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The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I was really looking forward to this book before its release. In a sense I wasn't disappointed - the writing is clever, funny, sometimes shocking. Clearly, Ronson is in the right business, because his book reads like a masterpiece. I couldn't put this book down. Unfortunately, form and content don't always match up, and I've got to say that this is the case with the Psychopath Test. I don't think Ronson was the man for the job of dealing with what is probably the heaviest, most disturbing, and most socially relevant topic of modern times. But I've got to give credit to Ronson for even attempting to tackle it. He gives a lot of page space to his conversations with psychopathy expert Robert Hare, and I think his appearance on Jon Stewart's show when the book was released was the first time ever that the words "Psychopaths rule our world" were uttered on national television.

But, while Ronson provides a quirky, witty account of his interactions with some probable psychopaths, that's pretty much all there is to his book. Instead of realizing the seriousness of the subject he was writing (not to mention the fact that people have been hunted and murdered for following this line of research), he makes some odd twists and turns, basically ending the book without actually answering the questions he set out at the beginning. His logic is tortured at times, and he builds arguments based on premises that are refuted by the very people he interviews, sometimes just pages earlier. (For example, his defence of "semi-psychopaths" and conflation of psychopathy with mental illness, which "Professor Maden" tried to explain to him earlier on.)

He also missed the opportunity to make some pretty big connections, i.e., given his premise that "psychopaths rule our world", that they migrate to positions of power, especially in corporations, why couldn't he see the connection between the "Al Dunlaps" of the economic/corporate world and psychiatric/pharmaceutical drug-pushing world? That that is the reason for this push to label normal people "mentally ill" and keep us and our children drugged up, sick in mind and body, while the truly ill are the ones reaping the benefits?

And why didn't he follow up on his thoughts in the section on David Icke, where he wrote: "All that talk of snakes adopting human form reminded me of a story I once did about a conspiracy theorist named David Icke, who believed that the secret rulers of the world were giant, blood-drinking, child-sacrificing lizards who had shape-shifted into humans so they could perform their evil on an unsuspecting population. I suddenly realized how similar the two stories were, except in this one the people who spoke of snakes in suits were eminent and utterly sane psychologists, respected around the world. Was this a conspiracy theory that was actually true?"

I think Ronson's book would've packed a whole lot more of a punch if he'd checked out some of the current research on the topic, like Martha Stout's The Paranoia Switch, Barb Oakley's Evil Genes, and especially Andrew Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology. The last book mentioned is the story and conclusions of a group of Eastern European scientists who battled enormous odds to research this subject. Most of them "disappeared" or were arrested, tortured, and/or killed by the regimes under which they lived. If you want to know what is happening on this planet, do check it out. It will blow your mind (it did mine!).
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