Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our Sociopathic Political Class

In his March 10th FrontPage column, "Obama's Appeasement Leads to War," about how appeasing tyrants has and will continue to lead to war and more international strife, Daniel Greenfield wrote:

On the shield of the Strategic Air Command a steel mailed fist grips a lightning bolt and an olive branch. The motto of the organization that was the nightmarish obsession of every Cold War leftist was “Peace is our Profession.”

To the moviegoers who sat through Dr. Strangelove, to the earnest leftists who saw the world going up in a puff of atomic smoke because the military industrial complex was obsessed with killing people, to the pseudo-idealists who passed on atomic secrets to Moscow to avoid an American monopoly on the bomb, the SAC’s motto was a demented joke. They knew that the only way to stop war was to disarm.

Coincidentally, I watched "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" the previous evening on Netflix. The last time I saw it in its entirety was the year of its release in1964, on Larson Air Force Base, 462nd Bomb Wing, in Washington State. And I saw it under the most unusual circumstances.

I was in the Air Police, charged with guarding the base and its B52 bombers, KC135 tankers, and U2 spy planes. Larson was also an ICBM base, but the silos had separate security.  One evening, after a regular 8-hour shift on the flight line, I was one of about eight other air cops selected to serve on a backup or reserve team. This meant that we could sack out in the reserve team's quarters, play cards, read a book, or indulge, as a group, armed with our carbines and sidearms, in some other diversion.

On my first night on the team it was decided to go to the base movie theater, to which we were admitted free. "Dr. Strangelove" was playing. As we sat in a back row behind the audience, the movie thoroughly confused me. My colleagues thought it was hilarious, especially when the motto, "Peace is Our Profession" was prominently juxtaposed with the noisy battle scenes between Army troops and Air Force base policemen.

That was my introduction to how the Left depicted the country and America. Director Stanley Kubrick, I learned later, was not so much a "leftist" as disturbed, obsessed with madness and irony and what he perceived as the ignoble baseness of man. But, that evening marked the beginning of an intellectual journey to investigate and report on what was so wrong with the country that its artists and novelists and filmmakers could so freely paint it in such disparaging and malicious colors with impunity. Were these people sociopaths? Or psychopaths? Was there a difference between the pathologies? Could an ideology inculcate a destructive pathology in a person, or are the pathologically-inclined inexorably drawn to a destructive ideology?

That question arose again, with a different focus, when I read a comment about Andrew Klavan's March 5th review, "A New Thing on Netflix," of the second season of "House of Cards":

Pa Deuce:  Fred Siegel has a new book out, "The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Undermined the Middle Class," that addresses this very problem. Elitists cannot express their elitism by repeating the same old things, such as the Constitution of the United States of America has produced the greatest nation on earth. In order to say something different and look smart, elitists take a leftward slant on everything. But the Left has an uninterrupted record of destruction and death. To cover the discrepancy, the Left lies about how bad the USA is and how good the noble Marxists are.

Siegel's book tells what happens when the elitists are in charge. My take is that the Left is driven by mental disorders and displays the attributes of clinical psychopaths: irresponsibility, pathological lying, parasitic lifestyle, grandiose sense of self-worth, etc. Dr. Robert Hare has written extensively on psychopaths. Now we have a Marxist psychopath in the White House and he is as inefficient, incompetent, and corrupt as the Soviet Union.

Why are so many politicians sociopaths? I make the completely arbitrary distinction between a sociopath and a psychopath in terms of action: A psychopath is more likely to act out his obsessions and manias aggressively and destructively. Sociopaths can be said to be passive-aggressive, acting out their obsessions and manias vicariously by proxy through government force.

In vain I searched the Internet for a good article on the pathology of politicians (never mind of Hollywood directors and producers). I found a few, but while they made some insightful observations, a religious element in their analyses and conclusions spoiled them. For example, Patriot Post's "Pathology of the Left" of February 2006, penned by Mark Alexander, noted:

Recently, the American Psychological Association published a study by a few “academicians” from Cal-Berkeley and the University of Maryland. The study, entitled “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” purported to have identified some determinants that are common to those holding a “conservative” worldview….

The authors received more than 1.2 million of your hard-earned tax dollars from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation in order to, by their own account, “consider evidence for and against the hypotheses that political conservatism is significantly associated with (1) mental rigidity and closed-mindedness; (2) lowered self-esteem; (3) fear, anger, and aggression; (4) pessimism, disgust, and contempt; (5) loss prevention; (6) fear of death; (7) threat arising from social and economic deprivation; and (8) threat to the stability of the social system.”

Alexander writes that these symptoms are more correctly observable and attributable to liberals and left-wingers than to conservatives. In practice these symptoms manifest themselves in obvious ways:

Liberals are uniformly defined by their hypocrisy and dissociation from reality. For example, the wealthiest U.S. senators – Democrats – fancy themselves as defenders of the poor and advocate the redistribution of wealth, but they hoard enormous wealth for themselves and have never missed a meal. They have always been far more dedicated to their country clubs than our country.

