Laughter is the Best Medicine

Strange answers to the psychopath test | Jon Ronson

Translator: Timothy Covell
Reviewer: Morton Bast The story starts:
I was at a friend’s house, and she had on her shelf
a copy of the DSM manual, which is the manual of mental disorders. It lists every known mental disorder. And it used to be, back in the ’50s,
a very slim pamphlet. And then it got bigger
and bigger and bigger, and now it’s 886 pages long. And it lists currently
374 mental disorders. So I was leafing through it, wondering if I had any mental disorders, and it turns out I’ve got 12. (Laughter) I’ve got generalized anxiety disorder, which is a given. I’ve got nightmare disorder, which is categorized if you have recurrent dreams of being
pursued or declared a failure, and all my dreams involve people
chasing me down the street going, “You’re a failure!” (Laughter) I’ve got parent-child relational problems, which I blame my parents for. (Laughter) I’m kidding. I’m not kidding. I’m kidding. And I’ve got malingering. And I think it’s actually quite rare to have both malingering
and generalized anxiety disorder, because malingering tends
to make me feel very anxious. Anyway, I was looking through this book, wondering if I was much crazier
than I thought I was, or maybe it’s not a good idea to diagnose
yourself with a mental disorder if you’re not a trained professional, or maybe the psychiatry profession
has a kind of strange desire to label what’s essentially normal
human behavior as a mental disorder. I didn’t know which of these was true,
but I thought it was kind of interesting, and I thought maybe I should
meet a critic of psychiatry to get their view, which is how I ended up having
lunch with the Scientologists. (Laughter) It was a man called Brian,
who runs a crack team of Scientologists who are determined to destroy
psychiatry wherever it lies. They’re called the CCHR. And I said to him, “Can you prove to me that psychiatry is a pseudo-science
that can’t be trusted?” And he said, “Yes,
we can prove it to you.” And I said, “How?” And he said, “We’re going
to introduce you to Tony.” And I said, “Who’s Tony?” And he said, “Tony’s in Broadmoor.” Now, Broadmoor is Broadmoor Hospital. It used to be known as the Broadmoor
Asylum for the Criminally Insane. It’s where they send the serial killers, and the people who can’t help themselves. And I said to Brian,
“Well, what did Tony do?” And he said, “Hardly anything. He beat someone up or something, and he decided to fake madness
to get out of a prison sentence. But he faked it too well,
and now he’s stuck in Broadmoor and nobody will believe he’s sane. Do you want us to try and get you
into Broadmoor to meet Tony?” So I said, “Yes, please.” So I got the train to Broadmoor. I began to yawn uncontrollably
around Kempton Park, which apparently is what dogs
also do when anxious, they yawn uncontrollably. And we got to Broadmoor. And I got taken through gate
after gate after gate after gate into the wellness center, which is where
you get to meet the patients. It looks like a giant Hampton Inn. It’s all peach and pine
and calming colors. And the only bold colors
are the reds of the panic buttons. And the patients started drifting in. And they were quite overweight
and wearing sweatpants, and quite docile-looking. And Brian the Scientologist
whispered to me, “They’re medicated,” which, to the Scientologists,
is like the worst evil in the world, but I’m thinking
it’s probably a good idea. (Laughter) And then Brian said, “Here’s Tony.” And a man was walking in. And he wasn’t overweight,
he was in very good physical shape. And he wasn’t wearing sweatpants, he was wearing a pinstripe suit. And he had his arm outstretched like someone out of The Apprentice. He looked like a man
who wanted to wear an outfit that would convince me
that he was very sane. And he sat down. And I said, “So is it true
that you faked your way in here?” And he said, “Yep. Yep. Absolutely.
I beat someone up when I was 17. And I was in prison awaiting trial, and my cellmate said to me, ‘You know what you have to do? Fake madness. Tell them you’re mad, you’ll get
sent to some cushy hospital. Nurses will bring you pizzas,
you’ll have your own PlayStation.'” I said, “Well, how did you do it?” He said, “Well, I asked to see
the prison psychiatrist. And I’d just seen a film called ‘Crash,’ in which people get sexual pleasure
from crashing cars into walls. So I said to the psychiatrist, ‘I get sexual pleasure
from crashing cars into walls.'” And I said, “What else?” He said, “Oh, yeah.
I told the psychiatrist that I wanted to watch women as they died, because it would make
me feel more normal.” I said, “Where’d you get that from?” He said, “Oh, from a biography
of Ted Bundy that they had at the prison library.” Anyway, he faked madness
too well, he said. And they didn’t send him
to some cushy hospital. They sent him to Broadmoor. And the minute he got there, said he took one look at the place,
asked to see the psychiatrist, said, “There’s been
a terrible misunderstanding. I’m not mentally ill.” I said, “How long have you been here for?” He said, “Well, if I’d just
done my time in prison for the original crime,
