Morrissey's plight is a perennial one, and it gets right to the heart of ponerology. Criminal psychopaths get drunk, get in fights, lead lives of serial criminality, and when they kill people, they tend to use weapons, or any convenient object that happens to be laying around. Successful psychopaths, on the other hand, lead relatively "normal" lives. They don't break the law (at least overtly) and can come across as ideal and highly successful citizens. But whether it's after years of pushing boundaries, tearing down a person's will to live with soul-eating mind-torture, or the "collateral damage" caused by the toxic chemicals their corporations release simply because they just don't care and can make a quick buck, successful psychopaths kill too. The main difference is, they kill a lot more, and they get away with it.
But it's not just the corporate bigwigs and Tucker Max-esque "boyfriends". As we've seen, a look at the machinations of political groups like the Soviets and the Nazis with the same perspective is quite revealing. Psychopaths gaining access and prominence in political groups use the same five-phase process as the those studied by Babiak. And not only does the five-phase process occur within the cutthroat dynamics of "power politics", it also occurs as the group as a whole strives for and achieves political domination. Or, to add a little color to counter that somewhat academic exposition: scum rises to the top. It's how it gets there that is interesting, and those early stages are the most elusive and poorly studied. Until Lobaczewski wrote his book, that is.
As Babiak describes, the first phase of manipulation is gaining entry into the group. This is fairly easy for a psychopath in a political environment (e.g., Blagojevich, Cheney, Netanyahu, Mubarak, etc.), and given the motivations and personality types that characterize a revolutionary group such as the fledgling Nazis, even more so. Thuggish gangs need thuggish goons and are happy to sign them up and put a gun, taser, or pen in their hands. Likewise, groups with political aspirations value psychopathic traits, and schemers like Stalin's handler, L.P. Beria, for example, are a perfect fit. Politicians must be charming, convincing, facile liars, willing and able to destroy others' characters and lives to support their rise to power. Contrary to the whimsical fancy of hardcore fans of one political team or another, politicians cynically adopt whatever party label suits their purposes, "Left" or "Right". But such labels are merely means to an end, tools to be exploited, as is everything else in the psychopath's environment, leading to the alienation of those who eventually learn that there's a whole lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing" behind the national games we term elections.
pedophile rings in high places, for example). However, once power has been entrenched, other than a thin facade for the sake of the cameras (and the already-mentioned fans) and foreign observers, the political psychopath is relatively free to drop his mask and display his true nature. Beria was a typical example, as was Hermann Göring in the Nazis. Everyone knew they were "monsters" and they made no bones about it. After all, who was going to do anything about it?
The second, assessment phase of the political psychopath's rise to power is a war on two fronts. He must not only identify possible targets and rivals within the group, but also on the outside. Within, he identifies those most dangerous to his own ambition, those whose support he must cultivate, e.g. influential power brokers, or patrons, and the pawns he will manipulate and use as patsies to guarantee his own ascendance as an "important" power-possessing being. Outside the group are political rivals, critics, and existing authorities who threaten to curb the group's hold of power and/or who need to be threatened or otherwise "enticed" to give their support. And, of course, there are those who know where the skeletons are buried. They're just a heart attack or "freak single engine plane crash" away from no longer being a problem.
Just as corporate psychopaths cultivate alliances and relationships with influential executives to ensure their protection, political psychopaths secure their power by winning the influence of a society's powerful legal, military, economic, and business institutions, as well as those of foreign nations. In the third, manipulation phase, political psychopaths take advantage of all these groups, creating and maintaining their own psychopathic fiction on a mass scale, spreading positive propaganda about themselves and negative propaganda about their perceived (and often entirely created) "enemies", and creating and stage-managing the conflicts that solidify their positions. The incestuous marriage of corporate, economic, military, and political power ends up creating a virtually unconquerable system of control.
While in the Nazis studied by Gustav Gilbert the career diplomats and militarists were in fact the least characterized by psychopathology, it is easy to see why these "sophisticated realists" of the state were so easily manipulated. The motivations of this political bandwagon were clear; they were social climbers, political opportunists, and strongly identified with their own social group. After all, these men were the leading figures (i.e. the leading social conformists) in the functions of state, law, church, and capital, and their desire to be among the new ruling elite proved much stronger than their willingness to face a disgraceful fall down the social ladder, or worse, be labeled an "enemy of the state" (G. Gilbert, The Psychology of Dictatorship, pp. 154 - 5). These men were products of the authoritarian culture that permeated Germany before Nazism, in which submission to authority was a cultural norm, no matter the nature of that authority. In the face of this "new reality", men like the one-time chancellor of the Weimar Republic, Franz von Papen, took the path of least resistance and appeased the psychopathic aggression they witnessed.
