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David Schwartz writes: "The great writer Kurt Vonnegut titled his final book 'A Man without a Country.' He was the man; the country was the United States of America. Vonnegut felt that his country had disappeared right under his - and the Constitution's - feet, through what he called 'the sleaziest, low-comedy Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable.' He was talking about the Bush administration. Were Vonnegut still alive in the post-Bush era, he would not have felt that his country had returned."

American Psycho's Christian Bale plays a wealthy New York investment banking executive hiding his psychopathic alter-ego. (photo: Lions Gate Films)
American Psycho's Christian Bale plays a wealthy New York investment banking executive hiding his psychopathic alter-ego. (photo: Lions Gate Films)

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+13 # Activista 2011-06-08 21:10
Excellent article - "people who are smart, personable, and engaging, but who have no consciences"
seems to fit generation under forty - no conscience - kill for the money.
was wondering if Osama was hiding in the US with 10 million on his head - all his children would sold him for the mill in the second within the hour of declaring reward - do the right thing!
+32 # dave haze 2011-06-09 01:26
The rope-a-dope two party system keeps most folks falsely believing they have a choice, that they are living in a democracy. They fail to notice that few things improve after they vote or don't: the Georgie Bush administration morphs into yet another administration and person who fails to represent us. Presidents have no problem bombing people.
+14 # RSJ 2011-06-10 03:55
@ Dave Haze: Ask the people in WI, OH, MI, NJ and FL if there is no difference between the two parties. The GOP is trying to turn this country into a corporate plutocracy; only some of the Blue Dog Dems are.
+30 # Ralph Averill 2011-06-09 02:35
Author/historia n Frances Arden, who specializes in colonial America's fixation with witchcraft, published a book during the Bush Administration called "Such Men Are Dangerous", comparing members of the bush Administration with individual leaders of the Mass. Bay colony of Plymouth; Cotton Mather, etc. who hanged and burned "witches", hanged Baptists and Quakers, and according to the above definition, were psychopaths. It is indeed a long American tradition.
-14 # diospsytrek 2011-06-09 04:14
like Dr Schwartz, I'm also a psychotherapist & Kurt Vonnegut was one of my philosophical mentors. It was a great article up till the last couple paragraphs when Schwartz displays his leftwing paranoia about the Kochs. The right has a similar evil genius narrative called George Soros. My belief is that Clinton, Bush & Obama are all narcissists and in the courts of their own mind are incapable of being convicted of wrong doing. Throw Weiner in the mix too. He's accumulating presidential cred by the minute. I'm not sure if they are "first string" or "second string psychopaths" but it seems like our political system is so broken that only psychopaths can succeed.
+9 # boudreaux 2011-06-09 08:33
You don't sound like a doctor.
+18 # Activista 2011-06-09 09:59
"evil genius narrative called George Soros?
Know some Soros projects - Open Society - etc. and the man has ethics and morals - helps weak, oppressed.
Exact opposite what is definition of psychopath above.
Soros should be contacted to support RSN - it matches his values.
-5 # rm 2011-06-11 08:29
Hey Activista -- do some reserarch on Soros. He and and his Open Society Fdn are CIA fronts. He has worked in almost every "color revolution" since 1990, especially in Easter Europe. His incentive for imposing neo-liberal governments all over the world is that they then have currencies which fluctuate on the world market and he can profit from that. Check out his role in the Asian economic crisis of 1999. He stole billions from Thailand and others.

