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Can you spot a psychopath?
The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson
Member Name: wigglylittleworm
The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson
Advantages: amusing in parts
Disadvantages: rambling, no depth
A mysterious book called "Being or Nothingness" turns up on the desks of several academics, a book which contains cryptic messages which need to be solved. One of the recipients of the book calls in journalist Jon Ronson who is famous for his book "The Men Who Stare at Goats" to see if he can shed any light on the matter. This leads Ronson to meeting Bob Hare, the inventor of the Hare Psychopathy checklist which is a list of 20 items and if a person scores high enough on the scale then they are diagnosed as a psychopath. This, in turn, leads Ronson on a search for the craziness in everyday life.
Psychopaths are not terribly nice people; they hurt other people and show no remorse. This leads a lot of them to be locked up in Broadmoor but what happens when the psychiatrists gets it wrong? Ronson visits Tony, an inmate of Broadmoor who claims that he pretended to be crazy to go to hospital instead of jail and has been fighting for years to get back out again. Is Tony a true psychopath or just a cunning criminal?
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and Ronson is soon comparing everyone he knows against the Hare. He seems to think it is news to the reader that a lot of executives are psychopaths, the inability to feel empathy for other people making them big shots in the boardroom (anyone who has watched a single episode of The Apprentice USA will wonder how Donald Trump scores) and he is soon globetrotting to show us that big bad business leaders are just as bad as inmates of a secure mental hospital.
Some people believe that psychiatry is a sham science and Ronson is aided in his investigations into madness by none other than the Scientologists who are well known for their hatred of psychiatrists. The Scientologists can provide some damning examples of where psychiatry has gone wrong including using LSD and bizarre naked psychotherapy sessions which make for entertaining reading but hardly a real expose and the most outlandish examples are chosen to get a laugh.
What does David Shayler have to do with psychopaths then? Absolutely nothing but it is good fun to have a pop at his crackpot theories. This is the former MI5 agent who not only believes that 9/11 was faked and that what we saw on the TV was a hologram but that on the 7/7 the London bombings were faked and it was the day which he also became the Messiah. I actually felt quite sorry for Shayler being used to get a couple of cheap laughs, the guy is clearly deluded and in need of some sympathy rather than mocking.
Ronson continues his voyage into the world of madness by trying to examine the way psychiatrists diagnose people using the DSM book and how different disorders end up being recognised. Are too many of us who are truly sane being diagnosed with disorders which don't exist in order to line the pockets of the drug companies? A brief look at childhood autism and bipolar disorder in the USA would seem to suggest that psychiatrists are all too keen to label kids with the latest trendy disorder to make a few bucks.
"The Psychopath Test" is an odd book, a book which seems to have no real direction and meanders around wherever the author can get in a cheap laugh or two. There are a lot of serious issues brought up in the book but It is not a serious investigation into psychopathy or mental illness and anyone who is well read will probably not learn too much from reading it since the topics are discussed in newspapers regularly. The jocular tone of Ronson's writing may work well with other subjects but not with this one which deserves to be treated with a bit more respect.
I should know better by now, the majority of popular science or psychology books which hit the top 10 of the paperback charts are pretty poor and "The Psychopath Test" is yet another flop.
Summary: a flop