The militarists, too, succumbed to the incentives to promotion and their own blind obedience to authority. Even despite considering shooting himself over the "misgivings" he had about many of his orders, Field Marshall Keitel followed through to the last because of his sense of loyalty to a superior. It's no different today. Scientists still want to keep their jobs and funding, military men and women want their promotions, and state employees large and small know on which side their bread is buttered.
As Gilbert described it, dictatorships thrive on social chaos, brute force, and appeasement. Just as common psychopaths rely on the appeasement of relatives, spouses, friends, employers, police and courts, who often rationalize their behavior or respond that there's nothing they can do, political psychopaths rely on the appeasement of their own citizens as well as the nations of the world. In the psychopath's worldview, where compromise is regarded as a sign of weakness, appeasement only makes his behavior more malignant. Psychopaths are masters at testing their limits. As they get away with increasingly brazen acts, they keep pushing the boundaries until it's too late to make a difference. The political psychopath is free to take the fourth, confrontation phase to the limit. Rivals do not just lose their positions; they are slandered, arrested, tortured, and murdered. Law enforcement and the courts pose no threat; they're in the Party's back pocket (remember phase three). The media is censored and controlled, and all material critical of the government is discredited by specially chosen "experts". Idealists who were useful in the early stages of the Party are discarded now that their support is no longer useful. Entire populations become scapegoats, which serves the functions of 1) suppressing criticism, 2) conditioning the public to accept violent "defense against our enemies", and 3) incentives for conformity and "toeing the party line".
As Babiak discovered about corporate psychopaths, "organizational chaos" not only attracts them to companies, but it provides them "cover". At such times, "an organization is at its weakest point and prone to manipulation" (Babiak, "From Darkness Into the Light: Psychopathy in Industrial and Organizational Psychology", in Herve and Yuille's The Psychopath: Theory, Research, and Practice, p. 420). Normal people tend to avoid such environments, but psychopaths thrive in them. Just as corporate psychopaths exploit organizational chaos, political psychopaths exploit social chaos. After all, group loyalties and hostilities provide the soil in which political conflict and aggression thrive. Long-held prejudices and stereotypes persist and become grist for the mill of ambitious politicians. The tensions, fears, frustrations, and aspirations of significant numbers within the population are easily manipulated by providing politically expedient outlets for aggression.
In the case Germany, with a population of Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Czechs, Slavs, Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, conflicts were easy to exploit. The devastation of WWI and the chaos it engendered created a hole, which was to be filled by new social and political reforms. New ideas were adopted and adapted to serve the aggressive purposes of the Nazi revolutionary core. Evolution justified ethnic struggles based on pseudoscience, and economic laws implied "implacable class warfare". The Nazis began as rebels but gained the support of many Germans through their masterful manipulation of popular opinion. They eventually achieved power by intensifying social conflicts and maintained it by a reign of terror.
For the fanatics of a regime, these policies are personal vendettas, while psychopaths use them more calculatedly, as convenient devices to accrue power. Stereotypes are self-perpetuating mechanisms, and they suit the political psychopath well. Gilbert writes, "The exceptional case which confirms the prejudice will have sensational repercussions, while the cases in which the reverse is true, or no racial lines are crossed, will pass comparatively unnoticed" (p. 290). This process is further facilitated by propaganda. Those members of the targeted group who react defensively are seen as proof of the stereotype, and those who try to conform to the discriminating majority are seen as a sinister fifth column - "surely they cannot have good intentions!" Social discrimination actually fosters the development of group differences, which can then be identified as evidence for the stereotype. For example, slaves may have been kept uneducated, becoming evidence for their own "mental inferiority"; the intelligentsia killed and the people deemed "backwards" and "primitive". New realities are simply created and then taken as "evidence" for whatever those manipulating reality seek to promote. How convenient.
Hitler was a great success in this regard. His paranoia, aggression against his "enemies" and obsessive appeal to national ascendancy deeply resonated with and anchored in the minds of Germans, and his duplicity reached the level of national policy, hiding the Party's ulterior motives behind plausible cover stories and grandiose ideals. As Gilbert remarked, "Even a constitution presented no serious obstacle to dictatorship, since many of its provisions could be suspended in a 'national emergency' where the security of the nation was threatened; and such emergencies, as Napoleon knew only too well, could always be provided by propaganda" (p. 8).
