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Sunday, March 29, 2015

What kind of person brings a baseless discrimination lawsuit?

The jury delivered its verdict two days ago in the much watched Ellen Pao suit against Kleiner Perkins in Silicon Valley; she lost. From what I've heard, the jury delivered the right verdict.

I've heard speculation that as shameless as she appears to be, she must be a sociopath. That's certainly possible. But given how consistently unsuccessful she was at trying to make a good impression, even initially, with those she was trying to ingratiate herself with, she strikes me more as a clueless Aspie.

One of the more convincing pieces of evidence for that was that she actually complained in her suit that the Kleiner Perkins partners seemed nervous around her after she filed suit against them. (One would have to be utterly without any understanding of human nature to expect any other reaction.)

Pao had unquestionably impressive academic credentials. She graduated from Princeton in 1991 with a degree in electrical engineering, from Harvard Law School in 1994, and from Harvard Business School in 1998. Her only problem seems to be, you can't educate the Aspergers out of yourself.

And it's hard not to wonder to what extent Pao was urged to file a lawsuit by her litigious husband, Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher.

There's no question about his psychological profile. It's not much of a stretch to say that anyone who runs a Ponzi scheme is a sociopath. You pretty much have to be one in order to be able to look people straight in the eye, reassure them that their money will be carefully tended, and then just use that money to fund your own lavish lifestyle.

Fletcher has also shown many of the other classic signs.

He's left a long trail of lawsuits, both as plaintiff and defendant.

In June of 1991, Fletcher sued Kidder, Peabody, claiming racial discrimination because he hadn't been paid the bonus he was due. Kidder in turn said that they weren't even sure the electronic profits Fletcher claimed were real, since he refused to divulge how he had obtained them.

According Boston magazine:

In 1992 a New York Stock Exchange arbitration panel denied Fletcher the damages he claimed, awarding him a relatively modest $1.26 million, and later another arbitration panel dismissed the racial discrimination suit. The arbitration award wasn’t really a victory for Fletcher, but the story that emerged in subsequent media reports was less nuanced: On Wall Street, went the narrative, even Harvard grads get discriminated against if they happen to be black. Buddy Fletcher, though, had fought back. 

Fletcher subsequently opened up his own money management company, Fletcher Asset Management. After three years in business, Fletcher claimed an average annual return of over 300% for the previous two years. 

1n 1995, Fletcher registered his company as a hedge fund. He then used a technique perfected by Bernie Madoff: he appeared to be discriminating about his investors, claiming that he only wanted "friendly" investors. You see, it was a privilege to invest with him. (If those 300% returns had been real, it would have been a privilege.)

Fletcher also loved to make a big splash: appearances were all. From the same magazine article:

Fletcher dressed in a Gatsby-esque cavalcade of beautifully tailored suits and traveled around Manhattan in a Bentley driven by his full-time chauffeur. He bought a $5.9 million castle in upstate Connecticut. In New York, he rented offices for his hedge fund at the top of the GM Building on Fifth Avenue. There, rising 48 floors from the southeast corner of Central Park, he could gaze down upon the city in every direction.

He also loved to pose as a philanthropist, at one point announcing that he would donate $50 million to people and organizations furthering the cause of civil rights.

But in 2011, when he tried to buy a fifth apartment at the Dakota, the board turned him down after looking into his finances, and the whole edifice came tumbling down. He had been claiming assets he did not have, and it soon became apparent that he was operating what was essentially a Ponzi scheme.

Fletcher's response? To sue the Dakota for racial discrimination (even though it had previously sold him four other apartments).

One other discordant note. Fletcher had lived his entire adult life as an open homosexual, and was in a relationship with the same man, Hobart Fowlkes, Jr., for ten years. But in 2007, he met and married Ellen Pao.

Did he do that for show? Did he think he would be convincing people he'd "gone straight?" Did he lie to Pao herself about his sexuality, or was theirs a marriage of convenience? From the outside, it's unclear. But sociopaths are forever thinking they're fooling people when they're not; was this an example of that?

