Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Edward Snowden and independent thinking

The reaction to Edward Snowden coming forward as the source for the NSA leaks has been interesting and varied, from clear signs of support to accusations of him being a traitor. I think the most interesting (and possibly the most prevalent reaction) is a little bit of fear mixed in with some what-is-he-thinking-could-he-really-be-that-naive and a lot of judgment guised as that's-not-how-I-would-have-done-it (this last one is the most hilarious to me -- you would never have done it, so any analysis of how you would have done it in a non-existent reality goes beyond mere speculation to pure fantasy). Like Monday morning quarterbacks, these people have questioned his decisions from things like his choice of an extradition-lite hideaway to his decision to come forward (as if him outting himself affects in anyway whether the U.S. government knows who he is and is trying to track him down) to whether he was able to save enough money to live on or if he is now completely unemployable for the rest of his life.


For as popular as Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" is, particularly during graduation speech season, there is a pretty clear social norm that favors steady job white picket fence 2 1/2 children and people that dare violate this norm can be very polarizing. On the one hand, most seem to acknowledge that there are great men and women that have bucked the trends and led to important advancements to us as a species. On the other hand, people who buck the trend present a lot of problems for society, at the very least because there is no comfortable pigeonhole to confine them to. This discomfort is often expressed in terms of these people being "unpredictable" or "untrustworthy". From Megan McArdle with the Daily Beast, "Whistleblowers Are Weird":

Human institutions, from the family to the government, are founded by trust.  You need to be able to trust the people you work with, at least to the extent of being able to predict their future behavior.  You may think you don't trust that rat down the hall, but in fact, you do trust him quite a lot: not to come into work with a machete and hack you to death in order to secure your superior office chair, not to start randomly swearing at clients, and so forth.

Some of that trust is enforced by fear of the consequences.  But a lot of our ability to make a credible committment to be trustworthy comes from the fact that we are hard wired to be loyal. . . . You would feel bad about yourself if you [broke that trust].

That's why psychopaths are so dangerous: they don't have any of the internal brakes, the shame and guilt, that keep the rest of us from blatantly violating the trust of people around us.  Oh, of course we do betray people from time to time--we break promises, forget to call our grandmothers, and engage in the guilty pleasure of gossiping about friends.  But the hallmark of these betrayals is that they are impulsive and unjustified.  Psychopaths feel no guilt about doing these things--or stealing your money, your wife, and your dog.  They are fundamentally untrustworthy, though also, thankfully rare.

This reasoning seems flawed -- the reason why the rat down the hall doesn't machete you is because he is hardwired to be loyal? She's correct that if you're worried about someone harming you, the world of possibilities includes both intentional bad behavior (which she suggests that only sociopaths commit because they don't feel shame and guilt and these "brakes" on bad behavior are both apparently necessary to avoid bad behavior and also infallible?) and the unintentional bad behavior of everyone else (which she suggests is always impulsive). She says that we need to trust people to predict their future behavior (says no statistician, behavioral economist, or psychologist ever because currently the best predictor of future behavior is not trust or loyalty but past behavior). But of the two possibilities of bad behavior, which is more predictable? The sociopath's? (Who is almost the quintessential economic rational actor.) Or the "impulsive and unjustified" (i.e. no apparent or reasonable triggers or other identifiable causes) behavior of the non-sociopath?

Nor does someone's trust or the apparent level of predictability of a person constrain his behavior. You can trust the rat down the hall all you want, but that doesn't mean that your trust in him will keep him from someday putting a machete in your back. The best you could say about him is that his past behavior doesn't indicate an above average risk of being a murderer and/or that the chance is already so low and there are so many competing dangers vying for our attention that it's simply not worth the effort of thinking about who exactly could kill you. At this point, though, we are simply talking about probabilities of behavior and "impulsive and unjustified" are almost by definition random and unpredictable.

What is apparently happening here is that McArdle and many others intuit that there is something particularly unknowable about whistleblowers and sociopaths. Uncertainty like this does in fact increase both actual and perceived risk. But there's nothing terribly "unknowable" about them. In fact, in a lot of ways they are less complicated than most people -- the one hyper-rational ruled by self-interest and the other an ideologue that can't be bought off by even a $200,000 a year cushy government salary. Which makes me think this is the real crux of the issue. The scary thing about a whistleblower or any other independent thinker is that he is not as constrained by social norms. This is evidenced for the whistleblower by his rejection of the picket fence and golden retriever lifestyle. For most people, it's possible to constrain their behavior with so-called golden handcuffs -- all the materialistic trappings of a comfortable life in exchange for unquestioning loyalty, including submitting one's will to one's employer, one's government, the police, and even one's parent teacher association. The norm is enforced as heartily as it is because although the majority acknowledges that they can gain big from independent thinking, they can't have everyone constantly questioning the most basic of social rules as it would lead to chaos and a weakening of the social contract. And people are incredibly and irrationally loss averse, so given the choice they would rather keep what they have than chance it on someone who who already comes off as a bit of an outsider (how do we even know he has our best interests at heart? how can we "trust" him to make the right decisions? isn't this why we have a government heavily dominated by administrative agencies so we could sub-contract out important decisions like this and never have to consider them ourselves?).

Thus, the uncertainty lies not in the behavior of the independent thinker, which is actually quite predictably independent, but whether he is right or not. The problem is that although we say that everyone is free to act according to his own best judgment, the "right" thing to do with that freedom as far as the majority is concerned is to marry, own a house, be gainfully employed, and have at least two children. Only then are you considered sufficiently invested in society that you become "predictable" to us, in that we know you have too much to lose to take any major risks ("freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"). And if its one thing the financial crisis has taught us, it is that one person's actions can ripple through the entire global economy. Of course that applies for good things as well as bad, but how can we know ahead of time which is which? This is particularly a problem when (most?) people (inaccurately and unreliably) gauge the rightness or wrongness of decisions by imagining what they themselves would have done in that situation, and the thoughts and decisions of an independent thinker are difficult for many to fathom. (Of course, despite this inherent uncertainty, there are people who feel very comfortable assigning themselves the role of arbiter of good and bad. These people form the rank and file of the social norm police).

Still McArdle does make an interesting acknowledgment that the things that make people seem different and even unappealing to us are the very traits that make them socially beneficial:

We may well end up grateful to Edward Snowden, and also find that we don't like him very much. Of course, Edward Snowden probably doesn't care. After all, if he cared about people liking him as much as the rest of us do, he probably wouldn't have been able to do with he did.

140 comments:

  1. Kudos to him. The man has big balls.

    I am sure this website and others are under surveillance. ME herself has taken a risk to "out" herself by writing a book and that is a big risk as well.

    Not everyone is in a position to live life this way, but I respect people who do.

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  2. If this guy is honest, I am definitely her fan. He had the noble intentions and he had the courage. He is the abuse fighter in this case, just the opposite at what M.E. is. And the “system”, in this case, the abuser. It is a good illustration that evil and good is not related to where the power is.

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  3. oh god, how i hate the hypocrisy of 9-5ers.

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    1. Come on, they could be worse, they could be sociopaths.

      Mr.Snowden makes me believe in humankind...

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    2. Mr.Snowden makes me believe in humankind...

      Mr. Snowden is a deviant. Deviants are my favorite kind of human. They are much more interesting than 'Joe the Plumber' types.

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    3. Good brave humans are my favorite kind of human, sad they are rare. The evil and the coward are equally uninteresting but the first (specially combined with silent of the second) create a lot of undesirable clutter that has to be taken care of. Hopefully one they there will be a systematic way to prevent their mess.

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    4. Good brave humans are as deviant as evil selfish humans. That's why stories like Bowden's are so noteworthy. Sticking one's ahead up above the miasma of the average is not the norm.

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    5. Edit: Snowden. Meh, close enough for gubment work.

