With a book dedicated to analyzing psychopaths, a group that often brings to mind stereotypical terms such as ‘deranged,’ ‘emotionless’ and ‘dangerous,’ it is hard not to be attracted to it.
I was half expecting to read about the infamous Jack the Ripper or some other brutal serial killers, only to have author Jon Ronson dig deep into the mind boggling business for psychopaths.
“I remembered those psychologists who said psychopaths made the world go around. They meant it: society was, they claimed, an expression of that particular sort of madness.”
Starting off with the most widely used diagnostic test for psychopathy, the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which the book’s title is based on, Ronson laid the foundation with an ‘official’ definition.
“Psychopaths are predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs,” Bob Hare, creator of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist wrote. “Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please.”
Yet Ronson’s mistrust for psychiatry was very soon revealed when he started questioning one of the most notable traits on the Hare’s Checklist ‘grandiose sense of self-worth’ through the case of Tony.
For a criminal who claimed he feigned madness to avoid prison sentence, Tony is now a patient in one of the most notorious asylums for criminal lunatics in the UK, Broadmoor Hospital, which drives him nuts.If Tony refuses to spend time with his criminally insane neighbors, it would only demonstrate he is withdrawn, aloof and have a grandiose sense of self-importance.
“In Broadmoor, not wanting to hang out with insane killers is a sign of madness.”
But if he engages with therapy, it indicates that he is getting better, and if he is getting better, the authorities will have the legal right to detain him.
Things got even crazier with corporate psychopaths.The first on the list was former CEO Al Dunlap, who goes by the nicknames ‘Chainsaw Al’ and ‘Rambo in Pinstripes’ for his ruthless business methods.
“The first obviously strange thing about Al Dunlap’s grand Florida mansion… was the unusually large number of ferocious sculptures there were of predatory animals. They were everywhere: stone lions and panthers and eagles soaring downwards, and hawks with fish in their talons and on and on…,” described Ronson.
These sculptures of predators are not only a sight to behold but also physical manifestation of Al Dunlap’s identity.
“Lions. Jaguars. Lions. Always predators. Predators. Predators. Predators. I have a great belief in and a great respect for predators. Everything I did, I had to go make happen.”
Ronson’s “The Psychopath Test” and its unique inquiry into a niche area of mental health is intriguing and lunatic that will certainly leave a deep, lasting imprint in your mind.