I’d have got five years. I’ve been in Broadmoor for 12 years.” Tony said that it’s a lot harder
to convince people you’re sane than it is to convince them you’re crazy. He said, “I thought
the best way to seem normal would be to talk to people
normally about normal things like football or what’s on TV. I subscribe to New Scientist, and recently they had an article about how the U.S. Army was training
bumblebees to sniff out explosives. So I said to a nurse, ‘Did you know that the U.S. Army
is training bumblebees to sniff out explosives?’ When I read my medical notes,
I saw they’d written: ‘Believes bees can sniff out explosives.'” (Laughter) He said, “You know, they’re always
looking out for nonverbal clues to my mental state. But how do you sit in a sane way? How do you cross your legs in a sane way? It’s just impossible.” When Tony said that to me, I thought to myself,
“Am I sitting like a journalist? Am I crossing my legs like a journalist?” He said, “You know, I’ve got
the Stockwell Strangler on one side of me, and I’ve got the ‘Tiptoe
Through the Tulips’ rapist on the other side of me. So I tend to stay in my room a lot
because I find them quite frightening. And they take that as a sign of madness. They say it proves
that I’m aloof and grandiose.” So, only in Broadmoor would not wanting
to hang out with serial killers be a sign of madness. Anyway, he seemed completely normal
to me, but what did I know? And when I got home I emailed
his clinician, Anthony Maden. I said, “What’s the story?” And he said, “Yep.
We accept that Tony faked madness to get out of a prison sentence,
because his hallucinations — that had seemed
quite cliche to begin with — just vanished the minute
he got to Broadmoor. However, we have assessed him, and we’ve determined that what he is is a psychopath.” And in fact, faking madness is exactly the kind of cunning
and manipulative act of a psychopath. It’s on the checklist:
cunning, manipulative. So, faking your brain going wrong is evidence that your brain
has gone wrong. And I spoke to other experts, and they said the pinstripe
suit — classic psychopath — speaks to items one
and two on the checklist: glibness, superficial charm
and grandiose sense of self-worth. And I said, “Well, but why didn’t
he hang out with the other patients?” Classic psychopath — it speaks
to grandiosity and also lack of empathy. So all the things that had seemed
most normal about Tony was evidence, according to his clinician, that he was mad in this new way. He was a psychopath. And his clinician said to me, “If you
want to know more about psychopaths, you can go on a psychopath-spotting course run by Robert Hare, who invented
the psychopath checklist.” So I did. I went on a psychopath-spotting course, and I am now a certified — and I have to say, extremely adept —
psychopath spotter. So, here’s the statistics: One in a hundred regular people
is a psychopath. So there’s 1,500 people in his room. Fifteen of you are psychopaths. Although that figure rises to four percent
of CEOs and business leaders, so I think there’s a very good chance there’s about 30 or 40
psychopaths in this room. It could be carnage
by the end of the night. (Laughter) Hare said the reason why
is because capitalism at its most ruthless rewards psychopathic behavior — the lack of empathy, the glibness, cunning, manipulative. In fact, capitalism, perhaps
at its most remorseless, is a physical manifestation
of psychopathy. It’s like a form of psychopathy
that’s come down to affect us all. Hare said, “You know what?
Forget about some guy at Broadmoor who may or may not have faked madness. Who cares? That’s not a big story. The big story,” he said,
“is corporate psychopathy. You want to go and interview yourself
some corporate psychopaths.” So I gave it a try.
I wrote to the Enron people. I said, “Could I come
and interview you in prison, to find out it you’re psychopaths?” (Laughter) And they didn’t reply. (Laughter) So I changed tack. I emailed “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap, the asset stripper from the 1990s. He would come into failing businesses and close down 30 percent
of the workforce, just turn American towns into ghost towns. And I emailed him and I said, “I believe you may have
a very special brain anomaly that makes you … special, and interested in the predatory
spirit, and fearless. Can I come and interview you
about your special brain anomaly?” And he said, “Come on over!” (Laughter) So I went to Al Dunlap’s
grand Florida mansion. It was filled with sculptures
of predatory animals. There were lions and tigers —
he was taking me through the garden — there were falcons and eagles, he was saying, “Over there
you’ve got sharks and –” he was saying this
in a less effeminate way — “You’ve got more sharks
and you’ve got tigers.” It was like Narnia. (Laughter) And then we went into his kitchen. Now, Al Dunlap would be brought in
to save failing companies, he’d close down 30 percent
of the workforce. And he’d quite often
fire people with a joke. Like, for instance,
one famous story about him, somebody came up to him and said,
“I’ve just bought myself a new car.” And he said, “Well,
you may have a new car, but I’ll tell you what you
