The other day, I was discussing with someone the recent story about George Zimmerman’s girlfriend accusing him of pointing a gun at her. We both agreed that the interesting part of the story wasn’t so much that Zimmerman was in trouble, but that Zimmerman – a man who has quite a lot of very recent baggage, not much seemingly going for him, and, having only been served with divorce papers days ago, is married – even has a girlfriend. We both wondered why a woman would want to be his girlfriend at the moment in the first place.
Apparently, Saturday Night Live did too, as they led off this weekend’s episode with a sketch in which this very question is asked.
Now, I am not claiming that George Zimmerman is a psychopath or has any other specific conscience-reducing disorder. I really have no ability to make a judgment on that. However, the conversation about his romantic situation did lead me to explain to my conversation partner that those that are psychopaths or do have certain related disorders are notorious for their ability to attract many romantic and sexual relationships. I mentioned some of the fascinating research, which I cover in my foundational page about psychopathy, about just how successful some of history’s most ruthless killers have been in spreading their genes.
Well, as so often happens after a deep discussion about an intriguing topic, it wasn’t more than a couple of days before a new, highly relevant story emerged in the news. See the rest of this entry…
Pearl Jam Promotes the Avielle Foundation, Created by Sandy Hook Victim’s Parents to Prevent Violence Through Brain Health
I’ve been a big fan of the band Pearl Jam for many years. And they just released a new album (which, incidentally, is the #1 album in the US as of this writing) so I’ve been listening to it a lot over the last few days. In particular, the album includes what I think is one of their best songs ever, “Sirens”. The song is about mortality and how fragile life and love are in the face of it.
So I’ve been grateful to them for connecting me to those issues and feelings through the song. But then, last night, they connected me to them in another way that is extremely relevant to ponerology.
Pearl Jam performed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” last night. Well, technically, their taped performance from an earlier time was played. In fact, they played a live show in Hartford, Connecticut last night. So after watching the airing of their performance on Fallon’s show, I was just looking around on Twitter to see what people were saying about it.
Instead, I ran into this tweet from the band regarding the show in Hartford:
— Pearl Jam (@PearlJam) October 26, 2013
I was instantly hit with a mix of heartbreak for the obvious tragedy the tweet alluded to and curiosity about what the “Avie Foundation” was all about.
Back in June, I came across a post by Linda Cockburn on her blog, Living the Good Life. Linda studies environmental law and her blog focuses on issues of sustainability. Its tagline is “Our ongoing attempts to live as sustainably as possible.”
The post that I came across is entitled “I am angry!” and, in it, Linda expresses her despair about the state of the world and the futility of placing hope in and comforting ourselves with small daily pro-sustainability lifestyle changes in the face of destructiveness on such a massive scale. Like many who have wrestled with this viewpoint, Linda appears to have been influenced by Derrick Jensen, since the post features an image of the graphic novel he produced along with Stephanie McMillan, As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay In Denial.
I was moved by what Linda was expressing in that post so I left a comment to share with her the idea that psychopathology may play a key role and to let her know about the field of ponerology, which has shed so much light on issues like this for me.
Linda responded right away with a comment that showed interest in those topics.
Then, a few weeks later, I got an email from Linda. She said my comment had thrown her off on a tangent looking into the ideas I had mentioned in the comment. She also said she was inspired to write an article about ponerology and how screening for psychopaths might improve workplaces, governments, the environment and the world at large. She wanted to interview me for this article.
A couple weeks after that I received a set of interview questions from Linda.
At that time, I was under the impression that Linda was writing an article for her blog that would just consist of the text of her questions and my responses. So I answered the questions at great length, thinking these would make up the bulk of her post. Only later, after I had responded, did I learn that she was actually writing a feature article for an Australian magazine called The Monthly, whose readers share an interest in law, politics and management.
Linda was then kind enough to share the early drafts of her article with me to get my feedback. As her editing process continued, though, it became clear to her that – perhaps because I had answered the questions having misunderstood their purpose or perhaps for other reasons – the information from the interview wasn’t well-suited to this particular article that she was writing, after all. However, since her questions had helped to surface some valuable information, we both agreed that it made sense for me to just post the interview, in its entirety, here on this blog.
As of this writing, Linda’s article is not yet published. If and when it is, I will link to it here.
So, without further adieu, here are Linda’s questions and my responses. See the rest of this entry…
Anderson Cooper CNN Segments on Cleveland Abductor Ariel Castro Focus on & Educate About Psychopathy
Many throughout the world consider Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who abducted three girls and held them captive for approximately ten years, a monster. On August 1, 2013, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1000 years. At the sentencing hearing that day, Castro spoke. He took this opportunity to tell the world that he is “not a monster.” In the process of doing so, he claimed that this decade long ordeal was due to his addiction to porn and also seemed to, stunningly, come very close to blaming his victims for their own abduction.
