Monday, October 22, 2007

Sociopathy and the GOP

Let's return to one of my favorite topics--the disturbed mindset that seems to be running rampant in the modern conservative movement.

It's not a favorite topic in the sense that it's something I enjoy; in fact, I've had personal experience with it that is downright frightening, and it's certainly to avoid if possible. But the subject is fascinating simply because it is so important, and I think, explains so much that has gone wrong in our society over the past 25-30 years--from the S&L scandal, to supply-side economics and its huge deficits, to the phony abortion-rights debate, to the hijacking of Christianity, to the Iraq war, to the U.S. attorneys firings, to the Don Siegelman case, to the Paul Minor case, to Larry Craig and his "wide stance" . . .

Well, you get the idea. Strong evidence suggests there are some serious nut jobs running around disguised as what we might call "postmodern conservatives." These people don't look like nut jobs at first glance. They are overwhelmingly white, male, Republican, church-going, married (with children), and by God, they support our troops. What could be more wholesome?

But come across them in an up close and personal way, as I have, and you are likely to see thought processes that have jumped the tracks in a serious way. If they perceive that you have crossed them, even if you are in the right and they are in the wrong, they will do their best to make you pay.

And the scary thing about sociopaths? They, and the people who share their beliefs, are the last ones to realize something is wrong with them.

I wonder if John W. Goff thinks something is wrong with them. He's the Alabama insurance executive who filed a lawsuit in March against Alabama Governor Bob Riley and others, claiming they conspired to drive him out of the insurance business.

Important background on the Goff case is available at the Insurance Journal.

Through his lawsuit, Goff was seeking to have Riley answer questions under oath about sources of funds to the governor's campaign. Less than a month ago, Scott Horton of Harper's reported that the Goff lawsuit was causing serious heartburn in the Riley camp, and Riley had gone to U.S. Attorney Leura Canary in an effort to make it "go away."

Remember, it was Canary's office that brought the case against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, which will be the focal point of a Congressional hearing today. Is that kind of scrutiny of concern to Canary & Co. Evidently not. Published reports indicate her office is preparing to indict Goff.

This comes just seven months after Goff filed a lawsuit against Riley and a month or so after Riley reportedly was trying to find a way to make the suit "go away."

Now I'm a psychiatrist in the way Lucy is a psychiatrist in the Peanuts comic strips. I can give you my unprofessional opinion for five cents, and it may not be worth a whole lot. But if you read a little about sociopathy and then read about the Goff story, the Siegelman story, the Paul Minor story (and many others), the objective mind tends to see tell-tale signs that something's amiss.

Want to know more about sociopathy? Here's a good story at Salon, an interview with Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door.

Who is a sociopath? It's someone without a conscience, someone who cannot empathize with others. Stout estimates that four percent of the U.S. population are sociopaths, and she says that estimate is conservative.

"Conceptually, for the purposes of the book, I'm talking about people who have exhibited symptoms such as extreme deceitfulness, lack of remorse, lack of personal responsibility, and a general desire to control people and make them jump," Stout says.

Do most sociopaths commit really heinous crimes?

"No," Stout says. "Most sociopaths are not violent and probably never will be. They are the people you see every day: The boss who likes to ridicule people. The seduce-and-abandon lover who does this mainly for fun. The person who marries for money or prestige and no apparent other reason. These people aren't necessarily serial killers, but they cause a lot of harm."

How do you spot a sociopath?

"If someone lies to you once or twice, it could be a misunderstanding. If someone lies to you three times, then chances are you're dealing with a liar. And deceit is the central behavior of sociopathy."

Deceit also is a central theme in the cases we've discussed on this blog. The latest of those involves John W. Goff.

Is someone abusing the justice system in order to silence Mr. Goff and deprive him of his legal rights? In essence, is someone trying to shut Mr. Goff up? We can't know for sure at the moment, but evidence certainly suggests that.

And interestingly, the Legal Schnauzer recently had an experience similar to that of Mr. Goff, the kind where someone seems interested in shutting someone up.

More on that in a bit.

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