Wednesday, October 4, 2017

An Introduction to Psychopathy (and Its Handmaiden, Pornography)

Movie star handsome, charming Ted Bundy.
Psychopathy: Not a Mental Illness

As you are likely to hear discussion of "psychopathy" in the news, the Bear will share what he learned when dealing with psychopaths and the research into it as a criminal defense lawyer.

Psychopathy and pornography go together like Bonnie and Clyde, so there will be a discussion of that, too. And a special public service announcement at the end. If you happen to be a user of child pornography, skip directly to that now and learn the terrifying personal consequences of your little hobby.

Psychopathy is not classified as a mental illness, yet is recognized as a condition by researchers and psychologists. A lawyer cannot assert an insanity defense on the basis of psychopathy, but might use it as mitigation in sentencing.

Psychopathy is tested by observation. This is fraught with difficulties because psychopaths are human chameleons and masters of manipulation. They have fooled even experienced psychologists. There is a instrument accepted as a test for psychopathy devised by Dr. Robert Hare, the foremost expert on the subject. It is called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Revised, and is considered the gold standard. Yet, recall psychopaths are masters of manipulation and can be quite charming, making use of Hare's scale tricky.

All psychopaths are not criminals. Dr. Hare has written a book entitled "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work." Psychopathy - the utter lack of remorse or consideration for the well-being of others - can be highly adaptive. When there is not a shred of decency holding you back, you have an advantage over your peers.

Do Dead Fish Really Think?

More recently, attempts have been made to detect psychopathy by use of the fMRI, or Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This is a special kind of MRI that purports to show real-time blood flow in different areas of the brain by detecting iron, a component of blood. The idea is that when an area is active, it will "light up," - actually, it is seeing an increase of blood flow - and when it is inactive, it won't. 

This assumes we are our brains and nothing more, and, furthermore, scientists can accurately correlate areas of the brain with specific functions. At any rate, proponents claim the areas believed to be responsible for processing emotions are demonstrably less active in the brains of psychopaths.

Over 70 years ago, Dr. Wilder Penfield demonstrated that vivid memories could be evoked by direct stimulation of parts of the exposed temporal lobes of patients' brains. While much has been made of Penfield's famous discovery, it is important to note that patients always realized the memory was being caused by the doctor's actions. In other words, in addition to the vivid experience, there was "something" else that was observing the process.

Penfield himself did not doubt the existence of the human soul.

Here is a fascinating clip of Dr. Penfield and (obviously actors reciting) evoked memories.

Suspected psychopaths are shown emotionally charged images as the fMRI scans their brain activity. A computer program translates the data into pictures of the brain. It is important to note that the fMRI itself does not produce the images, and the process is only as good as the computer program.

One fMRI test famously showed thoughts in the brain of a dead fish.

The fMRI test has been used forensically by Dr. Kent Kiehl, who has tested hundreds of prisoners. The Bear has worked with Dr. Kiehl and remains skeptical. The Bear has argued in print and in person that any attempt to use psychopathy for defense purposes is wrong-headed, Trial lawyers, however, like most people, are fascinated by shiny new things.

Another thing about the human brain to remember is that it is "plastic." In other words, it actually recreates itself, adapting physically in response to thought. Of course, St. Paul knew this. "And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2.) This is fact.

The Bear is not satisfied by the conventional science on the topic and believes there may be an unacknowledged "chicken or egg" problem. Indeed, materialistic neuroscience cannot admit this problem, because mind cannot act upon matter under their view (mind is an illusion produced by matter, according to them).

"They Know the Words, but not the Music" 

It has been said psychopaths know the words but not the music.

The hallmark of psychopathy is the inability to feel empathy. A psychopath is the ultimate user. Their crimes are said to be usually instrumental - in other words a means toward an end. The Bear has not found this to be so in all cases, but, honestly, psychopaths are really not all that common in criminal defense. The Bear devoted almost his entire career to criminal defense, and in his final years, exclusively murder (like Matlock, only poor - and without so many innocent clients)  and only saw one or two defendants he suspected were true psychopaths.

Ted Bundy is perhaps the most famous psychopath. He often played upon the sympathy of his victims to kidnap them. In his last interview, with Protestant personality James Dobson, Bundy said pornography was what twisted him.

He confessed to killing 30 women. His lawyer later claimed Bundy had told him he had killed over 100 women and a man. The details are available online, but will not be repeated here. At 7:06 a.m. on January 24, 1989, Bundy was executed in Florida's electric chair.

Psychopaths often turn out to have been cruel children. In one case the Bear recalls, the defendant, as a boy, had entertained himself by dousing hamsters with lighter fluid and setting them ablaze. He also hanged a dog off a bridge.

Psychopaths are said not to have consciences. The Bear doubts there is any human that lacks a conscience. We know, however, consciences can be dulled. There can be no doubt people are gifted with varying degrees of intelligence. Perhaps some people are deficient in their ability to process emotions. It is difficult to account for a lack of normal empathy in a child, even one raised in less than ideal circumstances. Many children are, yet few become psychopaths.

