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Neuroscientist sounds the alarm on the right wing, the GOP and the 'contagious sociopaths' who live among us

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  dig  •  last year  •  53 comments

By:   MSN / Raw Story

Neuroscientist sounds the alarm on the right wing, the GOP and the 'contagious sociopaths' who live among us
The contagious spread of sociopathy has provided us with potential and actual leaders who embody the worst that humanity has to offer according to moral, legal, religious/spiritual, and societal norms

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Neuroscientist sounds the alarm on the right wing, the GOP and the 'contagious sociopaths' who live among us


By Seth D. Norrholm, PhD

Story by Roxanne Cooper • Jul 10

original

Sociopaths, a term often used to describe those living with  antisocial personality disorder,  operate within their daily lives without a “conscience,” can be characterized as acting without feelings of guilt, remorse, or shame coupled with a tendency to reject the concept of responsibility.

Antisocial people will intentionally make others angry or upset and use harsh and cruel indifference as they manipulate or attack others.

Clinically speaking, there is no defined difference between a sociopath and a psychopath although some have drawn this line at acting with low moral conscience (sociopath) and no moral conscience (psychopath) or having no regard for someone else’s rights or feelings (sociopath) and taking pleasure in robbing another of their rights, freedom, or well-being (psychopath).

My colleagues and I have discussed  psychopathy in the previous president  elsewhere as an example. Recognizing these nuanced differences exist, I will use the term sociopath and sociopathy here for brevity’s sake.

There appear to be at least three forms of this public political/governmental sociopathy present today. The first are those individuals for whom sociopathic tendencies are deep-seated and a core feature of who they are – the   former president being a prime example.  A second form includes the scores of Republicans and right-wingers who have decided to play the role or act sociopathic for their own personal gain. This includes hard-line MAGA members such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Kari Lake and Matt Gaetz, who decided to infect themselves with contagious sociopathy.

Look at the case of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis whose impressive on-paper resume includes graduation from Yale University (where he served as captain of the baseball team) and Harvard law school (with honors), distinguished service in the United States Navy including a legal role with Seal Team One and a deployment to Iraq. On paper, he is highly accomplished and embodied what we as Americans tend to hold in high regard … until he acquired contagious sociopathy.

Coincident with his departure from active military service and rise to Congress and the Florida governorship, he apparently chose to include antisocial tendencies in his political and public persona. He believes in unregulated gun ownership (despite brutal killings in his state’s own schools), he attacks the rights of women with his restrictive abortion laws, he suppresses legislation that would support the LBGTQ+ community, and he seeks to diminish the plight of historically maltreated groups (such as African Americans) with his attempts to bury the past.

In another high-profile example, the U.S. Supreme Court was constitutionally designed as a third arm of our democratic republic that was supposed to serve independently from the other Branches in an apolitical manner … now its majority is infested with contagious sociopathy. In just the last year (and weeks), they sociopathically overturned Roe v. Wade and severely undercut women’s healthcare rights, ruled in favor of discrimination, and ruled against students struggling under the mountain of student debt…all while facing accusations of improper gifts, hypocrisy, and politicization … in other words, with contagious sociopathy.

The third group with contagious sociopathy are the passive enablers of widespread acts of manipulation and cruelty ranging from long-serving, establishment leaders like   Sen. Mitch McConnell   (R-KY) all the way to the throngs of people clad in Confederate flags and MAGA idolatry whose inaction and permissiveness serves as a large-scale petri dish by which contagious sociopathy can flourish. It cannot go without mentioning that the   processes of cultism   are at play here as well.

It should be noted that the term I have been using – contagious sociopathy – is not mutually exclusive from what we have been observing with the   perversion of Christian thought   to suit sociopathic behaviors and the rise of fascism in the U.S. ( Ruth Ben-Ghiat   has written extensively on the latter). In addition, and in no way trying to simplify or underestimate the factors underlying American racism, the racist platforms of the far right and GOP, have provided a type of currency by which contagious sociopathy can spread – many have argued that the ascension of Donald   Trump   allowed closeted racists to become public racists. Racism includes the antisocial tendencies of demeaning, manipulating and harming others without remorse as a key feature.

