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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sociopath liberation

Given the benefits which accrue to those who cry discrimination, and given the escalating victimization sweepstakes which have ensued, it's a little surprising that more groups with well-defined mental maladies haven't applied for special victim status yet.

A few have. People with Aspergers have their advocates; people with Down Syndrome have their supporters as well. And the general push for civil liberties has resulted in a lot of schizophrenics ending up homeless on the streets.

But why haven't sociopaths agitated for special protected status yet?

If they do, perhaps their organizational manifesto could read something like this:

We are the real victims.

We are discriminated against for who we are, despite the fact that we have no choice but to be as we are. Is it our fault that we were abused as children, or didn't have a loving parent to bond with?

Is it our fault that we may have suffered frontal lobe damage? Do you blame the victims of auto accidents for the damage they undergo?

We deserve your sympathy, not your hatred.

Others criticize us, prosecute us, and hound us to the ends of the earth. We may murder at a higher rate, but we also get murdered more than any other group.

We are only 3% of the population, but we are at least 30% of those in prisons. And we are over 60% of those on Death Row. This is discrimination, pure and simple.

As the victims of oppression, we have a few demands. First, we no longer want to be known as "psychopaths" or "sociopaths." Those words have acquired too many negative connotations over the years. (Is it any wonder most of us feel compelled to stay in the closet?) Those terms should simply be banished, like all the other pejoratives which have been used to marginalize other oppressed groups. From now on, we simply want to be known as the "conventional morality-free."

We need to move beyond the old stereotypes: 

Don't call us manipulative; call us socially effective. (We make the best salesmen.)

Don't say we have low impulse control; just say we're spontaneous. (Why be a stick in the mud?)

Don't despise our dishonesty; admire out creativity. (We are artists.)

Don't call us glib; just bask in our charm. (We didn't even have to go to charm school; with us, it comes naturally.)

Don't think of us as shameless; think of us as living in the moment. (Isn't that what the poets tell us to do?)

Don't dwell on how easily we get bored; marvel at how we are never boring. (There is no group more exciting than us.)

We are many, and we are strong:

We aren't just Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy. In fact, we no longer want to be associated with them. We are political leaders, like Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. We are business leaders, like Bernie Madoff and Steve Jobs. We are athletic heroes, like Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones. We are Frank Abagnale, the charming hero of Catch Me if you Can.

We are the Navy Seals who fell asleep in the helicopter ride on the way to get Osama bin Laden. We are the singers who never get stage fright. We are the clutch performers who never get nervous and choke. Don't hate us for our strengths (because we aren't weaklings like the rest of you).

We are the few (roughly, 2-3%). We are the proud (very proud).

We are the conventional morality-free.

And we no longer want to be stigmatized.

We want, instead, to be admired (lionized, actually).


Anonymous said...

John, I think you need to parlay your talent for advocacy into a lucrative lobbying career. How about starting with an umbrella association - like the America Association of Conventional Morality-Free People (AACMP) - and then you can set up groups and PACs to represent CMPs with specific needs like SIFMA - Sociopaths In the Financial Markets Indusrty (SIFMA).

Ooops! There already is a SIFMA! But you are unlikely to have AACMP confused with the Asian Association of Career Management Professionals.

John Craig said...

G --
Ha! Not only should I start such an association, I should probably use you as my poster boy. (After all, there's no way you'd have gotten as far in business as you did without a little, ahem, unconventional morality.)

Good idea though.

though on second thought, there already is effectively such an organization, and it goes by the acronym ABA. (American Bar Association.) What percent of their time do you think is spent advocating for sociopaths?

Anonymous said...

Since more and more sociopaths are going into government and police work, you could consider the entire government as an advocacy group for sociopaths.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I'm not so sure those ratios are changing; I think government and police work have always attracted their fair share.

Glen Filthie said...

Wait. What?!?!?

NEWT is a sociopath? Why?

(I am a Canadian, John, so some doings of your politicians don't get reported up here).

I sure like the man's rhetoric, though. I am surprised to see him compared to scum like Clinton...

John Craig said...

Glen --
I've written about Newt before:

(Or just type "Newt Gingrich" into the subject bar of the blog and those posts will come up.) I tend to agree with his politics too, other than his hawkishness on the Mideast, but that doesn't change his basic character.

Anonymous said...

Check this out:

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
I've read about that book. But it's actually proof they're not exactly coming out of the closet: she wrote it under a pseudonym and is keeping her identity secret.

I've heard sociopaths justify their behaviors before, and she doesn't sound all that different.

i wrote the post as satire, as you know; I sure hope it doesn't come true.