Once their sociopathy has been proven, it's always interesting to see what other behaviors sociopaths manifest, because their actions tend to follow certain patterns. In particular, they love to strike heroic, noble poses. Many people often fall for those poses, at least until the sociopath's duplicity has been uncovered.

It's also interesting to look at it from another angle, and see what kind of people file baseless discrimination lawsuits.


Pavonine99 said...

Actually, sociopaths are much more fluid in their sexuality than everyone else, more so than most typical bisexuals. Nobody really has a reason why; it could be organic. I could also see it as having something to do with the fact that they don't experience romantic love and don't really have an aesthetic sense, therefore all they care about is purely physical sensations and power play.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
Interesting, I hadn't been aware of that. But I think sociopaths do have some aesthetic sense, I've known couple of sociopaths well, and both were well aware of the difference between attractive and unattractive people (and would comment on it very freely).

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they don't seem to feel any embarrassment. I've often wondered if the guys who have sex with sheep, dogs, horses, etc, aren't more likely to be sociopaths. (I think they are.)

Anonymous said...

I have also learned (via my own research on the subject of sociopathy) that sociopaths "can be very fluid with their sexuality," agreeing one hundred percent with Pavonine99's comment. Personally, I strongly suspect that the sociopath that I'm familiar with is bisexual.

- birdie

Steven said...

Was Hitler a sociopath? One would assume so. If you look at his paintings, its hard to deny that he had aesthetic sense.

John Craig said...

Steven --
That's a complicated question. The easy answer would be yes, and most people believe that he was. But there's also the Hugh Trevor Roper school of thought, which was that Hitler was simply a misguided man who thought he was doing the best thing for his countrymen.

If you look at the rest of Hitler's life, away from his political life -- if that's possible -- you see surprisingly few clues that he was a sociopath. His mother adored him, not the usual emotion that sociopaths get from their mothers. Hitler was a vegetarian, and loved animals. And in his personal life -- again, away from his political life -- there was little evidence of cruelty and duplicity.

It's far easier to say that a Josef Mengele was a sociopath. Mengele had a mother who was monstrous, whom he hated. And he practiced a very, personal, hands on form o cruelty, with all those experiments on Jews and Gypsies and deformed people.

This isn't to minimize the damage that Hitler did in the world, but you asked for a psychological profile, and that's my honest opinion.

Steven said...

Did he know about the millions of men, women and children going into the gas chambers? Was it him directing that? Could he have stopped it?

According to this amusing video about Hitler and sex (relevant part 1:57), 4 of the 6 women Hitler likely had sex with ended up killing themselves. He was controlling, possessive and domineering, "all the hallmarks of the abusive relationship". He lived with his half niece for two years, during which time he became increasingly controlling, making her cut off contact with friends, and she eventually committed suicide.

Regarding Hitler's supposed vegetarianism, it is a myth:

John Craig said...

Steven --
I'm not a Hitler expert, and have never read a biography of him, but given that he's become the ultimate symbol of evil in the world, there seems to be a lot of myth on both sides. And I'm not sure I'd take the "Vegetarian Guide" as the authoritative source on whether he was. He may well had been a sociopath for all I know, he was certainly successful at manipulating the German people, and people who rise to power -- in any country, at any time -- are basically automatically suspects for that sort of psychological profile.

There are other myths surrounding Hitler that are supposed to be false, too, like the story that he was supposed to have had only one testicle. And he supposedly never snubbed Jesse Owens as has been claimed at the 1936 Olympics. Was he one-quarter Jewish? I've heard that's true, but who knows.

Again, as I say, I just don't know.

Steven said...

Since you are not sure you would trust the vegetarian guide, simply for your information, I will quote a couple of primary sources and a famous biographer:

1) An article from May 30, 1937, 'At Home With The Fuhrer' says, "It is well known that Hitler is a vegetarian and does not drink or smoke. His lunch and dinner consist, therefore, for the most part of soup, eggs, vegetables and mineral water, although he occasionally relishes a slice of ham and relieves the tediousness of his diet with such delicacies as caviar ..."

