June 15: What's Jen Clicking on Between Newscasts?

What do serial killers and politicians have in common? A little too much...

I saw this story in the LA Times today and found it irresistible. <a rel="bookmark" href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/06/politicians-and-serial-killers.html" title="Oh-oh! Politicians share personality traits with serial killers, study says">

"Oh Oh!  Politicians share personality traits with serial killers, study says."

AWESOME!  I have to check this out.  I have often thought that sociopathic behavior is sort of a pre-requisite for survival in the world of politics.  Here's a definition from Profile of the Sociopath, and tell me if this doesn't sound more politician than serial killer:

Glibness or Superficial Charm

Manipulative and Conning

Grandiose Sense of Self

Pathological Lying

Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt

Okay, and those are just the first five. Harsh? Maybe. But Andrew Malcolm writes in the LA Times blog Top of the Ticket:

Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI's behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.

Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.

SEE? The FBI profiler guy noticed it too!  His study is in the Examiner and says that "not all violent offenders are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are violent offenders."

If violent offenders are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. 

Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.

Is any of this a surprise?  Is the Capitol building really just the big house ... ?  Should we really throw the bums out and throw away the keys?

Well, no.  The research says just because you're a psychopath doesn't mean you'll be a serial killer.  But if you're a really bad guy, you'll be a great serial killer if you are one... it's just one element.  So if you're a normal person without violent tendencies but have that sort of psychopathic bent, you can also become a really good politician.  Here's more:

What doesn't go unnoticed is the fact that some of the character traits exhibited by serial killers or criminals may be observed in many within the political arena.

While not exhibiting physical violence, many political leaders display varying degrees of anger, feigned outrage and other behaviors. They also lack what most consider a "shame" mechanism. Quite simply, most serial killers and many professional politicians must mimic what they believe are appropriate responses to situations they face such as sadness, empathy, sympathy, and other human responses to outside stimuli.


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It's that genuine sense of phoniness that makes your hair stand up.  You know, the big toothy smile, the perfect hair, the suave demeanor.  Whose face flashed into your head?  A politician you don't like?  Or one you want to, but just can't get past that creepy feeling he or she gives you?

I found a story from the UK's Independent that's 13 years old, but echoes the same thoughts.  It says, "Politicians and stockbrokers share many of the same characteristics as criminal psychopaths. The only difference is that career high-flyers usually stay within the law. Some could be defined as "successful psychopaths", according to Lisa Marshall, a psychologist at Glasgow's Caledonian University."

This was part of a three-year study there:

She said: "Successful psychopaths included people with careers such as stockbrokers, where a lot of action was happening and where they had a lot of power. "They have to be quite cold and callous. You could say a politician. [They] might be in control and have power. They are risk-takers.They have the characteristics of psychopaths but without the criminal intent."

Would you trust a politician? Maybe not. But in the spirit of "it takes one to know one," maybe having a slightly diabolical yet not necessarily evil person in charge is not such a bad thing.

(Who are your picks for best psychopathic/sociopathic politician?  Send me an email, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.)

Editor's Note: As Jen's editor, I always look forward to what she'll write about -- but especially on the mornings when she  groans with a genuinely pathetic frown, "I don't know what to write about today. Will you write it for me... pleeeease?"

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