don’t have — a job.” So in his kitchen — he was in there with his wife, Judy,
and his bodyguard, Sean — and I said, “You know
how I said in my email that you might have a special brain
anomaly that makes you special?” He said, “Yeah, it’s an amazing
theory, it’s like Star Trek. You’re going where
no man has gone before.” And I said, “Well –” (Clears throat) (Laughter) Some psychologists might say that this makes you –”
(Mumbles) (Laughter) And he said, “What?” And I said, “A psychopath.” And I said, “I’ve got a list
of psychopathic traits in my pocket. Can I go through them with you?” And he looked intrigued despite himself, and he said, “Okay, go on.” And I said, “Okay.
Grandiose sense of self-worth.” Which I have to say, would
have been hard for him to deny, because he was standing
under a giant oil painting of himself. (Laughter) He said, “Well, you’ve
got to believe in you!” And I said, “Manipulative.” He said, “That’s leadership.” (Laughter) And I said, “Shallow affect, an inability to experience
a range of emotions.” He said, “Who wants to be weighed
down by some nonsense emotions?” So he was going down
the psychopath checklist, basically turning it
into “Who Moved My Cheese?” (Laughter) But I did notice something happening
to me the day I was with Al Dunlap. Whenever he said anything to me
that was kind of normal — like he said “no” to juvenile delinquency, he said he got accepted into West Point, and they don’t let
delinquents in West Point. He said “no” to many short-term
marital relationships. He’s only ever been married twice. Admittedly, his first wife
cited in her divorce papers that he once threatened her with a knife and said he always wondered
what human flesh tasted like, but people say stupid things to each other in bad marriages
in the heat of an argument, and his second marriage
has lasted 41 years. So whenever he said anything to me
that just seemed kind of non-psychopathic, I thought to myself, well I’m not
going to put that in my book. And then I realized that
becoming a psychopath spotter had kind of turned me
a little bit psychopathic. Because I was desperate to shove him
in a box marked “Psychopath.” I was desperate to define him
by his maddest edges. And I realized, my God — this is what I’ve been doing for 20 years. It’s what all journalists do. We travel across the world
with our notepads in our hands, and we wait for the gems. And the gems are always
the outermost aspects of our interviewee’s personality. And we stitch them together
like medieval monks, and we leave the normal
stuff on the floor. And you know, this is a country
that over-diagnoses certain mental disorders hugely. Childhood bipolar — children as young as four
are being labeled bipolar because they have temper tantrums, which scores them high
on the bipolar checklist. When I got back to London, Tony phoned me. He said, “Why haven’t you
been returning my calls?” I said, “Well, they say
that you’re a psychopath.” And he said, “I’m not a psychopath.” He said, “You know what? One of the items on the checklist
is lack of remorse, but another item on the checklist
is cunning, manipulative. So when you say you feel
remorse for your crime, they say, ‘Typical of the psychopath to cunningly say he feels
remorse when he doesn’t.’ It’s like witchcraft, they turn
everything upside-down.” He said, “I’ve got a tribunal coming up. Will you come to it?” So I said okay. So I went to his tribunal. And after 14 years
in Broadmoor, they let him go. They decided that he shouldn’t
be held indefinitely because he scores high
on a checklist that might mean that he would have a greater
than average chance of recidivism. So they let him go. And outside in the corridor he said to me, “You know what, Jon? Everyone’s a bit psychopathic.” He said, “You are, I am.
Well, obviously I am.” I said, “What are you going to do now?” He said, “I’m going to go to Belgium. There’s a woman there that I fancy. But she’s married, so I’m going to have
to get her split up from her husband.” (Laughter) Anyway, that was two years ago, and that’s where my book ended. And for the last 20 months,
everything was fine. Nothing bad happened. He was living with a girl outside London. He was, according
to Brian the Scientologist, making up for lost time,
which I know sounds ominous, but isn’t necessarily ominous. Unfortunately, after 20 months, he did go back to jail for a month. He got into a “fracas”
in a bar, he called it. Ended up going to jail for a month,
which I know is bad, but at least a month implies
that whatever the fracas was, it wasn’t too bad. And then he phoned me. And you know what, I think
it’s right that Tony is out. Because you shouldn’t define
people by their maddest edges. And what Tony is,
is he’s a semi-psychopath. He’s a gray area in a world
that doesn’t like gray areas. But the gray areas
are where you find the complexity. It’s where you find the humanity, and it’s where you find the truth. And Tony said to me, “Jon, could I buy you a drink in a bar? I just want to thank you
for everything you’ve done for me.” And I didn’t go. What would you have done? Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Strange answers to the psychopath test | Jon Ronson

