Sunday, February 7, 2010

Of Course You Know, This Means War

I have written many times about the psychopathy checklist and made reference to how I believe that a strong argument can be made that Sarah Palin scores high on the checklist. The checklist is a continuum and to become a psychopath one must cross over a threshold. For men that the threshold for crossing is set at thirty out of a potential forty points. For women, because the condition manifest itself differently, that threshold is set lower. By the nineties, Robert Hare, after studying and rating psychopaths for decades, had only meet one who had a perfect score of forty. That was Clifford Olson.

The checklist is divided into two sections. Half are inherent traits that people can have - this is where the genetic component of the spectrum lies. The other half are lifestyle choices, to put a rather genteel term on what can turn out to be horrendous outcomes, and this is where the environmental factors play a significant role.

So to recap: to be on the psychopathy checklist one needs to have certain traits that are intrinsic parts of the person's personality. These traits alone will not make you a psychopath or even close to the threshold. Many of the people born with these traits lead productive lives, but may appear slightly 'off' to the people close to them. However, to gain more points on the checklist - enough to move into the zone of the ten percent of the population who cause significant problems to those around them, but have not crossed the threshold, and for those that have crossed that line - requires certain life style choices to be made. Here is where environment, which includes flukes of fate, can result in someone crossing the threshold to being a true psychopath.

No one is born a psychopath, they become one over time. It is a designation that is acquired over the course of a person's lifetime based on the actions taken. If one was inclined to think in certain terms, one could even describe it as a 'calling.' (Although I would argue that it is not a higher one, instead it is more similar to a siren's call.) The intrinsic (genetic) traits make it easier for the individual to move in the direction of making the checklist lifestyle choices and moving them up the checklist. Environment can either push them towards crossing the threshold or guide them away.

As a society, we can choose to help these individuals not answer the siren's call to cross the threshold or achieve even high scores on the checklist. It means having strong boundaries for them and making sure that there are consequences when they cross those boundaries. Part of those boundaries that we need to maintain for them is the law. People on the checklist need to know that they will be held accountable. Research has shown that they do not respond to appeals to their emotions to do the right thing - they respond to consequences and repercussions (although they will always try to manipulate their way out if they can).

As a society, we can also start to discuss the implications of this condition and how we humanely coexist with them. We need to ask ourselves if we should allow people who, by definition, exploit others and have no empathy, which makes them unaffected by others' suffering, to be in positions of power. There is plenty of historical precedent to show us that, when these individuals do obtain power, it does not end well.

I can not definitively state whether Sarah Palin has crossed over the threshold of the checklist at this time. She is, however, on the road to do so, if the current course of events is left to go unchecked. Over the last year and a half, I have watched Sarah Palin opportunistically cruise on the crest of a perfect storm that has taken a small time grifter to potential and real positions of great power.

Palin, when speaking, constantly uses the metaphor of doors opening and closing to her when she describes her opportunistic leaps. It is an apt description in this case. We must work to make sure that the door is closed to her, before she crosses an irrevocable threshold to the detriment of all of us.

Photomontage by John Heartfield


  1. I am especially interested in your view about Palin's writing on her inside left palm for her keynote speech last night at the Teabbagger's Ball; she did not seem to think that others would be able to see her cribbed notes, even though it was nationally televised live in High Def and she gestured many times with her hands.

    What does that say about Palin's state of mind as related to this checklist? Thanks.

  2. It is my understanding psychopaths have no conscience therefore they have no empathy for others. I, however, do believe that some are born that way. That is to say that something is amiss in the brain's wiring, so to speak. I do believe how one is raised also plays a significant role in their behaviour. Usually psychopaths are very intelligent like Ted Bundy. Sarah does not strike me as being smart but is is very conniving so would you classify her as a sociopath? What's the difference between sociopath and psychopath? Or is there no difference?

  3. Vera, thanks for another thoughtful and compelling post. I will continue to support the bloggers who are leading investigations and informing so many concerned citizens of the wrongdoings and character faults that makeup the persona of Sarah Palin. The Sarah Palin that was presented to the nation has deteriorated in many respects over the last 18 months. What frightens me though are the ways that she has become emboldened. Her capacity to engender fear and hate among her base astonishes me. What is truly and deeply concerning to me though is how so many politicians are pandering to her.

  4. Anon 12:59,

    People on the checklist are impulsive and are risk takers. They also do not think highly of the ability for others to catch them at what they do. If caught, however, they will glibly lie their way out of it.

