© USHMM Photo ArchivesView of the defendants in the dock at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg.
If, as many people are saying nowadays, psychopaths are the ones running our governments, how come we don't know about it? Why isn't it common knowledge, discussed in households and classrooms across the land? Why isn't academia devoting courses to it? In short, why is such a simple, yet revolutionary idea so seemingly secret? The answer may actually be in the question: it is revolutionary, but not in the sense you're thinking! You see, most revolutions are either caused, influenced, or hijacked by psychopaths and quite often this is done by what is called "abuse of psychiatry."

A normal person's actions and reactions, his ideas and moral criteria, all strike the abnormal individual as abnormal. If a person with a personality disorder such as psychopathy considers himself and others like him normal - which is of course significantly easier if he and his friends are in power - then he would consider a normal person different and therefore abnormal.

That explains why, when psychopaths rise to power, as they naturally tend to do, their social systems - including education and medicine/psychiatry - always have the tendency to treat any dissidents - or potential dissidents - as "mentally abnormal". As Lobaczewski wrote, "A normal person strikes a psychopath as a naive, smart-alecky believer in barely comprehensible theories; calling him "crazy" is not all that far away."

Thus, such governments generally control psychology and psychiatry via control of funding and ideationally alert "thought police" in academia, and the myriad ways in which normal people unconsciously respond to a pathological environment begin to be defined as illnesses and "psychiatric solutions", including drugs, are promoted to force normal people to live in a pathological world and think it is normal.

The truth about psychopathy must be degraded and marginalized to prevent it from jeopardizing the system itself, and this very practice is then used as an expedient tool in the hands of the pathological authorities. Anyone who is too knowledgeable about psychopathy will be accused of anything that can be trumped up, including psychological abnormality. They're "crazy", "paranoid", "mentally unstable", and "dangerous".

This, then, is at the root of the differences between those in power and the masses of people who are oppressed by them and who, ultimately and always, rise up against them. The pressures of living in a pathological world can be borne only so long and eventually, drugs, bread and circuses no longer suffice to suppress the masses of normal people. At the same time, still other psychopaths - not yet at the top - rely on the violent emotions of fanatic revolutionaries and oppressed peoples, goading them on and riding the waves of popular discontent into the halls of power, crushing their "enemies" in the process. It's always useful to get rid of a lot of normal people. traumatize everyone else, and keep people thinking that now they have revolted against the oppressors and all will be well again!

So, you see, the idea is revolutionary because if it's ever widely known that it is really a matter of pathologicals vs normal humans rather than the various ideologies in which pathology hides and takes over, the psychopaths will be powerless. Lacking the ability to corral people into wars against exaggerated (and often illusory) enemies, the psychopaths' network of support would crumble, and the emperors would be left naked in the streets, for all to see.

As I've already discussed in previous articles in this series, psychopaths have a particular way of seeing the world. They know they're different and they easily recognize others like themselves even in a crowd. They're the enlightened, we're the rabble; they're the worthy, we're the useless eaters; they're the wolves, we're the sheep. And they know that, if those contemptible others - that is, all the rest of us - were to see them for what they are, they'd be locked up, or worse. That "injustice" - living in a world that would limit their "freedom" to prey on others - is what goads them on to create a nightmare world for the rest of us, with all the injustice of Orwell's vision and all the dead-end absurdity of Kafka's allegories. And once they have power, they intend to keep it. Objective science is thus a dangerous thing to political psychopaths and must be silenced at all costs.

On the flip side of the coin, political psychopaths benefit from the efforts of well-meaning individuals unaware of the psychological factors at play, who are nevertheless invested in their own theories as to the causes of the problems they see plaguing the world. So, ironically, these are the ideas they promote. "Know your enemy", but also fund him and make him think he's got the whole banana. With a basis of objective ideas about pathology, it's fairly easy to spot these theories. They're the ones that focus exclusively on a particular ideology (i.e. "it's capitalism!", "it's socialism!", "it's fundamentalist Christianity!", "it's Islamo-fascism!"), or are based on assumptions downplaying the role of psychopathology in the very real problems of evil in the world.

