Strangely/not strangely, they spend very little time describing the kid's psychopathy, and a lot of time on describing everything else from which you are to infer his psychopathy. It's like badly written female erotica, which is exactly what the New York Times Magazine is, penis never goes in vagina, it's all innuendo and mood and words words words words...i
Here are the 5 signs of a child's psychopathyii, according to the New York Times.
You know how at the beginning of these profiles they always write, "In order to protect the privacy of the subjects, the names have been changed"? They don't have that here. Instead, to protect their privacy, they use the real first names. And where they live. And the name of their doctor.iii
Why would they use the real names? Employers/suitors already look at your drunken bikini pics and judge you hopefully favorably, shouldn't this kid's story be a little better protected?
Maybe the real names are important: there's Anne, the mom. Boleyn? No. Oh. Michael's the psychopath. Myers?! No. Dammit. Dad is Miguel.... oh.
As there are 10 million psychopaths living within 60 blocks of the NYT officesiv and another 200 inside the NYT offices, it's odd they needed to travel all the way to Florida to interview one. Maybe this psychopath is really interesting? Nope. Kill anyone? Nope. Cosplays The Ring? Nope. Started a hedge fund? Nope. Weird. Long way to go for boring.
If this kid had a swastika carved in his forehead or a tooth ring you can bet they'd photograph it, privacy be damned. No such luck, Michael refuses to look disfigured or appear black. So instead of his face you're getting a picture of his feet. Yikes.
Feet?v I suppose kids' feet are interesting to some readers (e.g. psychopathsvi) but there's probably another reason for the photo. "It shows he's standing separate from everyone." Yes, but you put him separate, right? To tell us that he's separate? You also told everyone to take off their shoes.vii
So other than obvious staging of this crime scene, the NYT wants you to know either a) they're gypsies; b) mom's got 3 tattoos on her feet. One's a star. Do you know what a star tattoo means? It means what you are about to read is her fault.viii
Well, that could be a picture telling us he has reddish hair and no swastika on his forehead; or it could be a picture telling us his mom has a thumb ring and Lee Press On Nails.
"Hey, no one's saying she's a bad mother!" No. You're just saying it all makes sense.
This is a picture of a blue dragon breathing blue fire. If the TSA saw this laying on a flaming bag of plastic explosives they would all go on break, so compellingly normal and safe and ordinary this drawing is. It is so normal that I've given it to babies in the NICU for comfort. They giggle. Here, I made it more scary:
and even now Downy wants to make it the new symbol of freshness. I don't know how the hellix this implies Michael is a psychopath. Does the Times now include a blotter acid insert? Should I lick this?
The New York Times loves science, LOVES it, especially the kind with no numbers and frequent appeals to authority, especially ESPECIALLY if those authorities are from the cast of Freakonomics. Here are the seven most important sciences according to the NYT:
2. Political science
4. Climate science
5. Science fiction
So when you see this:
Michael was almost two standard deviations outside the normal range for callous-unemotional behavior
One study calculated the heritability of callous-unemotional traits at 80%
you can be sure they have no idea what it means and have no expectation their readers do either, which is why they wrote it like that, in those words. NB: "One study"= it must be true. The readers think of genes as cluster bombs, if the father drops it into the mother her vagina explodes with untoward consequences. If you try to explain gene expression and interaction they start to glaze over, and by the time you hit imprinting all they hear is the theme to Dancing With The Stars. Whenever you read the word "genetics" or "heritability" in the popular press as it relates to kids, it means one of two things:
a) It's not your fault.
b) it's your ex's fault.
To reinforce this to the target demoxi, the genetic link of psychopathy, in Michael's case, is through the hispanic guy.
BUT DOESN'T MICHAEL SOUND LIKE A PSYCHOPATH?
In fairness to the Times, I will admit they list, explicitly, several psychopathic behaviors that Michael exhibits:
he threatens his brother with a chair
he says he hates his brotherxii
he watches Pokemon
he can go from perfectly calm to full rage, and then calm againxiii
rages include punching toilets, though not people
his mom is exhaustedxiv
his dad is exhausted, but less so
he erases the dumb reporter's digital recorderxv
he goes to psychopath summer camp, and doesn't like it
Because these aren't terribly diagnosticxvi by themselves, the article is quick to mention the horrendous accomplishments of other child psychopaths.xvii One kid chopped up a cat's tail. Another kid named Jeffrey Bailey drowned a toddler in the pool just because he was curious.xviii Therefore, Michael is crazy. "Dude, that makes no sense." Dude, I'm just telling you what the article says. "Some, including Michael, were actually worse; one had begun biting the counselors."xix Wait, what?