Crime and Pornography

Ted Bundy had a large collection of pornography that included depictions of violence. Pornography is inherently psychopathic, in that it strips performers of their human worth and reduces them to objects of the viewers sexual gratification. The Bear cannot say whether it is because pornography is ubiquitous, or there is a genuine link between pornography and crime, but he can recall few murders where the defendant did not possess pornography.

Perhaps it is both. An NIS investigator once told the Bear that they stopped the search of someone's residence when they found the porn stash, figuring there was nothing else hidden to be found. So, it is no doubt common. The Bear is showing his age, though. Porn isn't something police are going to find under mattresses anymore. Common? Ya think?

We live in the Age of Porn. (Hugh Hefner mainstreamed it; the internet mainlines it.) The Bear has this idea that the truly great movements of history are easily overlooked. If the real story is on the inside (as he wrote a 500-page novel to demonstrate) things like Facebook's role in dividing people and their society, and pornography's corrosion of the soul, may be bigger than who won the last election. And porn is not just for men anymore. A pornographic novel (and not exactly Lady Chatterly's Lover, either) can become a cultural sensation.

A compelling, lavishly produced HBO fantasy series - Game of Thrones - has frequent sex scenes, including frankly sadistic ones. (Not so much lately, though.) And yet the Bear confesses that he is a great fan of the series, although he regrets that part of it, and finds something else to do with his eyes. Nearly always.

If - as the Bear firmly believes - pornography inevitably leads to a deadening of the conscience and loss of interest in or appreciation of personhood (and a lot more beside) we may be living through the "inside" equivalent of the great modern watershed of World War I. As Mrs. Goodman says in Judging Angels, "Headlines in Heaven are made on the inside." And, after all, aren't those the headlines that really count in the long run? 

Practical Psychopathy - Child Pornography

However, the Bear has represented many child pornography clients, too. As part of his review of the evidence, he was required to examine thousands upon thousands of pictures horded by his clients on their hard drives. (A criminal defense lawyer must see much which can never be unseen.) He will not say further, but do not imagine he is leaving anything to your imagination.

You literally cannot imagine the things the Bear saw if you are a healthy human being. You would scarce believe the Bear should he tell you, which he never will.

The point is, the typical child pornography defendant prosecuted in federal court  has a ridiculous amount of the stuff. The Bear doubts that it would even be possible for some of his clients to view all of their images and videos if they went at it 24/7. Clearly, there is some pathology at work. And, yes, the Bear has seen many "slippery slope" cases, where men have begun with "normal porn," only to find it necessary to broaden their tastes and eventually seek out new and forbidden images to achieve the same gratification.

Often, if not most of the time, there is a history of either early sexual abuse or early sexual experimentation. The Bear once represented a decorated Army veteran whose job included cleaning out vehicles of human remains. Around that time, while still stationed in the Gulf, the man started using pornography, and slowly progressed to the tens of thousands of illegal images he was eventually found with years later.

An unknown percentage will go on to abuse children. It may not be called psychopathy, but it has the same hallmark - reducing human beings to mere objects of pleasure. Bundy claimed to feel like God at the moment he took a woman's life. A god who is essentially different, superior with the arbitrary power of life and death, perhaps. 

The Bear cannot recall ever finding real remorse in a child molester or user of child pornography.

Public Service Announcement

If anyone should read this who is using child pornography, prepare to get the crap scared out of you. Consider this, if nothing else. The FBI probably already knows about you. They know the embedded identification codes of most files in circulation and can follow them right to your computer. They are always monitoring. FBI agents have frankly admitted to the Bear that they just have far more suspects than they can arrest.

Maybe you'll get lucky. A lot don't.

Each series has a name. In fact, the kids on those nameless images have names after all. Guess what? When you are tried, the federal prosecutor will be able to tell the jury exactly who this girl is, or that boy, and what town in the Ukraine or wherever they were from. Bet you didn't know that, did you? And that same federal prosecutor will tell the jury - maybe it makes sense and maybe it doesn't, but it's effective - that every time you or anyone else looked at that picture, that named child was victimized all over again.

Those images will get displayed on giant screens for everyone to see. Sort of like a preview of Judgment Day. And the jurors will get sick to their stomachs. How much sympathy do you think you can expect because you were otherwise law-abiding, or a Boy Scout leader, or a hardworking family man? "Child Pornographer" is all you will ever be for the rest of your life.

You're probably trading with others. LimeWire, or something else, right? When they catch one of your buddies, they will roll up everybody he's trading with. That includes you.

Federal sentencing guidelines are from the era of magazines in brown paper wrappers. You will pay a heavy surcharge in years for - and this is sort of funny - using a computer. Bet you're using a computer, aren't you? Sure you are. The thousands of videos and images on your hard drive will guarantee - this is advice from a legal expert - many years in federal prison. Forget probation. You probably never knew any of this, did you?