I've written about some of the problems in the field of psychology, specifically in the study of psychopathy, elsewhere. Setting aside the problems of diagnosis that the catch-all "antisocial personality disorder" presents, there's the simple issue of specialization. Researchers of psychopathy for the most part deal with issues they can study up close: brains, criminals, simple behaviors. They stay out of politics, because it's both difficult to study, and not favorable to the pocketbook. Politics is for political scientists and historians. As for the political psychologists, most of them are unaware of the problems of psychopathy because of the nature of specialization (and a multitude of bogus theories) within psychology itself. It could be said that specialization itself is one of the greatest gifts to psychopaths the world over. There's little chance of scientists pooling their knowledge and forming a united front posing any danger to the status quo when no one knows what the other is saying!

But there was a time when political psychopaths - pathocrats, to be more precise, because in a pathological system more than one type of pathology participates in the network of control - could be studied up close and personal, and they were. However, the pathocrats running the prison, who made this opportunity a reality, quickly squashed any future possibility of gaining the much-needed data that could be gleaned from their captives. I am referring to that time right after the Allies won World War II, and a representative selection of Hitler's top officials were held to be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremburg.

The most wicked of the accused were executed in short order. While many saw this as justice, future generations were robbed of what could have been a treasure trove of knowledge about the true nature of Nazism and its leading figures. Luckily, while the defendants were still living, a few American psychologists were able to glean what they could, and one of them - Nuremberg prison psychologist Gustav M. Gilbert - even wrote a book, The Psychology of Dictatorship which could have been the foundation of a new science.

But that is not what happened. Not only were the most interesting of the criminals summarily executed, the book about them was never reprinted and only the most dubious of its data (the Rorschach protocols Gilbert conducted) has been looked at and talked about since.

It's hardly coincidental that the bulk of his conclusions were ignored and only the weakest parts promoted (in Miale & Selzer's The Nuremburg Mind, for example). It's classic perception management. Those reading references to Gilbert's work, which reach valid conclusions though using dubious proofs (the Rorschach test is all but completely discredited in today's fields of experimental psychology and psychiatry, especially when it comes to psychopathy), will unfairly conclude that there is little value in his work. Ironically, Gilbert hardly mentions his Rorshach tests in the book, and yet this is where ALL attention has been focused when anyone talks or writes about the psychology of the Nuremberg war criminals. So, what did Gilbert really say?

His book was published in 1950, nine years after Hervey Cleckley's The Mask of Sanity first hit the shelves in 1941. At the time, it was common among historians and other academics to downplay the role of individuals in the shaping of history. As one textbook of the time stated: "With some striking exceptions, the individual counts for little in the social scheme of things... [A leader's] success will depend mainly on his happening to lead them [social circumstances] in the direction in which they happen to be going."1 As if social circumstances were some nebulous force completely divorced of human motivations! Unfortunately, this is still the prevailing view among historians. Today it's called "structuralism" - Hitler wasn't the problem per se, the whole Nazi structure was.

This is certainly partially correct, but thanks to a convenient twist in the theory, it poses no problems to psychopaths (which is probably why it's so popular these days). If the role of the individual is downplayed, it's all in the structural, economic, social forces, you see! (Never mind that psychopaths and other pathologicals have inter-penetrated the social structure with a ramified network of mutual pathological conspiracies and are busily causing those very problems!) But with these assumptions guiding the historian's hand, any relevant characteristics of the individuals comprising that structure, and giving it force and meaning, are equally dismissed offhand. Thus, any patterns to be noticed in the nodal points of key positions of power fade into the background. By downplaying the features of the single individual (e.g. Hitler), the theory is willfully blind to the results caused by a network of similar-minded (but not normal) individuals (i.e. the psychopaths within the whole Nazi network: the SS, lawyers, bankers, businessmen, military men, etc.).

If only there weren't those darned anomalies!