One cannot talk about contagious sociopathy without considering righteousness – a term describing the phenomenon by which malicious acts – including harming and killing others – are justified as long as the bad actor can consider the ‘victims’ to be an enemy. This is a bedrock of the Trump and MAGA attacks on the Left and any that criticize or oppose them.

I have written and said it before and I will do so again: The contagious spread of sociopathy has provided us with potential and actual leaders who embody the worst that humanity has to offer according to moral, legal, religious/spiritual, and societal norms…and they continue to run on this platform.

About the author:

Seth D. Norrholm, PhD (Threads: neuropsychophd) is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Norrholm has spent 20 years studying trauma-, stressor-, anxiety-, depressive-, and substance use-related disorders and has published over 120 peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters. The primary objective of his work is to develop “bench-to-bedside” clinical research methods to inform therapeutic interventions for fear and anxiety-related disorders and how they relate to human factors such as personality, genetics, and environmental influences. Dr. Norrholm has been featured on NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, Politico.com, The New York Times, The New York Daily News, USA Today, WebMD, The Atlantic, The History Channel, Scientific American, Salon.com, The Huffington Post, and Yahoo.com.

How concerned are you about the presence of sociopathy in American politics?

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Very concerned
14
Somewhat concerned
2
Not concerned at all
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Dig
Professor Participates
1  seeder  Dig    last year

I replicated the poll questions from the bottom of the MSN page for our own use here.

Please keep the discussion civil.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1  devangelical  replied to  Dig @1    last year
Please keep the discussion civil.

a civil discussion about delusional mental cases running loose in the halls of our government? yeah, right...

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2  Kavika     last year

Interesting article, thanks for posting and also for the poll.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
3  CB    last year

This is what I have been writing about this 'situation' in our nation across many articles now. Not for any praise or pleasure that means nothing to me, but because somebody has to say it about WHOSOEVER is responsible and playing up this 'mess' of our society in order to stop this nation from following its true aspiration: Becoming a well-lubricated, running 'machine' fit for advancement and leading the rest of the world.

Instead we have a party of naysayers and doomsday preppers chock full of raw political power and influence whose set purpose is to blow up the last 50 years of change in this country, because somebody has told them that the fading past was really, really, good for them.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
4  evilone    last year
Look at the case of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis… until he acquired contagious sociopathy.

I totally disagree with the premise of 'contagious sociopathy'. Many of these people we are talking about, including Gov DeSantis were wholly hateful long before they gained the power they now have. DeSantis was the founding member of the Congressional Freedom Caucus and has never been a likable person. And while his personal accomplishments do look impressive on paper, we know from others who have commented on his personality he doesn't play well with others. 

These people are just shitty people to start with.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  evilone @4    last year
These people are just shitty people to start with.

Yes, they are. Is it nurture or nature?

 
 
 
Dig
Professor Participates
4.2  seeder  Dig  replied to  evilone @4    last year

I think what's contagious, or catching, is sociopathy coming out of the closet. It's as if the whole point of a certain movement is to be as publicly sociopathic as possible, with various actors jumping on the bandwagon, all trying to out-sociopath each other.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
4.2.1  CB  replied to  Dig @4.2    last year

These people have always been with us. What they lacked before was an anchor point to travel up and down upon. That 'point' appeared in 2016 candidate Donald J. Trump, because in him finally the extreme Right found a politician who did not mind what historians will write about him. Basically, you can hear Trump swearing to right-wing think-tanks and fellow right-wing politicians that he would literally not concern himself with liberals to any worthwhile degree. And so they accepted him as their "champion" or "high General" to lead them to victory over their perceived political enemies. 

