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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Academia in action

Got the following comment after the Sociopath alert: Julie Miller post yesterday from "Alex":

John, I disagree. I do not know this person or anything more about the situation than what I read above.

Lying with emphasis is something children and crooks do all the time and not an definitive indicator of sociopathy . Parking illegally and avoiding fines is dishonest but not an indicator of sociopathy. Fallacious.
Bill Clinton denying his relationship is not sociopathic either, probably a feeble attempt at protecting ego and position.

It's like ADHD diagnosis for kids, autism spectrum etc and it's a dangerous trait that blurs the line between acceptable and truly unacceptable behavior - and institutes a dangerous form of normative and sociological control of individual's behaviour (in this case, a dishonnest behavior of stealing a victory by unfair means which should not be equated to the damage done by truly sociopathic individuals to others - usually through physical and continuous psychological abuse and deception.).

It seems that the article describes symptoms of narcissistic PD more than psychopathy/sociopathy.

As with all Personality Disorders, We all display sociopathic traits of various amounts at various times.

By trying to enlarge labeling of "sociopath" to a larger set of people who display sociopathic tendencies or traits at times, it diminishes the value of the term to label truly dangerous individuals to society. Race cheaters are not sociopaths. Most serial killers are sociopaths.

I replied:

First, I didn't say that lying emphatically is itself proof of sociopathy. I said that that is what sociopaths do. And yes, kids do it, but that's one reason why the DSM and other sources say that you shouldn't make a diagnosis of sociopathy before age 16 (though the signs of it are often there early on).

It's the entire pattern of behavior that gives away sociopathy, and one of the surer indicators in adults is lying about something you don't have to lie about (in order to get out of trouble), i.e., lying to burnish your own glory. And this wasn't the only time Miller had lied about a race.

"Most" serial killers are sociopaths??! Where did you get that? ALL serial killers are sociopaths, period, it's the surest sign of sociopathy there is. There are mass murderers who are not sociopaths, but serial killing takes a degree of cunning and also such a complete disregard for others that only a sociopath could do it. Keep in mind, sociopaths are generally considered to be roughly 3% of the population, and serial killers, who are the most dramatically destructive of sociopaths, represent only a small percentage of them.

And if race cheaters are not sociopaths, you must be absolving Kendall Schler and Rosie Ruiz from that diagnosis as well. Have you ever looked at Ruiz's life history?

You're throwing around some of the jargon without really having a feel for sociopaths, which says to me you've learned about sociopathy almost entirely from a book.

I've met people like Alex before. They think they sound smart if they take the middle ground on everything, regardless of the truth. They tend to be enamored of academia. And they give themselves away by using words like "normative" and "sociological."

Saying something like, "We all display sociopathic traits of various amounts at various times" makes Alex feel that he's showing balance, and wisdom. It's sort of like saying, "We all have good and bad in us," the sort of homily that has some truth to it but in the end imparts no useful information. The fact is, we don't all do what Julie Miller did, stage an elaborate hoax, sawing off our timer chip and cheating on the course to "win" a large race, maintaining an obvious charade, and lying so vociferously even after being caught. Most of us would be so consumed with shame at doing such a thing that it would never even occur to us to so it in the first place.

Alex also pointed out, helpfully, that "Parking illegally and avoiding fines is dishonest but not an indicator of sociopathy. Fallacious." (I don't believe I said that they were.)

What Alex is thinking is, well, we can all be a little dishonest from time to time. (So what?) Little white lies, or parking illegally, or fibbing about the traffic as an excuse for why we were late aren't even close to sociopathic behavior. What distinguishes sociopathic behavior is the utter shamelessness and scope of the lie(s). So equating other lies with sociopathic lies is meaningless. 

I particularly liked his line, "Most serial killers are sociopaths." There are some murderers who are not sociopaths; and there are mass killers who are simply psychotic, rather than sociopathic. But there's never been a single serial killer -- someone who appears relatively normal to his neighbors and coworkers, and sneakily kills people one by one over a long period of time, usually to satisfy some sexual kink --  who hasn't been a sociopath. 

Ah, but by not speaking in absolutes, Alex seems to think he appears wise. 

I, too, would like to appear that wise. So let me try a few similar statements on for size: 

Most Olympic champions in the 100 meter dash are fast runners. But we all run quickly at times, to various degrees. 

Most people who weigh over 600 pounds are overweight. But we all have a little extra fat we probably don't need, in various amounts, at various times. 

Most billionaires are rich. But we all have money, in various amounts, at various times. 

There -- don't I sound smart? And don't you feel better-informed for having listened to me?

Alex obviously needs some firsthand experience with a sociopath in order to really learn about them. But I get the sense that Alex, even with that firsthand experience, might not see what's in front of him. 

Then again, that's what academics specialize in.


Anonymous said...

A good way to learn about sociopaths is definitely by firsthand experience. Every sociopath that I've ever known has behaved in criminal, sneaky, underhanded ways.
They are devilish people.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
Something tells me that even with firsthand experience, Alex would go heavy on the moral equivalency -- you know, nobody is totally good or totally bad.

Steven said...

He is obviously quite intelligent; he just doesn't have your expertise on the subject and is trying to be clever. I imagine him to be some kind of student, from undergrad to PHD, on the young side, and enamoured of academia, especially those sociology related subjects where bullshit is most rife. I might be wrong but that's my impression. This is the worst line for me:

"It's like ADHD diagnosis for kids, autism spectrum etc and it's a dangerous trait that blurs the line between acceptable and truly unacceptable behavior - and institutes a dangerous form of normative and sociological control of individual's behaviour..."