  1. Very interesting! But any clinician that diagnoses a 4 year old with bipolar disorder shouldn’t be allowed to diagnose 😅

  2. Every single thing that exists is made of matter and energy aka god and the devil ying yang etc i mean by this that evil acts will always come from the self the ego the matter of our being. Everyone on earth has the potential to be evil and most people feed the self more than the soul all i can say is dont let your body trick you into evil acts. Listen to the colours in your head and do what is right.

  3. This was an amazing talk. Our society really does tend to shove people’s personalities, mental and even physical illnesses into a box, just because you mark a few things off a checklist. It’s a very inaccurate way of discovering how to help a person, because every single individual is different. I wish more medical professionals would remember that and realise that many of us have problems that are not fully understood, discovered and are thus “grey areas”. This is why labelling people with something they don’t have causes extreme harm.

  4. A bit of the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack there in the background near the end. If not exactly that, it was definitely in the spirit of the original theme music for it.

  5. You forgot about being promiscuous, sexual abusers and lack of remorse when committing violent crimes which occur since infancy.

  6. ; Is the government paying for the patient? That could explain the possessiveness of the mental institution. Letting go of the patient means less money in the mental institution's pay-cheque. One must wonder, from the massive number of diagnoses of mental illness in children, If the diagnoses didn't lead to money from the patient, or a government agency, would those doctor be diagnosing children as having O.C.D, autism spectrum, bi-polar disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, and gender dysmorphia?

  7. Normal human behavior can indeed devolve to disorder. These things don't appear out of thin air , they are measured by their effect or disaffection that comes when they effect ones life to .complication. The joke was on Tiny, because he was a "borderline" he just didn't understand that about himself. That happens you know.And there are many people who have psychopathy and sociopathy and do not raise an alarm with their actions. We fit right in, and hide the violent and negative thoughts and behaviors as a coping mechanism quite well…thanks for asking……

  8. What's with the two tech dudes in the back? You don't need that. You need one. wtf. Also why are they even there?

  9. I've always said grey is not neutral…grey, is in fact, chaos…it is all colors mixed together…and, well, life is chaos.😁

  10. I feel so much better now I know 1 person may or may not "define" me by my maddest edge's
    For F sake
    Look what the joker did to his physiatrist Harley Quinn 😂😂😂 idiot's, honestly.
    The pin stripped suit may have been a bit OTT but he probably hadn't been shopping in a decade 😂😂😂court suit maybe?

  11. One of the reasons I think Catch-22 was such a great book/movie is that it points out how society (and especially government) casually accepts psychopathic behaviour when it suits a particular desired outcome.

  12. even when this is is a cure here and a sik one overthere.passing the problem so to say. he should find another way to use his powers.

  13. Well #documented #FACTS and #Photos


  14. Scientology costs too much. At least Christianity is cheap and gives you a choice to pay or not lol. Paganism is completely free. No places to give money to. Atheism is free too haha. Choose your belief. Choose your poison.

  15. What would I have done? I would of gone for the drink I don't like beer. However, having been in mental hospitals I find people from them more desirable to be around then "normal " people.

  16. If we know more about psychology today then anytime in history why are our mental issues increasing. Anxiety and depression is increasing at a ridiculous rate. If psychologists were cancer researchers they would have lost their job years ago.

  17. Psychology is like the song hotel
    California “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.” People need to beat their anxiety by pushing it to the extreme. People need to beat their depression by finding a purpose not figure out how to be happy!