2) Dione Lucas who cooked for Hitler in the late 30's: "I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab (pigeon), but you might be interested to know that it was a great favorite with Mr. Hitler, who dined in the hotel often."

3) Robert Payne, widely considered Hitler's definitive biographer, wrote:

"Hitler's asceticism played an important part in the image he projected over Germany. According to the widely believed legend, he neither smoked nor drank, nor did he eat meat or have anything to do with women. Only the first was true. He drank beer and diluted wine frequently, had a special fondness for Bavarian sausages and kept a mistress, Eva Braun… His asceticism was fiction invented by Goebbels to emphasize his total dedication, his self-control, the distance that separated him from other men. By this outward show of asceticism, he could claim that he was dedicated to the service of his people. In fact he was remarkably self-indulgent and possessed none of the instincts of the ascetic."

& there are more.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Okay, I'll accept that. My main point was that it's hard to know which source to trust about a guy about whom there have been so many conflicting stories.

I'd never heard the myth that he had nothing to do with women before, I thought everybody knew about Eva Braun.

Steven said...

It sounds like maybe that was the image they promoted at the the time in Germany.

Its interesting what you said. Hitler has become the ultimate symbol of evil, in the same way Einstein has become the personification of genius.

I'm not sure who gets goodness or saintliness. I guess its between Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Mandela.

Pavonine99 said...

I guess I should clarify- I should have said that sociopaths don't seem to be affected by beauty or disgust the way other people are, not that they lack an aesthetic sense altogether.

Hitler probably had multiple disorders (almost certainly narcissistic and borderline) but it's true that he doesn't seem to have been a sociopath in the strictest sense. He was by all accounts an introvert, and as far as I can tell, introverted sociopaths don't exist, unless you count people like Dahmer (and, again, he doesn't really fit the typical sociopath profile).

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
Ah, that makes more sense. Okay.

I agree, sociopaths are never introverts.

Was Dahmer an introvert? I've read his story several times, I'm not sure. he was constantly out looking for new men or boys to have sex with, and eventually, sex partners to kill and eat. That constant cruising would seem to rule out introversion, wouldn't it?

Pavonine99 said...

You may be right about Dahmer. I sort of got the impression that he was a loner when he wasn't looking for people to have sex with or kill, but I could be wrong.

I Googled his pathology some time ago after watching a documentary, and found a source that said he was unlikely to have been a sociopath, because he wasn't grandiose or self-aggrandizing, and was completely truthful about his crimes when caught, unlike almost every other serial killer. So, if he was a sociopath, he was an odd one.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
True, most sociopaths are grandiose, and dishonest, and Dahmer came clean afterward. But he was certainly dishonest while he was doing the killing, to his victims and everyone else. And the way he lied to that policeman when the southeast Asian boy escaped from his apartment was pretty slick, just like a calm sociopath would do. And he may have had that thing going where he actually was sort of grandiose in terms of wanting to be a really prolific killer, the way a lo of them do.

And the bottom line is, it would have been impossible for him to kill all those people if he hadn't been one. Really, serial killing is the surest sign of sociopathy there is, and you simply can't kill a lot of strangers for your own sexual gratification unless you're completely missing a conscience.

BTW, there've been other serial killers who've come clean about their crimes once they've been caught. (Edmund Kemper comes to mind, and even Ted Bundy started talking about his killings once his appeals had been exhausted.) Some even claim more killings than they've actually committed, in order to appear more "successful" than they were. I think in Dahmer's case he just figured, well, the jig is up, no point in lying anymore.

Anonymous said...

I know someone who knows someone who knew Pao. This guy said that every conversation she ever had was awkward.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you. That certainly lends credence to the Aspie theory.

Anonymous said...

John--Just by instinct (and being judgmental) I always felt that this woman was a nut. She "sleeps up" for financial gain but then has buyers remorse because she sucked dick, it didn't work out, and wanted revenge. Typical. And she probably is genetically defective and/or an aspie. Everything bad about a woman and especially an Asian one with whom I'm usually more forgiving. Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
Couldn't agree more. And I'd go with the Aspie diagnosis, though I don't know enough to say for sure.