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Chomsky Talks about Psychopaths and Sociopaths

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Noam Chomsky
(image by Rob Kall)

In  my latest interview with Noam Chomsky, after talking with him about  Billionaires, Wealth Inequality and How Aristotle and Madison Dealt With Them,  I referred to some words he'd written about caring. Psychopaths and sociopaths don't care. It's a key part of their makeup that enables them to operate as heartless predators, exploiting everyone around them. 

here's the transcript of our conversation:

R.K.: Okay, so you have written and I am going to quote you here,

"if you care about other people that's now a very dangerous idea.  If you care about other people you might try to organize or to undermine power and authority.  That's not going to happen if you care only about yourself.  Maybe you can become rich, you don't care whether other people's kids can go to school or afford food  to eat or things like that.  In the United States that's called libertarian for some wild reason.  I mean it's actually highly authoritarian but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public."

Now, since we last spoke I have been doing a series of articles on psychopathy, psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists and it sure sounds like you're describing them when you describe people who don't care.  

N.C.: Well there is a huge propaganda effort that we are all aware of to try to turn people into psychopaths who don't care about anyone but themselves.  That's not new actually.  They go back a hundred and fifty years, the early days of industrialization in the United States.  Working people were bitterly condemning the industrial system that was being imposed, the way it was taking away their freedom, and one of the things they condemned is what they called the new spirit of the age-- 'Gain wealth forgetting all but self,'--  Exactly what you're describing.  That's a hundred and fifty years ago and ever since then there have been enormous efforts to drive these sociopathic attitudes into people's heads.  There are extreme cases like the Ayn Rand cult where it's kind of like, open but yeah we should be psychopaths, and there are, you read a lot of what's called libertarian shouldn't be called that, it's very authoritarian. But a lot of it is based on the same principles.  'Why should I pay taxes to send somebody else's kids to school or why should I support the disabled widow across town with, her social security is her problem, not mine "   That's pathological.  In fact there's an interesting book that just came out which maybe you've seen called The Sociopathic Society by a very good sociologist, Charles Derber and he's describing accurately the development of these things.  And we see them all the time.  

Take the huge attack on healthcare systems.  I mean, it is, Obama Healthcare system is nothing much to write home about, I mean it's much worse than other advanced countries have, but it's a slight improvement over our totally scandalous privatized system which really is an international scandal.  I mean it's more than twice the per capita cost of comparable societies and some of the worst outcomes.   Because it's privatized.  But even the mild attempt of the Obama system what the call Obamacare to try to modify some of this and deal with some of the problems that deprived, that has led to an extraordinary campaign of some of it just leading to almost comical lying.  What we saw recently is an interesting case.  I happened to  listen to the radio and I heard John Boehner giving a sober talk denouncing Obamacare because of these, the latest statistics that came out of the Congressional Research Bureau showing that maybe two and a half million people would stop working because of Obamacare.  

How did he present this?  Well the way the right wing is presenting it as showing that Obamacare is taking away jobs.  That's not what it said.  What it said is it's giving people freedom to free themselves from what amounts to slavery.  Keeping a job just because you -

R.K.: I wrote about that four years ago.  I wrote an article called Healthcare Slavery

N.C.: Yeah that's what it is. And this offers people the opportunity to free themselves.  You have to remember these people call themselves conservatives and what they're saying is people ought to be enslaved.  They ought to be trapped in work that they don't want because they can't survive otherwise.  They can't even get healthcare which in civilized countries is available to everyone.  

That's an extreme case of psychopathic behavior and it's institutionalized.  By now it's the doctrine of the so-called republican party which isn't really a political party anymore.  It's kind of off the spectrum of parliamentary parties.  But yes they're quite openly advocating that.  The same is true of the attack on public schools which is incidentally bi-partisan.  It's a major attack against public schools in all sorts of ways and I think the main driving force is that same issue.  

Public schools are based on the principle that you care about other people.  I care that a kid in the other side of town in a poor neighborhood should have a decent education.  And I'm willing to pay taxes for it.  That's what public schools are about.  But if you're a psychopath, you don't want that.  It's the kid's fault or his parent's fault or something else.  Why should we pay for it, let's destroy the system and privatize it.  

Just as our scandalous healthcare system is privatized.  Same is true as the attack on social security which is again bi-partisan.  Obama has just made decisions which reduce the very meager social security payments.  That's what they kind of hide it as a different calculation of cost of living but what it amounts to when you sort of decode the complications is a reduction of social security payments.  

