Jon Ronson and his book 'The Psychopath Test'

Renaissance

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At work we get an email that lists new books and today there was the following ad:



The ad can be seen at this website:

_http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=1412

If you click on the banner it will take you to the website offering the book. There's a video of the author Jon Ronson telling the story of the book and here's the description:

Bestselling journalist Jon Ronson is gifted with a unique mixture of humor, heart, and always asking the right question at the right time to get the perfect (and sometimes absurd) answer. In The Psychopath Test, Ronson turns his eye toward the world of psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and journalists who study them.

Ronson's investigation into a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. A startling meeting with an influential psychologist, who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths, teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying psychopaths by looking out for little tell-tale verbal and non verbal clues. Armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, Ronson journeys into the corridors of power and along the way, discovers that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study.
RyanX had posted a summary of a radio show that Ronson speaks about the story of the book: Psycho Dable by Jon Ronson on This American Life

Summary

The act deals with a man named Tony (not his real name) who is serving time at Broadmore, a maximum security mental hospital for the criminally insane in Britain. The story starts out with the journalist, Jon Ronson, meeting a man named Brian who is a Scientologist. Scientologists, apparently have a disdain for all psychiatrists and have organized themselves in direct opposition to modern psychiatry - something I wasn't entirely aware of. Anyways, this Scientologist, Brian said to the journalist that he should meet this man Tony, who has been at Broadmore for about 12 years because he "beat someone up" when he was 17 years old.

The journalist eventually decides to meet with this Tony character to find out whether he is really insane or not. Tony describes to him the process of how difficult it is to convince the staff at this hospital that he is actually sane. He says that the staff scrutinize his every word and action in a skewed way that makes everything he does look insane. He mentions an example of a time when he struck up a conversation with a nurse about how the US Military was training bees to sniff out explosives. The nurses used this as evidence of his continued insanity and wrote it up in a report, even though Tony claims he was just trying to make small talk.

After the interview, the journalist receives a letter from Tony describing a few more things about his stay at Broadmore, but it also includes a description of what he did to land him in such a predicament. Apparently when Tony was 17 he was walking down a street with some friends when a drunk, homeless man made some inappropriate comments about one of his friends. As retribution, Tony decided to beat up this man by punching and kicking him several times until he was down on the ground. He and his friends continued on their way. He passed by the same street on his way back from the bars and found the same man still lying there. He decided to punch and kick him a few more times. Ultimately the homeless man died and then Tony was charged with "grievous bodily harm", which I believe is the equivalent to involuntary manslaughter. To avoid prison time, he decided to fake being insane so they would send him to a hospital instead. To do this, he plagiarized lines from movies such as Black Velvet and A Clockwork Orange to make the prison psychiatrists believe he was actually insane.

At this point the journalist feels a bit uneasy about Tony and wonders whether he shouldn't stay in Broadmore. Even if Tony isn't "insane" in the way we think of it, he is at the very least violent and deceitful. Trying to make sense of the situation, the journalist talks to a Professor of Psychiatry, the man who was the head clinician on Tony's unit, who has seen Tony and understands his case. The psychiatrist basically comes out and says that Tony is a psychopath and that this is why all his attempt to act "sane" have failed because they are just seen as normal deceitful behavior for a psychopath. He claims that Tony continues to show no remorse for his victim and will just lie in whatever way he can to try to get out of Broadmore.

Wanting a second opinion, the journalist talks to another psychiatrist who has a different opinion. This psychiatrist claims that Tony made the mistake of saying some remorseless things when he was young and stupid and that this is what originally earned him the diagnosis of psychopath. This psychiatrist believes that Tony is, in fact, sane and does have some degree of remorse for his victim, but at the time when he was in jail he was just looking for any possibly way to avoid prison, so he just faked mental illness. He believes that Tony acted in a typical way for a 17 year old boy stuck in this situation and he didn't understand what going to a hospital would be like. Essentially this psychiatrist believes Tony's story.

