The resistance and the pity: Can the statistics we showed you yesterday possibly make any sense?
We refer to the statistics about the prevalence of sociopathy within our sprawling society.
When we think of "sociopaths," we may tend to think of the Hannibal Lecters—of the Hollywood version of the socio- or psychopath.
Such figures are the worst of the worst—the one in a couple of million. In conjunction with such figures, Hollywood will send Jodie Foster in to entertain us with one of our favorite entertainment hooks—the young or youngish woman subjected to maximum danger and fear.
So we entertain ourselves as we proceed on life's way. But according to the statistics we showed you, the typical "sociopath" in our midst really isn't one in a million.
In fairness, the studies we cited emerge from within the Deep State. Acknowledging that caveat, here are the data to which we refer—the data which are said to describe our real world:
In 1994, the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published (the DSM-IV)...Regarding sociopaths (the DSM uses the equivalent term Antisocial Personality Disorder or ASPD), it said that overall prevalence “in community samples is about 3% in males and 1% in females.”Can those statistics possibly be accurate? They suggest that something like 3-6 percent of American males could be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder. That's the technical diagnosis which translates to the informal term, sociopath.
Between 2001 and 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the largest study ever done regarding the prevalence of personality disorders in the United States...This study found that 6.2% of the general population would meet the criteria for [Narcissistic Personality Disorder] and 3.7% would meet the criteria for ASPD (5.5% male and 1.9% female).
Can any such statistic possibly be accurate? If so, what does it say about the our own understanding of the world in which we live?
If those statistics are basically accurate, they seem to mean that the typical "sociopath" isn't Hannibal Lecter. They mean that a type of disorder is around us in a way we may not have integrated into our general understanding of the world.
With those statistics in mind, is it possible that President Trump is, in fact, a "sociopath?" So Dr. Dodes seemed to say when he spoke with Lawrence O'Donnell on February 27.
Indeed, he even used the term "psychopathic" to describe the president's ongoing behavior! What's the difference between those two highly fraught terms? If you engage in a quick trip to Google, you'll meet an array of similar explanations—like this one.
Is President Trump a "sociopath?" We aren't qualified to offer such assessments.
Neither is Jennifer Senior, whose work we've often recommended, though we think she was very much on the right track when she seemed to say, in Monday's New York Times, that we need to drop our prissy attachment to ethical codes and start discussing "the president's cramped and disordered mind"—indeed, his "psychopathology."
Senior suggested a different, related diagnosis—Narcissistic Personality Disorder. At any rate, "Enough is enough," she correctly said. She seemed to say that it's time to discuss the possibility that the president is in the grip of a major disorder.
She seemed to say that it's time to discuss that possibility—that it's time to discuss it out loud.
In a rational world, that suggestion would make perfect sense. In our world, our upper-end press corps is about as likely to take that step as the cow is likely to jump over the moon.
In our world, our upper-end press corps is still giving this highly disordered man a chance to spew his monologues all across the nation every night of the week, in prime time.
MSNBC has started interrupting these performances to provide instant analysis and correction of facts. That said, we're very far from a world in which a discussion of the president's possible psychopathology will be undertaken within our upper-end press.
The cow is going to jump the moon before our press corps does that. And in fairness, if they tried to conduct that discussion, they would produce a huge fail.
At any rate, could 3-6 percent of American males actually be diagnosed in the manner described? Is the president in the grip of such a disorder? Does that explain his ongoing behavior?
As a culture, we're still in the Hannibal Lecter zone when it comes to such mental health concepts. We aren't real smart and we aren't very sharp, and we have a strange man in the White House.
We ourselves were told, long ago, that something like 3 percent of American adults could be diagnosed as sociopaths. The person who told us that was holding her copy of the DSM when she did.
We were surprised when we first heard that. That said, we aren't qualified to take the discussion further.
We are qualified to do this—to fire up the Google machine in search of the reported causes of this disorder. And sure enough:
At MentalHealth.gov—the site "provides one-stop access to U.S. government mental health and mental health problems information"—this brief explanation appears:
CausesYou'll find similar statements elsewhere. But according to that one brief statement, people afflicted with this disorder are both born and made.
Cause of antisocial personality disorder is unknown. Genetic factors and environmental factors, such as child abuse, are believed to contribute to the development of this condition. People with an antisocial or alcoholic parent are at increased risk. Far more men than women are affected.
Genetic factors may contribute. So may environmental factors, such as child abuse.
People with an antisocial parent are at increased risk. Is that because of some inheritance pattern, or is that because of the behavior to which the person will be subjected as a child?
We don't know the answer to that. But in this post at Psychology Today, Seth Meyers went into a bit more detail:
MEYERS (4/2/13): The sense of entitlement that comes with sociopathy is astonishing to those who abide by the social laws and conventions of our culture. Where does the entitlement come from? It stems from an underlying sense of rage. Sociopaths feel deeply angry and resentful underneath their often-charming exterior, and this rage fuels their sense that they have the right to act out in whichever way they happen to choose at the time...They are duplicity incarnate, with a polished self shown to the world and a covert, hidden self that has a rigid and calculating agenda: Assume the highest level of the social hierarchy and win, win, win.According to those assessments, sociopaths can be born and sociopaths can be made. Regarding the current subject, we will tell you this:
In the media, I'm often asked what causes sociopathy. One of the most frequently asked questions is: "Are they born this way?" The truth is that we don't know. Stout (2005) sums up the research well, explaining that as much as 50 percent of the cause of sociopathy can be attributed to heritability, while the remaining percentage is a confusing and not-yet-understood mixture of environmental factors. (Notably, a history of childhood abuse among sociopaths is not always present.) Similarly, Ferguson (2010) conducted a meta-analysis and found that 56 percent of the variance in Antisocial Personality Disorder, the formal disorder of sociopathy, can be explained through genetic influences.
In our view, President Trump got a very bad break in life. He was born to a father with terrible values. As a newborn, that was the father to whom he was brought home.
Our tribe's assessments of President Trump often stress the financial advantage he gained from his male parent. We rarely discuss the massive deficit he may have inherited and/or may have ingested in the home.
Was he subjected to child abuse? We have no way of knowing. He was sent to military school at the age of 13. This may be a suggestion that something was already wrong.
We've suggested before that we should pity the child who was Donald Trump while opposing the actions of the man. We think our resistance would be more effective were it paired with a dollop of pity—with a tragic view of the world.
At the president's nightly gong show, our press corps sits supine before him. As we expect to discuss next week, they're rarely willing to challenge his ludicrous claims and his appalling behaviors.
Our press corps isn't going to discuss the possibility that he is unwell. Noe does a classic term of pity, Rosebud, ever seem to enter our minds when he observe his appalling behavior.
Was he mistreated as a child? Did he perhaps inherit a genetic tendency toward the described disorder?
We rarely ask such questions. Like the silence of the lambs who sit before him at his "briefings;" like our enjoyment of female endangerment before the likes of Hannibal Lecter; we'll suggest that this lack of curiosity may say some things about us.
One of our most honored films ends with one word: Rosebud. Even as we beg our journalists to take a more active approach to the adult's absurd misconduct, are we able to pity the child who went home to a disordered dad?
Fuller disclosure: We've often linked to this 1968 Dylan song. Dylan seemed to describe the values and conduct of the "sociopath" while recommending pity.
Is our president mentally ill? Does he actually "lack a conscience?"
Are such matters within his control? Does it make sense to wonder or care?