Totalitarianism was implemented first by outlawing the Communist and Social Democratic Parties, and by the end of the year, all the rest. Finally, Himmler was given extraordinary police powers to suppress all "dangers to public security," in accordance with a new law providing the death penalty for such undefined offenses. (Gilbert, p. 72)Those who knew too much about the Reichstag fire, among others whose loyalty was in question, were rounded up and killed on June 30, 1934. Executions were still illegal at the time, but Hitler justified them as essential for the protection and safety of the Reich. Hitler now determined the law in Germany.
The parallels between the Machiavellian, manipulative natures of both the psychopath and modern "power politics" are so obvious that it is difficult not to recall Cleckley's "conspiracy of silence" about the topic of psychopathy as a whole. While alternative writers on the Internet are consistently making the connections, the topic has yet to reach the mainstream in any serious form. Gilbert's study has been forgotten by mainstream psychologists, and Lobaczewski's has been completely ignored. In fact, American Psychiatric Association members (e.g., CIA contractor James Elmer Mitchell and his colleague Bruce Jessen) even helped develop and participate in the CIA's "advanced interrogation" of "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo bay and CIA black sites. Rather than coming to understand the realities of torture in order to stop it, American psychologists are actively engaging in it, using the same tortured logic used by Hitler and Goebbels seventy years ago. If there's one sure sign that a government is psychopathic, that's its use and justification of torture, and the spineless denials and redefinitions to excuse its utter barbarity.
If we trace the roots of psychopathic thinking in more detail, we come back to phase-three psychopathic techniques of "divide and rule" and disinformation. The formula is fairly straightforward. The psychopath determines that he needs someone to perform a certain action. So, he sets up a situation causing the person to react in the desired manner. In this way he manages conflicts that neutralize threats and promote his own self-image. On the mass scale these manufactured realities reach dangerous heights of criminality. Ambitious politicians use their influence among secret police, military, and intelligence to perpetrate attacks on their own civilian populations, which are then blamed on a created "enemy". Public reaction follows the predicted vector and the politicians offer the "solution" (prepared in advance) of war against the enemy. This cynical and twisted reality is not an isolated phenomenon. It is standard operating procedure among major political/intelligence elites.
The smallest cycle can occur any number of times and during any and all phases of larger cycles. For example, psychopaths may play their political game before or after a Party has gained power. The constant jockeying for power within the system of government is an essential feature, as seen in the various "purges", convenient "suicides", and "disappearings" that have always characterized corrupt empires. While such governments strike most of humanity as harsh and oppressive, the free license provided by a police state is ideal for the political psychopath. From Gilbert:
He obtains gratification from manipulating the environment for the feeling of power it affords, to act the aggressive hero for the sheer pleasure of acting. He is too egocentric to love or hate very deeply, though the outward show of such emotions may be part of the role he plays. His violation of the social mores is not a neurotic obsession but an incidental aspect of this aggressive role-playing. In situations of social conflict, he identifies with the group that provides the best outlet of aggression for aggression's sake ... Craving applause for his showmanship, he [may play] the role of aggressive champion of human rights, if the stage [is] set for such a role. (p. 284)I've have already mentioned several of the essential features of pathocracy identified by Gilbert: social unrest, brute force against enemies within and without, a favorable constellation of leadership groups with mutual interests, and crucial events facilitating the consolidation of dictatorial power. Psychopathic leaders also require authoritarian followers, and an authoritarian social framework:
The hierarchical social structure ... provides the rewards of obedience and parasitism, security of status, outlets for aggression in situations of sibling rivalry and dominance of subordinates. (Gilbert, p. 268)In an authoritarian society, people submit to the protection of leadership, accepting their decisions and forfeiting their own ability to make their own choices. "My leaders make the choices so I don't have to." When this system is taken away - as a result of radical social change often initiated by war or revolution - the citizens' toleration for insecurity lessens and they readily accept appeals to the old, conservative ways. The world has seen this process in action in the "global war on terror". The attempt by Western governments to "export democracy" inevitably results in a regression to conservative, authoritarian regimes. The Taliban has regained its influence in Afghanistan after the United States and its allies invaded in 2001, ostensibly to "bring freedom" to the Afghanis. Similarly, Iraq is now a democracy in name only and is plagued with corruption, occupation, and daily military atrocities. Again, the "conspiracy of silence" makes its presence known. The scum and effluent rises to the top. Eventually, however, it gets to the point where every almost-normal individual can smell its stench and putrescence. The Egyptians have recently caught a whiff. Hopefully the rest of the world will catch on soon.