Soros has no morals or ethics. He funds some good projects as a cover. That basically what the Open Society Fdn is -- a front or cover for CIA covert action and destabilization of government all over the world.
+12 # RSJ 2011-06-10 04:03
@ diospsytrek: First, you obviously haven't done a lot of research on the incredible influence Koch money has had on our politics -- they have funded the Tea Party movement and turned it to serve their advantage as well as bankrolled what Scott Walker and the GOP are doing in Wisconsin and elsewhere. George Soros has done nothing comparable. Secondly, a good psychotherapist would never judge someone they've never treated a 'narcissist' and attempt to read their mind. That's like Bill Frist dispensing a medical opinion after seeing a videotape of the patient. Of course, there are poor psychotherapist s -- some are even psychopathic personalities.
-3 # rm 2011-06-11 08:25
diospsytrek -- yes you are right. This is not about political party or ideology. There are liberal imperialists like Obama or Soros who are just as much psychopaths as Cheney or Rumsfeld. Liberal imperialism or humanitarian interventions are just a different way of rationalizing the same psychopathologi cal motives for killing people.
+34 # yalambi 2011-06-09 06:45
This is what happens when you mix psychopaths and worshippers of the "almighty dollar"... This social and political degeneration will take this country and its imperialism to it's demise.
+24 # boudreaux 2011-06-09 07:32
When I read this article I didn't think Obama, I immedediately thought of Bush and how he has all of these traits and the Koch bros. along with the repugs.

Bush is the Psychopath..
+4 # Pickwicky 2011-06-11 11:25
No, Beloved, Bush is too fundamentally stupid to be a psychopath--not even a second-string one.
+3 # Oyvind 2011-06-14 12:45
The damaging myth that all psychopaths are smart must be killed immediately.

Think about it:
Prisons hold lots of individuals with high scores on the psychopathic scale.

The stupid ones tend to become lowlife criminals and end up getting caught, while the smarter ones tend to learn to avoid breaking the law, or AT LEAST GETTING CAUGHT. In fact some are resourceful and bold enough to figure out that hey, why not just position thmeselves to write the law?!

George W. Bush is a quite obvious psychopath, -a dumb one. Cheney on the other hand is a smarter one.

The only fundamental trait of the psychopath is the lack of conscience and ability to feel that others exist. Besides that, they come in many stripes, with different levels of iQ and sadistic tendencies.
+7 # fredboy 2011-06-09 07:36
+7 # Todd Williams 2011-06-09 07:42
Ah, the downfall of Capitalism. I can't wait....
+17 # RSJ 2011-06-09 18:04
@ Todd Williams: You're right, Todd. One of the salient features of Vonnegut's 'PPs' (Psychopathic Personalities) is that they eventually start going after each other, having exhausted or eliminated everyone else. As we've seen with Wall Street and multi-national corporations, they refuse to change the way they do business, despite the fact that the global economy nearly tanked in 2008 and them with it. PPs are stubborn and determined to show they are right, plus they have misread Darwin. They think 'only the strong survive' when what Darwin said is only the adaptable survive. They may be charming, but are not adaptable, and that is their fatal flaw.
+4 # The Cynical Optimist 2011-06-10 02:50
"One of the salient features of Vonnegut's 'PPs' (Psychopathic Personalities) is that they eventually start going after each other, having exhausted or eliminated everyone else." Like the zombified vampires in the film "Daybreakers". Second string psychopathic vamps.
+24 # janigee 2011-06-09 07:47
We are definitely duped into believing we are living in a democracy.
+25 # lark3650 2011-06-09 08:22
We have forgotten that "principles, not money, must rule the world if mankind is to survive." that - "Selfishness is bred from the very lowest form of intelligence and unselfishness is bred from the highest state of mentality." that - "The difference between good and evil is the difference between unselfishness and selfishness." Alfred W. Lawson
+14 # genierae 2011-06-09 09:13
"they are not afraid" I watched a video on Big Think yesterday whose main point was that fearlessness was the most sought-after trait in hiring executives, and this article makes clear why this is so. Thank you Mr. Schwartz.