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    6. It is not about being different for the sake of being different. The shame is when courage is required to do the right thing and people step back. There was once when I decided to do nothing against the misconduct of someone and just left the "boat" saving myself, and it was because I estimated that the cowardice of the others didn't make them worth of being "rescued".



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    7. It is not about being different for the sake of being different.

      Sure it is. It’s a way to stand above the crowd. Of course, that’s probably not the conscious motivation. But it's there nonetheless. It makes the “hero” feel like a hero, which makes him different. If everyone was heroic, then the ideal would lose what little meaning it has left.

      I estimated that the cowardice of the others didn't make them worth of being "rescued".

      How unaltruistic of you. Who are you to decide who’s worthy of being “rescued” and who isn’t? Or was your decision a reflection of your prioritizing your self interest above that of the ‘unworthy’ others?

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    8. A hero just cares about fighting for the ideals he believes in, not about being a hero. The sociopathic version you describe is not very heroical...

      "Who are you to decide who’s worthy of being “rescued” and who isn’t?"

      The owner of my actions.

      "Or was your decision a reflection of your prioritizing your self interest above that of the ‘unworthy’ others?"

      It was purely based on my principles.

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    9. A hero just cares about fighting for the ideals he believes in, not about being a hero. The sociopathic version you describe is not very heroical...

      Of course that’s the story the purported hero tells himself. But on an unconscious level, it’s a different story entirely. No one just cares about fighting for ideals. Humans are much too complicated for that kind of simplicity. Well, most humans are. The mind of the intellectually challenged probably is that simple.

      Besides which, one woman’s hero is another woman’s villain. Heroism is a vacuous concept.

      It was purely based on my principles.

      What principle leads you to judge one human as worthy while another one isn’t? What expertise do you bring to the table which enables you to distinguish between humans and sociopaths who hide behind a veneer of normality? For someone who claims to respect heroism, you are quite xenophobic. Do you think a fire fighter stops to decide who is and isn’t worth rescuing from a burning building? Does the doctor who takes the Hippocratic Oath seriously refuse to assist an ill patient who may or may not be a sociopath?

      You aren’t as good a person as you believe yourself to be, are you?

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    10. hey ME,

      thanks so much for a great book - i'm 2/3 of the way through. you write awesomely. as always. i love the way the words flow through my brain.

      very cool that you're a "she"

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    11. oops posted in the wrong spot. hi Daniel!

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    12. “No one just cares about fighting for ideals. Humans are much too complicated for that kind of simplicity. Well, most humans are. The mind of the intellectually challenged probably is that simple.”

      I do really think that people can just care about fighting for ideals. I don’t know what makes you think that it is simple to have them, dogs don’t have ideals. Maybe most humans are much too complicated to be like a dog, besides the intellectually challenged.

      “one woman’s hero is another woman’s villain.”

      A villain is such because of her conduct, as much as the hero. To render justice is heroic not villain. So no, a woman’s hero is not another woman’s villain.

      “What principle leads you to judge one human as worthy while another one isn’t?”

      Their behavior, as much as with sociopaths. In the case I was talking, that group knowing there was misconduct taking place decided to look to the other side. So they were just worthy of the same attitude. Retributive justice.

      “You aren’t as good a person as you believe yourself to be, are you?”

      I don’t do things to rate better in a good person chart. I stand for the things I believe to be good, that’s all.

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    13. Jessi, you have almost turned missing the point into an art form. Almost.

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    14. That's because you insist on shooting out of the target. I have to refocus ;)

      The hero is not called xenophobe when he kills the villain.

      Talking about the doctor, the fireman and... Mr.Snowden, I also believe that ones values are above professional oaths, when compromised, which doesn't happen daily.

      Jessi

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    15. ideals are a crutch for lazy thinkers. pretty little blindfolds. keeping you calm, plodding steadily onward. like horse blinkers!

      careful jess.. pacman eater pill is lurking

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    16. haha

      sorry am really tired and i get a little stupid when i'm really tired. i like it. it would be nice to be dull normal for a change. like a mental vacation.

      heya daniel. wasssssupp! how's life? i'm moving, and have so much to do!! gas company messed up my closing date and cut my gas today so no dinner for me. gas is back but i'm too tired/lazy to eat. somebody hand feed me!!!

      :)

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  4. Replies
    1. I like the part when she mentions that past behaviour is the best predictor for future behaviour. So suited for sociopath stigmatization.

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    2. She got that from me. I put that in the forum and it is true.

      People that will lie, steal and cheat continue to lie steal and cheat.

      It is like people date someone who cheats with them on their wife. Then they leave their wife but they will never cheat on you.

      Or pathological liars. But of course they tell you the truth.



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  5. Dear M.E,
    Is the reason why you are such an articulate and well written person
    because you were restricted in the use of computers as a child because
    of your Mormon faith?
    I'm only (crudely) learning how to use computers in my middle 50's-I was
    a very well read person too-and let me say that the most baffeling thing
    about a so-called "evil" person is the quality of the product she turns
    out. Why, if I didn't know any better I'd think that you did your
    "homework" on sociopaths and came up with this novel idea to present
    yourself as one.
    The Mormon faith is "funny." You've got everyone from Travis Alexander
    to Glen Beck. There's no doubt that if you follow this faith you reap
    benefits. The chief being disipline. But how disiplined was Travis?
    Oh well, Boys will be boys. And,that probably accounts for why I have a
    such a difficult time pitchering you as a sociopath. Female sociopaths
    are rare. 3%? Male sociopaths make up 10%. The females are usually label
    ed borderlines or histrionics.
    Female sociopaths are on the "masculine" side. They've got more testosterone then the average woman. That accounts for thier promiscuity. Testosterone is responsible for the sex drive even in women.
    In fact, there are some who theorize that the Joan of Arc, (And other
    "manly" women) might have a medical condition of "hidden" testicals
    that never desended.
    Casey Anthony was evaluaded by the two state-appointed psychatrists to be "masculine" for a female. They could find no other signs of pathology. In the Arias trial, we heard of tests that measure agression
    thought to be a "male" trait.
    Women are catching up with the men in any case. Have you read a book
    called "The Raise of Women, And The Fall Of Men? It states that women
    are moving in to areas that were once male dominated bastions. Women
    are getting the high-paying professional jobs that men once held. They
    are being better educated and progressing in all areas. They are often
    forced to do the work of two because they have to care for children.
    In the colages women encounter two types of men: the Players and the Losers.
    A "player" is an alpha type male; A "man with a plan." He has definate
    goals and knows his own mind. He probably has a string of women on the
    side and is a likely sociopath-a John Edwards type. A "loser" is not
    necessarily a 'nere-do-well" he might be apporiately attaired, be he's
    a "middling" type of fellow, probably spoiled by his mother and stayed
    home to long. If the newly agressive women breed with the "player" types
    you can imagine that the sociopath/psychopath population is going to
    grow by leaps and bounds. There's a genetic component to sociopathy.
    Think of a world dominated by Caseys Jodis and Madeoffs!

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    1. You are very simplistic. I have a ton of testosterone and am a female non-sociopath. I have a ton of empathy.

      I am also very combative and aggressive. I grew up being beaten up by men.

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    2. Ha ha. I'm stuck back on the part where you are assuming Mormons are restricted from computers. Where do people get their weird ideas about Mormons? They are hilarious. I can assure you, Mormons are allowed to use computers.

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  6. Very well written and thoughtful, Emmie! Yes, I know you have a name and for all the 'harm' Dr. Phil caused, I never thought to combine the two letters and make a name. Go Philly!