According to the theory, Hitler was an anomaly of the system. A man whose interests just happened to correspond to the nature of the "structural" forces at play. But despite their popularity, these theories cannot account for the strikingly foreign nature of the times they seek to study and explain. In the minds of many, Hitler's Germany was one of those "exceptions". The brutal and anti-human nature of the Nazi regime - the "new reality" to which the Germans and their victims were subjected - became clear to the world over the course of the war, and it horrified humanity. As Field Marshal and Nuremberg defendant Wilhelm Keitel related to Gilbert, "He [Hitler] stood for a complete reversal of [the Wermacht's] values: brutality and injustice became virtues of 'hardness'; decency and honor became contemptible weakness."2 When Gilbert asked Rudolf Höss, commandant at Auschwitz, if he had ever considered whether his millions of victims deserved their fate, "he tried patiently to explain that there was something unrealistic about such questions, because he had been living in an entirely different world."3 In this world, the leaders possessed the qualities of "uncompromising hardness and brutality, nationalism with a paranoid tinge, in-group loyalty and out-group hostility. Deceit, treachery, persecution, and murder could be condoned in this militant, ethnocentric frame of reference, and the leader was the one who excelled in these virtues."4

As Gilbert later wrote, the post-war trials led to "widespread speculation concerning the sanity or lack of it on the part of the whole Nazi leadership".5 This speculation on the part of the public was simple common sense, because one can't hope to understand a system like Nazism without a good understanding of individual AND social psychology. The Germans were experiencing the full force and iron grip of a macrosocial psychopathic reality.

Predictably, academic opinions quickly polarized between two, extreme and equally untenable conclusions. Either the Nazis (as a whole, mind you) were totally psychotic (think Norman Bates' character in Psycho) or normal people "just following orders". This cognitive error (also taken straight out of the psychopath's handbook) is still prevalent today. And as usual, the truth is not quite so simple; the competing options are not mutually exclusive. As historian of ideas José Brunner notes, "one can notice a surprisingly broad area of underlying agreement" between the opposing opinions of Nazi leaders as "sane or psychopaths".6 In Gilbert's work (and later, Lobaczewski's), an understanding of psychopathy, psychopathology in general, and normal social influences helped place the discussion in a more realistic and empirical middle ground. "Anomalies" like Nazism involve a complex network of psychopathic individuals who inspire the system as a whole, individuals with various other mental pathologies, and normal people who get caught up under their collective spellbinding influence. While leaders can and do play a crucial role in history, Gilbert writes:
... that does not imply by any means that leaders create history single-handedly. ... socioeconomic, political, and historical forces ... do not exist as pure abstractions, but become manifest only through the behavior of human beings... [the] interplay of personalities and social processes... cultural mores help to determine the nature of political leadership, and the latter in turn influences the development of the cultural pattern.7
© USHMM Photo ArchivesThe defendants listen as the prosecution begins introducing documents at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg.
As a German-speaking officer and psychologist responsible for interrogating prisoners of war, Gilbert was given unprecedented and unlimited access to the defendants; as he put it, "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove the fascist mind".8 Facing trial were top-position Nazis such as Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess; Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg; Reichsminister for armaments and munitions, Albert Speer; SS-Colonel and commander of Auschwitz Rudolf Höss; and Reichsfeldmarschall, head of the Luftwaffe, and president of the Reichstag, Hermann Göring. The Nazi war criminals held in Nuremburg provided the first opportunity for psychologists and psychiatrists to study key members of a corrupt and criminal political regime. Unfortunately, as we've already seen, it was a short-lived opportunity.

So what were Gilbert's conclusions, and what was so dangerous about them that they had to be marginalized, destroyed and misrepresented? Before I quote some of the most important ones, it helps to see what others were saying about the Nazis at the time.

Prior to Gilbert's arrival, chief of psychiatry for the European Theatre of Operations Douglas M. Kelley had access to the prisoners for a brief period of five months and wrote of his experiences and conclusions in his book 22 Cells in Nuremberg, published in 1947. Like Hannah Arendt, who later covered the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Israel and coined the term "the banality of evil" to describe Eichmann's seeming normality, nonchalance and apathy, Kelley saw the Nazis as basically ordinary people caught up in the machinery of military orders and bureaucracy. Unable to find any signs of obvious pathology in the defendants, he labeled them "sane" and deemed Nazism a strictly "socio-cultural disease".9 The psychopaths, occupying that nebulous middle ground between sanity and madness, thus flew under the radar of Kelley's inquiring eye. In short, Kelley was duped by a collective mask of sanity, the mendacity of which he could not fathom.