    Palin needed the notes and she felt she could get away with it. Without thinking it through, she writes on her hand. 'I need it so I do it.' Because she doesn't have a sense of guilt or shame, she is not thinking that she will be caught and isn't self conscious about her hand as other people would be, so she waves them around unthinkingly.

    She would get into less blunders if she was smarter, but psychopaths are no intellectually smarter than the rest of the population. Their intelligence is spread along the bell curve the same as everyone else. In my time, I have met some truly stupid psychopaths. Be careful not to confuse cunning with intelligence.

    Anon 1:14,

    I hope that addressed a bit about what you wrote. As to the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths, I wrote a comment about that appears in the January word salad post.

  5. mxm,

    I agree with you and that is why I have spent so much time following this story.

    The interesting thing here is that when con artists get caught, or are on the verge of getting caught, they usually pull up stakes and move to another community where they reinvent themselves to pull off another scam. What is happening with Sarah Palin is the bloggers are closing that door for her and exposing how she operates to the world, which can easily find it through the net. Unlike in August 2008, when she felt comfortable that she could scrub the references she didn't like off of the internet.

    In a way, a dedicated group of bloggers are changing history.

    And, yes, it is quite scary when a psychopath gets cornered. They do not respond well to the experience. She will do a number of predictable things while she is in this state. It won't be pretty.

  6. I hope you're right that the bloggers are changing history. I follow Palingates, Mudflats, Bree Palin, Immoral Minority and also now you. Thank God for the bloggers and the followers who often post very witty and intelligent comments...keeps me sane and hopeful that she will be exposed for the fraud that she is. So a big thank you to you Vera, it's very much appreciated.

  7. I've been thinking lately, esp after reading so many of the released emails, that Palin is essentially controlled by the men in her life. Does anyone remember a time when she gave her mother credit for anything? Her mother hovers like a ghost in the background, reminding me of women who are under their husband's thumb. She basically married someone like her father, a "rugged outdoorsman" type she tries to emulate to some degree (I think the image she built up about herself being a "frontier, outdoorsy woman" is pretty false), and at the same time, she tries to present this very feminine (which she confuses with feminist) image of a fertile, youthful mother as she drags along her 2 younger kids on her travels. It's no wonder that her basic appeal is to men, not women. I personally don't think she has any close women friends except those she hires, and that's all business, and how much money she can help them make. She's like a throwback to the 50s in her attitude about women and men, IMO. I think the least negativity directed at anyone in her family (including Toad), even if deserved, causes her to defend them, not because the criticism might harm them, but because it reflects badly on her. And has anyone ever heard her express self-doubt or the necessity for self-reflection? I don't even think she understands her own humanity, much less anyone else's because she sees people as objects which is why she can rant about "bombing Iran" without even thinking it through.

    I think a psychiatrist would have a field day with her.

  8. If she's a psychopath a psychiatrist wouldn't be able to help her, however, she would make an interesting study.

  9. I've rarely heard her mention her mother although we frequently hear her speak of her father. She's still like an insecure little girl looking for Daddy's approval. I also read something interesting about her being the lone brunette in a family of blondes, or at least as far as her other sisters go. She has an inferiority complex as evidenced of her nasty put-downs of President Obama, anyone who disagrees with her, etc. I can't imagine any governor having the time to ready blogs and worry about what the writers were saying about her but she found the time. I couldn't believe her stupidity when she mentioned freedom of speech and how it meant she could say whatever she wanted and nobody could say anything about it...WTF?? Did this woman take any history, economic or English courses in school? What an amazing lack of intelligence she displays on a repeated basis.

  10. Hi Vera, great post.

    I have felt for a long time that Sarah is mentally ill & delusional.(& she is starting to border on dangerous)

    Instead of hoarding cats or hand washing, she grasps on to religion, power, & the delusion that she is god's gift to (white) man.

    I know that a lot of people have been helped with drugs, therapy, and/or proper nutrition.

    Wouldn't it be a grand thought that a pill or some vitamins could erase the "Sarah Palin" that we have come to know & love & replace her with another Wasilla PTA mom?

    For the safety of her children, I hope that she gets some help soon.

  11. I actually have a true psychopath in my family and I must say Sarah Palin is the mirror image of my relative.

    The most frightening thing is my family member has children and is constantly playing sick and dangerous games with them under the guise of true love. There is no remorse for anything that she does. She never reflects on her behavior nor admits sorrow for any harm she has done.

    In the history of man their have been countless psychopaths who have flown under the radar. They do not seek public office, fame or fortune. Most go about their lives quietly only harming those closest to them. Others spread out and try their criminal wings. But there have been countless psychopaths who seek their place in history and then, the blood ran. . . .

