The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson

In which Jon Ronson investigates whether the world is run by psychopaths.

It all starts when he meets a charming young man who is not going to be allowed out of mental hospital because the doctors believe he’s a danger to the public. But he’s so nice and stuff! So Jon asks around a bit and finds out that the reason the doctors are recommending he’s to be kept in is that he scores very highly on a test that is administered in order to diagnose psychopathy, which has a definite medical meaning and isn’t just used to mean someone who likes inflicting physical pain on other people for fun (which is pretty much how it’s used informally, right?)*

OK, so Jon then finds this test. And starts applying it to everyone he meets. And so will you, especially the ones you don’t particularly like. And maybe, if you don’t like yourself, you’ll think it applies to you too.

He also hears a theory that psychopaths are running the world, or at least that the most successful business and political leaders are psychopaths, which is more or less the same thing (perhaps this is one of those things where the informal usage doesn’t actually reflect what the word/phrase means)**

So he goes and finds some successful businessmen and applies the test to them.

And then he hears about someone who wrote a book and sent it to lots of people. Or something. I can’t really remember properly. And he tracks him down, despite that he thinks he might also be a psychopath. And he hears a bit about some experimental treatments where psychologists gave psychopaths lots of LSD and locked them in a room and made them hug each other. Naked. For hours. They thought they’d cured them, but it turned out, no, not really.

Then he realises that some of the people he’s “diagnosed” as psychopaths are maybe just motivated by different things (eg really care about success as defined by making lots of money, which is not for everyone, and maybe everyone would be happier if this kind of person didn’t exist but then maybe it’d be nice if there were, like, automatic tickling machines and no one ever got ill or whatever) and not really proper psychos and aren’t going to cut people up into little bits because they can or think it might be funny. Although, you know, some people are, and maybe there should be professionals, people who spent their life learning about it, treating them and stopping them from flipping out and murdering people.

Wow, that was cheery, eh?


*In honour of the 100th post here, a joke: two bits of tarmac are in a pub when a bit of red tarmac walks in. One of them turns to the other one and says “don’t mess with him, he’s a cycle path”. Only that doesn’t really work, because cycle lanes are blue now (thanks Ken!). Or green. Red tarmac is bus lanes.

**Is this satire, yeah?

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