While Kelley missed the diagnosis of psychopathy (in his view, common now, everyone is just a different degree of "normal"), he did make some prescient observations:
Strong, dominant, aggressive, egocentric personalities like Göring, differing from the normal chiefly in their lack of conscience, are not rare. They can be found anywhere in the country [i.e. the United States] - behind big desks deciding big affairs as businessmen, politicians, racketeers.10
Significantly, he also wrote that such personalities "could be duplicated in any country of the world today" and that "there are undoubtedly certain individuals who would willingly climb over the corpses of one half of the people of the United States, if by so doing, they could thereby be given control over the other half".11 Today, we're seeing just how true this statement is.

Gilbert was more descriptive:
... by inculcating fear and hostility toward enemy groups and by encouraging the persecution of scapegoats it helps to constrict human empathy and ultimately "desensitizes" an increasing number of individuals to extreme aggression. This constriction of affect, combined with the militaristic "categorical imperative" and the ideological restriction of reality-testing, produces organized irrational hostility which is not only unlimited in its destructive potential but precipitates a self-destructive reaction. ... the tendency of such a system is clear: the crippling of human [conscience] and reality-testing, which allow the irrational and psychopathic to become the norm, and the normal individual to become an unthinking member of a society regimented for irrational aggression. 12
Interestingly, Kelley established a strong rapport with Göring, the creator of the Gestapo and concentration camps, taken by his intelligence, charm, "courage", and image as a family man, in other words, some of the very qualities mistaken by many corporate employers as good "leadership qualities". Kelley even committed suicide in 1958 using the same method Göring used the day before his scheduled execution - by swallowing a cyanide capsule.13 Cleckley once remarked that his secretaries could always tell which of his patients were psychopaths - they were the only ones who could convince him to lend them money - and it seems that Kelley, too, fell under the sway of a smooth manipulator. This is not to suggest that either Cleckley or Kelley were not insightful enough, but rather sharply emphasizes the abilities of a "good" psychopath!

Gilbert, on the other hand, called a spade a spade. He diagnosed Göring as an "amiable" and "narcissistic" psychopath.14 In his many conversations with Göring, Gilbert was able to make several insightful and often entertaining - although equally disturbing - observations about him, which are recounted in his book. Because the book is rare, I have compiled some of the most telling anecdotes and direct quotes illustrating Göring's psychopathy.

© USHMM Photo ArchivesHerman Göring.
Portrait of a Political Psychopath

Göring presented himself as impulsive, egocentric, aggressive, sensation seeking, unable to tolerate frustration, superficially charming, glib, remorseless, and callous - all the hallmarks of psychopathy. He showed insensitivity to danger, admitting "he just never believed that any harm could really befall him"; and sadistic aggression for which "[his] father's punishments proved to be of no avail." His mother allegedly stated, "Hermann will either be a great man or a great criminal!" Göring's first memory, related to Gilbert, was that of "bashing his mother in the face with both fists when she came to embrace him after a prolonged absence, at the age of three." As a child playing soldiers with his peers, he would similarly bash the heads of anyone questioning his leadership to "let them know damn quick who was boss."15

As Gilbert described, Göring had "a ruthlessly aggressive personality", "an emotional insensitivity and perverted humor which were at once the seeds of outward physical boldness and of moral depravity".16 However, he "presented a front of utter amiability and good-humored bravado", i.e. a charming "mask of sanity" which he used whenever it suited his purpose. He received a very high IQ score of 138 and "Being led to believe that he had the highest I.Q. among the Nazi war criminals [at Nuremberg] he praised the excellent discrimination of American psychometric methods. When he [later] heard that Schacht and Seyss-Inquart had outdone him on the I.Q. exam, he scorned the unreliability of the test." However, Gilbert observed that his intelligence was more characterized by "superficial and pedestrian realism, rather than brilliantly creative intelligence."17