    Sarah Palin wants her place in history. But she may want fame and fortune more. If she chooses the latter--which I think is her preference, she'll only hurt her family. If she goes for the former--countless numbers of people could be in peril.

    Though Ms. Palin is not the brightest bulb in the box--she's ruthless as psychopaths are want to be--Not all the people who caused the greatest havoc on the planet were highly intelligent--just well placed in history.

    I have no love for Sarah Palin--but I worry about the harm she's done and is doing to her children. The first three seem to have many problems. And the fourth is well on her way . . . .
    How do you stop a psychopath? Well in Palin's case--out her.
    It's the only way to minimize the damage.

  12. I like your comment that we need the law to keep the psychopaths amongst us in line. Life in New Orleans after Katrina was an eye opener for me because it showed me just how many people will do illegal, stupid things when they think they can get away with it. We're talking speeding regularly at 70mph through a 20mph neighborhood with playing children because they knew there were no cops. Seriously undermined my previous libertarian leanings.

    The problem with Sarah is that she has gotten away with so much on such a staggering scale that it has reinforced her belief she can do anything. In a sense, she even got away with writing on her hand. For some bizarre reason, the MSM ignored it.

  13. Ticker shows Fairbanks, Wasilla and Anch visiting all at the same time.

  14. A magic pill that could do that would be lovely. But I'd rather see something that brought understanding, change of habits and practices, and a corresponding change in the actions and beliefs of those around her who currently support and sustain the path she's on.

    That's a longer harder way of doing things, but better for all in the long run.

    Ferry Fey

  15. Not sure there is much help once a psychopath reaches a certain level. And I do believe Sarah has just past that line.

    She's learned things over the past 1 1/2 yrs. which makes her all the more dangerous. She's learned how big money, politics and powerful people click together. If it's one thing she pays attention to is it's Money.

    Of course she gets a drunken thrill out of gushing cheering fans. But I think money may be more important than the fans, but without them, she has no money.

    I can't even type what I fear, I'm afraid it will give her ideas.

    Vera, I am so glad someone professional is watching and studying her. I hope others too. You'd think anyone who knows about these type people would see red flags all over her behavior.

  16. Say NO to Palin in PoliticsFebruary 8, 2010 at 1:14 AM

    I take it she perceives the door is open at least a crack and she's just waitin, she may plow through, she may not, she's got options now. Well I hope the heavenly karmic winds slam it shut in her face, and that it automatically locks, with no key to ever open again. nevah

    Please go home Scarah. And stay out of politics.

    "I won't close the door that perhaps could be open for me in the future."

  17. New to this blog (and like it a lot!) and have been following this Palin saga since Nov. 2008. I am particularly interested in her mental instability, and have been thinking for a long time that hers are the actions of someone without conscience.
    The fact that she thinks writing HI MOM on her hand will somehow vindicate her, or turn the initial cheat note into a joke, is, to me, plain evidence that she is not seeing things the way the rest of us are, and that she is not professional, let alone Presidential, material. Most people today aren't laughing about her HI MOM note. They are puzzled, and aren't sure if it's funny or not.
    However, some people are discussing her potential in 2012, when you'd think for sure they would be dismissing any and all possibility - the "future president" needs to remind herself of her core beliefs by scrawling it on her hand. And then responds to criticism of that by doing it again. This is her reasonable, logical response to being caught cheating. No guilt, no remorse, in fact, a flagrant nose-thumbing as she does it once more.

    I don't even know exactly how disordered she is, but a lot of her actions are the bizarre and senseless actions of someone with a very poor grasp of reality. And she shows no self-reflection. And everyone in her life, she thinks, is a reflection of her. I feel for her family.

    Love the blog and the header: "an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal".

  18. This is a great blog. I have wondered many times if SP was mentally ill. It would be nice if this all went away with a pill. But I do not believe that pharms are the answer to everything. (although sometimes they are the foot in the door to help some on the healing path)

    What also boggles the mind is that so many people around her contribute to her instability with no concern to her or the others that she may harm.

    Part mass delusion, part greed.

    Thanks Vera!

  19. Hi Vera city,

    First time that I really had a chance to do more than just glance over your stuff. I'm glad that the anti-palin blogs have you as a professional resource. Thanks so much for your insight.

