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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blagojevich a textbook sociopath (Part I)

(For bloggers, Blago is the gift which just keeps on giving. )

There has been a fair amount of talk in the media recently about whether Blagojevich has "lost it," or has gone psychotic somehow.

These analyses miss the mark. Blagojevich is just a classic sociopath. Always has been, and always will be. (Sociopaths, though they often claim to, never change.)

Because normal (nonsociopathic) people can't imagine acting the way Blagojevich has, they innocently assume that somehow he must have lost his marbles. What they don't realize is that someone who has no conscience -- i.e. a sociopath -- is not crazy. A sociopath is simply a supreme narcissist who will do absolutely anything to achieve his ends.

A one paragraph primer for those unfamiliar with the syndrome:

Sociopaths are not capable of real love or affection, and are disloyal to everyone. They feel no guilt or shame. They are dishonest, glib, and instinctively skillful manipulators. They are destructive and hate other people. They are also supremely self confident, completely uninhibited, impulsive, and arrogant in the extreme. This gives them tremendous nerve and an ability to easily withstand what normal people would consider stressful situations. As a result they are often great performers. They like to be in control and they hate to lose. They can be very charming, and often have dynamic, even electrifying personalities. But the more you get to know them, the more you see their hypocrisy and their core dishonesty. If you spend enough time with them, they will always leave you feeling used and bitter.

When you hear about someone that "you either love him or hate him," he's probably a sociopath. If you hear that he'll "stop at nothing" to get what he wants, he's probably one. They're often very successful, although they also will often crash after what seems like strangely self-destructive behavior.

Blagojevich has all the classic signs.

He married Patricia Mell, the daughter of Chicago alderman Richard Mell. It is said that this is how he got his political career jump started. (Sociopaths often marry with some sort of personal gain in mind, which is why many female sociopaths are gold diggers.)

Richard Mell later said about his son-in-law that "He'll throw anybody under the bus" to further his own ambitions. The expression sums up Blago's (or any sociopath's) disloyalty. Mell also said that Blagojevich "used me" and that "he uses everybody and then discards them."

The fact that Blago was able to rise to a governorship shows that he knew which people to curry favor with, which people to pressure for campaign contributions, which people to funnel money towards, and so on. If you don't play those games, you simply don't rise in politics, especially in Chicago. A sad but inescapable fact of life, which is why you see so many sociopaths rise to the top levels of politics.

In his youth Blagojevich trained as a Golden Gloves boxer (sociopaths often are attracted to positions where they can hurt others).

After graduating from law school he used his father-in-law's connections to clerk for a Chicago alderman and then went to work as a district attorney. (I've known of an inordinate number of sociopaths who've worked as DA's, it seems to represent another method of being able to hurt, or at least punish, people.)

Blago later served in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the only Democrat from Illinois to vote for the Iraq War.

Blagojevich was elected Governor of Illinois in 2002 on a promise to end corruption in the state. (No editorial comment needed.)

As Governor he has been known for his ongoing feuds with fellow Democratic lawmakers. He has evidently not been on speaking terms with Barack Obama for several years. (Sociopaths are known for their thirst for battle.)

Since 2005 Blagojevich has been the subject of at least twelve separate federal investigations for corruption of various sorts. He knew he was being investigated when he decided to put Obama's Senate seat up for sale. (It is common among sociopaths for them to feel as if they'll never be caught at whatever skullduggery they're up to; they tend to feel invincible.)

After the Obama camp declined to offer Blagojevich any compensation for their choice of a candidate to fill the seat, Blagojevich called the President-elect a "motherfucker" and stated in similar language that he would not take their suggestion. (It is common among sociopaths to have respect for absolutely nobody.)

The day after he was arrested, Blagojevich showed up for work in a reportedly "upbeat" fashion and waved to the reporters gathered later outside his house. (Shame and embarrassment are not part of a sociopath's emotional repertoire.)

Blago's behavior is best understood when viewed through the prism of sociopathy, through which it makes perfect sense. Viewed any other way, it seems, well, crazy.


fitzgoldwin said...

How about creating a "sociopathic index" for ranking political and corporate leaders? If Blago is the gold standard, perhaps it would be interesting to see how others compare? I would find it intriguing to see whether sociopathic tendencies are stronger in the political, financial or corporate leaders. Perhaps this might promote friendly competition between them in the sociopathy stakes.

John Craig said...

Fitzgoldwin -- Again, thanks for the comment. Sorry, no such thing as "friendly" competition with a sociopath. However, you're right, these tendencies do manifest themselves among people thought of as "leaders" much more often than they do among the general population. The traits it takes to get to the top in any field -- a certain blind self-confidence, dishonesty, a willingness to stab others in the back, etc -- help whether you're in politics or the corporate world (I'll fold finance into the general corporate world). It also helps in Hollywood. I don't see a whole lot of difference between these fields in terms of the types who tend to rise to the top. As far as a sociopathic index, it's my impression that if you're a sociopath, you're pretty much willing to do anything, i.e., sacrifice anyone to get ahead. If you had a narcissistic personality index, sociopaths would represent the extreme of that type. But sociopaths are, by definition, all extreme.