As a young man, he naturally joined the military, as it provided an outlet for his aggression, tendency to domination, and showmanship. Aware of the nature of the military hierarchy, he was rigidly subservient to his superiors, knowing that "he would some day be able to demand the same from his inferiors." Just like a modern corporate psychopath, Göring identified those with whom he needed to ingratiate himself (e.g. officer-instructors at the academy) and those he could get away with treating disdainfully (e.g. civilian teachers). "Göring explained quite simply ... that the officers could punish you, while the civilians could only threaten you or, what was even sillier, appeal to your moral sense." The model of a corrupt politician, Göring took bribes for tax-exemption and successfully managed his "business interests" (e.g. arms dealing). Gilbert observed, "during World War I Göring made the dangerous and fateful discovery that war could bring both glory and profit to one who was sufficiently reckless, unscrupulous and amiable." As Göring himself said to Gilbert, "The idea of democracy was absolutely repulsive to me ... I joined the party precisely because it was revolutionary, not because of the ideological stuff. Other parties had made revolutions, so I figured I could get in on one too!"18

In short, Göring exploited the ideology and structure of Nazism for his own personal ambition, greed, and sadistic need for power. And yet, he still gave seemingly blind support to Hitler. Why? This is a question that puzzles many psychopathy researchers and even causes them to doubt the possibility that psychopaths could ever maintain a stable position in any political or corporate system. After all, psychopaths are notoriously self-serving and impulsive. They are loyal to no one and quick to turn on their so-called "associates" and "friends". But for intelligent psychopaths like Göring, subservience to superiors is not loyalty per se. It is mere lip service that allows them to reap the benefits of their environment. Think of Karl Rove and George Bush - Rove played his part of cunning underling because that's where he gained the most benefits. Just as psychopaths will often abide by prison rules to secure parole or lighter sentences, even feigning religious conversion, they will work within a political structure like Nazism because they have an interest in doing so. Whereas in a normal society psychopaths are persecuted by non-psychopaths because of their antisocial attitudes and behaviors, in a system like the Nazi dictatorship, the rules change. In a society with no higher authority than themselves, they have an interest in maintaining it, even if that means sucking up to a delusional fanatic.

However, while alliances are created and maintained in such a system, there is another motivation at work. Self-promotion and the resulting backstabbing is just as much a part of the game. And Göring was an expert. At Nuremburg, he repeatedly showed a typical ease of yarn spinning and shirking of responsibility to others, demonstrating the real nature of his so-called "loyalties". He was caught in several obvious contradictions and lies during his testimony and was quick to denounce his fellow Nazis, shouting frequent outbursts such as the following:
"Roehm! Don't talk to me about that dirty homosexual swine! That was the real clique of perverted bloody revolutionists! They are the ones who made the Party look like a pack of hoodlums, with their wild orgies and beating up Jews on the street and smashing windows! ... What a gang of perverted bandits that SA was! It is a damn good thing I wiped them out or they would have wiped us out!"
As Gilbert points out, however, "These were, of course, the very same hoodlums whom Göring had trained in street-fighting".19 Sounds a bit like the American pundits who lambaste the very "Islamic terrorists" they funded and trained in the '70s and '80s, doesn't it? Alliances are only alliances when they're convenient. As soon as they're not, all bets are off. Gilbert was able to observe Göring's manipulative "divide and conquer" modus operandi in operation:
It was interesting to compare notes with some of the other officers who were seeing him at this time, to see how he was maligning the psychologist to the psychiatrist, and vice versa, both chaplains to the psychologist and psychiatrist, and vice versa, while fawning on each in turn. In the prisoners' dock, which was the only place he could meet the others now, he repeated the same process with militarists against civilians, Prussians against Bavarians, Protestants against Catholics, and always vice versa, smiling to each in turn, but soliciting sympathy by scorning him behind his back to members of opposed groups. ... Finally, when Speer made his spectacular denunciation of Hitler and Göring, Göring reacted in typical gangster fashion, threatening to have Speer murdered if he ever got out of the jail alive.20
After seeing film evidence of the atrocities of the regime, many of the defendants broke down crying in shame, but Göring had a different reaction.
"It was such a good afternoon too, until they showed that film. They were reading my telephone conversations on the Austrian affair, and everybody was laughing with me. And then they showed that awful film, and it just spoiled everything."21
On April 18, 1946, Göring offered his infamous glimpse behind the psychopathic mask of fascism to Gilbert, quoted in the last installment of this series. ("All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.") And on an another occasion, he said:
"What do you mean, morality... word-of-honor?" Göring snorted. "Sure, you can talk about word-of-honor when you promise to deliver goods in business. - But when it is the question of the interests of the nation!? - Phooey! Then morality stops. That is what England has done for centuries; America has done it; and Russia is still doing it! ... When a state has a chance to improve its position because of the weakness of a neighbor, do you think it will stop at any squeamish consideration of keeping a promise? It is a statesman's duty to take advantage of such a situation for the good of his country!"22
Göring wholly embraced the psychopathic "dog-eat-dog" worldview. For him, as for the psychopaths dictating "war on terror"-inspired foreign policy today, "preventive war, aggressive war, politics, and peace were all just different aspects of the same struggle for supremacy which was in the very nature of things, with the rewards going to the strongest nation and the cleverest leaders."23 This is the stark reality behind the political propaganda of "national interests" dished out for public consumption in the world. Gilbert's most dangerous conclusion was equally blunt:
"Psychopathic personalities undoubtedly play an important part in major manifestations of social pathology, particularly when they achieve positions of leadership in social groups and movements. It is all too clear that they played a decisive role in the revolutionary nucleus of the Nazi movement, and thus determined the complexion of the government of Nazi Germany."24
That's what he concluded and he wrote it in his book. That is why no one has heard of him, why none of his research or conclusions have been implemented in the practice of politics the world over, and why the Nuremberg defendants had to die. It's why political psychologists are still focused on testing for "political biases among voters" and other interesting tidbits that miss the mark when it comes to the truly important issues. And it's why the only thing anyone remembers about the Nazis at Nuremburg were their Rorschach protocols!