    Funny thing is that when you wrote about counting the possible psychopaths that you encounter every day in your daily life, I always had that in the back of my mind too--even as a little kid although it's not like I had some tragic event to blame it on---just a lot of little things I noticed about who people say one thing and do another. Now, overall, I believe that most people are inherently good and I am not a fearful person by nature but I've always been errily aware of how easily the scales can tip and someone who seemed so "normal" is capable of doing horrific things espeically if they think that no one is looking or that they can get away with it. "One grain of rice can tip the scale" I hope that you will help keep our scale weighed down against Palin.

  20. Hi, Vera,

    I like what you write, too, and I am curious as to what your credentials are since so many here refer to you as a professional.

    I always look forward to your posts.


  21. Vera,
    Interesting post. I've been otherwise occupied for the past week, so I'm trying to get caught up on the blogs. Professionally, you and I have slightly different takes, but ultimately, close to the same bottom line. I'm fascinated by the evolution of Sarah in the past week concurrent with the release of the emails. Much more aggressive, trying very hard to direct the conversation, deflect attention away from the firestorm that is coming. Really something to watch.

  22. Vera, great post as usual. My question is how the abject word salad that devolves towards the end of the clip -- does it rate in any quantifiable manner in describing her pathopsychology? Qualitatively, I have kept my ears tuned for these people, but can this language decompensation be measured?

    Midnightcajun, Who Dat?
    The problem with Sarah is that she has gotten away with so much on such a staggering scale that it has reinforced her belief she can do anything. In a sense, she even got away with writing on her hand. Hitler's gambits before 1941 went well too, i.e. until Barbarossa. How soon is now?

  23. I just came across this, here's an interesting take on Palin's "abilities":

    Palin, writes Jonathan Raban in an excellent essay in the New York Review of Books, has an "exceptionally canny political instinct for connecting with her own kind."

    Martha Stout (author of The Sociopath Next Door) said there are four things the ASPD person wants us to know.
    They like us;
    They are the best friend/lover/leader we could ever meet and
    We can trust them with our secrets.

    I don't think it's a political instinct with Palin, I think it's a predatory instinct. After all, she is exploiting those who relate to her, not uplifting them. And she has proven that her own family values are quite different than the ones she says she lives up to on paper. She is only pretending to be like them.

    Great blog, Vera, I look forward to more posts from you.

  24. I have followed Palin through Mudflats since she was first chosen as VP. I spent quite a few sleepless nights playing "what if" scenarios in my head. There was much talk regarding her psyche since the very beginning & yet she continues. When the media criticizes she steps up her game & becomes more defiant. We have seen so many politicians fall from grace for so much less & I'm becoming quite discouraged that she is still in the headlines daily. What does this say about our current society that so many can't see through this egregious, psychologically flawed woman?

  25. Do you think it's possible she wrote on her hand TO GET CAUGHT, keeping her in the news? She doesn't seem to care if it good or bad as long as she's in the spotlight.

  26. Anon: 5:59

    I was thinking of how to reply to you and your very rational question of why many of us feel that Vera city is a professional. After all, this is the internet and anyone can pretend to be anything.

    I can only give you my take on it. As I mentioned in my post, I've always been keenly aware of inconsistancies in human nature. When I was little I allowed everyone to tell me that I was just imagining it and was blown off the way that kids usually are when adults are trying to fool them after being caught. I am not a practicing magician but am very good at "seeing the trick" in both the literal and figurative sense.

    I have seen Vera City's comments on the various anti-palin blogs for almost a year and have never seen them to seem pretentious or fake. There are often references to psychological texts, thoughts, and theories that are deeper than the average lay person's usual understanding. I believe she, possibly he for that matter, does indeed have a professional background but even if she does not have the academic credentials, she really "gets" the concepts which even many graduates of the field do not.

    Almost as a surprise confirmation of my thoughts, when I googled Vera City to get back to the blog spot, the actual definition from Merriam-Webster turned up as the first link "Veracity: 1: Devotion to truth 2:power of conveying or perceiving truth 3: Conformity with truth or fact 4: Something true

    Vera City, Very very clever, despite my killer vocabulary and 300+ scrabble scores, I didn't see it in your moniker.

  27. Say NO to Palin in PoliticsFebruary 11, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    Vera, I just listened to Geoffrey Dunn on Shannyn Moore's show, Palingates has it on their blog. Wow, his book is going to be a very interesting read.

    He says her strange behavior can be traced all the way back to age 2.

    Perhaps you should contact him.

    Yesterday I was reading up on Roger Ailes, Fox News CEO and his connection to politics in the past. Now I am a bit freaked out about her run for Prez.

    I'm also discovering many Scarah ties to Rudy Giuliani. Which scares me.

    Ailes was a media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, as well as Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989.