Sociopaths R Us

Real men aren’t this obnoxious and despicable.

Professor walks into a bar. Says “I’m looking for sociopaths.” Bartender says, “Mirror’s right behind my head, sport.”

One afternoon in October 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon was looking at brain scans of serial killers. As part of a research project at UC Irvine, he was sifting through thousands of PET scans to find anatomical patterns in the brain that correlated with psychopathic tendencies in the real world.

“I was looking at many scans, scans of murderers mixed in with schizophrenics, depressives and other, normal brains,” he says. “Out of serendipity, I was also doing a study on Alzheimer’s and as part of that, had brain scans from me and everyone in my family right on my desk.”

“I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological,” he says, noting that it showed low activity in certain areas of the frontal and temporal lobes linked to empathy, morality and self-control. Knowing that it belonged to a member of his family, Fallon checked his lab’s PET machine for an error (it was working perfectly fine) and then decided he simply had to break the blinding that prevented him from knowing whose brain was pictured. When he looked up the code, he was greeted by an unsettling revelation: the psychopathic brain pictured in the scan was his own.

Interesting, huh? Maybe not really. I’ve been talking about the danger of secret sociopaths in our midst for at least a dozen years. Must not be that interesting.

Still. We keep hearing about Rahm Emmanuel and his brothers Ezekiel and Fuckface (the guy in Entourage I’ve never watched). I think, in NYT and WAPO terms, we’re supposed to admire them. I’ve always kind of taken it for granted that they were sociopaths from a family of same. Sorry. I come from a family equipped with moral conscience and empathy. My bad.

Here’s more about the confessed sociopath in the Smithsonian article:

It wasn’t entirely a shock to Fallon, as he’d always been aware that he was someone especially motivated by power and manipulating others, he says. Additionally, his family line included seven alleged murderers, including Lizzie Borden, infamously accused of killing her father and stepmother in 1892.

But the fact that a person with the genes and brain of a psychopath could end up a non-violent, stable and successful scientist made Fallon reconsider the ambiguity of the term. Psychopathy, after all, doesn’t appear as a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in part because it encompasses such a wide range of symptoms. Not all psychopaths kill; some, like Fallon, exhibit other sorts of psychopathic behavior.

“I’m obnoxiously competitive. I won’t let my grandchildren win games. I’m kind of an asshole, and I do jerky things that piss people off,” he says. “But while I’m aggressive, but my aggression is sublimated. I’d rather beat someone in an argument than beat them up…”

Of course, there’s also a third ingredient, in addition to genetics and environment: free will. “Since finding all this out and looking into it, I’ve made an effort to try to change my behavior,” Fallon says. “I’ve more consciously been doing things that are considered ‘the right thing to do,’ and thinking more about other people’s feelings.”

But he added, “At the same time, I’m not doing this because I’m suddenly nice, I’m doing it because of pride—because I want to show to everyone and myself that I can pull it off.”

You can’t pull it off. There’s always going to be something bent about you. Your first instinct will be to smash, obliterate, annihilate, and ridicule those who obstruct you. How dare they?

You give yourself away by your overreaction. See video above.

Ezekiel? We’re damned lucky you’re not a guy who tracks down human prey and leaves them in ponds with some missing trinket as trophy.

I’m not kidding. You can’t see what’s wrong with you. Obama can’t either. The rest of us, if we pause and reflect, know exactly what’s wrong. When Thanksgiving comes, you don’t give thanks. You want thanks. Pitiful you.