I would like to know what makes these people so indifferent to suffering, they were not born that way. I'm sure that parenting had a lot to do with it. Psychopaths raising psychopaths.
+3 # Activista 2011-06-09 10:18
I would argue almost the opposite - USA has paranoia epidemics - thanks to TV and propaganda.
We are paranoid about statistically insignificant terrorism and are spending billions. People see on TV one deranged dog and we pass the leash laws - again statistically insignificant - but population is statistically challenged.
Population is manipulated into totality by FEAR.
Risk taking is good trait for the executive - we do not have many risk takers - more like paranoid psychopath - start with president.
+18 # genierae 2011-06-09 13:17
Activista: I agree that fearless people take lots of risks, but there are two kinds of fearlessness. One comes from an enlightened being who's acting from love, which dissipates fear; they take risks that help people, and the other comes from having no conscience or feelings, which makes someone numb and therefore immune to fear, aka: psychopaths. They take selfish risks that don't take those they harm into account. As for Obama, its quite obvious that he loves his wife and children very deeply and so we can ascertain that he has feelings, therefore he is NOT a psychopath. Republicans however, show ALL the signs by their unrelenting attacks on the American people. They care nothing about hungry children, high unemployment, etc., and they are determined to destroy the social safety net that protects those who are less fortunate. Most of them profess to follow Jesus, what a load of crap! That good man's biggest priority was the poor and the powerless and he gave his life trying to rescue them. He had no use for the rich, he knew that they were beyond help, dead men walking. "They have their reward."
+14 # Ken Hall 2011-06-09 13:01
genierae: Actually, they may have been born with no conscience, and therefore no shame, embarrassment, moral hierarchy, etc. Psychiatrist Martha Stout wrote an article about this that I'm sure can be found on the web. In the essay, she posits that 4% of people don't have consciences. This has helped me understand compassionless attitude and actions of many conservatives.
+9 # genierae 2011-06-09 13:47
Were those 4% conscienceless from birth? I need to study it further. It is a fascinating subject, that's for sure, but I do think that nurture is as important in these cases as nature is. In any case, these psychopaths are preventing this country from taking its rightful place in a new world, and if they are not stopped, all that's precious will be destroyed. No one's coming to save us, we must save ourselves.
+6 # Pickwicky 2011-06-11 11:36
The received incidence is one in four. Startling figure, wot? Corporate power strikes me as a fine vent for sociopaths.

As we know, not all sociopaths kill, but some do; e.g., Bundy. If you have a child that torments other children or animals, or shows lack of empathy in any other way, get help for that child.
+5 # genierae 2011-06-12 09:06
Three points:

George W. Bush used to torture animals before he graduated to torturing people.

I have often wondered why management is so cold and unresponsive to labor's needs. I even thought that maybe they were trained to be that way. Now I see that many of them were chosen for these very characteristics.

I read yesterday that sociopaths and psychopaths are very much alike, except that psychopaths are more aggressive and prone to violence.
+2 # RSJ 2011-06-13 05:06
@ genierae: You might say sociopaths authorize and condone the violence committed by aggressive psychopaths while keeping their own hands clean.
+12 # RSJ 2011-06-09 18:12
I wonder if it's possible to devolve into this kind of psychopathic or sociopathic personality. Many years ago, a woman told me she had divorced her husband because he had become an anti-abortion 'nut.' He came to think that anyone who supported a woman's right to choose was less than human and not entitled to respect or consideration. While he didn't exactly say he wanted them dead, he applauded the killing of abortion doctors -- he thought they deserved it and was immune to any suffering it caused others, such as their families. Thinking about that reminded me Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin started his political career as an anti-abortion activist. Perhaps this explains his blase sociopathic attitude toward the suffering he's causing the people of Wisconsin.
+7 # Gringaryan 2011-06-10 07:24
Quoting genierae:
"they are not afraid" I watched a video on Big Think yesterday whose main point was that fearlessness was the most sought-after trait in hiring executives, and this article makes clear why this is so. Thank you Mr. Schwartz.

I would like to know what makes these people so indifferent to suffering, they were not born that way. I'm sure that parenting had a lot to do with it. Psychopaths raising psychopaths.

