We tend to shun the concept of the willing killer because it offends our kinder sensibilities, but a controlled psychopath is an asset on the killing fields. Those who possess such a temperament are natural killers and many have served this country well. The problem lies in identifying these individuals and positioning them where they can be most effective.
A natural killer is a person who has a predisposition to kill—he enjoys combat and feels little or no remorse about killing the enemy. These men have existed throughout the history of warfare, and their feats have often been hailed as heroic. They constitute less than 4 percent of the force, yet some studies show that they do almost half of the killing.
“My name is Andy McNab and I’m a psychopath.” Author of Bravo Two Zero, the story of his time as part of an eight-man Special Forces operation behind enemy lines in Iraq during the first Gulf War. “For me, I realize the people I’ve killed are human beings,” he says. “But I think, you know, So what? It’s all part of the game.“
“Members of elite or special forces are high functioning psychopaths,” writes CJ Werleman.
He points out that they are sometimes referred to as “compassionate psychopaths” – which seems to be a contradiction. Psychopaths, by definition, don’t have much empathy, therefore would struggle to be compassionate.
He asks the question:
“The question citizens of the US and other Western democracies must now ask whether they wish to have their streets and communities patrolled and set upon by “compassionate” or high-functioning psychopaths, who hold little or no emotional or physical connection to the city to which they have been deployed, on behalf of increasingly authoritarian governments?”
Psychopaths are everywhere in the news today but nobody (except me) is calling them that. Which is part of the problem. We don’t recognise psychopathy when we see it, so we do nothing systematic about handling it.
This story about NZ politicians doing stupid things might be signs of psychopathy. Of course it could just be normal stupid human tricks, but a) we know psychopaths are attracted to power, so there is likely to be a higher concentration of them in politics than in society in general; and b) you would think that people in positions of power and high media visibility would know not to do such stupid things that might be more understandable in people who aren’t so much in the spotlight.
And this story about people not obeying COVID isolation rules after entering QLD is another indication of psychopaths because a) they don’t think the rules apply to them; and b) they don’t care about the welfare of others, so making a bunch of people sick, maybe even dying, and destroying the economy, is something that would hardly register in their minds.
I just read this great post by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup and a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL) and Columbia University, co-founder of Metaprofiling and Deeper Signals, author of ‘Confidence: How much you really need it and how to get it’, and ‘The Talent Delusion: Why data – not intuition – is key to unlocking human potential’) on Forbes “Are Narcissistic Leaders As Confident As They Appear?“.
He talks about how narcissism often masks a deep feeling of insecurity and how “their confidence is unlikely to reflect actual competence”. So what happens when you get insecure, incompetent narcissists who manage to talk themselves into positions of leadership? As Tomas points out, when you get leaders who “display a type of narcissism that shows no traces of insecurity, let alone self-awareness” and which “coexists with psychopathic tendencies”, this can become “a particularly brutal and toxic cocktail”.
I’ve reached out to Tomas via Twitter to see if he’d be willing to come on my podcast for The Psychopath Epidemic to discuss further.
The best way to tell if someone is a narcissist is apparently just to ask them. A narcissist will reply “oh yeah, I’m a narcissist”. It’s called the Single Item Narcissism Scale test. I learned this during my recent interview with neuroscientist David Chester for the Psychopath Epidemic podcast.