There are countless books, articles, websites, scientific papers, even movies and documentaries about sociopaths. Here are resources that I have vetted and recommend.
Some resources are historical, explanatory, general in nature. They explain what a sociopath is or what to do about them. Other resources are very topical and you can use them to understand what is going on right now in our world, for example the US Republican Party’s turn to authoritarianism, or Putin’s war.
Sociopaths in Power
There is a certain type of sociopath – the narcissistic psychopath – that lusts for power and dominance over all. They have insane visions of what the world should be and use violence to bring it about. Experts in the field believe that all recent dictators and wannabe autocrats are narcissistic psychopaths – it’s a long list.
- Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, by Ruth Ben-Ghiat. This book has also been made into a Netflix series.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is the expert on the “strongman” playbook employed by authoritarian demagogues from Mussolini to Putin—enabling her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America and Europe. In Strongmen, she lays bare the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years, and empowers us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.
- Lucid, a newsletter/blog on Tracking Authoritarianism, Democratic Decline, and Resistance. Professor Ben-Ghiat is an expert in the field. She also has regular Q&A sessions where she’ll field questions, interview experts, and more.
“a compelling and timely account of the dangers posed by narcissistic leaders, and provides a stark warning that the conditions in which this psychopathy flourishes – extremes of social inequality and a culture of hyper- individualism – are the hallmarks of our present age.”
Disordered World is Ian’s blog about the same topic.
- Dr. Elizabeth Mika: Blogs on medium.com and contributed the chapter Tyranny as a Triumph of Narcissism in the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President
An excellent introductory article by Dr. Mika is The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Narcissist
- Gary Kasparov: The former Russian chess champion is all too aware of what Putin and Russia are capable of. He is now a pro-democracy activist and a chairman of the Human Rights Foundation based in New York. He blogs, has TED talks, writes, and speaks – and he teaches chess.
His blog has sections for chess, of course, and also human rights and his books.
His most recent book: “Winter Is Coming presents a picture of the internal forces propelling Russia’s descent into aggressive authoritarianism. And it offers a scathing analysis of the contribution of the West to that outcome.”
- A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, by Bruce Cannon Gibney
This interesting and bitter book considers the Boomer generation as sociopathic, as every decision they’ve made has been to improve their own lives at the expense of others’, including their own children.
Back in the first Gilded Age, Robber Barons amassed vast fortunes through their control of monopolies and oligopolies. The second Gilded Age has been underway for some years and a new crop of executive thieves is on top. Today’s Robber Barons include people like the Waltons, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos. They care only about their vast egos and empires, and not at all about us, or climate change, or inequality, or anything but themselves, really.
- Narcissists as executives: Some corporations have intentionally selected narcissists to lead the company because of their supreme confidence in their big vision. There are downsides to this, including that sooner or later, the narcissist must be removed or he will destroy the company. Over time, their massive ego requires everyone in the company to be subservient and to fawn upon the great leader. He fires people who contradict or challenge him, surrounding himself with sycophants who tell him what he wants to hear, not what is needed. He also cannot stand strong leaders, as they represent a threat. And while charming when they want, when under stress or challenged, narcissists become vicious.
- The Corporation: This brilliant book and movie by Professor Joel Bakan are highly recommended, as is his latest, The New Corporation, an unfortunately necessary update. Bakan treats the modern corporation as if he were a psychiatrist examining it, and the results are undeniable: large corporations are inherently sociopathic. Almost all have broken the law, usually more than once, because it was more profitable than obeying the law. Almost all have harmed people, again because it was more profitable than not.
The Meek versus the Arrogant
A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?”
The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”
The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,
but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”
Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”
- Dr Robert Hare: Dr Hare is one of the pre-eminent experts on psychopathy. He created the PCL checklist for it, and has written some excellent books aimed at the general public:
- Snakes in Suits: “Revised and updated with the latest scientific research and updated case studies, the business classic that offers a revealing look at psychopaths in the workplace—how to spot their destructive behavior and stop them from creating chaos in the modern corporate organization.”
- Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us: “based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, Dr. Robert D. Hare vividly describes a world of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life.”
- Dr Martha Stout: Dr Stout has studied and written about sociopaths for many years. She advises how to identify and protect yourself from these predators.
- “We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience.”
- Generation of Sociopaths: Bruce Cannon Gibney wrote this searing indictment of Baby Boomers that is difficult to argue with: “His essential point is that by refusing to make the most basic (and fairly minimal) sacrifices to manage infrastructure, address climate change and provide decent education and healthcare, the boomers have bequeathed their children a mess of daunting proportions.”
Sources to Avoid
Sad to say, there are a lot of dishonest or deluded people out there, and you have to be careful not to be misled without even being aware. This happened to me many times when I was first trying to determine the truth – or not – of global warming.
One of the first casualties to truth was bloggers with no scientific credentials related to climate change whatsoever. I have those qualifications. I wanted people who knew what they were talking about, and who also were honest about what they did not know.
Next went the mainstream media, sad to say. I had assumed that national newspapers had editors who ensured whatever was printed was fact-based. The same for television news – someone must be checking for truth.
It’s Not the Media’s Job to Determine ‘Truth’
Turns out, anything labelled as ‘opinion’ can be fact-free. Bloviators and opinion columnists can say what they want, I was told. I have a response to this effect from the Executive Producer of The National, the flagship news program at CBC, Canada’s government-run broadcaster. He wrote to me, “it is not the CBC’s obligation to determine what is “truth”, the quotation marks indicating he believes all “truth” is subjective.
Some things do have one or more sides, but climate change ain’t one of them. Moreover, the CBC never allows its bloviators to say things like, “Vaccines cause autism,” because they don’t, and children will come to harm if not vaccinated.
Clearly, the CBC picks and chooses what it decides is truth, so you cannot rely on them for actual truth. The same is true of almost all mainstream media. There are certainly some shining stars who report the truth, but the tendency of billionaire or corporate-owned media will always be to present a corporate-friendly world.
For climate reality, the only people to listen to are climate scientists in reputable sources, see above. Pay attention to other sources at your peril – they can be persuasive and wrong.