At the end, the journalist and the Scientologist, Brian, decide to interview Tony one last time. They ask him if he feels any remorse. The journalist describes Tony as saying that he feels remorse for his victim, himself and his family. Tony says that he feels remorse that he has screwed up his entire life and he has to live with that every day. The journalist at this point feels comfortable in his opinion that Tony is actually a sane man and not a psychopath and that it is a big mistake for anybody to try to fake mental illness.

Thoughts

I suspect there is a strong chance that Tony is a psychopath, but it is difficult to say since the episode gives very little detail about his diagnosis as a psychopath. The first professor they interview claims that "most psychiatrists who know about Tony agree that he is a psychopath" (I'm paraphrasing here). Unfortunately, the episode doesn't go into all the details of why these psychiatrists believe that Tony is a psychopath. In other words, what is all the evidence?

While the journalist comes away from his final talk with Tony with a positive image of the man, I'm not sure if he really scrutinized what Tony said. It almost sounds like the journalist is just burying his head in the proverbial sand. Tony said he felt remorse for his victim, but the emphasis of his statements were directed at himself, his life and his family. In other words, he feels bad mostly for himself. He doesn't seem to genuinely regret the fact that he killed another human being. Then again, this is only one statement and it's probably unfair to make a judgment based on this alone.

In general, I think that modern psychiatry is screwed up in various ways - some of which are very disturbing. But I don't think that is reason to suspect that all or even a majority of criminally insane people are actually sane and should be free to roam the earth because psychiatry as a profession is inadequate. If that is the belief of Scientologists, that's pretty darn scary! It seems like the psychiatrists might have got it right in this case with Tony, at least they seem to be aware of the issues of psychopathy. This man, Tony, might just be very good at putting on a mask of sanity and that the journalist and his Scientologist friend were both fooled.

The episode seems to give some general awareness of the topic of psychopathy, but at the same time it raises some doubt as to whether the diagnosis of "psychopath" is a valid diagnosis or not. The report seems to suggest that people diagnosed as psychopaths could just be normal people who are caught in a Catch-22, unable to prove that they are normal. While, I agree that this could happen, the problems of psychopathy are too great to simply brush under the rug. If anything, the report should have emphasized that we should continue to refine our knowledge on psychopathy so that better diagnosis's can be made. The journalist seems to not have a clue about the ramifications of having psychopaths in positions of power and therefore doesn't give the topic of psychopathy its due.

Unfortunately, this is not the only less-than-par report on psychopathy that has aired on public radio recently. Sad

Edit: I appologize, I thought this was something recent. It must have been on a rerun when my friend heard it because on the website it says it first aired in July of last year. Still, it was new to me Smiley
RyanX's thoughts are particularly interesting given what Ronson depicts in the video and in the above description: "(...) Ronson journeys into the corridors of power and along the way, discovers that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study."

Maybe he's talking about how psychopathy messes with your head, or maybe he's implying that the very efforts to study psychopathy are a bit mad. I'm pretty certain that sometime back there was someone who came along on the forum saying that he and Ronson were looking to do a film on the topics surrounding Ponerology. I'm fairly sure of it because I emailed him to see if he would be interested in a copy of Political Ponerology but didn't get a response. However, I'm also wondering if I am confusing him with someone else that would be doing the film because I searched the forum high and low for that post and can't find it. Does anyone remember something like that?

Many will know as Ronson as the author of The Men Who Stare at Goats. There's a thread on it here. He's also made a documentary about David Icke, David Icke "The Lizards and the Jews" and can be seen on youtube:

_http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTqeff-JzXg

Another of his related books is Them: Adventures With Extremists. Here's a review from Amazon:

In Them, British humorist Jon Ronson relates his misadventures as he engages an assortment of theorists and activists residing on the fringes of the political, religious, and sociological spectrum. His subjects include Omar Bakri Mohammed, the point man for a holy war against Britain (Ronson paints him as a wily buffoon); a hypocritical but engaging Ku Klux Klan leader; participants in the Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, battles; the Irish Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley; and David Ickes, who believes that the semi-human descendants of evil extraterrestrial 12-foot-tall lizards walk among us. Despite these characters' disparities, they are bound by a belief in the Bilderberg Group, the "secret rulers of the world." In a final chapter, Ronson manages, with surprising ease, to penetrate these rulers' very lair. He writes with wry, faux-naive wit and eschews didacticism, instead letting his subjects' words and actions speak for themselves.
Laura posted a two part series that Ronson wrote for the Guardian on the topic in the About David Icke & James Redfield thread.