Liberals speak of unity, but they seed foment, appealing to the worst in human nature by dividing Americans into dependent constituencies. What constitutes these liberal constituencies? They support freedom of thought, unless your thoughts don't comport with theirs. They feign tolerance while practicing intolerance. They resist open discussion and debate of their views, yet seek to silence dissenters. They insist that they care more about protecting habitat than those who hunt and fish, and protest for the preservation of natural order while advocating homosexuality. They denounce capital punishment for the most heinous of criminals, while ardently supporting the killing of the most innocent among us – children prior to birth. [This last "symptom" is where I part with religious conservatives.] They loathe individual responsibility, and advocate for statism. They eschew private initiative and enterprise while promoting all manner of government control and regulation.

Alexander offers an answer for the behavior of politicians and even for many in the news media:

Medically speaking, there is a diagnosis for Leftist over-achievers like Bill Clinton, Albert Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, et al. They are pathological case studies of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the standard reference used for psychiatric evaluation.

The diagnostic criteria for NPD includes a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts,” which manifests as “a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);” “a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; and a belief that he or she is 'special' and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions),” and the subject “lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others…shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

It was an admirable attempt in mental diagnosis, but the religious angle sinks it. Two other sites, Activist Teacher and Fellowship of the Mind address the same issue but fail for the same reason. The second site does include a chronological list of instances of political sociopathy in and out of government, but it should be perused with reservations.

I did find one (nameless) site that broke down sociopathic and psychotic symptoms without interjecting superfluous conclusions. Because liberal/left politicians and news media personnel express their sociopathy publically but choose to have others do the deeds they deign not to perform themselves (Hitler and Stalin, for example, were sociopaths; the men who eagerly and without question carried out their murderous orders were psychopaths), I think it would be fair to propose a test to see if readers can identify one or more public figures in or out of government who match these symptoms:

Glibness and Superficial Charm: Barack Obama? Harry Reid? Nancy Pelosi? Hillary Clinton? Bill Clinton? Any TV news anchor? Anyone else?

Manipulative and Conning: They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims. Barack Obama? Harry Reid? Nancy Pelosi? Hillary Clinton? Bill Clinton? Any TV news anchor? Jay Carney? Anyone else?

Grandiose Sense of Self: Feels entitled to certain things as "their right." All of the above, in addition to careerists in the welfare/dependency class?

Pathological Lying: Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests. Democrats are progressively losing their credibility with the electorate, and I don’t think anyone of them is shrewd enough to fool a lie detector test. Knowing this, they would refuse to submit to one, which would be tantamount to taking the Fifth.

Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt: A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way. Obama's book-length catalogue of lies? Pelosi's? Harry Reid's?  Either of the Clintons'? And etc.? Has anyone ever seen any one of them blush when caught in a lie? No? Ever hear any one of them stammer in explanation? No? Well, maybe Jay Carney, Obama's newest press secretary and ventriloquist dummy. How many politicians do you think really envy Frank Underwood, the chief villain of "House of Cards," without their having to abide by Constitutional checks and balances, except when they can manipulate others and the rules to their favor (and not have to commit homicides)?

Irresponsibility/Unreliability: Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed. You can begin with Obama, and work down your own list of candidates. First on the reader's list should be Barack Obama for Obamacare, which is wrecking countless lives and promises to wreck countless more. After all, you can't "transform" a country without breaking a lot of eggs, spirits, bank accounts – and even heads.

Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle: Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively. Remind you of anyone in particular? Golfing pictures? Flying off to his "main turf," Hawaii? Expensive holidays in exotic and expensive locales? Of course, except for Hawaii, these symptoms also are evident in "all of the above," as well. Remember that the chief motive of a career politician in today's political environment is to keep reality at bay by faking reality for himself and for others. And when the faked reality begins to crumble like a dry cookie, his congenital response is to add another layer of faked reality over the crumbling one. He can always depend on the cognitively-arrested and the habitually delusional to buy the new faked reality and not notice the crumbs at his feet. And in today's political environment (which arguably could extend back to the early 20th century), a "realistic life plan" is one contrived to be a professional parasite, most especially in politics.

Yes, there is a distinction to be made between sociopathology and psychopathology. There may even be gradations of functioning amalgams of the two pathologies which could be explored. But, to return to the questions posed above: Could an ideology inculcate a destructive pathology in a person, or are the pathologically-inclined inexorably drawn to a destructive ideology?

I hypothesize that they are mutually attracted to each other, and integrally codependent. The concocters of a destructive ideology, such as Islam, Communism, Socialism, and Nazism, count on the ideology attracting the pathologically-inclined in large enough numbers to make it a viable prospect and over whom to wield power. And the pathologically-inclined must have some rationalized ethic, no matter how primitive or complex, that will sanction their basic selflessness and vitriolic envy of those who are happy and ask only that they be left alone to live their lives. The pathologically-inclined are drawn to a destructive ideology because they need someone to tell them what to think and do. Their faked reality is the faked reality of their leaders and icons.