These are very minor and small payments and people have to live on them because of the enormous poverty level and the basic attack on the population, the attack on wages that I mentioned and so on.  So we have to cut that even further, and that's bi-partisan.  And the republicans want to go even further.  Just take the recent decision a couple of days ago to stop unemployment benefits. 

That is just straight savagery.  People aren't unemployed because they choose to be, they're unemployed because the system is utterly dysfunctional.  Dramatically dysfunctional.  The economic system is, here we have a society, the richest society in the world in comparable advantages, there's tens of millions of people eager to work, there's an enormous amount of work that has to be done.  I mean the country is beginning to look like a third world country, there's ample resources available.  

They're sequestered in the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector and therefore inaccessible for these purposes, so you have eager hands, lots of work, plenty of resources, and the system is so dysfunctional it can't put them together.  And the idea is let's make it worse.  So let's cut off at least some minimal compensation to the people who are the victims of this system.  Just before that there was a decision too cut back food stamps.  

The idea that there should even be food stamps in a rich country like this is scandalous.  It's a rich country.  You shouldn't have the worst poverty level in the world, in the rich world outside of Turkey.  That's utter scandal.  So now let's cut it back further.  So we'll cut a couple tons of money off the food stamp program.  All of this is just sheer savagery or to use your word it's psychopathic and it's institutionalized. 

R.K.: Now it sounds like you're saying that the republican party or right wingers are psychopaths.  

N.C.: Not necessarily the individuals in them.  In fact, if you look at polls, it turns out that, there are polls, they're careful studies of the polls among the right wing, the sectors of the population that say you get government off our backs, we don't want government.  You take a look at the attitudes of those people, turns out they're more or less social democratic.  

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Rob Kall is editor-in-chief, publisher and site architect of, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor. He hosts the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, aired in the Metro Philly area on AM 1360, WNJC. Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the

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The people who "Don't care" concern me almost as ... by Paul Repstock on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 10:42:23 AM
Mind you, there are no "school shooter drills" in... by Stefan Thiesen on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 4:23:40 AM
Obviously you missed the years of bomb drills whe... by Gail Harrison on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 2:23:05 PM
Chomsky is so right.  We have a predatory cap... by Tom Huckin on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 11:11:33 AM
".. In free-market capitalism, capital genera... by Lance Brofman on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 1:12:02 PM
That is a very honest description of what happene... by Paul Repstock on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 1:28:05 PM
Paul Craig Roberts describes capital in the same ... by Derryl Hermanutz on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 3:15:25 PM
That's what they teach in business school, but the... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 5:47:41 PM
That is a terrific observation Mark. I had suspec... by Paul Easton on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 10:33:06 PM
Thanks, Paul.  Now, we only need about a mill... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 10:56:31 AM
Nice to have no trouble understanding the intervie... by Maxwell on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 12:19:16 PM
 If the economy was suffering from accumulat... by Lance Brofman on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 1:10:28 PM
Nonsense. You must have studied economics at a bu... by Jim Arnold on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 1:50:44 PM
Jim; you said, "They can't sell what's already on... by Paul Repstock on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 3:23:09 PM
LOL!  Do Coke and Pepsi pay for all of the i... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 1:20:47 PM
It may be a moot point to what extent governments ... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 2:23:34 PM
True sociopaths (anti-social personality disorder)... by Chris Robinett on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 5:29:59 PM
Yes; Mr. Chomsky enjoys his celebrity. "They" pro... by Paul Repstock on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 10:45:06 AM
Let's get real here.  I work fraud in transp... by George Buzzetti on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 2:45:25 PM
I agree. But, there is also plenty of Corporate f... by Paul Repstock on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 3:51:29 PM
Now, why would this be "Inappropriate content"???... by Paul Repstock on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 10:54:35 PM
Good you bring up OpEd "Flag" issues: You say: ... by Michael Daly, artist on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 2:31:56 AM
Jaded blame. Blame the molester for being a preda... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 9:40:38 AM
To underline the point made here in passing, "cor... by George Flower on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 2:58:02 PM
Excellent interview Rob.  Thanks for your out... by Michael Collins on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 1:04:00 AM
What I love about this is the tie between de-regu... by Rob Kall on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 7:48:49 PM
Rob Kall, I had two comments removed on t... by Michael Daly, artist on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 10:45:04 PM
9/11 was not the reason for anything.  It was... by Richard Pietrasz on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 11:48:50 AM
Yes. "9/11 Truth" is the third rail of investigat... by Bill Mack on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 2:21:35 PM
Please ask him who regulates the regulators and ho... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 11:18:01 AM
True, but the systemic failure goes deeper, and th... by Stefan Thiesen on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 4:43:11 AM