Rob: Welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township reaching Metro Philly and South Jersey, and online through iTunes, just look for my name, Rob Kall, K-A-L-L or at opednews.com/podcasts with an 's', sponsored by opednews.com.
My guest tonight is David Swanson. He's the author of War is a Lie, War No More -- A Case for Abolition. He's been involved with a number of great websites: davidswanson.org, warisacrime.org, worldbeyondwar.org. He's anti-war and tonight we're going to talk about a number of things, but the reason I invited David back on to revisit because we've had him a couple of times on the show, is he recently wrote an article in response to my series of articles about sociopaths and psychopaths. His article was titled, Can We Really Blame Sociopaths?, and he challenges me on some things. So...and I really enjoyed the article. It was really helpful to me to think some things through. He hits some of the weak points of where I've been on the course of this journey that I've been on, so it was really great to see the article.
Welcome to the show, welcome back David.
DS: Hey Rob, great to be here.
Rob: Yeah, and thank you so much, seriously, for challenging me because I'm on a quest here and frankly it takes people like you to really put my feet to the fire...whatever...and so this is really great.
DS: Well I appreciate...Rob I appreciate you writing these articles because they are very interesting and stimulating and I've been hearing about this for a while from you and also from a friend of mine you may know. Coleen Rowley, has been constantly bringing up this problem of sociopaths to me and I figured I better sit down and think about it a little bit and I finally got a chance to. And I got...you know I was disturbed by things you said, like you wouldn't mind psychopaths being made unable to have children, which I think you've taken back now, but I was engaged by a lot of other things you said so I think it's an important topic.
Rob: Well, yeah, back....right at the very beginning of my of exploration of this challenge I said something like that and I'm going to have to own that and, frankly, I'm at the point right now where...and I put it in a comment in response to your article...I really believe that we hardly know anything at all about this group of people. What we do know is the FBI estimates that it costs half a trillion dollars a year to deal with them in terms of jails and the justice system and the damage they do and that barely reflects the real damages they do. It only reflects people who get caught. Yet, in talking to researchers, it looks like they spend less than $20 million a year, which to me seems just unbelievable that it's such a small amount that's invested in dealing with such an expensive, huge problem. So what I really...what I've been saying is that we need to understand the problem better. Before we can do anything we have to understand it. We have to understand who they are. Can they be identified? What do they do? That's really where I've taken a step back and where I think things are.
When I originally contacted you, I was really interested because of your interesting concern with war. What your thoughts were about psychopaths and war and you went way beyond that which was great.
DS: Well, I certainly agree wholeheartedly with we ought to know more about things before we begin messing around with them in dangerous ways as the fate of the planet at the moment ought to inform us. I'm not clear where you want more money spent. This is a country that spends vastly more than anybody else on incarceration and so-called law enforcement, much of it counterproductive. And I certainly would not come down on the side of increased prison spending, for example.
I think that that comparison between what's happening in this country and what's happening in other countries could be useful when we're going on the hunt for sociopaths among us because a lot of the behavior that I think gets identified as sociopathic is cultural. Cultural in the sense of infecting our culture so widely that it's mainstream and cultural in the sense of infecting, imposing ideas on minorities within our culture. So when we talk about the US military as a jobs program, when we talk about the war on Iraq and the costs it imposed on the United States, but not on the absolutely devastated nation of Iraq, that looks sociopathic to the rest of the world and that's not behavior that's engaged in by a couple of people. That's all of us. That's our television networks, that's our conversations in classrooms.
When we, as political beings, excuse horrendous crimes that we were outraged about a year ago because of political parties, that looks sociopathic. When we make corporations into persons with rights, when we look at congress members who quite openly decide on matters of life and death for millions or billions of people based on their personal experiences... I'll be against war because my brother died in Vietnam, as if 4 million people didn't die there. When we talk about how people from other cultures and backgrounds have to be humanized, we have to know their personal stories before we'll think of them as humans. You know, we admire these behaviors, we think of them as admirable, but they look sociopathic and they're across our culture. They're not just a handful of people who, if we could identify their genes, we would know they were the bad guys.
Rob: Okay, so you said a lot. Let me just try to respond to some of the things. First of all, in terms of research, I think next week I'll be speaking to the president of the Psychopathic Research Society...I think we need to do a lot more research on understanding psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists because we don't know enough about them.
Now, doing basic research on this is, to me, extremely important. A while back, I think in December, I interviewed James Fallon. He's a neuroscientist who did research on psychopath brains, and he realized that he had the brain of a psychopath; and he started asking his friends and they go, 'Oh yeah, you're definitely a psychopath -- you do things that only a psychopath would do.' The guy is not a criminal or at least he hasn't been busted. In his book he acknowledges that he's done stuff that he could have been arrested for, but he never was caught. And so I think the first step, along the lines of what he's done out of personal interest, is to understand all we can about the biology, the psychiatry, the psychology, the sociology of psychopaths.
For example, psychopaths are extremely charismatic and they're powerfully effective at influencing, manipulating and dominating other people. This, you know, most people when they talk about sociopaths and psychopaths, they talk about how they have no empathy; but I think the most dangerous thing about them is not just the empathy, but also their ability to manipulate other people. So the question is how do we do something that could be -- it should be a research question -- how do you identify somebody who is manipulating you in a psychopathic or sociopathic way, whether they are or not, and how do you resist it?