Anonymous said...

I hope it doesn't come true either. God help us if it did!

Out of interest, have you ever read any books about sociopathy? I've read Hervey Cleckley's famous 1941 'Mask of Sanity' and a bit of Robert Hare's stuff. I also take a look at from time to time, just because it's interesting to see their perspective.


John Craig said...

Gethin --
Yes, I've read a number of books. Never got around to Cleckley's, which was the original in the field, but I did read Hare's first book, and at one time, had read over half the books on the subject. The best book I've read on sociopathy is The Antisocial Personalities, by David Lykken.

I actually wrote a manuscript on sociopathy myself once (The Invisible Enemy), and got to the point with Simon & Schuster where they asked for a rewrite. They ended up passing on it at the last minute (back in 1996) because (a) their previous book on the subject (by Hare) had not sold well, and (b) I named names (like Clinton and Jackson), and they didn't want to be sued. So, these days I satisfy myself with a blog.

Baloo said...

You ARE on a roll lately. Reblogged here with illustrative cartoon:

Gem Junior said...

wow, I just found this and put it in my favorites list. This one is one of the most clever.

John Craig said...

Gem Junior --
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

That's a shame that they wouldn't accept your manuscript as I think it would have been an interesting read. I was particularly impressed with your descriptions of both sociopathy and Asperger Syndrome precisely because you use a lot of real-life examples from people you've observed. Most texts include only dry explanations of the general symptoms, rarely using case studies of individual people and their actions. The way you have gone through those prison penpal requests to detect sociopaths is interesting, and you give convincing arguments each time. I think a book on sociopathy by you would make a valuable contribution to the literature on the matter, particularly as your style is that of an investigative journalist, rather than that of an academic. This is precisely why books like Simon Baron-Cohen's 'Zero Degrees of Empathy' (which mentions sociopathy, Cluster B personality disorders and autism) was so successful: even though he is an academic, he made the book appeal to lay persons who otherwise know nothing about the subject.

I think you should try to get your manuscript published again. To avoid being sued, try using names of deceased people, or maybe use pseudonyms for some of the examples? Also try submitting it to many different publishers? Remember, not even JK Rowling could get her 'Harry Potter' accepted the first time around because the publishers didn't think it would sell! How they must be kicking themselves by now...


John Craig said...

Gethin --
Thank you so much; that's maybe the nicest compliment I've gotten on this blog. Yes, I wish they'd published the book; I think my life might have turned out differently had they done so. And I WAS thinking at the time that my manuscript, with its actual examples, would bring the syndrome alive for readers more than most books about the subject did.

I still have the manuscript, but haven't done anything with it in a long time. If I rewrote it I'd actually want to incorporate some of the examples I've used in this blog. I do appreciate you delving into the blog and looking up stuff I wrote from previous years.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I really think you should go ahead with trying to publish your manuscript. You could try using names of people who would never be able to sue you like Josef Fritzl (there is a book about him simply titled 'Monster'). With the likes of Fritzl, so much has been written about him in the media that there's no way he could possibly be further defamed; anything negative about him would just be regarded fair comment. There is a clause in the law on defamation that prevents plaintiffs from suing if their reputation is already so abysmal that no one can reasonably say anything to make it worse.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Well, I tried to get it published at one point, but no luck. The thing about writing about a guy like Fritzl is, it wouldn't have been all that interesting, since everybody knows he's a sociopath. And it actually wouldn't have been that educational to talk about serial killers and the like since everybody nows about them. To me, the far more interesting subject is sociopaths who pass as normal, or even as better than normal. Most people don't realize that people like Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Anne Heche, Newt Gingrich, and so on are sociopaths, and it's much more illuminating to find out about them than it is to hear about another serial killer, or, in Fritzl's case, a kidnapper and sexual predator. In the original manuscript I only mentioned two well known killers, Charlie Manson (because he is probably schizophrenic as well as sociopathic, and I wanted to make the point that sociopathy and psychosis are not mutually exclusive), and Ted Bundy, whom I mentioned in passing to explain exactly what his motivation would have been to work at a suicide hotline.

Anyway, thanks for the encouragement, and I haven't given up on the idea entirely, but I no longer have an agent and the issue is dead for now.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, actually that's true - to mention Fritzl would be to state the obvious.

I hope you do think about publishing. Keep the idea in the back burner for now, but don't give up on it. I wouldn't be encouraging you if I didn't think your work would make a really interesting read.

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Damn, what a creative and intriguing way to express your inner thoughts. Hiding in plain sight is something you specialise in, isn't it?
You guessed it

Anonymous said...