Without the pathologically-inclined, a sociopath's ideology is simply a wish for the unrealistic and unattainable; without a destructive ideology, the pathologically-inclined become self-aware flotsam and jetsam in "a world they never made." Many of the latter are driven by their self-made inner demons to become psychopaths.

Others enter politics and become members of a sociopathic political class.

The leitmotif and core essence of either pathology is a deeply buried and unacknowledged glop of evil.


Slade Calhoun said...

Sociopathology on the left. (Why do I see Nancy Pelosi's face as I type?) This is an interesting topic to pursue, Mr. Cline, and pursue it you did. Thank you, as always.

(I suppose you have read Peikoff's "Modernism and Madness," and perhaps the book he cites in that essay. I consider it one of his most fascinating pieces, focusing on art rather than politics.)

Edward Cline said...

The only difference between the actions of sociopaths and psychopaths who are studied in clinics and mental institutions is scale. The really dangerous ones are not wearing straight jackets and are still at large in government and in a variety of advocacy organizations. I don't have a copy of Peikoff's "Modernism and Madness," but know of it and will try to find it.

Edward Cline said...

What I meant to say was: The only differences between the actions of sociopaths and psychopaths who are studied in clinics and mental institutions, and the ones discussed in this column, are scale and the contents of their delusions, fantasies, and agendas.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cline,

I completed your 3rd Novel of Suspense, Run From Judgment, and have posted my review:

I think the book relates to this topic. Maybe the whole series of novels grew from your experience of watching Dr. Strangelove.

Regarding, politicians and personality disorders, I agree with the rather bland definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but would also add Hypomanic and Bipolar varients. This comes from 25 years of providing therapy on hospital behaviroal health units, five years in NYC and 10 in the D.C. area. I saw plenty of pathology from the political and business classes. I cannot give more details for confidentiality reasons, of course. (Would not want HIPPA chasing me about).

However, few of those folks, unless they are in a manic state, get admitted to hospitals any longer, and no one uses straight jackes (unless chemical) these days. Treating the personality disorders in the community is more effective, and does not create so much trouble for those who needs hospital admissions (One Flew Over the Coockoo's Nest was really about personality disorders not psychosis, but the book is better written than the movie).

Anyway, back to Run From Judgment, I would say that William Portman definately had a narcissistic streak, as did Corsair, Traxler, Dawn, and Fury. Though the difference is that the later understood and were able to conrol their impulses. Free-men and women do this. The others just wreak havoc on society.

David Hayes said...

Mr. Cline describes Stanley Kubrick, the director of "Dr. Strangelove," as "obsessed with madness and irony and what he perceived as the ignoble baseness of man." In that context, he tells of attending "Dr. Strangelove" in 1964, finding himself unable to enjoy or even understand what made others in the audience laugh, hearing those around him laughing at military pretense, within a comedy depicting destructive pathology. His fellow audience members were servicemen in the same American military whose leadership was being lampooned onscreen.

My own experience in the audience of a Stanley Kubrick black comedy demonstrates that, years later, when Kubrick depicted irony within madness, a sophisticated Washington DC audience did not laugh when its ideology was imperiled by Kubrick's depicting pathologies within sacred cows. The movie was "Paths of Glory," and Kubrick's 1957 war comedy was being shown in 35mm a half-century after its release. Kubrick presents a general (played by George Macready -- Rita Hayworth's monomaniacal husband in "Gilda") who orders soldiers into a lost battle to fight without hope. When his superiors question him, he insists that the discipline of the entire army depends on soldiers not questioning orders but instead submitting themselves for the country's victory, which achieves the collective good. When this general's commanding officer, a politically-savvy general mindful of growing civilian criticism (Adolphe Menjou plays this general), realizes that a potential scandal can be nipped were the lower-ranked general sacrificed in a public-relations-driven kangaroo-court trial, the lower-ranked general is trapped by the ideas he himself has espoused. He can't back out, he can't argue that the group doesn't have a right to dispose of him for a greater good, because he has advocated just such disposal of his soldiers for the same objective. His face at this point twists, his lips contorting when objection is futile. His snarl says: What Was Good for the Goose Sets Precedent for the Gander.

I laughed aloud at this moment of a person ensnared by his own untenable convictions. The close-up on the actor, the pause in the pace of the film, the exaggerated gestures to emphasize the mad comic logic of this outcome, all support my contention that this moment was planned for elicit laughter. The rest of the audience -- largely middle-aged and older, dressed and groomed like professionals, living in a region where federal government is the largest business -- were quiet. They may have been too invested in a system where no one is held responsible for the undesirable consequences of his ideology, where mistakes are never paid for, and upper management always smooths away inquiries from outside.

Mr. Cline writes that politicians are often sociopaths. It's probably reasonable to extend this description to many of those who make a career of working for them. The audience I was in were viewing instances of Manipulation and Conning, Grandiose Sense of Self, Irresponsibility, and Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt (all from the list Mr. Cline presents at the end of his blog piece), and had responded as though it were unreasonable that someone acting from those dispositions should suffer from something as intangible as an idea.