You see, federal sentencing is like doing your income taxes. The numbers drive everything, whether it is grams of meth or images of illegal pornography. (And those little video clips count as lots of images, too.)  And there is hardly a case these days where the guidelines are not maxed out. It is not at all difficult.

Imagine your first day in the local jail, awaiting federal trial, as a child pornographer. What will your wife think? Your kids? Your fellow inmates might not be impressed, either. And go ahead and imagine your first day in federal prison as a child pornographer, because these cases prove themselves. (There won't really be a trial, because your only choice will be to plead guilty for the 3 level reduction and your lawyer's best mitigation argument before an unsympathetic federal judge.)

Well, federal prisons aren't the worst. You'll get used to a cell with another guy and a toilet next to your bed. Given 15, 20 years or more, you can get used to a lot. If you're not a badass, and you probably aren't, start practicing. Because you will be tested and had better be able to give the meth dealer two cells down a convincing fight or suffer the fate of the weak.

Do not be weak in prison. Get in training. Learn Kung Fu. You think the Bear is joking. Wait and see how funny it all turns out to be.

Weak. Just like little kids. Weird how that works, huh, hotshot?

Also, there's this: whatever your rationalization, it is very wrong. If you can't agree, that only shows how far you have separated yourself from normal, decent humans. Stop. Get help. You need it. Hope there's not that knock on your door tomorrow morning or ten years from now.

Imagine that knock. It's early. Who could it be? Then you'll remember and you will feel like you just swallowed a bucket of ice. Too late, now. It's really happening.

End of public service announcement


  1. Excellent Bear. I remember reading years ago somewhere that the Bishops who covered for the sexual abusers demonstrated psychopathological behavior, for they did not empathize with there victims and took comfort in their power to rehabilitate the serial abusers.

    I think that this is as good an explanation that has been given (outside of the fact that they were abusers themselves and self identified with the perpetrators of the abuse or were blackmailed by them.)

    Desensitization to evil is the greatest cause of evil in the world. Keep up the good work and please continue to be a Bear.

    God Bless You,

    Fr. RP

  2. Morals, virtue, a society and education that promotes life and desency is the answer to less mass murderers as in Vegas. A lack of empathy for fellow humans causes mass murder in our society which is debased and corrupt. If a psychopath is willing to die to kill you, outlawing guns will not solve this problem. Over ten thousand unborn babies have been murdered since the Vegas.
    murders. Not a peep from our Bishops or anyone. As an old prosecutor and defense attorney, you are spot on. Thank you.

    1. Psychopaths aren't exactly know as martyr types. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of psychopathy. I don't know what was up with this guy, and, honestly, haven't followed the story closely enough to know if it was possible he thought he had some sort of way out other than suicide. It is a strange mix of logical, meticulous planning (not exactly consistent with most mental illnesses) and unexplainable violence. He transferred that money for some reason. This is a real head-scratcher. Does it feel politically motivated? Yeah. Maybe. But who really knows at this point. Of course, you are right, ultimately a sick society will produce all sorts of deviations, and, let's face it - half of the people in this country absolutely hate the other half. That is not healthy.

  3. There is a noticeable uptick in hatred and violence of all kinds. It's palpable, and spiritually discerning people have been feeling it for a few years now. It is increasing all the time. In fine velocitor, is that right? I think that's it. Everything speeds up at the end.
    Evil of all kinds. I'm thinking this demon in Las Vegas may have joined Islam, they are making some more pointed claims. It would not surprise me. Although it may sound odd, the fact this man had a girlfriend not a native American says something about him. The rejected oddball, shoots up country music fans. Even stupid Mariah Carey and other vile persons connected country music with President Trump, stating in the most evil manner, with a callous casualness, that for that they deserved it. These people do hate, and they are legion now. Where the H did all these people who hate their fellow Americans so deeply come from.
    Child pornography viewers. I can hardly speak of this at all. One could go mad considering children at any moment in this peril, it is almost enough to send one door to door. My God, please help these children, or send a meteor.

  4. The weird part is that one can hardly think of such things without healthy revulsion, yet those who do them never seem to find anything wrong with it. Successful treatment of these perverts is extremely difficult. Even "successes" seem to be drawn to the legally safe edges.

    1. That's funny, I read your other comments about this particular issue. What then can be done about these people, the people who do the unspeakable. Is there any remedy at all? How can we better protect children? In a world of so many parents with their own issues, children are just at the mercy of monsters. My God.

    2. As always, it's up to parents to be alert to protect their kids. We watched ours like you would expect from parents named Red Death and the Bear.

      But the problem is, by far most abuse occurs within the family. I have seen mostly uncles and grandfathers. There used to be a phrase, "funny uncle," you may recall. It divides families, with half supporting the abuser at all costs. Weird, but probably says a lot about the family dynamics behind it all.

      Homosexual predators are more likely to groom outside-the-family boys around adolescence.

  5. Kathleen many men have had it with American women. That doesn't make them psychopaths.


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