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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brian Williams, Part V

The latest: Williams lied about this trip to Israel in 2006.

Right after the trip, Williams reported that there was rocket fire on the ground below as he rode in a helicopter with an Israeli general. But a year later, in 2007, he claimed that “there were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in.”

One point that should be made clear here is that there is no such thing as a pathological liar who is not a sociopath. After the last Williams post an anonymous commenter asked if it were possible to be a pathological liar but not be a sociopath. I responded:

Good question. Theoretically it should be possible, but I've never seen it. Pathological liars are always sociopaths, and always have the rest of the characteristics that go along with the lying: lack of remorse, lack of shame, impulsiveness, disloyalty, an ability to perform on a public stage (lack of nerves), etc.

When you think about it, to be as much of a self-serving fabulist as Williams is, you can't feel shame. And if you can't feel shame, it's because you have no conscience. And if you have no conscience, all the other characteristics fall into place.

Most of us don't tell self-aggrandizing lies because it just wouldn't feel right. If we claimed an accomplishment falsely, we wouldn't be able to enjoy basking in the reflected glory because we'd feel too much like a jerk for having falsely claimed it. That's because we can feel shame.

When someone tells a lie like that, he's also effectively being disloyal to whomever he's lying to, by misleading them. If you think so little of people that you don't think twice about fooling them, then you have no regard for others. And such lies are usually spur of the moment acts, reflecting a certain lack of impulse control.

So all of these traits are interrelated.

I've always felt that the two most obvious signs of sociopathy are serial killing and pathological lying. One, of course, is far worse than the other. But both reflect the same basic inability to feel shame or remorse, i.e., sociopathy.

So, psychologically speaking, Brian Williams is far closer to Ted Bundy than he is to the rest of us. Williams may not have that psychological quirk which caused Bundy to need to kill someone to get off sexually. But he is equally incapable of shame or embarrassment.

If you've ever seen Williams on TV, you can see that while he comes across a little pretentious, with that faux-thoughtful full-of-gravitas anchorman delivery, he doesn't come across as evil. (Even if, if push came to shove, he would be more capable of it than most.)

He doesn't look evil, either. In fact, he looks like the nice Irish Catholic boy next door. And yet, when I look at pictures of him now, somehow that crooked smile of his seems…..crooked:

Hindsight is, of course, 20-20. But the way his nose veers off to his right, and his mouth semi-offsets that by curling up to the left, now appears reflective of an intrinsic dishonesty.

Ascribing character to facial features is foolish. But look at the following two pictures and tell me you don't have the same reaction:

Williams' next public statement will probably be some sort of solemn semi-apology to his viewers for having stretched the truth, and a claim that he will be seeking help for his problem, as if it is some isolated quirk that can be cured.

But pathological lying is never an isolated quirk, and sociopathy can never be cured.


Jokah Macpherson said...

Newest potential sociopath: Dana Cope of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. Spent years making blistering unsubstantiated attacks on State Treasurer Janet Cowell's management of the state employee pension plan; turns out Cope is making fraudulent payments from his own nonprofit's coffers.

His statement on his resignation sounds like a tell since he frames it in terms of how he's doing it for the good of the organization and its mission in an appeal so ridiculous no one could take it seriously.

On the other hand, the media found plenty of people who stick up for him. If he were a true sociopath, people close to him would be likely to know something was off and keep their distance to avoid getting burned. I'd say it's still a toss-up but worth monitoring.

John Craig said...

Jokah --
Just took a look at a couple articles about his resignation. I think you're right, he has all the classic signs. The viciousness with which he attacked someone. The corruption. The hypocrisy. The non-apology apology. The mere fact that he would have clawed his way up to be the head of such a large organization in the first place. (Doing that generally requires a lot of ass-kissing and backstabbing.)

A lot of sociopaths can find people to stick up for them; generally these people are not longtime acquaintances, but relatively short term ones, who don't know him all that well. And, of course, in a politically fraught situation like that, there are always party functionaries in whose interest it is to cover up for their own party in an effort at damage control.

Anonymous said...

John--whether or not he's clinically a sociopath he's most certainly a pretty sick man. I've always known that fascial asymmetry hints to other character disorders but I try not to discuss it too much as I too have some fascial asymmetry as most people do, but his is extreme. And, he had no good reason for doing this. I mean he was already an American icon. Thanks, Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
Thank you. I had no idea, hadn't heard that before. Character -- as opposed to personality -- disorders? Interesting.

What character disorders does such asymmetry reflect?

Steven said...

thanks John.

I posted your Tyson article to my facebook page and wrote:

This is an excellent assessment of the character of Mike Tyson, approached through the question 'is Tyson a sociopath?'

i felt like returning your favour :-)

John Craig said...

Steven --
No problem, and thank you.

