended.

* * *

Free Radicals front cover

 

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia. He’s currently working on the sequel and on an unrelated sci-fi novel in his copious free time.

The first six chapters of Free Radicals, are avaukable  here in pdf form.


“‘You know the difference between a psychopath and a homeopath?’

“She shook her head.

“‘Some psychopaths do no harm.'”

* * *

–from Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer

(review coming shortly)