    I cannot predict how I would react in any unforeseen scenario. The Milgram experiment suggests that the majority of people incorrectly predict their own predicted behavior (I apologize for that mess of a phrase). People judge their future actions on their perception of the morality of a situation, because they believe that they are good and will always do 'the right thing'. In reality, most people are mind-blind, as you put it, and cannot even imagine extenuating circumstances that would cause them to act out of alignment with their morals. Some people even warp reality by padding their previous actions with convenient lies, such that they have always acted morally. Sure, I make excuses to get out of trouble, but I do not for a second believe in the bullshit I peddle.

    I have sufficient experience to say that I will probably never be a whistleblower. I have had such opportunities in the past, but I'm not Spock. If I take some very costly action, it will be because I am too stupid to realize the consequences of what I'm doing. There is no such thing as objective morality, except that which states 'What is good for me is good for me.' Now, that moral compass might not point North as others would see it, but the way society is structured, 90% of what's good for me is good for you too.

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    1. "Some people even warp reality by padding their previous actions with convenient lies"

      That's why it is important to get the record straight on the facts.

      Mr.Snowden is a Hero. Not because he is a whistleblower because he is fighting abuse by doing so.

      "There is no such thing as objective morality, except that which states 'What is good for me is good for me.'"

      What about the categorical imperative? "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction."

      "the way society is structured, 90% of what's good for me is good for you too."

      You might be leaving in another society...

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    2. So, Andy, are you back to your real self after a period of "enlightenment"? ;)

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    3. "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"

      I like this phrase. Janis Joplin’s voice was one of a kind.

      What about the categorical imperative?

      What about it? There is no evidence which suggests, nor reason to believe, that Kantian ethics are objective. There are no ethical facts, so to speak.

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    4. Well, there is the concept of ethical objectivism. I guess that's in the line were Andy was defending ethical egoism.

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    5. The existence of a concept doesn't mean that the concept points to anything real, of course. Sure, people use words like objective morality or moral realism (to distinguish it from Ayn Rand's Objectivism). But people also use words like God and Santa Claus and justice too.

      I've looked into this closely. As far as I can tell, there is no 'objective morality'.

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    6. This guy has bollas. Very few people would risk themselves like he did. That dip Feinstein says he did treason and that is punishable by death. She and her ilk do treason, but that is another sad story

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    7. "The existence of a concept doesn't mean that the concept points to anything real, of course."

      As much as sociopathy as a personality disorder ;)

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    8. Jessi, I've demonstrated that I understand your point of view and that I'm able to convincingly argue from your perspective. Emmie asked for that perspective, and I as Devil's Advocate provided it. I am no more or less enlightened than I was yesterday.

      What I lack in emotional empathy I make up for in cognitive empathy. You may dream of a man who shares your hope and pain, your joy and sorrow, who experiences your life vicariously through you. You write off people like me, cognitive empaths, although we are the only people you'll ever meet who can see your mind and heart. Nobody you will ever meet will understand you as well as someone like me.

      You can call me a monster or a sociopath if you like, I don't mind. I recognize that everyone is the center of their own universe, as I am of mine. I treat everyone with kindness, respect, and understanding. I am patient, diligent, honest, and trustworthy. Can you step into my shoes, into Emmie's shoes, and see the world through our eyes? If not, who is more deserving of the title of empath?

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    9. (it went to the wrong place...)


      Andy, it is not hard to guess "my perspective" since it is the one of common sense ;), the fact that sociopaths try to defend the untenable in order to continue their life of selfishness doesn’t make reality any more complex. To say "enlightenment" was sarcastic, you showed your tail the first day, remember? And I am the one who believes in evilness as an everlasting characteristic.

      I value people for their capacity to love with proficiency, so you might not qualify for that ;) Someone like you will never understand someone like me, remember I know already one. And no, he played he was able to understand me, but he wasn’t. And, though I wanted to trust him, I never could. I was investigating him as much as he was investigating me and he was very bad at my enquiries. I always wondered why he was so bad at letting me know him, and at the end I found why: he was empty. He also said, he could not read me, probably that's one of the reasons I interested him.

      “If not, who is more deserving of the title of empath?”

      The one who does not scam, use and abuse others, always.

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    10. Touche Andy?

      It is obscene to ask “who is more deserving of the title of empath?” because a sociopath presumably understands others, when they just do it in order to suceed at abusing others. They get the title of misanthropic not of empath.

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    11. Whatever else you may be, you are certainly informative, Jessi. I'm beginning to understand what it's like not only to be dehumanized, but to be disallowed the right to have a perspective.

      And you feel completely justified in this. It is literally impossible for you to see the world any other way. There is no hope for anyone in your eyes who does not completely understand and accept your opinion as absolute, objective truth. You really are the perfect example of an empath.

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    12. ^BINGO! Andy Glass is on a roll today.

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    13. It's a Pyrrhic victory as far as my faith in humanity is concerned. I'd really much rather be wrong.

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    14. Out of curiosity, is it really that you are losing faith in your own ability to truly 'become' one of them? Or no?

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    15. "There is no hope for anyone in your eyes who does not completely understand and accept your opinion as absolute, objective truth"

      That's not the thing, the sentence is: there is no hope for a sociopath in my eyes.

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    16. DB, that's not a simple question. When I was playing Devil's Advocate I felt righteous. That's an addicting feeling, to be the good person (empath) who stands against evil (sociopath). It filled me with conviction, and my nameless brothers and sisters, along with aspie and Jessi stood alongside me, while Emmie stood largely alone.

      I am capable of playing a part so well that I internalize it. However, I will always change colors in a new environment, like a chameleon. I think the possibility of being consistent in every situation has been lost to me. It is in my nature to change.

      No, I am sad because Jessi has convinced me that the world is full of blind people, and they all shout, "I can see!"

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    17. Andy-
      It's amusing that Jessi become the empath poster child. I beg to differ. The inability to respectfully consider another's perspective strikes me as rather narcissistic.
      Empaths are capable of putting themselves in others shoes.
      Jessi has lots of feelings, but that doesn't mean human dignity (esp that of others is a priority)

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    18. Fortunately, Andy, you are the blind one who accepts his blindness, no? ;)

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    19. It is not empathic to place oneself in the shoes of the persecutor rather than in the shoes of his victims. Human dignity it is also about in which side to stand.

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    20. The day I claim that I know everything is the day I prove that I know nothing.

      Mach, I meant to say Jessi is representative of most empaths. That, unfortunately, is true.

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    21. By the way, I never stood alongside you, I stood with what you said, which I guess that it's similar when you "stand alongside" with Birdick and Mach, plus other regulars.

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    22. Tell me what you want from me, Jessi. You consistently reply to the comments I make, though I rarely reply to your thoughts on Emmie's posts. You see me as a sociopath with no hope for salvation, so you cannot be trying to change me. You refuse to believe that any of my perspectives are worth consideration, so you cannot be trying to learn from me. Sociopaths will never have your empathy, so you cannot be trying to understand me.

      I swear, if you do not give me an answer I can believe, I will not 'speak' another word to you. I have learned you Jessi, and if you want more attention from me, you will have to earn it.

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    23. "and if you want more attention from me, you will have to earn it."

      What's that? I haven't heard something like that since primary school I guess. I am an adult Andy, I don't make calls for attention. I reply to your comments when I have something to say to them. I replay to Mme. Lund when I have something to say to her posts. I don't try to change anybody, I don't believe in that, but I don't think your perspectives are not worth consideration, even if it's just for the way you expose them, they interest me. That's way I read them and answer them.

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    24. One thing about empathy “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” What is to be empathetic with a sociopath if they don’t have feelings, well, to empty yourself of feelings for them to. That is to place yourself in their shoes.

      Some people mix empathy with what they would feel in the others shoes as being themselves not the other one. That is not empathy, that’s projection of oneself.

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    25. Very well, I'm satisfied. You can be so frustrating sometimes, Jessi, you have no idea!

