Much of what ails society today is the proliferation of sociopaths. I’m not just talking about hardened criminals either; sociopaths are everywhere, in all walks of life. In fact, the traits they possess are the very traits which impel one to succeed and rise to positions of power in a capitalistic society. CEOs, Wall Street billionaires, politicians, military chiefs, intelligence operatives, and right-wing talking heads are among those who have used their sociopathological personality disorders to rule America.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could identify a sociopath before he/she comes to power? Think of how much better our lives and our country would be if only we knew who the conscienceless bastards really were before we voted for them, came under their employ, listened to their cons, fell prey to their manipulation. The problem is, they are not easily identified because they wear masks. They try to fit in by mimicking normal behavior in public. Some are even charming. They seduce us with their outward appearance of normalcy, but inside they are godless devils bent on perverting the greater good for their own means.
In the past 35 years America has slowly been transformed from a nation of common purpose to a nation of the rich, by wealthy, and for the sociopathic few. That’s because many of the people in power (mostly Republicans) have been crass opportunists concerned with self- advancement at the expense of the greater good. In the age of Reagan, the self-centeredness was heightened to a virtue. The 1980s gave rise to a rogue’s gallery of Gordon Gekkos and their “greed is good” philosophy. It wasn’t just Reagan and his policies though, it was the sociopaths he ushered into public service—the Bushes, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Oliver North, William Casey and a whole band of despicable criminals. The country became more selfish, less communal, and more cynical. It was then that we started letting the Almighty buck rule all facets of American life. The more money you had, the more admired you were. Fuck generosity and compassion for the less fortunate.
Since then, sociopaths have started illicit wars, drained the national treasury, raped Mother Nature, ruined the climate, and given rise to Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, et al. There seem to be more sociopaths than human beings in positions of power. Maybe that was the whole point. Now the Extreme Court (uh..er…Supreme Court) has gotten in on the act, by making it easier for sociopathic billionaires to control (read subvert) the democratic process. Smarmy Vegas casino operators (like Shel Adelson) and fascist industrialists (like the Koch brothers) have far more say in how our government operates than 99% of us.
As a public service then, I am herewith giving you tips on how to spot a sociopath. If you recognize them in someone, alert authorities and resist the urge to succumb to their wiles.
Traits of a Sociopath (based on the work of psychologists Robert Hare): While some experts believe that sociopathy has a genetic origin, Hare believed that a sociopath’s behavior “is shaped by social forces and is the result of a dysfunctional environment.” Hare formed a list of traits common to sociopaths. Here are the most prevalent:
–Sociopaths are manipulative and very skilled at taking advantage of the good intentions of others . Allen Dulles, former CIA chief, is a good example. He was appointed by President Eisenhower in 1953 after promising Ike that the CIA could avoid WWIII by overthrowing socialist and communist countries around the globe via bloodless coups. Eisenhower, a decent man shaken by the horrors of the second World War, turned over foreign policy to Allen and his brother Foster. The Dulles brothers, sociopaths of the worst kind, turned America into quasi-fascist Orwellian state by using their enormous power to control the media, murder innocent citizens, evoke hatred of America around the globe, and cover up the assassination of JFK. All the while, the Dulleses were enriching themselves and their corporate partners—the Forbeses, the Browns, the Rockefellers, the DuPonts, the Hunts—the oldest, richest families in the country. And Kennedy haters all.
–They have a grandiose sense of self; they think they are better than everyone else, and if they have more money or power than others they use this to their constant advantage. Moreover, the fact that a sociopath may be wealthier than others or in a position of power over others merely confirms in the sociopath’s mind that he/she is better than others. In the modern age, who feels more entitled than the richest among us? The Koch brothers, desperately trying to buy the government, runs roughshod over the poor, the elderly, minorities, and social safety nets. They care only their own profits. We should have carved a big “S” in their foreheads at birth, just as Brad Pitt marked Christoph Waltz with a swastika in “Inglourious Basterds.” Our lives would be much better if we knew whom we were dealing with upfront.
–They are pathological liars; when they are committing acts that harm the greater good of society, they never tell the truth, even if they are caught in a lie. To this day, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their lackeys still deny that the Iraq war was about oil, despite all evidence to the contrary.
–They have no remorse or guilt, regardless of how heinous their actions are. When recently asked if he would do anything differently, if he had to do it all over again, Cheney responded, “No.”
–They lack empathy and are callous in their treatment of others. Mitt Romney dismissed 47% of the country with one glib comment.
–They are contemptuous of those who seek to understand them. One of Allen Dulles’s protégés, Frank Wisner, head of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird in the 1950s, once famously bragged, “The press claims to be free and open in America. But they are nothing but my personal puppets. I can pull any string I want and they will follow along.”
–They do not perceive that anything is wrong with them. Even if they are proven wrong, and even if all about them acknowledge their wrongdoing, the sociopath will never admit to wrongdoing. See Dick Cheney quote above.
–They are authoritarians; in many cases, they were raised in authoritarian homes where the appearance of uniformity and conformity far outweighed love, compassion, empathy, and charity as laudable qualities. Henry Kissinger once said of Richard Nixon (a raging sociopath), “Imagine what he could have been if anyone had ever loved him.”
–They are secretive; at all costs they strive to keep their true behaviors and thoughts hidden. Allen and Foster Dulles, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Richard Nixon, and Oliver North were nothing if not secretive.
–They are paranoid. Can you imagine anyone more paranoid than Dick Nixon?
–They diligently present a “normal” outward appearance when engaging others. This is what confounds us about all sociopaths. Usually we don’t unmask them until it is too late.
–They experience pleasure from enslaving their victims. And all people they encounter are potential victims, even loved ones. “Loved ones” is a misnomer, because sociopaths are incapable of love. Again, Dick Cheney is the perfect example of someone who seemed to derive pleasure from inflicting pain. Witness the detainees at Guantanamo. Cheney does not consider what he did torture, yet a 600-page nonpartisan report says he did exactly that.
–When they collaborate, they feed off one another, and their actions become even more diabolical. No better example of this than the Cheney-Rumsfeld partnerships during the two Bush presidencies.