I must admit I had never heard of either the book or the author before I seen Jon’s TED talk (by the way if you haven’t heard of TED before where have you been living). But after watching his talk and a recommendation by a twitter follower, I decided to give it ago. After all at £3.86 from amazon what did I have to lose?
‘People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get what they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.’
– Robert Hare, Ph.D
This is a great read, funny and full of amusing situations. I managed to finish it in a relatively short time. It is not however an academic book in any sense of the word, mainly focusing on the journey he takes before, during and after learning how to spot a psychopath in 3 days… yes 3 days. After apparently managing to get himself a discount on Canadian Psychologist Robert D. Hare’s PCL-R residential course. He discusses the power he feels at being able to apply a label to someone that may stick with them for the rest of their lives with just three days of training (why am I bothering 7 years of study).
But Ronson also talks about the frequent misdiagnosis of psychopathy. And the misdiagnosis of many other “mental illnesses” that may in fact just be trying to label and profit off of various human eccentricities. I especially enjoyed the discussion on childhood bi-polar disorder and how this is viewed by many as a pharmacological cash cow. Many psychologists believing it’s impossible to suffer from a condition which develops in adolescence when you’re a child. He showed an example of what seemed a very emotive and aggressive mother of two bi-polar children to prove this point.
Tony seems to be the star of the show after scamming his way into Broadmoor hoping for nicer amenities and found himself unable to convince the doctors of his sanity for another 20 years, ironically13 years after his prison sentence, for serious assault, was originally intended to be over. The inclusion of Scientologists in this situation was just an added touch of pantomime in my opinion.
Overall I really enjoyed this engrossing book and it left me with a hunger to read more serious works on Psychopaths and Sociopaths. It did leave a bitter taste in my mouth about Robert Hare who seems to just be touring the world selling this “ability” to anyone who can afford to spend the hundreds of pounds he demands. I would love to hear from you if you have read it, also if you have any recommendations for what I should read next, I would love to hear them.