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Pretty much every current pet theory that attempts to explain the source of evil - the "enemy" in our midst - is wrong. There is no singular "Nazi mind", just as there isn't an "Islamic mind" or even a "Western or American mind" that is the source of all evil. Fighting "Islam" or even "American imperialism" will get us nowhere. The fact is, psychopaths exist in all human groups and they play an essential role in the politics of corruption, gaining support from individuals - normal and disordered. In short, the very qualities we often identify as those of a typical politician are those of a psychopath. They are present in all governments, and, given the right conditions, they create and maintain systems of oppression that know many labels: fascism, dictatorship, authoritarianism, communism, theocracy, and even democracy. As long as we focus on the name, we ignore the cause, and we play right into their hands.

  1. Quoted in Gustav Gilbert's The Psychology of Dictatorship (New York: Ronald, 1950), 298.
  2. Ibid., 220.
  3. Ibid., 255.
  4. Ibid., 294.
  5. Quoted in Miale & Selzer's The Nuremburg Mind: The Psychology of the Nazi Leaders (New York: New York Times Book Co., 1975), xi.
  6. Jose Brunner, "Oh Those Crazy Cards Again": A History of the Debate on the Nazi Rorschachs,1946 - 2001," Political Psychology 22(2), 2001, 237.
  7. Gilbert, op cit., 303, 4, 5, 7.
  8. Ibid., xii.
  9. D. Kelley, 22 Cells in Nuremberg: A Psychiatrist Examines the Nazi War Criminals (New York: Greenberg, 1947), 12.
  10. Ibid., 171.
  11. Quoted in Brunner, op cit., 240.
  12. Gilbert, op cit., 309.
  13. Brunner, op cit., 242.
  14. McCord and McCord, The Psychopath (New York: D. Van Nostrand., 1964), 34-35.
  15. Gilbert, op cit., 84 - 88.
  16. Ibid., 109, 88.
  17. Ibid., 107-8.
  18. Ibid., 89-93.
  19. Ibid., 96.
  20. Ibid., 115.
  21. Ibid., 110.
  22. Ibid., 116.
  23. Ibid., 116.
  24. Ibid., 286.