There was a recent article from Salon mentioned on the forum titled, Rumsfeld refuses to deny being a lizard person, which mentions Icke and Ronson's video.

It seems Ronson is pretty familiar with alternative media, conspiracy theories and such. Here's a notable extract from an article that was posted on the forum:

When sceptics fight back (against conspiracy "theories")

However, using the same medium to fight back is not easy, as British investigative journalist Jon Ronson found when he posted on the British 9/11 Truth Campaign website. Abused and ridiculed, his integrity was questioned because he is Jewish. "When I found myself being attacked by 9/11 conspiracy theorists I found the sceptical community very supportive," says Ronson. "When believers turn on you it is horrible. I've stopped engaging with them because it's like prodding a snake."
Says a lot that he found the 'skeptical' community supportive.

So, he has a pretty unique background with concepts that on the surface would appear related to Cassiopaea and Sott. Interesting, huh.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Shane said:
Maybe he's talking about how psychopathy messes with your head, or maybe he's implying that the very efforts to study psychopathy are a bit mad. I'm pretty certain that sometime back there was someone who came along on the forum saying that he and Ronson were looking to do a film on the topics surrounding Ponerology. I'm fairly sure of it because I emailed him to see if he would be interested in a copy of Political Ponerology but didn't get a response. However, I'm also wondering if I am confusing him with someone else that would be doing the film because I searched the forum high and low for that post and can't find it. Does anyone remember something like that?
Yep, that was Ronson and Kevin Barrett. Barrett said Ronson had wanted to take Barrett around the world giving politicians a personality test that was actually a psychopathy test in order to test out the idea. That fell through, and it looks like this book is what resulted from that initial idea. I've had it on pre-order for a while, so it'll be interesting to see what he says.
 

Renaissance

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Approaching Infinity said:
Yep, that was Ronson and Kevin Barrett. Barrett said Ronson had wanted to take Barrett around the world giving politicians a personality test that was actually a psychopathy test in order to test out the idea. That fell through, and it looks like this book is what resulted from that initial idea. I've had it on pre-order for a while, so it'll be interesting to see what he says.
Oh yeah, that was from his radio show with Laura and Joe. No wonder I couldn't find it on the forum. Thanks.
 

Approaching Infinity

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My first impression after reading and watching the marketing stuff for this book is that it's schizoidal disinfo. Looks like Ronson is overgeneralizing, conflating bogus psychiatric labeling with REAL psychiatric labeling, i.e. there's only one or the other, all bogus or all real. Black and white thinking. So, calling people psychopaths is just "labeling", done by evil psychiatrists. If that's the case, it'll be interesting to see if Hare responds and how he does so. FWIW at this point.
 

axj

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Approaching Infinity said:
Barrett said Ronson had wanted to take Barrett around the world giving politicians a personality test that was actually a psychopathy test in order to test out the idea. That fell through, and it looks like this book is what resulted from that initial idea.
Is there any information on why this idea fell through? It sounds like a good idea actually - giving politicians a personality test that is actually a psychopathy test.

Also, I find his ad is very good and easy-to-understand - saying things like "The problem with psychopaths is that they are everywhere". As has been noted, a big problem with the Political Ponerology book is that it is difficult to understand.
 

Tigersoap

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The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

There is a new book called "The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry" by Jon Ronson who wrote " The Men Who Stare at Goats"

I haven't read it so I can't really comment on it.


The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

The video teaser :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAAKGDfHRSM

In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and everyone else who studies them.

The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath.

Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.
The hoax they talk about is described here (by an Amazon reviewer)

The story begins with a meeting between Ronson and a history student who has received a cryptic book called 'Being or Nothingness' in the mail. The same book has been received by several individuals around the globe, most of whom work in the field of psychiatry. The book contains 42 pages, every second one blank. (This made me wonder...in 'The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy', the ultimate answer to life, the Universe and Everything was 42. Was this relevant? Was the mysterious author of 'Being or Nothingness' implying that his cryptic messages, if decoded, could lead to enlightenment?)
Here is a thread about the book itself

http://ask.metafilter.com/106639/Is-this-viral-I-received-a-strange-book

And a picture of the book

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fcummins/3025181373/

and it's on amazon too

http://www.amazon.com/Being-Nothingness-Joe-K/dp/B00136YYL6


No idea what to make of it though. It certainly begs more questions than answers, osit.
 

HiThere

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Re: The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

Interesting, I wonder what was written on the texted pages?
 

HiThere

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Summary

The act deals with a man named Tony (not his real name) who is serving time at Broadmore, a maximum security mental hospital for the criminally insane in Britain. The story starts out with the journalist, Jon Ronson, meeting a man named Brian who is a Scientologist. Scientologists, apparently have a disdain for all psychiatrists and have organized themselves in direct opposition to modern psychiatry - something I wasn't entirely aware of. Anyways, this Scientologist, Brian said to the journalist that he should meet this man Tony, who has been at Broadmore for about 12 years because he "beat someone up" when he was 17 years old.

The journalist eventually decides to meet with this Tony character to find out whether he is really insane or not. Tony describes to him the process of how difficult it is to convince the staff at this hospital that he is actually sane. He says that the staff scrutinize his every word and action in a skewed way that makes everything he does look insane. He mentions an example of a time when he struck up a conversation with a nurse about how the US Military was training bees to sniff out explosives. The nurses used this as evidence of his continued insanity and wrote it up in a report, even though Tony claims he was just trying to make small talk.
This is reminiscent of the story of british prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson aka Charles Bronson as depicted in the movie "Bronson" (2008): _http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1172570/
Wikipedia: _http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bronson_(prisoner)

The stories seem to be similar; maybe Ronson's script ended up as basis for the movie (about a real character)? I've seen the movie and recommend it, it's a good portrait of a psychopath.
 

PopHistorian

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Interesting, I just noticed this as the description of tonight's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Journalist-filmmaker Jon Ronson, author of "The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry."
Might be interesting to see what he says.
 

Approaching Infinity

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PopHistorian said:
Interesting, I just noticed this as the description of tonight's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Journalist-filmmaker Jon Ronson, author of "The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry."
Might be interesting to see what he says.
We watched this last night, and it was actually really good (although short). I think it's probably the first time the phrase "psychopaths rule our world" has been uttered on TV. Stewart was a good interviewer, let Ronson say his part, and made a few jokes in the process. Ronson described one psychopath he met who faked crying and said needing people to like him was a good thing, because then he could manipulate them more easily. I'm sure it'll be online soon, so everyone can see, but if the book follows the same line of force as the interview, I think my earlier doubts may have been off base. Will have the book tomorrow, so I'll wait and see if this is in fact the case.
 

truth seeker

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I did a search for his name on g00gle news yesterday and a few main stream media site came up so perhaps this will be a positive force for putting out the idea that psychopaths rule our world. Even if JR doesn't have the whole banana, it may still be helpful.

edit: clarity and I just saw the interview and thought it was very good as well. I especially liked when he referred to corporations and there was the reaction from the audience.
 

Alana

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Approaching Infinity said:
We watched this last night, and it was actually really good (although short). I think it's probably the first time the phrase "psychopaths rule our world" has been uttered on TV.
I too thought the interview went well, and was glad to see the subject discussed on such a widely viewed show. Also, the fact that is Jon Ronson who wrote the book, will make more people interested i think. The average people don't know Hare or Stout, but if someone tells them, "Very interesting book! [given that is IS] It's from the guy who wrote Men who Stare at Goats", it's more likely to get that look of recognition from them and the interest to read it perhaps. Ronson is popular enough to get his book attention.
 
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