      I understand what it is like to both feel and not feel. Don't focus on the lack of emotion, try to focus on selfishness. Everything I do, I do for me. Usually, getting what I want involves cooperating with others and getting them to like me. People that like me are much more likely to forgive my mistakes and transgressions. I don't go around hurting people because that tarnishes my image and subverts my goals. Everyone indulges in selfish thoughts, but if you want to empathize with a sociopath, let those indulgences fill you. You'll realize that to get what you want requires you to get along well with others, and non-criminal sociopaths are largely invisible because they are not outwardly different from you or me.

      What is worse, to be rotten inside but perform good acts, or to do rotten things but believe yourself to be good inside?

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    26. “You can be so frustrating sometimes, Jessi, you have no idea!”

      It is very frustrating discussing with manipulators too.

      “I understand what it is like to both feel and not feel. Don't focus on the lack of emotion, try to focus on selfishness.”

      Everything you do you do it for you and at the expense of others because you have no feelings. I don’t think it’s possible to understand extreme selfishness without the hollowness.

      “non-criminal sociopaths are largely invisible because they are not outwardly different from you or me”

      Non-criminal sociopaths are largely invisible because humans have a big amount of very superficial relationships, and in that type of relationships people tend not to examine how the other one is. They have enough presuming others are nice. On the surface we all appear similar.

      “What is worse, to be rotten inside but perform good acts, or to do rotten things but believe yourself to be good inside?”

      Both cases are extremely rare if they do exist at all. I have more hope for someone in the second case, the person can learn he is doing rotten things and will change his behavior. The first one, is a time bomb.

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    27. I have been almost completely honest here, which is reckless and stupid, to be frank. I have nothing to gain by lying, and I have gained enormously by being honest. So, while I know you've labeled me a sociopath and are unlikely to believe a single word I write, I will nevertheless be honest with you.

      I do nothing at the expense of others. Everybody who interacts with me comes out ahead. There is very little cost or risk to being kind to others, being nice, and helping them. The rewards associated with this behavior are quite large. I have no desire to hurt anyone, the reward, a sick sense of satisfaction, hardly measures up to the cost.

      You know and understand absolutely nothing about me. I am not your sociopath. Emmie's stories about manipulating people, breaking hearts, and feeling murderous jar me as much as they do you. I might be capable of those things, if I were feeling self-destructive, but I have never engaged in any of them.

      The reason you frustrate me is because you've filled yourself with the lie that you understand me, and you prove with every word that you do not. I don't like being frustrated, but I fear that you are incapable of change. You gave me a decent reason to continue talking to you, but I don't think I want to subject myself to your abuse anymore. I gain nothing from it.

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    28. “I have been almost completely honest here, which is reckless and stupid, to be frank.”

      From what you said derives the image I have of you.

      “The reason you frustrate me is because you've filled yourself with the lie that you understand me, and you prove with every word that you do not.”

      I have an opinion about you, I have never claimed that I understand you.

      “I don't think I want to subject myself to your abuse anymore.”

      We have exchanged ideas and I have always been polite with you.

      Delete
    29. There is an obtuseness to Jessi’s mind that is frustrating at times. She clings to her dogmatic self righteousness the way fundamentalists of all stripes do. And yes, in a way, she is representative of a lot of normals.

      The ironic thing is, she misconstrues her lack of compassion as moral clarity. In reality, her faux moral clarity is in fact an intellectual and psychological weakness. An astute manipulator could easily take advantage of the chink in her armor.

      Delete
    30. Polite? All you do is insult me! You call me manipulative, and say that I constantly hurt others for my own selfish gain. You can call me cold and unemotional, but you cannot extrapolate my personality and actions from those traits.

      Even if the things you said were true, it's still very callous and insulting. You don't call every fat, stupid and ugly person fat stupid and ugly, do you?

      And don't tell me it's your opinion. You are allowed an opinion on matters for which there is no known objective truth. Concerning my actions and how I treat others, there is an objective truth, though you will never know it. Based on how you act here, no matter how much you frustrate me, I never claim to know how you act in real life. Maybe you're a really nice, kind person, and maybe you're a total bitch. The fact is that I don't know, and will never claim to know.

      If you are the same there as you are here, then you should know that sometimes you sound ignorant and cruel, and you should consider the fact that sociopaths, while lacking emotions, can be hurt just the same as you can. Or at least I can, but then you're the one who insists I'm a sociopath, not I.

      Delete
    31. Andy,"Concerning my actions and how I treat others, there is an objective truth, though you will never know it. "

      As I said, I have an opinion of how you are from what you state and defend here. You can re-check everything you've wrote to see I am just placing in you actions and attitudes what you have claimed yourself. If you don't want to talk about something, don't make it yourself the subject of the conversation. If you say something like "Don't focus on the lack of emotion, try to focus on selfishness. Everything I do, I do for me." then don't complain when I say you are selfish. The same with the rest.

      But, if you just want me to talk about the weather with you let me know.

      Birdick, you also get be upset if I say I think you are a sociopath? Do you think Andy is one? So, what is the the chink in my armor?

      Jessi

      Delete
    32. Birdick, you also get be upset if I say I think you are a sociopath?

      Nah. I’ve been ‘diagnosed’ with several personality and developmental disorders by a variety of random commenters over the years. I even had an internet psychologist confidently proclaim that I am a psychopath, even though he’s never met me face to face. I take it all in stride. Their ‘diagnoses’ said more about them than they ever did me.

      Do you think Andy is one?

      I find Andy interesting. He’s clearly psychologically literate and insightful. I also found his admission of having a surfeit of cognitive empathy and a dearth of affective empathy revealing. Per Simon Baron-Cohen, this particular combination is indicative of psychopathy. But then again, who knows. Andy swears he doesn’t behave like a sociopath. What else do we have to go by?

      So, what is the the chink in my armor?

      Your belief. If what you’ve written here really is how you think, then depending on a manipulators goals, all he need do is convincingly validate what you already want to hear. That’s step one at least. (Of course, you’ll deny that, since you’re too smart and aware to fall for anything so obvious.)

      But what’s interesting about you is that in contradiction of all your righteous indignation, you’re still here. Why? Do you have a need to feel superior to those you consider damaged and/or evil? Do you on some level doubt that you are as right as you think you are?

      Delete
    33. "Their ‘diagnoses’ said more about them than they ever did me."

      Like this you are never getting cured!!

      "surfeit of cognitive empathy and a dearth of affective empathy revealing."

      You frustrate me differently than Andy. He reminds me too much of my spath. I find his tricks illogical. I don't know if his accusing pity play is really an evolution since when he called me Hitler. Sometimes I think he is just a more evolved version of Monica ( sorry, that was too tough, Andy, I wont say it again).

      "all he need do is convincingly validate what you already want to hear"

      I don't just listen, I test. Someone can give me a fake speech, but I will accept the speech alone till I validate he does believe in it. I wont accept his volunteered actions either, just the ones in response to my tests. Someone with believes doesn't just play it well, there are no contradictions in his actions, ever. Manipulators are not good improvisers.

      I feel I still have to learn about you. That's why I'm still here.

      Jessi

      Delete
    34. How, pray tell, do I frustrate you?

      As for your tests of valor... well that's what you tell yourself, sure. But those sentiments are mere rationalizations, empty thoughts you repeat to yourself to make yourself feel more secure than you actually are. You do not grasp the chain of cause and effect which lead to those thoughts. I also suspect that you underestimate the power your unconscious mind has on your behavior. A subtle and calculated use of the truth would probably be more effective in bypassing your defenses than you care to believe. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, nothing deceives quite like the truth.

      I feel I still have to learn about you.

      ;-)

      What do you have to learn about me and why?

      Delete
    35. Jessi is giving us all this attention, it's only fair she gets some!