That evening, on his CNN program, Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper discussed with a number of guests the events of the hearing and Castro’s behavior during it, including his persistent shirking of responsibility. Throughout the show, the topic of psychopathy was front and center. In fact, the words “psychopath” or “psychopathy” were used 19 times during the episode. And, unlike in many cases, they were used appropriately and accurately.
What was most heartening was that Cooper, as well as several of his guests, exhibited a genuine understanding of how important it is to expose the public to and educate them about the true nature of psychopaths. A number of important lessons about them were conveyed during the episode.
The focus on psychopathy was evident right from the get-go. At the beginning of the show, before playing the first footage from the hearing, Cooper prefaced it by saying:
“Now it’s very rare to see someone who may be a true psychopath justify their crimes. Today in court on live television, we saw just that.” See the rest of this entry…
Review of The Sin of Omission: Narcissist Cologne Creator’s Book Revealing How Narcissism Fragmented Her Family
Recently, I shared news about one of the more clever products that I’ve seen in a while – Narcissist cologne made by Kim Taylor. At that time, I shared that Kim is not only a purveyor of a scent that subtly reminds us of the importance of justice and reciprocity, but that she distributes that scent through her company, the name of which also embodies those values – Fair Play Products.
In addition, Kim is a writer whose bio states that she is a “former professor of languages” who was a Fulbright Scholar.
So I was quite curious when Kim let me know that she had written a new book dealing with the topic of narcissism and related themes about which we both feel strongly and was kind enough to send me a copy. See the rest of this entry…
Personal Experiences of Help and Harm Lead Georgetown Psychologist to Brain Study of Adolescents with Psychopathic Traits
One of the most intriguing and controversial areas of ponerology is research involving children with psychopathic traits. The questions regarding nature vs. nurture are particularly numerous and potentially disturbing in these cases. And yet answering them might also offer the opportunity for developing more effective strategies to help these children, their families and those around them both while they are children and as they grow up.
Several researchers, such as Adrian Raine, have done work studying the brains and neurological responses of children who exhibit traits often found in psychopaths and today we look at another such researcher. See the rest of this entry…
National Geographic Explorer’s “Science of Evil” Considers Situational & Neurological Factors in Stories of Research, Wartime Abuses & a Serial Killer’s Baptism
Our last post was about an episode of the documentary series National Geographic Explorer called “Born to Rage,” which focused on a topic very germane to ponerology, namely “the Warrior Gene,” a genetic variant that predisposes many men to aggression and violence.
Little did I know that, in the course of researching for that post, I would come across an episode of Explorer seemingly even more precisely relevant to ponerology than that. But that is just what happened.
Ponerology is defined as “the science of evil.” And, to my surprise, I came across a 2008 episode of Explorer actually entitled “Science of Evil.”
Just as in “Born to Rage,” the main framework for this episode’s exploration is established by the narrator early on. This time the guiding quote is this:
“Evil. It is blamed for cruelty beyond our mind’s comprehension. Is it a dark force outside of us that we are all vulnerable to, that we must work to resist? Is it inside of us, a stain on the soul, a dysfunction of the brain? Or just a word used to distance ourselves from inherently human behavior?” See the rest of this entry…
Henry Rollins, Others Investigate & Get Tested for “Warrior Gene” Associated with Violence in National Geographic Explorer’s “Born to Rage”
National Geographic Explorer is the longest-running documentary series in cable television history. In its nearly 30 years on the air, it has covered a wide range of fascinating topics and been nominated for and won many awards due to the high quality of its content and production.
I recently learned about an episode of Explorer dedicated to the topic of “the Warrior Gene.”
The episode is entitled “Born to Rage.”
It opens with a question that lies right at the heart of ponerology:
“Are some people born to be violent?”
In its very next lines it answers the question:
“An extraordinary discovery suggests they are. A single gene has been directly associated with violent behavior.”
In our in-depth piece about James Fallon’s life and work, we discussed warrior genes – genes which, when represented in certain variants, are associated with violence – as well as the version of the Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) gene which, because it was the first such gene discovered, is frequently referred to as “the Warrior Gene.” It seems the warrior gene idea is gaining some traction in public discussion.
One reason for this traction is the National Geographic channel’s documentary “Born to Rage,” which features musician Henry Rollins and focuses on this topic.
I recently came across another related resource regarding warrior genes. See the rest of this entry…
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta Considers Boston Marathon Bombings in Light of Anatomy of Violence Author Adrian Raine’s Work
The release of the new book The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime by University of Pennsylvania neurocriminologist Adrian Raine has sparked a wave of media coverage of issues at the heart of ponerology.
Our last post focused on Raine’s essay “The Criminal Mind,” featured in the April 27, 2013 Wall Street Journal, in which he discussed how advances in our understanding of the genetic, neurological and environmental bases of violence are influencing our view of and approach to crime.
Now another large media outlet, CNN, has run not one, but two segments featuring Raine’s work. See the rest of this entry…