Trump as he now lures any straying supporters back to himself by declaring in 2025 he will be their "retribution" on liberals, in his first administration tried to focus conservative power on every liberal in this country (feel the burn). Oddly, it was Covid-19 riding from nation border to border and jumping on the 'back' of airplanes that came to the 'rescue' of liberals because at a critical juncture of the political cycle Trump was not able to concentrate his "might" as he would have liked on the electorate.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
Professor Guide
4.2.2  Bob Nelson  replied to  Dig @4.2    last year
be as publicly sociopathic as possible

           jrSmiley_81_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
5  Trout Giggles    last year

Thanks for the article, Dig. I always thought psychopathy was a neural condition that could be treated. I always understood sociopathy as a personality disorder and can't really be treated as such.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
5.1  devangelical  replied to  Trout Giggles @5    last year
I always thought psychopathy was a neural condition that could be treated. I always understood sociopathy as a personality disorder and can't really be treated as such.

they both can be treated, with a louisville slugger... /s

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
6  JohnRussell    last year

This article is a tad over the top in terms of its rhetoric, but I like it. Sometimes drama is needed to make an essential point.

America has changed for the far worse in the last 8 years and most of it can be laid at the feet of a certain political and social movement. 

I think it will take many years for the country to dig out of this snakepit, and I hope at least some of us here now are around to see it. 

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
6.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  JohnRussell @6    last year

I think certain Christian denominations are at fault, too, especially non-mainstream Protestants

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.1  CB  replied to  Trout Giggles @6.1    last year

As a Christian, and I am seriously questioning a 'great many things' about my association with many denominations right now. Well to be honest I am even questioning God at this point and sadly it is because of the pharisaic Church world. I do not/can not accept that the Church would turn its back upon love, peace, and mercy to 'sell out' to make Trump it's idol (that even when demonstratively found to be horribly wrong) who is the inverse of what Jesus is said to be.

Now, I question everything about who these people are that I tried to love and be kind towards, when they plainly are self-righteous, deceptive, and mean-spirited to a fault!

I have actually heard these MAGA Christians try to tie God, Jesus, and the books of the Bible to Christian 'nationalism' which is a lie straight from the pit of 'hell.'

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
6.1.2  JBB  replied to  CB @6.1.1    last year

original

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.3  CB  replied to  JBB @6.1.2    last year

MAGA Christians have lowered their moral standard to encompass a lowly individual who can't stop getting indicements as their Champion. And to what end? It is crystal clear that if the church as an organization needs a devil to do its dirty and bloody work, then it is no longer waiting on God - instead it is 'man' getting out ahead of God. 

 
 
 
Dig
Professor Participates
6.1.4  seeder  Dig  replied to  CB @6.1.3    last year

I've always found it mindblowing that so many Christians are so enamored of Trump. I'm not very knowledgeable about this, but doesn't he kind of fit the bill of the Antichrist? 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.5  devangelical  replied to  CB @6.1.1    last year

wtf are you doing looking for god in a church?

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.6  CB  replied to  Dig @6.1.4    last year

Many of these fundamentalist Christians (that is the chief designator involved in the MAGA movement) find letting an AMORAL guy like Donald J. Trump be their champion off-putting and anti-Christian but have been 'comforted' by their leaders that it is better to have "the meanest SOB in the white house to get things done" (quote attributed to Robert James Jeffress Jr. is an American Southern Baptist pastor, author, radio host, and televangelist. He is the senior pastor of the 14,000-member First Baptist Church, a megachurch in Dallas, Texas ) in the white house because being conscienceless is a plus when you want to politically 'club' people into submission and into doing something they otherwise would not! These fundamentalist Christians had it verbally explained to them (Ibid.) that they were not hiring a pastor but a president who would wield the 'sword' on their behalf. 

MARTIN: You know, I spoke with Pastor Max Lucado earlier. One of the points that he made in his recent blog post to people who follow him is that at the end of the day, people do have to come together. On November 9, this is all going to be over, and people have to find a way to see each other again and to restore each other's humanity. He said - what he said is - exactly - stop being mean. And I wondered if you see any common cause with him on that. And do you think that that's possible?