Anonymous said...

off topic

david carr is dead. i get the feeling he was a high iq sociopath who got clean close to death and leveraged that into an enforcers job at the nytimes. opinions?

he was the journalism critic - which is head thug over there. wrote a memoir glorifying his meth use and the "tough life" he'd led and how only the love of his kids redeemed him... he also ratted off his dealers, friends and dithced his baby momma...

John Craig said...

Anon --
Honestly, that had never occurred to me. You present a compelling case, but I just read this morning that his baby momma was also his drug dealer, so separating from her may have been necessary for him to get clean. Plus, who knows what else was going on there, people separate for all sorts of reasons.

Coincidentally I as going to write a post about him for another reason a little while back, about how he's typical of low testosterone white male liberals. But then I read a few of his columns, which were actually pretty good (and not written from a hard Left viewpoint), and I read that he'd had cancer, which probably also had something to do with his wan appearance. So, I refrained.

As far as the sociopathy, I would point out that an addiction can rob anybody of their soul (i.e., effectively turn them into sociopaths if they weren't that way to start off with). And that story about how he left his two young children in the car while he scored a hit that time was pretty damning. But on the other hand, he owned up to it with brutal honesty, which generally isn't the mark of a sociopath. Yes, he did "use" that background as fodder for his bok. But isn't that what all writers do, use their own personal experiences?

Anonymous said...

you're more charitable than i am john, god bless your soul.

oddly enough, i find that these days the non muslim religious are better people than the atheists who are assholes. in a weird ways that's kinda converting me. odd that.

have your heard new zealand is hte new safe haven for rich people? also, they've minimized a lot of bullshit regulation and tried to boost up the farming sector and health sector. quite interesting really. its a wonderful place, i worked there for a year. if i were married or would ever marry i would settle there for good. its a great life over there.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you, not sure I"m all that charitable, I"m just trying to be accurate and don't want to toss around the sociopath label too widely, just restrict it to those who obviously deserve it.

I"m somewhere in between agnostic and atheist, hope I escape your characterization. If you're talking about the organized atheists who consider it their mission to prevent every Nativity scene in every town square, though, I couldn't agree with you more. They are a blight.

Couldn't agree more about New Zealand. My wife and I vacationed there in April 1988, I fell in love with the place. Absolutely beautiful, friendly people, and safe. When I was down there one of the headlines on the front page of the International Herald Tribune down there was, "Tourist reports two gold rings missing." I still remember that. Can you imagine that being front page news?

Steven said...

What would you expect from a sociopath when it comes to mourning? Would they cry if a 'loved one' died? Would they have any deep feeling about it?

John Craig said...

Steven --
I think it almost goes without saying that a sociopath's feelings are shallower. I think they would feel something if a member of their immediate family died, though it would be far less intense than what a normal person would feel.

At the same time, sociopaths will often put on a big show of mourning sometimes, even when they don't care, and will even use their "grief" as an excuse for bad behavior.

This clip of the unquestionably sociopathic Bill Clinton wiping away a fake tear at Ron Brown's funeral is classic:

Anonymous said...

John--Sorry for the delay. Of course there's no scientific rationale for fascial asymmetry causing deviant behavior, however, sometimes one can observe human nature as it is and fill in the dots even though they might not be perfect. We're not dealing in absolutes, just speculation based upon subtle clues, or not so subtle in this case. The guy's obviously messed up in the head and his face is distorted--no rocket science here. My face is somewhat distorted and so has been much of my life. Anyway, thanks, Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
No problem, thanks for the reply. OK, I trust your personal observation; I'd never noticed that correlation before.

And I'd also never noticed, by the way, asymmetry in your face.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, it's not as bad as it could be, thank god.

Anonymous said...


anyone notice what a total classy hottie brian williams daughter is? before she became anorexic, she looked like the PERFECT WASP WOMAN.... what they call the philly main line?

i wonder what her family life was like. she doesn't seem sociopathic, but she is on a crazy tv show, getting her ass eaten in public and marrying a really really rich good looking guy.

jesus, that woman dresses well. and uh, pretty much does everything well. she has a few funny or die videos, where she parodies the BPD career girls of the day.

does anyone else see slight plastic surgery on her face?

John Craig said...

Random --
Just checked her out; some of her pictures make he rook beautiful, some merely pretty. I don't see the plastic surgery though. If she had been inclined to get some, I'd think she'd have started with her nose.

"Getting her ass eaten in public"??! I haven't seen that show.

Anonymous said...

it's called girls. national review's kevin williamson does the perfect skewering of it. 'pity part' and victim privilege etc...

another very odd brian williams thing - he sat down with his daughter and watched the weird sex scene of her show together. no kidding. in any dad that would be very creepy. even for showbiz.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Ah, thank you, right, that Lena Dunham show. Never seen it.

Yeah, I'd think that'd be a little awkward for both of them.