It’s hard to read the details of the Brereton report and not reach the conclusion that there are psychopaths in the Australian military. As one soldier put it: “Psychos. Absolute psychos. And we bred them.”
None of the killings took place in the heat of battle, and they all occurred in circumstances which, if accepted by a jury, would constitute the war crime of murder.
All the victims were either non-combatants or were no longer combatants.Evidence suggests junior soldiers were instructed by their superiors to execute prisoners in cold blood as part of a “blooding” process to give them their first kill.
“Typically, the patrol commander would take a person under control and the junior member … would then be directed to kill the person under control,” the report found. “‘Throwdowns’ would be placed with the body and a ‘cover story’ was created for the purposes of operational reporting and to deflect scrutiny.”
Unsurprisingly, the report “absolves senior command of blame or knowledge that war crimes were being committed”. However I think it’s fair to argue that the culture of an organisation is the responsibility of its leadership. To say “we didn’t know what was going on in our own military” should be completely unacceptable.
“A culture of the pursuit of profit at all costs”, how the former chairman of the NSW gambling regulator has described Crown Casino, sounds like a symptom of a psychopathic culture. In the book we talk about how psychopathic leadership can create psychopathic organisational cultures, whether that organisation is a business or an entire country. Look at the 66 million people in the United States who voted this week for Donald Trump as an example of how a large chunk of a country can easily be swept along with psychopathic values like putting the economy ahead of the safety of the population.
“Just to say Trump is “unfit” and “dangerous” is not enough and the public will not understand. We need to tie his psychopathology to his presidential behavior in the observable, in the concrete. [In my view], his pandemic response and his attack on democracy are where his psychopathology is evident.”
Alan D. Blotcky, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama (source)
While Trump might be the most prominent potential psychopath in the world today, I still believe the bigger issue we have to face isn’t one man, but the system that allows psychopaths to hold extreme power and wealth. Trump is merely a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Probably no surprise if you’ve read the book, but new research by Pavel S. Blagov Ph.D. which is about to be published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science suggests that “people who scored higher on the psychopathic subtraits of meanness and disinhibition tended to show less interest in social distancing and hygiene”. (source)
Blagov is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Whitman College.
As the Black Lives Matter protests continue around the world, I’ve been doing a series of interviews on the Bullshit Filter podcast with members of our American audience, trying to get their perspectives on the causes and solutions of the current wave of anger towards police.
One of the fastest and simplest solutions I can see is to run every cop through a psychopath test to identify which of them need are more likely to do others harm. It doesn’t require entirely re-thinking policing or new kinds of legislation and it’s hard for anyone to argue with. By its very nature, policing is a career choice that would seem attractive to psychopaths, as it offers an enhanced level of personal power. While I’m sure most cops are good people, trying to help their community, it makes sense that a higher-than-average percentage of them are going to be psychopaths.
So I’d like to see a movement pushing for every police department to implement psychopath tests and then to come up with a range of strategies for what they are going to do with the cops that get a high score. Perhaps they could be required to have desk jobs; or be partnered up with someone who has a low psychopath score; or be subjected to regular review by a panel of confirmed non-psychopaths.
This isn’t going to solve all of the problems of police violence – not all racists are psychopaths – but it would have to make a huge difference and I think it would be a terrific place to start.
On December 15, 2015, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “Modi is a coward and a psychopath.”
This is one of the few times I’ve heard one politician refer to another as a psychopath. I’m not sure if he meant it in a clinical sense (Kejriwal is a mechanical engineer by training, not a psychiatrist) or if he was just attacking him, but it’s good to see the concept of politicians perhaps being psychopaths in the mainstream.
Most stories I see hitting the news about psychopaths are still talking about characters in TV shows.