Ponerology 101: The Political
by Harrison Koehli, www.Sott.net
www.disclose.tv/, June 13, 2010
Before their research into corporate psychopathy,
Paul Babiak and his colleagues raised several questions in need
of answers. They are equally relevant to the study of political
psychopathy and can be rephrased as follows:
- How could a psychopath outshine other
candidates and achieve success in politics?
- Why would a psychopath want to enter politics?
- How long could a psychopath successfully operate in such an
Jim Kouri, who served on the National
Drug Task Force, has trained police and security officers throughout
the United States, and is currently the fifth vice-president of
the National Association of Chiefs of Police, answers the first
question in an editorial for examiner.com:
Quite simply, most [psychopathic] serial killers and many professional
politicians must mimic what they believe are appropriate responses
to situations they face such as sadness, empathy, sympathy, and
other human responses to outside stimuli. ... If violent offenders
are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without
concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows
them to do what they want, whenever they want. Ironically, these
same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile
and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.
Politics is a dog-eat-dog world. Not only
must politicians be relatively thick-skinned to handle attacks
on their character, they must be capable of dishing it out in
return. Psychopaths lie with ease; they do not have any moral
scruples when it comes to character assassination, empty promises,
shameless self-promotion, cutthroat tactics, and using any means
to justify the end. These qualities give them the leading edge
over their more honest (and often naive) competition.
Politics is little different than any
other con-job. In a Ponzi scheme, for example, the con artist
targets members of an identifiable group, whether religious, racial
or age-based. Regardless of whether or not the scammer is a member
of the target group he pretends to represent the group. While
political psychopaths are instrumental in the rise of totalitarian
political groups, they play an equally important role in apparently
Democratic governments. Their use of a party mask (no pun intended!)
is so common that it can easily be called their primary modus
But why would a psychopath enter politics
in the first place? Simply ask the question, "Who is the
most powerful person in the world?" and many will answer:
'the President'. Psychopaths seek positions of power and influence,
and politics offers publicity, prestige, and other perks. It also
provides positions of ultimate authority over military, industry,
and entire populations. In a world where psychopaths are understandably
viewed as morally repulsive, often finding themselves at home
in the criminal world, politics offers an opportunity to create
a new world, to be free from the ridiculous (in their minds) moral
and legal rules of society.
Scanning recent headlines, we regularly
see examples of the corruption and fraud typical of white-collar
In what could turn out to be the greatest
fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate
the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of
$125bn (£88bn) in a US-directed effort to reconstruct Iraq
after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never
be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for
Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making
it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi
scheme. (Patrick Cockburn, "A 'fraud' bigger than Madoff",
The Independent, February 16, 2009)
Defense Department Cannot Account For
25% Of Funds - $2.3 Trillion
On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ... said money
wasted by the military poses a serious threat. ... "According
to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,"
Rumsfeld admitted. ... Rumsfeld promised change but the next day
- Sept. 11-- the world changed and in the rush to fund the war
on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten. ("The
War on Waste", CBS, January 29, 2002)
Israeli police have recommended charging
the country's hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, with
several counts of corruption as part of a bribery investigation,
in a move that could lead to his resignation and a significant
government reshuffle. Lieberman, head of a popular far-right party,
is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering
and obstruction of justice in a case dating back over nine years.
If charged and convicted on all counts he faces up to 31 years
in jail. (Rory McCarthy, "Israeli police recommend corruption
charges against Avigdor Lieberman", The Guardian, August
In 2008, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich
came under similar media scrutiny, with several commentators speculating
as to his mental health. Blagojevich was impeached for attempting
to auction off newly elected President Obama's vacant Senate seat.
However, even before his impeachment, the signs were obvious.
In his profile of the governor for February 2008 issue of Chicago
Magazine, David Bernstein portrayed Blogojevich as narcissistic,
arrogant, vindictive, charismatic, irresponsible, impulsive, untrustworthy,
and with presidential aspirations (how typical!).
After interviewing more than 20 associates
of Blagojevich ("from current and former members of the governor's
administration and his campaign staff to state lawmakers, Democratic
benefactors and operatives, academics, pundits, and political
prognosticators"), Bernstein noted that several "resorted
to colorful, four-letter language when describing the governor.
The list of printable insults included "greedy," "dumb,"
"paranoid," and "phony."" They described
dramatic displays of temper over items as trivial as office stationary,
"alleged illegal hiring and political kickback scandals",
his unapologetic lateness for meetings and even funerals, and
a litany of political failures and embarrassments. As Bernstein
puts it, for the man who once bragged of his "testicular
virility" in standing up for himself against the offender
in the stationary incident, "all the withering criticism,
negative newspaper headlines, and next-to-nothing approval ratings
should feel like a kick to the groin. But if he's fazed, he doesn't
show it. In public, he looks easygoing, unshaken, even self-assured.
He still cracks jokes and smiles that big, toothy grin."
Cool under pressure, Blagojevich obviously
saved his temper for more profitable situations:
"He can't control himself," says Miller. "I've
heard people say that on his own staff." A Democratic insider
adds, "Rod sometimes just goes out of his way to have a fight,
just because he can. It's as though he relishes them." ...