  18. The main goal of any business / corporation is to turn a profit, this speaker's inability to understand this basic concept is a sign on mental illness…

  19. I walked into the living room with my phone volume turned up then he said "I get sexual pleasures from crashing cars into walls" awkward moment around my family

  20. Idk what I would have done but God that was very interesting and thank you for sharing🤘👌👊👏👍✌🐩🐸☘🐞

  21. I flipped to various parts in this talk and glad I didn't take the time to watch all of it; even the little bit I did watch didn't seem to have much to do with the title of the video and the comments confirm that, so glad I didn't waste too much time on this video.

  22. Sounds like the psycho hospital guys might have been punishing him for fucking with them. Is that a legit thing to do or not? If you mess with a judge, he can give you prison time. Maybe not many years, but conceptually it's similar.

  23. ok, so why are violent offenders lumped in with these people? everything this guy just talked about has little to do with violence, therefore it should be apparent that those who inevitably choose to exhibit violent behavior are given a more severe title. seems like a broad generalization for a much more defined 'illness.'

  24. So true about the patient notes. They don't half twist things! I was sectioned years ago with mania & here are just 2 examples of how they twist things to make you sound mad… 1. My neighbour upstairs had 13cats! The smell of cat's p*ss used to emanate from my boiler at times & anyone who visited my house could have confirmed so (I used to chap her door when it was really bad & ask her to do something about it.) Also the walls & floorboards were really thin so you could hear a lot, like a nightly argument between a toddler & his mother downstairs about him watching Family Guy. "Naw yer no, cause a said so n am the maw!!" 😂 My patient notes simply state I believed I could "hear and smell" my neighbours "through the walls."
    Also I'd been robbed blind of all my valuables by a junkie beforehand & in reporting what had been taken.. 1 item was a clover pressed in a circle of glass in a gold necklace which cost £17.99 from Argos, in my patient notes this went down as a "clover preserved in a gold necklace circa 1799" Muppets. The patients were sounder than the staff. 99% of the staff at these places make the rest look bad😑

  25. 4% of CEOs? Try 94%.
    That position demands psychopathic behaviors.
    And so many are more than happy to apply and comply.
    Let's not forget politicians..

  26. Why a grey area? Why not just accept that being a psychopath doesn't equal being a crazy murderer, that it doesn't need to be something bad? Just a trait. Being overly empathetic isn't good or bad either. Whether it in a specific case leads to something bad that's another thing, but unless it actually led to it – why obsess over it?

  27. These ppl making all these mental labels on ppl are the psychopaths. They got all these studies of twins & turns that they're completely mad. They they ran out of study cases. So they prompted 'the elite' I bring drugs into the ppl. Now psychologists are running the churches to claim that Christian are crazy. That may be, however 99% are harmless.

  28. Oh, ok. So no one's a psychopath, it's only psychiatrists who label them all wrongfully.
    Why don't we just give all of them guns? What could go wrong?

  29. Jon spends a lot of time talking, but does not really say anything substantive. He is more trying to be entertain than trying to make a point. Aren't you supposed to talk about something fairly substantive before they let you do a TED talk? He gives vague statistics and tries to make us believe they somehow might apply to these situations that he is talking about. The health care providers he talks about and seems to be criticizing are not there to defend their decisions.  We have to take his word for what they say and that he is not taking them out of conrtext. I'm not sure Tony even exists. I'm not really sure what the point of his talk was, though It was kind of entertaining in a vague sort of way.

  30. not saying he was a psychopath, but psychopathy doesn’t inherently make you a serial killer. there needs to be a solid difference between symptoms, a mental disorder, and the horrible decision of being a murderer

  31. You have profited by using a man as a subject for your material, but when you decided he has served your purpose, you lacked the empathy to allow him to express his gratitude towards you. Isn’t that a bit psychopathic?

  32. They're 374 "disorders" because they get more money from diagnosing people and prescribing medication which is psychopathic…Capitalism.

  33. I sometimes doubt if I’m a psycopath because I feel special in a way, I lack empathy and am self-centered but then I think it cannot be possible because I’m such a nice person but then I doubt if I act nice just to manipulate people like wtf my brain hurts

  34. I feel there needs to be 2 definitions of psychopathic.
    one pertaining to the willingness or susceptibility to act on their psychopathy,
    the other regarding the "psychopathic" who have the capability of such behavior yet are intelligent enough to not ruin their current standing in the world.

  35. I'm amazed someone did master the music input in that matter.
    What he tries to say is often interfered by the background music or any sound effect

  36. So doesnt Trump seem to tick all the test list? Glibness, Grandiose sense of worth, Lying, manipulative, lack of remorse, shallow affect, failure to accept responsibility.

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