JEFFRESS: (Laughter) Well, first of all, I see a lot of common ground with Max Lucado. I love Max Lucado. And, you know, I've disagreed with his point of view.

When I'm looking for a leader who's going to fight ISIS and keep this nation secure, I don't want some meek and mild leader or somebody who's going to turn the other cheek. I've said I want the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation . And so that's why Trump's tone doesn't bother me.

But having said that, I do agree with Max Lucado. There needs to be unity, especially in the body of Christ.

Emphasis on "meanest, toughest, SOB I can find to protect this nation." For Jeffries, and like-minded Christian leaders, protection includes domestic politics too! Thus, with difficulty but firmness these evangelical fundamentalist stand with Donald J. Trump and keep picking him up off the mat when governmental decisions and actions go against him.

Trump is anti-Christian, not the anti-Christ.

 
 
 
shona1
Professor Quiet
6.1.7  shona1  replied to  CB @6.1.1    last year

Morning CB...you strike me as a decent, kind and giving person.. therefore do you need to even follow a church??

Do your own thing and continue on quietly in your own way...keep out of politics as much as possible as at the end of the day they are only in it for one thing... themselves. They are the same all over the world but in varying degrees...

Do what is right for you and be at peace with that..

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.8  CB  replied to  shona1 @6.1.7    last year

Thank you, Shona.  I will try to do my best. That said, because I am a minority, homosexual in spirit only these past many years, Christian by confession, old(er), and a political "junkie" who votes every time a ballot comes by. . . I feel a sense of obligation to 'many' people to stay informed about what rascals and scoundrels are up to in politics and in the Church! Upon which I push back when they are gross offenders of good order.

We (minorities) did not have much political power or influence in this country for many, many centuries and generations, and we prayed and prayed and acted up and prayed some more and finally change came to this nation incrementally and in 'droves.'  "We were successful to move the country to get its foot off our 'necks!' 

Now, the enemies of the good that minorities can do are girded for battle once again and have taken to the field and are admittedly having some successes against us - their sworn enemies

We have to fight back in the real world and even in the virtual world or we will once again lose everywhere due to our silence, which oddly would be interpreted to be agreement or acceptance to us being put back into our respective boxes!

As a Christian I see no reason for the church to stampede or trample the secularist government and I will never ever be a part of the church operating outside of its bounds which are best defined as insider the walls of its organization alone!

Thank you for sharing such an insightful comment.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.9  CB  replied to  devangelical @6.1.5    last year

The church is not a building to me, devangelical, it is a way of living daily. Recently, because of all this political 'hell-raising' going on over Trump, his doctrine, and fight 'mentality' several weeks ago I turned to read some books by atheists to look see what it is they have to say about a great many things. . . it was shocking, because I had to agree with much of what I read and continue to read from them about  some Christians, especially those fundamentalist Christians who can not seem to be satisfied with their existences enough to leave others alone to their lives.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.10  CB  replied to  CB @6.1.8    last year

And yes Shona, all these years of going back and forth with fundamentalist Christians in the real world and virtual world asking them to ease up and let liberals live their lives as well as finding God in the manner they will has toughen my resolve as well as made me more coarse -in spite of myself!  And as you can see, unless their so-called primary political leader is not literally dropped from politics wholly, their unrelenting thefts, hinderings, handicapping, and dividing of us all (here and around the world) seems to be indefinite.  (May be even through my own demise.) It is what I choose to live for now to help a new generation defend against.

 
 
 
Thomas
Masters Guide
6.1.11  Thomas  replied to  CB @6.1.1    last year

Hang in there, CB. I know it ain't always easy, but the ship will right.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.12  devangelical  replied to  CB @6.1.9    last year
The church is not a building to me

it's an illegal tollbooth on the highway of spirituality.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.13  devangelical  replied to  CB @6.1.3    last year

I think it's hilariously hypocritical that thumpers have to be protected by armed members to attend church.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.14  CB  replied to  devangelical @6.1.13    last year

Actually, that I can understand. As congregants won't be coming in to a service where lives can be lost.in any kind of unrequited violence.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.15  devangelical  replied to  CB @6.1.14    last year

or maybe they're skeptical about geezus saving them ...