Is Michael a psychopath? I have no idea, but I do know that the purpose of the story isn't to describe psychopathy, but to entertain a demographic that has nothing else to do on Sundays now that Desperate Housewives has been canceled. Have you learned anything you didn't already know from this article? "Don't let Michael date my daughter." Check. "Or my son! You never know, it's wrong to assume!" Double check. And mate. And I'm moving.
Scroll through the 631 deranged comments in the article, the two themes are "they need to remove the kid from the home for the family's safety!" which is totally ok when it's suggested by a deranged Manhattanite with no understanding of who "they" is, but everyone gets all Founding Fathers when George Bush tries it.xx "What gives him the right?!" Duh, you did. The other popular theme is "My heart goes out to these parents, what they must be going through!" but you only ever say such things when you're not at risk; and since the article lets you know it only happens to certain kinds of other people, your patronizing condescension is encouraged. "It is terrible, isn't it, but I guess it's true that other people are different from me." I will observe that no one feels bad for Michael even though this is supposed to be genetic="not your fault" and he hasn't actually hurt anyone, which is precisely the kind of psychopathic prejudice I expect from the NYT and its deranged readers. Does anyone have any other suggestions besides extraordinary rendition or military academy? No? Then shut it. The kid is nine. You derangetons are 40 and still shamelessly retain the fantasy that your decaying mind and body will someday pull something off, meanwhile you're wrapping up shooting on his movie before puberty even hits.
Of course there are 9 yo psychopathsxxi and of course you intervene early if you feel something's amissxxii and maybe Michael after all is one; but they sure haven't made a great case for it or the predictions for his future which, of course, are only implied, but you know.
Here's one explicit prediction -- and it is the Hail Mary of psychiatric predictions, offered without the benefit of conclusive research but you meet me at the bus stop at 3:30 if you want to fight about it -- one of the most significant causes of psychopathy is being told, at age 9, that you are a psychopath, and that the New York Times Magazine wants to do a ten page story about you. Yeah. Oops.xxiii———
- This is extremely apt a description, one of those shining jewels of form Ballas even got his name for. [↩]
- Linking the definitive tract on sociopathy is mandatory at this juncture ; while the pantsuit uses the two terms interchangeably, it does seem they're tending to settle on the former... [↩]
- It's entirely possible these are "real"-real, ie entirely made up. This sort of purely pantsuit-interest fluff piece does show a very strong tendency towards coming out as completely fabricated work of fan-fic within five to fifteen years. [↩]
- The NYT offices were never that cool. [↩]
- Stock photos. [↩]
- I suspect kids' feet are principally interesting to mothers.
Direct this straw poll at the mommy blog / knitting circle / yoga class / support group of your choice :
- Has the woman proceeded on her own initiative to suckle the toes / kiss the feet of whoever impregnated them, ever ?
- Has the woman proceeded on her own initiative to suckle the toes / kiss the feet of each of her children under the age of three years within the past year ?
Before we lose our shit over the 5/95 95/5 yes/no split : an interest in feet is not in or of itself semiology for any pathology. The very hardcore splitting may be, but as the pros say, "more data is needed", and in any case evolutionary biology will readily provide good reasons as to why mothers (and not fathers) find within intrinsic urges to lick their offspring.
Did you know cheetah pups can't even defecate without a heathly & vigorous anilingus session from mom ? Well... maybe try that sometime, natural & home remedies for constipation. I'd totally read the study. [↩]
- Technically, people in Florida do spend a lot of time barefoot. [↩]
- It means women towards the end of their sexual life [and with enough disposable income / sufficiently clueless as to read pantsuitist crap for leisure] are much more interested in reading stories about sluts than they were back at the beginning of their sexual life, back when all they wanted to hear about were "professional career women". It's just how that cunny crumbles. [↩]
- Because it's a really shitty drawing, and psychopaths are remarkably bad at ~any task would be my theory.