      Jessi talks very little about her personal life and her experiences with her sociopath, even though she's here on SW. Jessi's sociopath hurt her pretty badly, and broke her heart. What she does here is try to find the strength necessary to resist such people in the future. She seems so stubborn because she is practicing resistance. In fact, a number of the things we say ring true to her, but she vehemently denies them. She [i]must[/i] be strong.

      What she doesn't realize is that the strength to resist people like me, DB, and Emmie comes with a price. She must harden her heart to everyone and lose her ability to trust people. She will try to close herself to only the sociopaths, but she'll come to realize that everyone is a little sociopathic. Everyone is a little selfish.

      Consciously or unconsciously, I did the same thing. My 'trauma' was stupid and childish, but I lost hope and the ability to trust people. I became cold and protected myself from future pain. Jessi, it's already started, the hardening of your heart, the cooling of blood in your veins. You will end up like us, and you'll find it's not so easy to return to the person you once were.

      Of course, this is all another trick, another manipulation tactic by the mean old sociopath. You'll deny me and everything I say, just as you always have done. You need your strength, your conviction, to rise above the person you were, the person who fell prey to a sociopath once before.

      You have a choice, Jessi, continue on this path and become sociopathic like me, or open your heart and have a chance at love, even if it carries some small risk that you'll find another sociopath. You survived once before, you don't need to make yourself any stronger. You're strong enough, so live your life and believe that there are good people out there, people who will love you and would never want to hurt you, because they would share your pain.

      Delete
    36. I also found his admission of having a surfeit of cognitive empathy and a dearth of affective empathy revealing. Per Simon Baron-Cohen, this particular combination is indicative of psychopathy.

      Really?

      This, just as I had finally convinced myself that I'm *not* a psychopath. :P

      Delete
    37. Birdick,

      I think you underestimate the power of analysis of the unconscious mind too ;)

      “To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, nothing deceives quite like the truth.” Are you sure that is not paraphrasing Moriarty? I can imagine Holmes doubting on appearances but never about the truth, which is by definition, not deceiving, otherwise it wouldn’t be the truth.

      "What do you have to learn about me and why?"

      Human mind interests me and as I said I don’t feel I know enough of yours.

      Andy,

      “Jessi's sociopath hurt her pretty badly, and broke her heart. What she does here is try to find the strength necessary to resist such people in the future.”

      What “broke my heart” was the vision of evilness, not really him since he was a fake. Once you know it is a fake there is no need for resistance, no one wants a fake.

      “a number of the things we say ring true to her, but she vehemently denies them”

      Tell me which ones because I am not getting those.

      “She must harden her heart to everyone and lose her ability to trust people.”

      I’m more cautious, I test more, by I don’t trust less, some people pass my tests and I trust them.

      “She will try to close herself to only the sociopaths, but she'll come to realize that everyone is a little sociopathic. Everyone is a little selfish.”

      I am glad to have met excellent people in my life too. I don’t know what is that “little selfishness” you are talking about. But related to the people I know and love, it is a selfishness that collapses in front of important ethical issues and values. I have seen that enough times to be certain. I believe in evilness but also in goodness. I’ve seen both.

      “Jessi, it's already started, the hardening of your heart, the cooling of blood in your veins”

      I am convinced that it is not being cold which is going to protect me from pain but being warm with the right people.

      “to rise above the person you were, the person who fell prey to a sociopath once before.”

      I thought I have explained this many times already. Anybody, sociopath or not can play the role of a person he or she is not. And it always takes time to get to know someone, whether this person is being honest or not. My horror was when I saw how he really was. Then I searched for more things about him, etc. and disengage. You are giving to much credit on playing a role in front of someone who is willing to trust you and has few information. If someone comes to me and says “I am called Andy”, I take it as true. I am falling prey because I presume that is true? No, why should I presume it is a lie? If something has more important implications for me than acknowledging a name then I will investigate more till I know enough. And that was what happened with my spath.

      My experience with my spath didn’t bring me any farther from loving, just brought farther from ever loving people like him.

      So, you don't feel abused anymore, little sociopath? ;P

      Delete
    38. How, pray tell, do I frustrate you?

      Your extreme nihilism frustrates me. Even though you are the one that gives me with the more feeling of honesty. You are maybe as loyal to your nihilism as I am to my principles so I don’t have the feeling you are like M.E or Andy. I see M.E. behavior coming more from being extremely self-centered. If she is not a narcissist it might be because she has enough source of narcissism with her self-love. And I see Andy’s sociopathy rather coming from self-assessment related to control of others.

      Delete
    39. At least here, you have not shown an ounce of warmth or understanding to anyone, even genuinely good people who only want to help you. You deny any opinion that is not perfectly aligned with your own. You personalize nothing, and offer only vague references to the fact that you live in reality.

      No, I do not feel abused. You are not an abuser, you simply lash out like a wounded animal, fangs bared, trying to frighten away with your false strength anyone that comes near. The best thing to do is leave you alone to lick your wounds, but as soon as anyone walks away you start barking.

      Delete
    40. “No, I do not feel abused.” Then why did you say “I don't think I want to subject myself to your abuse anymore.”

      This is not like there is a daily amount of warmth I have to spread no matter what ;) I listen to opinions and evaluate them, if don’t agree with them I don’t. Here people have on the average completely opposite principles to mine, I know in which blog I am posting, it is nothing surprising that there is disagreement.

      Delete
    41. I alter my perception of people in the face of new information. I no longer think you're malicious, just wounded. Your system of evaluating the opinions of others is as follows.

      If they share your opinion, you agree with them. If they don't share your opinion, you disagree with them.

      If people agree with me, I question my opinion. If people disagree with me, I question my opinion. You may think my opinions and my sense of self are weak because of this, but they are not. With every change I may get closer to or further from the truth. What is certain is that if I do not move, I will never find the truth. You stand still, Jessi, and because of this you will never find truth.

      Delete
    42. @ Jessi-
      I think Andy may have a point.

      Delete
    43. Jessica, I don’t need to be cured of anything because nothing is wrong with me. I don’t identify as a sociopath here and even if I did, I wouldn’t consider it a “disorder”. I’d consider it a variation on a theme.

      Also, you sound half way intelligent on the one hand, while on the other, you seem to be incapable of appreciating nuance. I find that a puzzling combination. Nuance, subtly, being able to see that issues are more like cut diamonds, meaning they are multifaceted, this all seems beyond you. If your comments here are truly representative of how you think in your offline life that is. Perhaps Andy is right. Perhaps you do comprehend more than you let on and you’re just practicing being obstinate.

      I am not loyal to nihilism. I’m just calling it like I see it. If you can demonstrate, with clear logic and solid evidence, that your assertions are better explanations than my own, then I’ll listen. But just regurgitating what passes for common knowledge (as if truth is a popularity contest) by the ignorant masses won’t cut it.

      Now, what specific things would you like to understand about my mind?

      Delete
    44. Mach says I don't catch humor. I think you might not be catching mine sometimes, like with the "getting cured" thing. But irony passes pretty bad on text when it comes following more serious statements, I try no to overuse it because of that.

      "I am not loyal to nihilism. I’m just calling it like I see it." Well, me too. But the main issues here more than a personal concept about life and it's purpose it is related to evaluate how much do you worth respect to others. The way sociopaths act is as they would worth more which is something I frontally refuse to accept. Everything else, what you consider an being obstinate, derives from that.

      Now, what specific things would you like to understand about my mind?

      The main thing is to see how your train of thinking works which is nothing you can tell me. But I will have more concrete questions ;) For example, are you openly callous in your real life?

      Andy, I question my opinions when I get information that makes me question them. It can happen, but when it doesn't happen it doesn't happen. If I move in the wrong direction I might get even farther from the truth ;)

      Jessi

      Delete
    45. Do you want to know why you're so frustrating Jessi? No? Well too bad, I'm tellimg you anyway.

