Defining a Villain

Serial killers destroy families. Corporate, religious, and political psychopaths ruin societies. Author of Men Who Stare At Goats, Jon Ronson, explores the underlying causes of psychopathy and characteristics that define a psychopath. The book, of course, took a journalistic approach—adding background research, personal insight and humor.

Why is the world so unfair? “Why all the savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: Psychopaths”

For some time now, I have believed that there are no villains in this world. Every action is a product of nurture and people's experiences define their morals. To the villains, they are the heroes—they are right. They are just. So what are rapists, murderers and schemers? They are just “jagged rocks thrown into the still pond.”

They are charmers. They are people who study the rest of us being normal and then imitate. They are eloquent, capable of disguising madness as logic. They will listen to you ramble about your morals and beliefs but pity you in their head for being restrained by your conscience.

If you were to unknowingly marry a sociopath (basically synonymous with psychopath), just leave. You will not hurt that person because they associate no real emotions with that kind of a loss. In the book, Ronson describes an experiment that reveals a critical, physical difference between a psychopath and a normal person.

When intense electro-shock therapy was legal (before the 1970's), several psychiatrists would conduct tests on prisoners for their research. Psychopaths were then considered to have personality disorders. Prisoners would volunteer to be a part of these experiments, unaware of what it entailed. They would be seated on the chair and told that they were going to be shocked at high levels. The prisoner would begin to sweat and tremble at the anticipation of the shock and after it was done, they would never volunteer again. That’s a normal person. The prisoners that were labelled to have personality disorders would not even sweat or twitch before the shock was delivered. It was as if their mind could not process the anticipation of pain and once it was endured, the memory of the pain would be fleeting. It was later discovered that psychopaths have a short-term, emotional memory—basically they lack a functioning amygdalae.

Psychotic prisoners are easy though; they like meeting researchers to break the monotony of their day. CEO's and politicians, however, find ways to bury their madness.

The right information is not covered about Anthony Weiner; he is a likely psychopath. Faking tears is the first thing they learn to do. His life ambitions are limited to fame and power and having (attempting to have) extramarital affairs is common. Let’s be real, most congressmen do not have sext worthy abs. Each of his six packs seemed to need a virtual mistress. This kind of superficial tendencies and need for continuous admiration encompasses a psychopath. His wife is intelligent, beautiful and accomplished, so he obviously had to be cunning and manipulative to deceive her. Yes, any politician would be all of these to an extent but Weiner displays a little more that aligns with the research Ronson did.

Jon Ronson even took Bob Hare’s course on identifying psychopaths; he describes it as both a power and flaw. After reading the book, it was difficult not to over analyze the people in my life. However, it’s also really helpful to notice these traits unwillingly. The Hare PCL-R (Pyschopathy Check List-Revised) lists all the characteristics that allow psychologists to diagnose psychopaths. If you read these and think “I’m all of these things sometimes, I may be a psychopath!” then you’re probably not. It’s those who ways to justify their behavior and psychotic ideologies that score high on this list.

Clearly, I really enjoyed this book. Buy it, Kindle it, Nook it, iPad it, Torrent it, Read it.