Actually I think they are born "that way". sometimes parents can help them to learn to care about affect if they are "on the fence" but parasites... psychopaths.. are born that way. The nurture goes a long way in any event but is not the cause
+3 # RSJ 2011-06-10 15:46
@ Gringaryan: It's a good question; I think some psychopaths are born without a conscience or the capacity for empathy, but others, such as soldiers in a war or men in jail, seem to develop a psychopathology to suit the circumstances. If you truly believe the paranoia and panic spread by the right-wing media and live in a constant state of what Hunter Thompson might call 'fear and loathing' wouldn't your personality then show pathological tendencies associated with that state? Ex-cons and veterans sometimes can't shake the psychopathology of the criminal or soldier on the battlefield; likewise, the uber-right could be living in paradise and it would still be a hell grown from their own fear and hatred.
+5 # Pickwicky 2011-06-11 11:28
There is some evidence that psychopaths or sociopaths are indeed "born that way." Some think there could be a genetic link. So, in that sense, parents may have "a lot to do with it."
+15 # liberalman 2011-06-09 10:04
This article explains quite clearly the actions undertaken by those that have led us into un-winnable & just simply nonsensical scenarios that have caused this country undue & grave harm. These psychopaths also seem to have the ability to lead/mislead groups of adherents into buying into there at time bizarre beliefs. Hello Tea Baggers & their psychopathic leaders. Hello Christians that are filled with hate & disdain for those that the biblical Jesus woul love & protect under his umbrella of love & compassion for all men despite their weakness or choices in life that may be unpopular with hates fags & Muslims alike. Would love to view a psychological evaluation of Bush & his cadre of war mongering right wingers. As well as the right wingers of today's breed that seem to care only for the wealthiest of the wealthy while the rest of the countries poor,& once middle class citizens are left with one oar in a row boat with no oar locks. Scary!
+4 # RSJ 2011-06-10 04:19
As the incomparable historian Barbara Tuchman wrote in "The March of Folly" every large organization, such as governments and political parties, reaches a point where it works against its own interest, becoming its own worst enemy. This would include the Christopublican s who have abandoned the humanitarian message of Jesus to serve their own warped worldview and petty hatreds. Love one another? They can't even love the Unitarians.

Perhaps you've read that Phyllis Schafly's kid Andrew is rewriting the Bible because he feels it's too liberal. Read:

"Conservative Bible Project Aims to Delete 'Liberal Bias' from the Bible"'liberal_bias'_from_the_bible/

Among the things Schafly has expunged from his Bible is Jesus asking God to forgive his enemies from the cross; no hairy-chested Republican Jesus would ever do that.
+5 # Activista 2011-06-09 10:31
Bush is the perfect psychopath - but he is able to exist in today psychopathic money environment.
Uber-psychopath is "psychopath Netanyahu" - Google - both were elected/selecte d by the "democratic" systems (more likely by well financed propaganda).
In any system (this is from population ecology) - there is not one time LONG time survival species that is so destructive as Homo Sapiens aka Homo Destructor. Poor planet Earth.
+9 # Sheila Cook 2011-06-09 23:07
Sadly, I think the psychopaths have destroyed things to the point that no matter what success we might have in getting power away from them - and I doubt that is possible anymore, they have destroyed the environment to the extent that we have passed the point of no return and life on earth will be unsustainable within a short period of time. Think melting glaciers, undrinkable water, arid soil that will not support growth of food, air that is filled with toxins, inedible fish and meats, GMO foods that will change our genetic makeup to who knows what, antibiotics in live stock that render them ineffective when we need them to fight infections and on and on. Even if we got rid of the psychopaths, we cannot undo the harama they have done. Very sad. Pity the poor babies born into this mess.
+9 # cac4 2011-06-10 07:07
Society requires leaders be psychopaths since emotional individuals (women) are believed to be unfit for power. We as a society produce our own foes, we are to be blamed for accepting to be governed in such ways. In Florida, employers are psychopaths since there are no labor standards (one may be fired on the spot as if one were a criminal - just because season is over, they target the weacker one and treat him/her like slavery still existed), no unions to turn to, or collective agreement to go by. Unbelievable in a civilized society. Look at the tomatoes pickers how they are treated,inhuman e. They refuse to pay unemployment. It's outrageous that these practices are still accepted by the republican establishment of this State, who does nothing but get richer, (behing their conservative christian masks). Let's not forget the painful real estate market down fall that has left thousand of families ruined by banks who turned to taxpayers for money, now they're making more profits than ever. Wallstreet is governed by psychopaths!!!! They have forgotten that without the human component there is no economy!!!
+9 # RSJ 2011-06-10 16:12
@ Sheila Cook and caca4: It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Just over 100 years ago Robber Barons owned the country and most of our politicians. Many Americans ate rotten meat, drank filthy water, and died young from lack of medical treatment or easily preventable diseases. People worked from sun up to sundown, there were no vacations or days off (except a half day Sunday), and small children were forced to work as well as adults in horrible situations. This was never going to change since the wealthy owned everything worth owning and had most of the courts on their side. The life of the average American wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit. There was simply no way of changing this industrial Dark Age nightmare.

