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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sociopath alert: Alfred Mead

The NY Post just ran an article describing how a 72-year-old Minnesota man was sentenced to a week in jail for having cheated at a fishing tournament:

A Minnesota fisherman long suspected of cheating at tournaments has reportedly hooked an unwanted catch — a week in jail.

The Park Rapids Enterprise reports that Alfred Mead, 72, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft by swindle on May 20 for bringing two previously captured fish into the Park Rapid American Legion Community Fishing Derby on Feb. 2.

“Your conduct had a major impact on these [fishing tournaments],” Judge Robert Tiffany told Mead. “I hope you realize the seriousness of your conduct.”

Cheating, Tiffany said, “takes the enjoyment and joy out of it for those who bring their kids” and honest participants.

Mead, who has two prior gaming convictions and a decade-long trail of suspicious tournament winnings, is to report to the Hubbard County jail in one week, the newspaper reports.

And that's really all you need to know about Alfred Mead.

This one incident may seem like pretty scanty evidence to base a conclusion of sociopathy on, but this is simply something that a nonsociopath would not do. A nonsociopath would consider cheating on his taxes, or cheating in a competition if the stakes are high enough. But to go to that trouble to win a tournament where children are competing, and where the prize is undoubtedly relatively minor?

The lesson here is that sociopaths will cheat wherever they can, no matter how low the stakes. I've seen this with the ones I've known personally, and also with ones I've read about.

I knew a partner at Goldman Sachs who would chisel at every opportunity. Whenever he went out to a business dinner with subordinates, he would order two entrees, the second to bring home, so he could eat twice at company expense. That might seem minor, but that attitude showed through in everything he did. (I always thought there was a correlation between intelligence and making partner at that firm, but that there was a much stronger correlation between sociopathy and making partner.)

I heard that after he was fired from Goldman (for having purposely misevaluated his positions), this guy cheated at his golf club's annual tournament. He would turn in artificially poor scores throughout the year so he could then win the handicap-adjusted tournament. It got to the point where so many people complained about him year after year that the club's executive committee had to convene a special meeting just to disqualify him. Bear in mind that this was a guy who used to make millions at Goldman, and that whatever prize was awarded for winning the tournament was undoubtedly relatively minor; but for people who want to win at any cost, that philosophy will extend to all aspects of their lives.

I've also seen the phenomenon described by insightful novelists. You may remember that Ian Fleming introduced his archvillain Auric Goldfinger by showing him cheating at cards poolside at a Miami Beach hotel. Goldfinger, of course, had plans for larger mayhem; but we found out everything we really needed to know about him in that first scene.

Look at Mead's face, above. He has what are sometimes referred to as the "cold, dead" eyes of a sociopath, along with the slit of a mouth that I personally associate with white sociopaths. (It's possible that this one photograph is misleading, but I'm guessing it's not.)

Who knows, maybe Alfred Mead's life was such that this particular fishing tournament was a big deal to him. But I'm quite sure that if you took a close look at his life, you'd find that he cheated at everything he could. And that he has led a life amply illustrating all the other facets of sociopathy as well.

It's always the little things that betray character.


bluffcreek1967 said...

John, you mentioned something about the thin lips of sociopaths in this post and in another I had read in the past. What exactly is it about the thin lips or slits that sociopaths seem to have? Just curious.

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
I've posted about it a few times in the past (see "Thin lips" and "Thin lips II"). When I first mentioned it I said that I knew it seemed like a silly thing to point out, as there is absolutely no logical reason I can think of as to why this would be the case, but it's something I notice time after time. Virtually every well known heterosexual white serial killer I can think of has very thin lips (this excludes the Jeffrey Dahmer's and John Wayne Gacy's of the world, obviously). But it's something I've also noticed in my personal life, a large percentages of the sociopaths I've known, the white ones at least, seem to have thin lips.

Usually when I mention it I put in some disclaimer to the effect of, "I know this sounds ridiculous, but..." But I've now mentioned it so many times I've stopped bothering to put in the disclaimer.

I'm not the only one who's ever noted this; old time novelists frequently used to describe their villains as having "cruel, thin lips" so others have made the connection as well.

Again, I can't think of any reason why this would be so; I've never heard of any serious psychologist making this connection. But this blog is largely about correlations I've noticed. so I just thought I'd point it out.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or do sociopaths and narcissists seem more childish than the rest of us? I once lived with a 45yo narcissist and she would be forever making very transparent, pathetic excuses for things instead of taking personal responsibility and admitting wrong. She would often go off on temper tantrums over the slightest thing, yelling at everyone if we didn't do exactly as she said. It was as if she relished making people feel bad about themselves, as she frequently criticised others very publicly. When she moved out, all the constant arguments we were having suddenly stopped and we began living peacefully, even though she still blames us for the arguments. It later transpired that she's been like that throughout her life: not one of her three marriages has lasted (she, of course, blames her exes for this) and her own mother will have nothing to do with her.

After I begun researching narcissism, I realised that childishness and poor emotional controls plays a large part of it. I have never met a narcissist or sociopath who has healthy ways of controlling anger: they all seem to take it out on others. Their psychological projection makes them impossible to deal with: anything they do that is their fault somehow, through corkscrew logic, becomes yours. And note that it's mainly anger they experience - not grief or sorrow - just anger. They are so childish.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You're absolutely right: childishness is a hallmark of narcissists and sociopaths. Your description of that woman you lived with is perfect. Unfortunately, we've known people like that. In general, the cardinal rule is, the lamer the excuse, the more narcissistic the personality.

I know one woman who would always criticize others for their pronunciation of certain words, but if anyone corrected her on that type of thing, she would erupt in a fury, accusing the other person of being "prissy" or "an emotional retard" -- for having done the exact same thing she did all the time. Even if you point out this double standard to them, it makes no difference, and they will continue with their hypocritical ways.

Most textbook descriptions of sociopaths note their impulsiveness and inability to take responsibility (meaning, blame). The word "childish" is not used, but that is in fact exactly what those traits amount to.

Thank you for that excellent example -- and analysis.