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
6.1.16  CB  replied to  devangelical @6.1.15    last year

Well, there is that too! Afterall, "geezus," has you say it, has provided means in the country for people to DEFEND themselves from fools trying to take their lives and ruin their services, in order that "geezus" does not need to do it. :)

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.17  devangelical  replied to  CB @6.1.16    last year

geezus doesn't know any thumpers...

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Guide
6.1.18  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  Dig @6.1.4    last year

I've always found it mindblowing that so many Christians are so enamored of Trump.  I'm not very knowledgeable about this, but doesn't he kind of fit the bill of the Antichrist?

If Satan can disguise himself as the angel of light then why can’t they?

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.19  devangelical  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @6.1.18    last year

listening to xtians collective justifications for supporting that cretin is very amusing...

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Senior Expert
6.2  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JohnRussell @6    last year
Sometimes drama is needed to make an essential point.

Drama? I think you meant hyperbole.

 
 
 
Thomas
Masters Guide
6.2.1  Thomas  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @6.2    last year

In some cases, they are one and the same. 

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
7  Ed-NavDoc    last year

Just another liberal hit piece article that in some cases I agree with, as I flat out detest those bozos in the photo, the author blatantly engaged in the liberal practice of trying to paint the majority of conservatives with the same wide brush while making zero mention of any leftist liberal excesses. Amusing that the psychiatrist quoted in the article only contributes to known leftist liberal publications. Real fair and unbiased there from Raw Story that is also a far left publication as well.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
7.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @7    last year
usual liberal practice of trying to paint the majority of conservatives with the same wide brush

Calling it a usual liberal practice is painting with a wide brush, Ed.

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
7.1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  sandy-2021492 @7.1    last year

Okay, you got me there. I removed the word usual.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
7.1.2  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @7.1.1    last year

And now it's a liberal practice.  Still a wide brush.

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
7.1.3  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  sandy-2021492 @7.1.2    last year

Depends on which side of the fence one is on does it not?

With respect, yes in my opinion, as far as that article and my post above it is.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
7.1.4  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @7.1.3    last year

It's just ironic, painting with a wide brush, yourself, while accusing someone else of doing the same.  You excuse it when you do it from the right side of the fence, but object to it when it's done from the left.

Depends on which side of the fence one is on does it not?

More irony.

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
7.1.5  JBB  replied to  sandy-2021492 @7.1.4    last year

The right reminds me of Rush Limbaugh complaining about the "Libtards" and the "Feminazis" being intolerant of him...

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
7.1.6  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  sandy-2021492 @7.1.4    last year

We are not going to agree here so just best to just agree to disagree and let it go at that. You have a good day.

 
 
 
arkpdx
Professor Quiet
7.1.7  arkpdx  replied to  sandy-2021492 @7.1.2    last year

But still an accurate statement

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
7.1.8  sandy-2021492  replied to  arkpdx @7.1.7    last year

Sure, sure.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
8  Greg Jones    last year

 "potential and actual leaders who embody the worst that humanity has to offer according to moral, legal, religious/spiritual, and societal norms"

Well, the Current Occupant is the most obvious example, but the Clintons would have to reside at the top of a rather large list of leftists.

 
 
 
Dig
Professor Participates
8.1  seeder  Dig  replied to  Greg Jones @8    last year

How so, Greg? Care to elaborate? Try to be specific, leaving out conspiracy theories and anecdotal malarkey.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
8.1.1  devangelical  replied to  Dig @8.1    last year

too many rabbits in that hole...

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
8.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Dig @8.1    last year

can't/won't

 
 

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