But it did change.

Our current 'crapitalist' system is dying of its own weight; I don't know what will replace it, but we have progressed as a species in the past, albeit slowly and agonizingly. And those who can't adapt will die off. As Tom Paine wrote: "Time makes more converts than reason." The average age of the Fox News viewer is 64 and most of the Tea Partiers are also of retirement age. Try to be skeptical but not cynical. Cynicism just tells you the boat is leaking but not how to fix it. There are millions of good people out there you rarely hear about trying to fix it, and. if history is any gauge, I think they will succeed.
+4 # rm 2011-06-11 09:21
RSJ -- good post. What made the change possible was the economic collapse of 1929 and the fact that there was a strong foundation of socialists and labor activists in place to seize the moment and implement the kind of progressive changes that we appreciate today.

Right now, it is certain that the capitalist system will collapse but we don't have much of a foundation to re-build on. From the 1930s up to now, capitalism has systematically destroyed most of the alternative economic theories like socialism and communism. We have a real poverty of economic theory right now. You may be right about the Tea Partiers and Foxers being old, but the younger generation tend to be libertarians, anarchists, individualists, etc -- which is to say that they have no social theories. That's a real problem. They are of course easily manipulated by capitalists right now, but when the collapse comes they will be lost.

This time when the economy really collapses, we may get a really bad form of fascism instead of the progressive changes associated with the period of the 30s to 60s. In the absence of ideas like socialism and communism, a fascist or psychopath may be able to persuade the masses that what is needed is the strong hand.
+5 # RSJ 2011-06-11 13:14
@ rm: Thanks, but I have to add a few thoughts in response to your post. While it's true there were socialists and union activists pre- and post-1929 who were pushing for various progressive social programs, it took a smart and well-connected politician like FDR to actually turn them into law. (And he didn't manage to get it all done -- universal health care, for instance.)

We do have a basis to rebuild on -- the example of the socialist democracies of Europe. They have weathered the recent economic crisis much better than the US and UK, despite the blather you hear from the right.

The two differences that may save us from devolving into total fascism when the economy melts down is the fact that, unlike Germany and Italy after WWI, we don't have a recent history of monarchical rule. The fledgling democratic movements in 1920s Europe were too weak and unstable to contend with the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. Along with that, our native psychopathic fascists are incompetent and stupid. Just look at Bush and Cheney -- they have no credibility with the majority, and neither do Palin or the Tea Partiers. I feel even better about this seeing the reaction of working people in the Rust Belt to the attempted crackdown by the GOP. There's always a chance that the US will go completely fascist, of course, but I think the odds are against it.
+12 # rm 2011-06-11 08:50
If governments did not have the power or right to kill (as in war, police, capital punishment, etc.) and if government were limited to public service, then they would not be attractive places for psychopaths to congregate. They simply would not like the jobs of simply managing and running programs that had only one goal -- doing the basic jobs all societies need done collectively (schools, trash collection, park maintencance, courts, etc.).

We've allowed governments to get into the exact kinds of things that psychopaths really want to do -- all manner of criminal manipulation of people. There will always be a small percentage of people who are psychopaths. But we should not let them transform our institutions like government. It is OK if they exist in the corporate world but it must be carefully regulated. Sometimes, however, psychopaths just need to be locked up in a prison. People like Dick Cheney simply cannot be left on the outside, as we have done.
+2 # Stephen Beals 2011-06-12 11:59
It's is absolutely frightening just how "on the mark" this is!

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