      Every one of your arguments consists of the logical fallacy "begging the question". Its logic follows.

      A therefore A. Some people can get away with it, if they can say A in two different ways such that it sounds convincing.

      For example, "White people are smarter than other races because they possess superior intelligence."

      Do you see what I did there? That is how you form all of your arguments. You're more likely to convince people not to share your opinion because of your piss-poor ability to support your case. By all means, continue knocking sociopaths. Eventually you'll ensure everyone thinks they're great!

      Delete
    46. If EVERY ONE of my arguments are like that, why didn't you use one of them as an example?

      I can't convince anyone to respect other human beings. It is for a reason I think sociopaths are evil beyond redemption.

      Jessi

      Delete
    47. Andy, I question my opinions when I get information that makes me question them.

      Sociopaths don't respect other human beings, so they are evil beyond redemption.

      Sociopaths are evil beyond redemption because they don't respect other human beings.

      People that don't respect other human beings are evil beyond redemption.

      People that are evil beyond redemption don't respect other human beings.

      Evil is evil.

      Delete
    48. I don't follow you.


      1. sociopaths do not respect people,( it is in the definition of sociopath.)
      2. I think that it is not possible to convince anyone to respect others.

      -> sociopaths will continue not respecting people.


      So? Where is the begging the question?

      Jessi

      Delete
    49. 1. According to you, I am a sociopath.
      2. I respect Mach, Emmie, and Birdick.
      3. Therefore, your argument is invalid.

      The only way for you to win this argument is to state that I am lying. You must also provide evidence that I am lying.

      Go on, try it!

      Delete
    50. According to what you say, you are a sociopath. You have claimed to manipulate people, to manipulate people is to not to respect people (even if you say you respect 3 people).

      Your point 3. it is completely disconnected with your 2 previous points. Are you sure you know what a syllogism is?


      Delete
    51. I manipulate a lot of people I respect, often for their own good. You are full of it, jess.

      Delete
    52. If you would respect them you will let them decide what is for their own good.

      Jessi

      Delete
    53. Haahahaaa! You try running a successful organization or parenting a toddler with that philosophy. :)

      There are exceptions to every maxim, jessi. You simply aren't broad-minded enough to include them in your assessments and hypothetical scenarios.

      Delete
  7. ME's book really helped me to understand my mother. You see how ME struggles with lack of empathy. You see the angst in it. You see the feeling that it is a prison from which one cannot escape.

    I see that in my mother. She has a look on her face that she doesn't know what the heck is going on because she cannot feel it out.

    I still have not talked to her in 3 months. I am getting free from the prison she put on me with all the crazy thinking she had. I do forgive her though because she could not help it.

    Your book has done a wonderful service to many. Anyone in the public eye gets dissed. There is huge jealousy out there. Look at any public figures.

    Princess Di was revered but when she lost her title as HRH, people loved treating her like garbage. They were the ones who bowed to her, before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Zoe!!
      Google is spying on me, so I lost my account.

      Delete
    2. were you being bad? :)

      Delete
  8. The problem with Megan McArdle's runs deeper than what Jaime describes. McArdle makes her comparison between whistleblowers and sociopaths based on some assumption that whistleblowers, like sociopaths, aren't "loyal."

    But actual scholars (versus tabloid writers) have observed the opposite--that whistleblowers tend to value loyalty and ideals *more* than the average person, not less. See, for example, here: http://www.salon.com/2013/06/10/expert_whistleblowers_tend_to_be_conservative/ (relaying an interview with University of Maryland poli sci professor, who actually interviewed a large number of whistleblowers, versus just hypothesizing, as McArdle does.) What outsiders perceive as "disloyalty," whistleblowers perceive as a greater loyalty to the system. Which I suspect makes McArdle's comparison to sociopaths inapt, and renders Lund's attempt here to rebut McArdle kind of unnecessary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andy, it is not hard to guess "my perspective" since it is the one of common sense ;), the fact that sociopaths try to defend the untenable in order to continue their life of selfishness doesn’t make reality any more complex. To say "enlightenment" was sarcastic, you showed your tail the first day, remember? And I am the one who believes in evilness as an everlasting characteristic.

      I value people for their capacity to love with proficiency, so you might not qualify for that ;) Someone like you will never understand someone like me, remember I know already one. And no, he played he was able to understand me, but he wasn’t. And, though I wanted to trust him, I never could. I was investigating him as much as he was investigating me and he was very bad at my enquiries. I always wondered why he was so bad at letting me know him, and at the end I found why: he was empty. He also said, he could not read me, probably that's one of the reasons I interested him.

      “If not, who is more deserving of the title of empath?”

      The one who does not scam, use and abuse others, always.

      Delete
  9. "that they can gain big from independent thinking, they can't have everyone constantly questioning the most basic of social rules as it would lead to chaos and a weakening of the social contract. "

    But people do already. The social contract is formed and maintained by people who I wouldn't cross the street to spit on.

    What is it to be fully human?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is it to be fully human?

      This question is a philosophical red herring. If you are a member of the genus homo, you are a human.

      Delete
    2. Are you callin' me gay, brah? Cuz I ain't gay.

      Delete
    3. maybe you should be? ;)

      Delete
  10. What's that about Daniel Ellsberg? Oh I'm sorry I caught in a time warp. Either catch Snowdon or get a better sociopath to terminate him? He's no hero.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think we have enough information to make that determination yet.

      Delete
  11. Question for the sociopaths here. I recently witnessed someone breaking their arm and the subsequent screaming in agony when it happened and afterwards. From the screams, I could almost feel the pain myself and it really affected me. What would one of you think or do in that situation? What would be going through your mind? I felt horrible for her and if I could have taken the pain away, I would have done so in a heartbeat. At the same time, I was curious to see the x-ray to see exactly what happened to the bone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Screams of pain are a warning signal, usually sent involuntarily under great duress. You have a physiological response letting you know that something bad is happening in the vicinity. What if it's zombies, or a sociopath running around with a katana? Whatever the stimulus, it's best to avoid people who are screaming, or you could end up sending your own warning call.

      Delete
    2. I'll be honest and state that other people's screams and pain don't affect me. Even if it is my own child, I don't react the way I should. (Thankfully, my partner does.) I really don't startle or scare easily, and I have to consciously will myself to act nurturing when someone is in genuine distress. I don't have a flinch reflex, either. I wonder if these issues are related.

      Delete
    3. My husband split his finger open with a sledgehammer last year, and I literally felt nothing. I didn't realize this was "abnormal", or even unusual, until recently, after asking others about their reactions to similar situations.

      My affective empathy is virtually non-existent, but I wouldn't call myself a cold or unsympathetic person. On a positive note, my lack of panic/distress helped me to deal with the incident efficiently and rationally.

      Delete
    4. Monica( Not Lettig Herself Be Spied On)June 12, 2013 at 5:46 AM

      That was my point about the wire monkey, Alterego. I was not dissing you. I try to live in realville because that is the only healthy place to live. The alternative is insanity.

      Delete
    5. That's really interesting that some people can feel nothing when those things happen. I could almost feel her pain myself and I immediately grabbed my arm in the place where hers was broken.

      Delete
    6. What do you mean? I never accused you of dissing me. That said, I am not like a "wire monkey" mother. I am strict, and demand respect from my children, but I am very generous with my time and affection. I may not be able to *feel* other people's pain, distress or emotions, but I would be devastated if anything ever happened to my children, and I would kill anyone who tried to seriously harm them.

      Unlike a well-developed protective instinct, empathy is not necessarily an indispensable component of love or good parenting.

      What do you think, considering your personal experiences? Was your child better off for all your purported empathy in "realville"? I'm not dissing you, or anything.