Last summer, the downstate newspaper the Peoria Journal Star declared
that the governor was "going bonkers." Privately, a
few people who know the governor describe him as a "sociopath,"
and they insist they're not using hyperbole. State representative
Joe Lyons, a fellow Democrat from Chicago, told reporters that
Blagojevich was a "madman" and "insane." "He
shows absolutely no remorse," says Jack Franks, the Democratic
state representative. "I don't think he gives a damn about
anybody else's feelings. He tries to demonize people who disagree
with him; he's got delusions of grandeur."
Called a "liar" and likened
to a "used-car salesman" by lawmakers after one incident,
"in an unprecedented move, they demanded that Blagojevich
put any promises on paper in so-called memorandums of understanding."
In fact, he spent much of his time in office "fending off
accusations of ethical irregularities within his administration."
But despite the rumors, innuendos, and outright accusations, "Blagojevich
has claimed - sometimes indignantly - that he has done nothing
wrong. He blames the scandals on "a few bad apples who violated
the rules" and who deceived him." In short, Blagojevich
shows all the hallmarks of a political psychopath, albeit a fairly
obvious one. And he surely isn't the only one. Just as the 'best'
psychopaths are those who evade detection, living lifetimes of
successful crime, the best political psychopaths operate in such
a manner as to hold on as long as possible.
Robert Hare, in his 1970 book Psychopath:
Theory and Research, as well as James Blair, Derek Mitchell, and
Karina Blair in their 2005 book The Psychopath: Emotion and the
Brain, observe that negative environmental conditions such as
low socioeconomic status, abuse, and poor parenting, along with
low IQ, are often associated with high psychopathy scores, particularly
among those who engage in persistent, violent criminal behavior.
These psychopathic offenders are often considered the worst of
the worst in courts and prisons. However, these factors seem only
to affect the expression of psychopathy. As Dr. Hare says in filmmaker
Ian Walker's excellent documentary, I, Psychopath, on the diagnosed
psychopath and self-styled narcissism guru, Sam Vaknin, while
psychopaths often tell of some traumatic childhood that made them
the way they are, psychopaths come from all backgrounds, good
or bad. Speaking of successful psychopaths like Vaknin, he says,
"If you're very bright, know how to dress well; you have,
say, the gift of the gab; you're raised in an affluent family
background; [then] you don't go in the bank and rob it, you get
in the bank and become a director..."
In fact, Vaknin makes a perfect case study
for the type of psychopath that is most dangerous to political
institutions, and thus entire nations. Best known as an Internet
guru for "malignant self-love", Vaknin was arrested
in Israel in 1995 for major securities fraud. The documentary
follows Walker, Vaknin, and Lidija (Vaknin's wife) as they visit
several European institutions to test if Vaknin is indeed a psychopath.
Vaknin ends up scoring 18 (out of 24) on the PCL-SV (Screening
Version), developed by Dr. Hare, a score higher than the majority
of offenders in US correctional facilities, and the cutoff point
for psychopathy. However, according Walker, Vaknin, like many
of the so-called successful psychopaths now being studied by Hare,
Bakiak, and others, is not an "archetypal, textbook"
psychopath. Contrary to the criminal populations, Vaknin is never
physically violent. He has also been married to the same woman
for ten years, while most psychopaths are seemingly incapable
of such 'commitment', engaging in a string of short-term relationships.
(His emotional treatment of her is another matter, however.) Most
interestingly, he is remarkably self-aware, and his insights agree
with what the experts have to say. For example, in total seriousness,
Vaknin had the following exchange with Walker:
Vaknin: "I like to present a facade
of the self-effacing, modest person. It gives people the impression
that, underneath it all, I'm human."
Walker: "But you are human, aren't
Vaknin: "I firmly believe that you
want to believe that, yes. ... [The psychopath] regards people
as instruments of gratification and as disposable things to be
used. ... The vast majority of psychopaths, like an iceberg, are
underwater, and like an iceberg, they are inert. They do nothing.
They're just there. They torment their spouse by being unempathic,
but they don't beat her or kill her. They bully coworkers, but
they don't burn the office. They are not dramatic. They are pernicious.
Most psychopaths are subtle. They are more like poison than a
knife, and they are more like slow-working poison than cyanide."
After subjecting Walker to a series of
degrading insults (a regular occurrence during filming), and with
Walker still visibly in shock, Vaknin coolly, and with disturbingly
sadistic insight, described the process to him:
"Your body was flooded instantly
with adrenalin and its relatives like norepinephrine ... Now when
these moments pervade the bloodstream, your brain reacts. It shuts
down certain centers and activates others. This is called the
stress reaction, or stress syndrome, actually. Then when the abuse
recedes, the adrenalin levels begin to drop. As they drop, the
entire system goes into mayhem. So what bullies usually do, they
start and stop, start and stop. That achieves the maximal stress
syndrome, and this is the great secret of bullying. Never overdo
it. Small doses. The victim will do the rest. - Although you are
shaking much less [now] ... I must do something about that."
This type of self-aware psychopath is
perhaps the most dangerous to humanity. When his instinctive drive
for domination of others is coupled with the means to attain to
positions of power, he is not only free of the restraints of conscience
by nature, but finds himself largely above (or indeed the architect)
of the laws that are meant to protect normal human beings from
the the deviant impulses so clearly defined by the psychopathic
mind. As a president, politician, military or corporate chief,
a vast number of people are literally at his mercy.