5.27.2009

The GOP: Lack of Empathy; Party of Psychopaths

DKos' EmperorHadrian gets it. While I've always called them sociopaths (see right sidebar; near the bottom), he calls them Psychopath. But, let's not split hairs, shall we?

From EmperorHadrian:

What continues to come out of the right these days is frightening. Apparently republicans are attacking Obama's criteria of "empathy" when nominating someone to the Supreme Court. John Kyl threatened to block a nominee who showed either empathy or "emotions or feelings" towards groups such as the poor or disenfranchised when deciding cases. Contrast this with the suicide in 2003 of army interpreter Alyssa Peterson. It wasn't until 2005 that the army admitted it was a suicide, and it wasn't until 2007 that they released a report that showed that she had been forced to work with the torturers, and after having refused to do so and asking to be reassigned, she killed herself. Shortly before her death, she was reprimanded for "showing empathy" to the torture victims. What this all suggests is, as discussed on Open Left, is that the GOP is the Party of Psychopaths.

First, let's explain what sociopathy is: it's not like any other form of mental disease...There is no surface disturbance in sociopathy. The sociopath appears perfectly sane in the moment. Rather, what is disturbed--even, one might say, missing--is the core

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From Paul Rosenberg's, Party of Psychopaths (via Open Left):
For years, I've occasionally discussed the notion, brought up by others, that sociopathy (aka psychopathy) and/or some form(s) of personality disorder might provide a basic framework for understanding the politics of conservatism or the modern Republican Party. I've always taken the position that this is overdrawn. The percentage of sociopaths and sufferers of personality disorders in the population is quite low--in the low single digits.

It seemed to me that much better explanations rested on more widespread phenomena such as rightgwing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation--present to some extent in all of us, but more concentrated on the right, and among the more politically involved. It's not that there weren't plenty of sociopaths and others, such as NPDs (narcissistic personality disorders), running around. There were, there were! It's just that those individuals were fundamentally opportunists. They were present in movement conservatism and the GOP because it offered such a hospitable environment for them, but they were not the architects of the environment.

Now however, with the conservative environment in ruins, it seems that the time may well be ripe for the complete sociopathic takeover, as the half-life of GOP lies and rationalizations approaches the vanishing point, and calls for violence rise accordingly. At the same time, a recent BBC documentary, offered as a fund-drive premium at the local Pacifica radio station, has given me a new slant on the potential centrality of sociopathy, not just to movement conservatism, but to the logic of late capitalism as a whole.

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