      Delete
  12. ME, you mention sociopaths being more predictable that everyone else, and I believe that is true. The problem is that they don't wear a sign letting everyone know that they are sociopaths and therefore are going to act in their own self interest at the expense of everyone else whenever they think they can get away with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's nothing predictable about psychopaths. A psychopath changes their opinions every three seconds, and moves on from one thing to another without knowing why.

      Delete
    2. You can always predict they are going to harm again.

      Delete
    3. anon @ 10:55

      if you observe how people behave, how they treat you, most are predictable. sociopaths will often even tell you how they will act (as was pointed out here in earlier posts)

      the problem is when you see only what you want to see.

      Delete
    4. Zoe, I think you're right about that. The one I knew actually told me several times about horrible things she had done to people but since I didn't really know what a sociopath was at the time, I think I just ignored a lot of what she said or I just thought "that's weird, oh well". Now I know that if someone tells me things like she did about doing horrible things to others, that's my notice to get away.

      Delete
    5. funny how sociopaths are viewed as unreliable due to their flexible personalities, yet empaths whose personalities are firmly tethered to their moods are considered trustworthy and even stable.

      i try to avoid people whose thoughts cater only to their emotions. they are tiresome. and incapable of any action or thought that does not serve whatever immediate emotion possesses them.

      Delete
    6. ^hear, hear!

      Delete
  13. (1) One difference between "M.E." and Snowden is that Snowden is officially out. Of course, that could be a survival tactic on his part since he's now put a fairly sympathetic face on the formerly faceless whistleblower. And "M.E." may just be on her own schedule, which is fine.

    (2) For some reason the novel Geek Love by Katherine Dunn springs to mind when I read some of the posts and comments on this site (regarding what constitutes normal, abnormalities seen as a gift, etc.).

    ReplyDelete
  14. He has disappeared. I hope he is OK

    ReplyDelete
  15. "But there's nothing terribly "unknowable" about them. In fact, in a lot of ways they are less complicated than most people -- the one hyper-rational ruled by self-interest and the other an ideologue that can't be bought off by even a $200,000 a year cushy government salary."

    Having a complete, accurate psychological profile would tell you just how to predict behavior in both of these cases, but normally what you have are subjective personal impressions, third party anecdotes, and a few rules of thumb applied to incidental details. That can sort out the common or obvious cases with reasonable accuracy, but "if you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras" means sociopaths and whistleblowers probably aren't going to be identified.

    ReplyDelete
  16. What an incredible guy!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi. First post here. Not a sociopath, just curious.

    M.E. said "...a lot of judgment guised as that's-not-how-I-would-have-done-it (this last one is the most hilarious to me -- you would never have done it, so any analysis of how you would have done it in a non-existent reality goes beyond mere speculation to pure fantasy)."

    While I agree that a lot of judgment is passed in statements like this, it's also something you can do as a sort of mental exercise to help you understand an event or situation. I don't intend on leaking any state secrets, but I did think about what I might have done, primarily because I didn't understand why he chose Hong Kong. That puzzled me and I instinctively thought about where I would have chosen instead.

    Of course you can do this exercise well or you can do it badly. It can be useful and it might not be. Whatever the case, it is one way to analyze and understand a situation, so that it is "fantasy" is irrelevant. It may serve several purposes, only one of which is criticism. I would think you, the ultimate utilitarian, would appreciate that.

    Ok so that's my case for why I think the "pure fantasy" remark was off the mark. What I'm more curious about it whether or not you (or maybe sociopaths in general but that's perhaps a different, more complex question) engage in this type of thinking at all?

    Also, I should point out that even if the mental exercise proves unfruitful, you won't know that until you do it. Maybe not even until much later should you find yourself in a similar situation.

    I mean, I have a plan for the zombie apocalypse, but I don't actually think it's going to happen. That doesn't mean I'll never use those plans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sociopaths lack the ability to live vicariously through others. So, rather than entertain the thought of being the person in question, filling their shoes and reacting emotionally to the heat of the situation, the sociopath stands back and examines the situation objectively.

      People imagine what they would do in another person's situation, believing that they understand all the nuances. In reality, most people that undergo this kind of 'pure fantasy' thinking miss the mark completely.

      Are you familiar with the Milgram experiment?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

      Briefly, subjects were assigned to be teachers, who would administer an electric shock to students who got answers wrong. With each wrong answer, the shock increased, up to a maximum of 450 volts. The whole thing was staged, nobody was shocked, but the subjects were not aware of this.

      In a poll, people believed that on average, 1.2 out of 100 people would administer the highest voltage shock. A group of psychiatrists predicted that 3.73 percent of people would administer the 300 volt shock, and 0.1% of people would administer the 450 volt shock.

      When the experiment was performed, 65% of subjects tested administered the 450 volt shock. If this tells you anything, it's that people are piss-poor at predicting their own actions in hypothetical situations. Thus, musings of 'pure fantasy' amount to 'pure bullshit'. You're much better off admitting that you have no idea what you would do in an emotionally charged hypothetical situation. You're MUCH more likely to be correct.

      Delete
    2. Did the subjects know what was actually a electric shock of 450 volts besides a number? It is very difficult to predict any action if you don't really know what are really the effects of those actions.

      Delete
    3. The students screamed, begged to be released, and said they had a heart condition and were afraid to die. The subjects continued to shock them.

      Delete
    4. But how could they possibly believe anybody was letting them do a test where people were actually going to be really hurt?

      Delete
    5. That's just how people are, Jessi. The experimenters told them they must continue, so they did. People accept authority without question, even if that means killing people. How do you think the holocaust happened? It's just people doing as they're told.

      Delete
    6. People accept authority without question when there is nothing alarming. And there is objectively no cause of concern in an experiment runned by Yale. The holocaust happened because you need few people to manage gas chambers and there are enough sociopaths to fill those jobs :P

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    7. no, Jessi. The holocaust happened because the majority was more afraid of asking questions than taking responsibility for the facts they were links in a chain of great evil. I don't say that with the self satisfaction of knowing "I would have known better"- I say that knowing my own fallibility- and the times I keep my mouth shut in a conservative community because I don't want to make trouble as a single mom and have my children suffer because I have a bad reputation.
      I wonder quite a bit if I would have the moral courage to stand up and ask questions. I really hope so, but I also understand that fear and denial are powerfully potent- which is why forums like these where we talk about topics that are not the sort of thing polite society talks about are so incredibly important.
      This community has its own internal standards and I think encourages each serious contributor towards a closer examination of their own motives. Believe it or not, I actually think that sociopathically wired individuals would be more likely to stand up against a situation like this- maybe not because of moral outrage in the abstract, but because they never lost their ability to be rational when the rest of the population behaved like frogs who die in a pot of water that is slowly brought to a boil.

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    8. No, Mach, no holocaust ever happens for people being "more afraid of asking questions ". That does no execute anyone and people are not responsible for the murders others commit because they didn't ask.

      The sociopaths will never stand against a holocaust, they will take profit from it a silent way, they will be the ones collecting the gold teeth of the murdered, for example. The ones who will stand up are the Mr. Snowdens.

      I find funny you feel like belonging to a community here. I just post here.

      Jessi

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    9. Mass murder is possible when the masses give their agency over to murderers, and therefore become complicit.
      Sociopaths are a minority. Empaths are the masses.


      Nobody gets off the hook here. The murderers made the choice to commit evil, and the masses ignored their own cognitive dissonance because it was easier to go along with evil than to look at it, name it, and destroy it from within.

      And as for 'belonging" to a community? I would be honored if the regulars didn't just think I showed up to preach. There are a lot of smart people (and quite a few not so smart people too) who help me understand viewpoints that didn't occur to me. This website is a goldmine in terms of dealing with the shadow side of one's existence- something about this forum allows things to be said that people can't/won't admit to in their regular lives.

