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Ponerology Hits the Onion

October 17th, 2012 by Howard Ditkoff

Leave it to the brilliant comedy writers at the Onion.

Andrew M. Lobaczewski and his colleagues sacrificed and struggled for decades to carry out the work that led to Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes - their explanation of how human systems at all levels, but especially at the political level, can be hijacked by a pathological minority with conditions, such as psychopathy and others, involving reduced empathy and conscience.

I spent years studying their work and the related work of many other authors and invested over a year in conveying my own thoughts on subjects associated with ponerology.

But with one pointed headline and nine paragraphs of humor, the Onion will probably get more people thinking about this topic than all of us.

I am speaking of their hilarious article, a prelude to last night’s second 2012 presidential debate, entitled:

“Nation Tunes In To See Which Sociopath More Likable This Time”

It tells the story of how voters, quite conscious that both President Obama and Mitt Romney - “like all successful politicians” - are “clinically sociopathic individuals,” simply hope that the debate will help them decide which of the two men is better at employing his sociopathic skill set to manipulate them into thinking that he possesses an “actual human conscience.”

On a serious note, although there are those that feel otherwise, I would not claim on the basis of pure speculation that either Obama or Romney is actually a sociopath or psychopath. The diagnosis of conditions like these is a substantial matter and, in real life, should not be taken lightly.

However, the Onion article bitingly reinforces some of the points I attempted to make in my series on the potential biological basis of evil, namely:

  • There is little doubt that some proportion of those in positions of power - whether politicians, corporate executives or parents - do actually have conscience- and empathy-reducing conditions.

  • It is very important to educate the public about these conditions and the processes by which they can influence our systems.
  • It is likely - especially as the advance of technology in our extremely hierarchical systems amplifies the ability of small groups or lone individuals to do disproportionate harm - that we will be increasingly faced with challenging decisions such as whether or not to screen certain people in certain situations for the presence of these conditions

It’s not really a lighthearted subject. The influence of these conditions may well have contributed to suffering and even death for countless millions in our history. But, as the Onion has often shown over the years, sometimes satire can get a message across more concisely and powerfully than hundreds of pages of painstakingly researched and meticulously composed prose in book or essay form.

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    One Response to “Ponerology Hits the Onion

    1. The Onion Uses Satire to Draw Attention to Psychopathy & Sociopathy | Ponerology News Says:

      […] Back in October, during the United States’ presidential debate season, The Onion featured a story entitled “Nation Tunes In To See Which Sociopath More Likable This Time.” It based its satire on the premise that voters take it as a given that both of the major party presidential candidates – and, indeed, all successful politicians – are sociopaths and simply use the debates to try to decide which candidate is better at pretending to have a conscience. I shared this story and put it into the context of ponerology in a piece of my own called “Ponerology Hits the Onion.” […]


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