“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.
This week in the United States, The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy amid “hundreds, if not thousands, of abuse lawsuits” involving sexual abuse. According to USA Today:
the 100-year-old organization had kept track of suspected and known abusers and failed to consistently report them to police or inform parents or the public of the extent of the problem.
The organization was sitting on “20,000 confidential documents, which became known as the “perversion files.” Those records named more than 1,000 banned volunteers…”
Now what kind of people do you think were in management of the Boy Scouts for all these years? For a century, the Boy Scouts wouldn’t allow homosexual children or leaders into their ranks, and taught that any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is not allowed.
But protecting child rapists was okay.
“On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” – Scout Oath
I’m not an American, so I never saw the Keep American Beautiful ads in the 1970s. But according to this article in the Chicago Tribune, they launched in 1971, asked Americans to clean up the environment, and featured a crying Native American man.
Except – he wasn’t a Native American. He was Italian-American.
The other fact people didn’t know about at the time was that:
Keep America Beautiful was founded in 1953 by the American Can Co. and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co., who were later joined by the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Co.
The entire campaign was a secret tactic by big corporations to focus the responsibility on cleaning up the environment away from them – and on to the consumer.
Keep America Beautiful practiced a sly form of propaganda. Since the corporations behind the campaign never publicized their involvement, audiences assumed that the group was a disinterested party.
It appears that, at that time in America, consumer goods manufacturers had been promoting “throw-away” containers and these were adding to the litter problem. Several environmental groups were trying to get legislation passed to force manufacturers to instead make their containers reusable – the so-called “bottle bills”. But that would eat into profits. So the “Crying Indian” campaign was hatched in secret to convince the public that litter was their problem, not something the manufacturers should have to worry about.
And the manufacturers pulled out one of their favourite lines:
The Keep America Beautiful leadership lined up against the bottle bills, going so far, in one case, as to label supporters of such legislation as “communists.”
What does this have to do with psychopaths?
It comes down to ethics and values. Many people, if they were running a billion-dollar consumer goods organisation, would feel a sense of civic responsbility to do the right thing. Psychopaths, on the other hand, will go out of their way to manipulate the situation in order to maintain their wealth and power.