This site was started in order to play a part in amplifying the increasing level of attention being paid to ponerology-related topics in the media. In keeping with this mission, over the years, I’ve posted about a variety of instances in which these topics have made news.
I’ve shared about relevant pieces that appeared on:
Surprisingly enough, there was even a ponerology-related moment on the sports network ESPN, which I also highlighted here.
What you’ll notice is that all of the aforementioned media outlets are ones with national reach. And that’s good news – pun intended – because it means that, through stories like the ones to which I’ve linked, large audiences are receiving information about, as well as being encouraged to consider, the influence of those with low empathy and conscience.
However, there is also something to be said for the impact of a story appearing in local news. Some people feel a closer tie with their local media outlets – whose personalities can come to seem almost like part of their family and with which they may have been engaging ever since childhood – and, therefore, might trust them more. Or they may feel that, if a story makes it to their local newspaper, radio program or telecast, it has more personal relevance to them than they do when they encounter it in a national outlet.
I have posted about at least one ponerology-related report from local news – a “Healthy Living” segment on KABC-TV in Los Angeles that focused on the work of Dr. Ronald Schouten and James Silver, authors of Almost a Psychopath: Do I (or Does Someone I Know) Have a Problem with Manipulation and Lack of Empathy?
But, for whatever reason, while there seems to have been a minor explosion of coverage on this subject in larger media outlets, it has been relatively rare that I’ve come across it in local media.
However, I was pleasantly surprised this week.
When I visited the homepage of the Detroit Free Press the other day, this is what I saw (see red arrow in the image below) in the list of top headlines, right underneath a nice fuzzy story about a local business leader’s charity-benefiting March Madness bracket success.
(Click image to view larger)
I was surprised because I didn’t expect to see the topic of psychopathy pop up in a hometown paper. I was even more surprised because I really didn’t expect to see it pop up there in this fashion – not just generically, but as part of a headline offering specific guidance to help people consider whether someone in a position of power over them may have the condition. Ponerology had definitely hit the Detroit Free Press.
Here is the actual article entitled “20 signs your boss might be a psychopath.”
As you can see, it is written by Michael L. Diamond and originally appeared in the Asbury Park Press, a local paper from the New Jersey city made famous by Bruce Springsteen. Asbury Park Press, like the Detroit Free Press, is a Gannett Company. So it appears that the story was taken from one local paper and then shared with other local papers owned by the same holding company. Thus, it garnered attention in various areas of the country, but did so by means of local outlets.
Diamond’s story quotes Kean University psychology professor Richard Conti. In a previous post, I’ve asked “Should Kids Learn about Ponerology in School?”. Well, although he doesn’t use (and may not know) the actual term ponerology, Conti seems to believe that, at least at the college level, they should. According to Diamond, Conti is teaching his students about “psychopathic traits found in business and government leaders,” a subject that could hardly be more central to the work of Andrew M. Lobaczewski, author of Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes, the book most responsible for popularizing the term ponerology.
Diamond mentions the public’s “complicated relationship” with leaders who are often widely admired as brilliant and strong on account of the very traits that, viewed in another light, might reveal them to be devious and dangerous.
A student of Conti’s is quoted, describing one of the characteristics of psychopaths. I see that quote – the words of a young woman expressing to a journalist her knowledge about a conscience-reducing condition that she has been taught in her school occurs among those in positions of power – as a symbol of something we desperately need more of.
Diamond then lists 20 traits associated with psychopathy, encouraging the reader to rate their boss on each to determine a final score. In the Asbury Park Press’ original version of the article, a sub-headline in big letters above the article copy implores the reader to “Take the test below to find out if your boss shows psychopathic tendencies.” If the score is high enough, Diamond even urges them to “call security.”
Now, obviously, this is not a truly valid means of assessment. A layperson cannot definitively diagnose or rule out psychopathy in anyone using a tool or method like this. But that is beside the point.
The point is that Diamond has planted a seed in his readers’ minds, just like the seed his primary article subject, Richard Conti, has planted in the minds of his students. He has provided some basic information about the kinds of characteristics exhibited by psychopaths, which is not only educational, but sure to generate curiosity. And he has nurtured that curiosity, encouraging its development into – and the application of this newfound knowledge toward – healthy questioning about the nature of authority figures.
Both Diamond and Conti are contributing to the emergence in the public of wise skepticism and an enlightened form of discriminating thinking regarding the possibility of reduced capacities for empathy and conscience among those in power. For this, they should both be commended.
I completed my primary writing about ponerology in early 2012. As I worked on it, and then for a number of months after finishing it, I kept thinking about starting a separate blog dedicated to documenting the growing number of cases in which ponerologic issues surfaced in the media. What impelled me to finally create PonerologyNews.com in early 2013 was – as described in this post about it, the very first post on this site – my discovery, at a very coincidental moment, of a Yahoo headline story about psychopathic bosses.
Now, thanks to Michael L. Diamond’s work, the first story of this type that I’ve featured here from a local newspaper is also one about psychopathic bosses.
I think the fact that that particular angle on ponerology – the possibility of psychopathy among workplace leadership – has repeatedly been key is appropriate.
Conscience-reducing disorders affect us profoundly whenever they influence our systems. They may even affect us more profoundly when they influence high levels of power structures. But it is perhaps easiest for most people new to the subject to begin to recognize their impact and relevance on a level at which they are very personally and directly affected.
The level on which this occurs most personally and directly is probably actually the family level. However, for a variety of reasons, there is often tremendous resistance, especially initially, to acknowledging such disturbing dysfunction within the family.
The next most personal and direct level at which to become conscious commonly involves a setting in which people viscerally experience the exercise – and, in some cases, abuse – of power over them on a daily basis, namely, at work. And in a climate in which the “bad boss” is a widely-accepted archetype – as lamented in countless after-work venting sessions and portrayed in iconic films and comic strips – circumstances are conducive for the awareness that is sometimes avoided in the family setting to blossom when contemplating the relationship dynamics in one’s work experience.
To be certain, it is important – and surely Diamond and Conti both appreciate it – that people ultimately recognize ponerologic influences in other areas, including family and government. That’s why I’ve included among relevant resources that I’ve shared ones that assist them in doing that.
But by focusing on psychopathic contacts, including bosses, at work – much as Robert Hare and Paul Babiak do in their highly significant and pertinent book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work – Diamond opens the door for his readers to, over time, make the necessary connections to become even more sufficiently ponerology-conscious.
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Tags: andrew m. lobaczewski, asbury park press, bosses, business, detroit free press, education, family, gannett, government, kean university, local news, media, michael l. diamond, paul babiak, political ponerology, ponerology, psychopathy, richard conti, robert hare, snakes in suits, work, workplace
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