      I very much like these discussions, and the fact that many members (you being a notable exception) seem to want to engage in a discussion that helps illuminate different points of view. My experience with blog communities is that they general attract like minded individuals who engage in a mutual admiration society. SW's members are constantly challenging each other and holding each other to a high standard of critical reasoning.

      Jessi- I really don't want to turn this into a personal thing. But it is your holier than thou attitude- not the "evilness" of sociopaths that prevents a free flow of ideas when this community engages in a conversation with you. If you can stop telling everyone why they aren't as good as you, then you might find the feedback you are getting changes for the positive.

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    10. Masses can be deceived and misinformed. They don’t have to hold the responsibility of crimes they didn’t commit nor accepted to be committed. You are imposing the obligation to be brave in order not to be complicit.

      I post pretty freely; and if I can, I can’t imagine why others can’t do the same. To stop telling what I think is not going to help the freedom of speech, something I am very fond of, and you?

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  18. @ Andy, yes I am familiar with the Milgram experiment and that is a perfect example of how the "what would I do" thought experiment goes wrong.

    But the experiment doesn't always go wrong. And even if it does, you won't know that until afterward. You do it and either it (maybe eventually) helps or it doesn't. Calling it "fantasy" is like calling story problems or any thought experiment fantasy. It just totally misses the point. Yes, people get it wrong. They also sometimes get it right.

    "So, rather than entertain the thought of being the person in question, filling their shoes and reacting emotionally to the heat of the situation, the sociopath stands back and examines the situation objectively."

    I didn't react emotionally. Of course I didn't record my thoughts at the time so I'm sure there was emotions involved, there usually is, but nothing major. For me it's just not a particularly emotional topic. It didn't need to be "emotional" for me to wonder what I would do in his situation, and for me to imagine myself in his place.

    So no, the fact that people get it wrong *sometimes* does not make it "pure bullshit" all the time.




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  19. I should clarify: when I said the "experiment doesn't always go wrong", I meant the thought experiment of putting yourself in someone else's situation. Not the Milgram experiment lol. Just want to be clear.

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  20. Sorry for triple posting, but here is an example of what I mean:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11333076

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    1. Emmie was talking about people making moral judgments based on how they perceive that they would respond were they in Snowden's shoes. If you don't try to live vicariously through Snowden, but rather consider the circumstances and think of alternative solutions to the same problem, you're not engaging in the act that Emmie despises.

      If you start your sentences with, "I would have..." then you're full of shit. If you start with "He could have..." then I don't think Emmie has any beef with you or your thought process. I don't mean to be needlessly argumentative, but I think we're talking about two different things here.

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    2. "I would have..." is one of the multiple possible ways to try to apprehend the reasons behind the actions of another person.

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  21. Andy, I agreed with EM's point about the needless judgement. I did not agree that this made the exercise, at least in general, futile.

    So if you begin your sentence "I would have" and end it the same way as someone who worded it "He could have", why would the distinction matter? Aesthetics?

    In any case, I didn't ask about what was better or who was full of more shit. I asked about what people actually did. Remember, for me personally, it was instinctual to put myself in Snowden's place. I asked if that was not the case for EM (possibly sociopaths in general but not necessarily because I understand one person probably can't answer that question).

    I did not ask whether one was better, or if one of us was more full of shit. That was all you answering a question I did not ask.

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    1. I think it's important to recognize that in such a complex and 'charged' situation, nobody has enough knowledge to predict how they would have acted. The distinction is that "I would have" implies certainty where there can be none. "He could have" demonstrates that you recognize the uncertainty of the situation, and are offering alternatives that may or may not have even been feasible.

      I try to put myself in other people's shoes to get a sense of how they think and feel about things. I try not to contaminate that exercise by inserting my mind into their body to imagine what I might do. That is an exercise in futility, and I do not see the use in it.

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  22. As somebody who spends a lot of time pushing paper cut-outs of people around (I'm a novelist), Mr. Snowden seems to carry some of the characteristics of a real-life "Byronic hero".

    1. Are usually male and considered very attractive physically, possessing a great deal of charisma, sophistication, and intelligence, as well as emotional sensitivity, which may translate into moodiness.

    2. Is intensely introspective and may be described as dark and brooding. He dwells on the pains or perceived injustices of his life, often to the point of over-indulgence. May muse philosophically on the circumstances that brought him to this point, including personal failings.

    3. Is cynical and jaded, often due to a mysterious Dark and Troubled Past, which, if uncovered, will reveal a significant loss, or a crime or mistake committed which still haunts him.

    4. He is extremely passionate, with strong personal beliefs which are usually in conflict with the values of the status quo. He sees his own values and passions as above or better than those of others, manifesting as arrogance or a martyr-like attitude.

    5. His intense drive and determination to live out his philosophy without regard to others' philosophies produces conflict, and may result in a tragic end, should he fail, or revolution, should he succeed. This rebellion against the rules or values of the society he finds himself in, as well as a disrespect for rank/privilege *, often leads to social isolation, rejection, or exile.

    (Copied from: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ByronicHero)

    If you watch any interview of a goodly length with Mr. Snowden, you'll see most, if not all, of these features crop up.

    What's hilarious is if you read a little bit of Byron, there are characters reacting to the hero just like the idiots on the cable news network are reacting to Snowden.

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  23. Last post for now

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  24. Very good article M.E.

    A very confusing double comment on your latest meditation, in which Snowdon surfaced again, made me go back to understand what could possibly have caused the apparent anger and close to incoherent comments?

    this made me laugh:

    So in coming days we will almost certainly realize that Edward Snowden is not like the rest of us. In fact, the details of his resume already released hint as much: a high school dropout somehow turned intelligence worker, who kept his live-in girlfriend in the dark about what he was doing and told her he was going on a business trip while he disappeared to Hong Kong. That's a hell of a way to break up with someone. This detail didn't attract a huge amount of attention admidst all the other surprise revelations that came out over the weekend, but I found it quite striking. As one of my friends noted, if a live-in boyfriend had done this to me, he'd have more than the CIA to worry about.

    So yes, I agree the last paragraph is probably the most valuable of her article. Uncertainty everywhere. The one peceding it is also a peak of (?) "assumed consent" (?) little imagination (?) for me.

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  25. I have lived my life with this quote as a guide: "Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded...That so few dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our times." John Stuart Mill. I memorized that when I was younger than Edward Snowden and tried in my life to see outside the proverbial box. Edward Snowden, unlike the characterization of the quote however, has no strength of character. He is an intelligent, articulate sociopath, the worse kind because they are able to dupe those who listen to them. It's easy to recognize that he has no strength of character. While it looks as if he gave up a great deal, he has, in fact, chosen the easiest, laziest, way to express his concerns. I'm 69 years old. I'm no conservative - no "9 to 5 er". I actively protested the Viet Nam war. I marched in many social justice marches. I live in an RV. I listen to stations on the far left, the right, and the middle and always lean toward the progressive Amy Goodmans and Ian Masters of the world. However, I am old enough to have met Snowden types along my path. Snowden claims to be Buddhist and ascetic. He is neither. He is an arrogant young man who has made a decision HE thinks is correct rather than convincing the masses to change a situation that WE would want to correct. He has always apprarently been the brightest kid in the room. Guess what? the world has many rooms with many bright kids in them. The best and the brightest would not presume to venture toward risking harm as he did. He claims that there has been no loss of life from his release of the documents. Neither he nor we can determine that. To young people raising him up as a hero, I say raise yourself up as heroes. You weren't blind to the information that was being collected about you. You know what google and facebook gather. This all didn't come as a shock to you. Study about this most critical issue of our times and the laws that need to be written or changed. Then work for that change. Don't simply shout "Foul" like Snowden did and leave the rest for someone else to pick up. It's OUR country - not Snowden's. He had an obligation to inform us, but no right to speak and act for us.

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