Saturday, October 07, 2006

Foley debate reveals psychopaths

Of all the reactions to the controversy over the Republican House Leadership’s cover-up of the presence of a sexual predator in their midst the argument I find most fascinating is that offered by Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and others. Their argument is that the House Leadership could take no action to stop Mark Foley from preying on underage pages because to do so they would have to "out" Foley as a homosexual. Limbaugh, Buchanan and the others who say this seem to think that this is a winning argument, presumably because they have heard their political opponents express sympathy and concern for the feelings of homosexuals who have been hurt by being "outed".

To me, and I suspect to all people who care about the feelings of others, this argument is amazingly wrong-headed. How could someone be concerned about Foley’s feelings but not be more concerned about Foley’s victims – the powerless and defenseless underage pages. The only answer I can come up with is that the people who advance this argument, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and others, must not actually have any sympathy, empathy or concern for the feelings of others and are only pretending to in order to advance their political agenda.
How could someone who has no empathy or sympathy for others advance an argument based on their supposed concern? Here is how Wikipedia defines psychopath:
A psychopath is defined as having no concern for the feelings of others & a complete disregard for any sense of social obligation. They seem egocentric and lacking insight and any sense of responsibility or consequence. Their emotions are thought to be superficial and shallow, if they exist at all. They are considered callous, manipulative and incapable of forming lasting relationships, let alone of any kind of love. It is thought that any emotions which the true psychopath exhibits are the fruits of watching and mimicking other people's emotions. They show poor impulse control and a low tolerance for frustration and aggression. They have no empathy, remorse, anxiety or guilt in relation to their behavior. In short, they truly are devoid of conscience.

Note that psychopaths watch and mimic other people’s emotions. But since they are mimicking behavior without the underlying basis of that behavior they will occasionally get it wrong and betray themselves, as they have here.

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