Fast Company Magazine is a magazine for fast rising business executives. They did us all a service in their July issue no. 96, by running a feature for business executives about a little known 71 year old professor emeritus from the University of British Columbia named Robert Hare. The FBI and the British justice system have long relied on his advice, for his field is criminal psychology, and psychopathic behavior.
What are psychopaths? Here, for those who aren’t too sure (and I was one of them) he gives a description:
Psychopaths have a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life “games” they can win — and take pleasure from their power over other people.
Professor Hare was not just describing Mafia hit men and sex offenders. He was referring to top executives from the business world, executives from world renowned companies such as WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which imploded. The securities frauds would eventually lead to long prison sentences for WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, Enron CFO Andrew Fastow, Adelphia Cable’s founder John Rigas, and there will be others currently on criminal (and impending civil) trials. He said “These are callous, cold-blooded individuals. They don’t care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse.”
He talked about the pain and suffering the corporate rogues had inflicted on thousands of people who had lost their jobs, or their life savings. “Some of those victims would succumb to heart attacks or commit suicide”, he said.
He is then quoted as saying that these recent corporate scandals could have been prevented if CEOs had been screened for psychopathic behavior. “Why wouldn’t we want to screen them?” he asked. “We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?”
To which he might have added lawyers and, yes, judges.
This is where I left off with my own thoughts, based on my own empirical knowledge of both flavors in America’s judicial system, especially the system in use today in California’s Family Courts under the watchful eye of our Chief Justice Ronald George, and details of my experiences which are dotted throughout this website.
Well, 25 years ago, Professor Hare created what is now used as a standard test for psychopathic traits. It is called the “Psychopathic Checklist”, and is commonly used for making clinical diagnoses of suspected psychopaths.
Firmly based on his list, the magazine customized it somewhat, with the disclaimer that it should be ignored by professional shrinks (wonder why?). I have customized it a little further, where it is obvious I have changed the word “boss” to the word “Lawyer” or “Judge”, and placed this quiz into a legal context. All of the questions remain, and if the reader wishes, he or she can insert a familiar name, and run it for each individual:
“He” can also mean “she”, and for each question, score two points for “yes,” one point for “somewhat” or “maybe,” and zero points for “no.”
[1] Is he glib and superficially charming?
Is he a likable personality and a terrific talker — entertaining, persuasive, but maybe a bit too smooth and slick? Can he pass himself off as a supposed expert in legal matters even though he really doesn’t seem to know or care much about the topic? Is he a flatterer? Seductive, but insincere? Does he sign his emails or letters “warmly”, when he is anythng but? Does he tell amusing but unlikely anecdotes celebrating his own past? Can he support a certain position this week — and then argue with equal conviction and persuasiveness for the opposite position next week? Can he appear on TV and somehow get away without answering the interviewer’s direct questions or saying anything truly substantive?
[2] Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
Does he brag? Is he arrogant? Superior? Domineering? Does he feel he’s above the rules that apply to “little people” such as “pro pers and pro ses”? Does he act as though everything revolves around him?
[3] Is he a pathological liar?
Has he reinvented his own past in a more positive light — for example, claiming that he rose from a tough, poor background even though he really grew up middle class? Does he lie habitually even though he can easily be found out? When he’s exposed, does he still act unconcerned because he thinks he can weasel out of it? Does he enjoy lying? Is he proud of his knack for deceit? Is it hard to tell whether he knows he’s a liar or whether he deceives himself and believes his own b/s?
[4] Is he a con artist or master manipulator?
Does he use his skill at lying to cheat or manipulate other people in his quest for money, power, status, and sex? Does he “use” people brilliantly? Does he engage in dishonest schemes such as cooking the books by making unsupported claims of billable hours?
[5] When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt?
Is he concerned about himself rather than the wreckage he inflicts on others or society at large? Does he say he feels bad but acts as though he really doesn’t? Even if he has had a complaint filed at his law society, does he accept blame for what he did? Does he blame others for the trouble he causes? Does he have a conflict of interest, and did he try to conceal it? When you found out, did he deal with it in a professional manner, such as by offering to give up the brief or recusing himself?
[6] Does he have a shallow affect?
Is he cold and detached? Does he make brief, dramatic displays of emotion that are nothing more than putting on a theatrical mask and play-acting for effect? Does he claim to be your friend but rarely or never ask about the details of your life or your emotional state? Is he one of those tough-guy lawyers who brag about how emotions are for whiners and losers?
[7] Is he callous and lacking in empathy?
Does he not give a damn about the feelings or well-being of other people? Is he profoundly selfish? Does he cruelly mock others? Is he emotionally or verbally abusive toward courtroom or office employees? Can he make rulings without concern for how they’ll get by in their new life? Can he profit from the unfair taking of funds by overcharging clients without concern for the harm he’s doing to them or their children and other family members, or their retirement lives?
[8] Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions?
Does he always cook up some excuse? Does he blame others for what he’s done? If he’s under investigation by his law society, or the Commission on Judicial Ethics, will he tell you? Does he refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even when there is hard rebuttable evidence not allowed in? Does he say “The Appeals Court will take care of it.”
If your judgement scores:
1-4 | Be frustrated
5-7 | Be cautious
8-12 | Be afraid
13-16 | Be very afraid
Finally, if you have completed this test, you might want to apply it to others (O.K., other than your unfavorite politician) that you know through personal contact, whether in your profession (your agent, your manager, your press agent, your accountant, your director, your producer, your star), your personal life (your spouse, your partner, your children, your boss, your friends)
or last, but not least, YOURSELF!!