How does it blur the line between acceptable and truly unacceptable behaviour? And isn't there a clearer way of saying what he is trying to say than "institutes a dangerous form of normative and sociological control of individual's behaviour". I think he means diagnosing people with adhd or aspergers and pathologising their behaviour is a way for society to control them and making them act normally.

Stating something in an over intellectual, unclear way is a sign of unclear thinking while trying to sound clever. I probably did it myself while writing sociology essays as an undergrad. Its generally associated with high verbal, low mathematical intelligence. Or perhaps just immaturity. You've got to learn to be down to earth. It also helps to think more statistically and mathematically.

Anyway this was a little bit like picking on a blackbelt after taking a few lessons.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you for your last comment. But honestly, I don't think he's that smart. He obviously doesn't have any sort of grasp of sociopathy, yet he thinks he does, because he can throw a little jargon around, as misguided as he is. Thinking you know a lot about a subject you know nothing about is not a mark of intelligence, but the opposite.

We were all undergraduates once, and Alex probably has the excuse of being young. But, some young people have the sense to know what they don't know, and he doesn't.

Steven said...

He might not be that smart- maybe I overstated it- but he showed a high enough level of verbal ability that he probably has a higher than average IQ, though maybe higher in verbal. I'd bet he does. Its not quite the same as good sense or maturity. I think I have much better sense than when I was 24 but I don't have a higher IQ (I hear you peak at that age in raw intelligence).

Boy he rubbed you up the wrong way, didn't he?

Steven said... that age I was hardly practical at all and I fell for all sorts of bullshit but I scored pretty well on IQ tests. Plus thinking you know better when you don't could be related to narcissism, couldn't it?

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, he did; everyone who pretends expertise on a subject they know nothing about is annoying, and for him to pontificate here when he has no clue was particularly annoying. But I do like the opportunity every now and then to hold up hollow arguments up to the light and show how empty they are. I did the same with another post recently.

John Craig said...

Steven --
In response to your 9:30 comment -- yes, it often is. In fact it's one of the defining traits of narcissism: thinking you're better at things than you are.

Anonymous said...

Alex reminds me of Bertrand Russell's essay 'An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish', where he wrote that some ideas are so ridiculous that only intellectuals can believe them. It's a bit long, but I recommend reading it if you can get hold of a copy. You'll start seeing examples everywhere of what Russell meant.

The recent one is psychologists believing Facebook-abstainers to be psychopaths:

I'm a Facebook abstainer because I don't want my data lining Mr Zuckerberg's pockets. *Gasp* Does this make me a psycho?! No, I'm just way too sensible and also too shy to promote myself on such a stupid website.

The sociopaths I've known IRL are the biggest Facebook users of all. They love it because it gives them a chance to self-promote; I know a fat, gay sociopath who posts heavily-photoshopped pictures of himself to score one-night stands IRL. They also love using it to stalk and troll people. But academic psychologists never think of that: they read their dry textbooks and never imagine what the sociopaths outside prison act like.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
You're right, some ideas are so ridiculous that only academics can subscribe to them. Or, these days, their students. I actually have that thought sometimes about white people: only white people could have invented third wave feminism, or socialism, or the concept of white privilege, or micro aggressions, or the idea that racism can one go in one direction, or tat intelligence is a social construct, or that race is a social construct, or be able to simultaneously hold the thought that a woman should be President but that no woman can make a rational decision about whether she wants to sleep with a guy after two drinks. The other races can be brainwashed into subscribing to those concepts, but they wouldn't have come up with them on their own, and none of the other races believe in those concepts in countries where they are in the majority.

Agreed about Facebook.

Anonymous said...

Not sure about white privilege as there are studies to prove that blacks are more likely to be arrested for drug possession even though whites are more likely to use drugs. But it's ridiculous to claim that "racism can only go one direction". Mugabe was hardly welcoming towards whites, and there are plenty of cases of abuse towards albinos all over Africa.

The most ridiculous idea - that I can never bring myself to argue with anyone about IRL due to my personal circumstance - is that gender is a social construct. This is taught in universities as though it were fact and yet any zoology textbook proves otherwise. We don't see male lions or eagles or trout behaving the same way as the females. Sure, there are (sometimes unfair) social stereotypes about gender but to argue that the whole thing is constructed, and exists only because we're socialised that way, is nonsense on stilts. To argue that we're only masculine or feminine because we're taught to be so (ignores David Reimer and all transsexuals and) necessarily implies that hormones don't have any psychoactive effect and that all of human psychology is malleable, that the mind is initially a blank slate: news to any parent of a child with Asperger's!

Agreed about the "IQ is a construct" thing. I knew a Hispanic girl who actually believes that, even though her job was working with intellectually disabled people. Her argument was that they're not stupid because they do have some skills, such as taking pictures with a camera and washing dishes (which chimpanzees are capable of). Needless to say, she's an arts graduate. I prefer the deontological argument that intellectually disabled people are worthy humans by mere virtue of being human. The idea that we need to prove their worth by pointing to their skills is what the Nazis demanded, but apparently the social liberals of today don't see that. They really have come full circle!

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
I had to look up "deontological," at first I thought you might have misspelled some other word.

Couldn't agree with you more about gender. Hormones shape us in all sorts of ways, not least in mental ways.

That Hispanic girl you refer to sounds intellectually disabled herself, though not in the same way as her charges. She's simply been brainwashed out of any semblance of common sense. Like a lot of recent college students.