This is the salient point, the only possible important and only possible lede on any discussion of psychopathy or psychopaths : they fucking suck. I don't mean, "they fucking suck" in the sense of, "they do things so devilishly clever, so deviously efficiently effectual, they hurt my feelings". I mean they fucking suck, literally, directly, unadornedly ; I mean that if you give a group of kids a very simple task, such as removing a dozen oranges from a bag and placing them on a countertop, the only kid who will perform worse than the mongoloid/Down syndrome/etcetera will be the psychopath.
That's what psychopathy is. Psychopathy is not some kind of sexy excuse for insufferably banal, painfully tedious an' drony dorks, always at the ready to explain away their complete lack of sexual market value, "oh, they could do better but they choose to do worse instead for purely imaginary ethical reasons". No, none of that, absolutely none of that whatsoever. Psychopathy is the furthest thing from this kind of drones-imagining-what-gets-women-hot sorta faux sexy. Psychopathy is failure on incomprehensible scale, it's consistently and predictably doing so poorly, even trisomies finally have something to successfuly compete against.
Now, why the fuck doesn't Ballas say this ? I know he knows better ; and yet societal narrative overpowers knowledge, and he goes with the story -- an exonymous psychopathy, an imaginary "how it would be" created by people who aren't psychopaths (and aren't in the slightest interested in actual psychopaths or anything to do with them), out of their own experiences and for their own purposes, through the simple if transparent driver of narcissism. This memetic pseudo-psychopathy is a sort of Tevye's "if I were a rich man" wealth, cognitively closer to yelling "THIS IS SPARTA!!!" than to any science or understanding ; and he, the trained professional, nevertheless perpetuates it passively. For shame.
Actual psychopaths are confused. It's not that they're sitting on a pile of choices and "benefit from not having a conscience", for the love of god. Psychopaths have no conscience because the world doesn't make any fucking sense to them! Do you comprehend the difference between the asshole who just cuts in front of you and blows red lights and the blind guy who simply does not see the lights, the retard who is surprised, reliably and every time surprised by the workings of the gas pedal ?
Here's the saddest thing in the world : imagine a friend has a retarded kid. I don't mean a little retarded, I mean marginally capable of tying own shoes on a good day and that's it. She didn't ask for it, she just played genital lottery and that's what came out. What can you do ?
Now this kid... well, what's ever going to come of him ? Not much, right ? Not much at all. But one day, he comes up to you, socially as it were, and tells you a joke. The joke is genuinely funny! It makes sense, it's a joke, what. It's funny. For that brief moment, the kid might've even been perfectly normal, for all you know. So you laugh, half with surprise, and the very next moment you thank whatever god you thank to that looky, god made a nest for yet another blind crow, this kid won't go to his grave without having ever told a joke. It's something, in the way anything's ever something down here : more than nothing. Aite ?
And the next day, the kid... he tells you the joke. Not another joke. The same joke, again. And again, and the next day and the next time and again and again. Because it's what it is, see ? He doesn't even know anything's wrong, because how would he. How would he ? What could be wrong ?
The psychopath's got a strategic mind like the retard's got a sense of humour, you understand me ? It's not "if only I were retarded, I could tell all sorts of funny jokes, consisting of the same joke that marginally even maybe worked that one time". If you were a psychopath you wouldn't thereby be me ; you would thereby just be a sadder, simpler you. You'd be even more oppressed by incomprehensible circumstance, and even less able to do anything about it.
That's what psychopathy is. Not what you've seen on TV, not what you want to believe (which is the same thing), but that. That.
Now shut the fuck up about it. [↩]
- Mysteriously, there's a 3 and 6 missing in the original ; I have no idea. [↩]
- I suspect the implicit crappiness of the source material inhibits expression (har har), but nevertheless : "callous-unemotional" is bullshit for many reasons in general, but for an important particular reason specific to this context : family dynamics can force significant downregulation of expression in otherwise healthy children. All it takes for a kid to be "shy" and "quiet" is a very loud older sibling and a very cute younger sibling they spend a lot of time crammed into close quarters with.
In other words : young children aren't persons, much like mushrooms aren't plants. A mushroom consists mostly of [very finely dispersed material within] the half acre or so of soil upon which you found it, and similarily a nine year old is less than 50% contained within the physical body of the nine year old as you perceive it. [↩]
- This in particular is so far from "psychopathic" I have no words. A male kid who doesn't profess a hatred for his sibling(s) is probably mentally ill. [↩]
- So... this boy... is not a girl ? Wow. [↩]
- Yes, but doing what ? [↩]
- How the fuck is this related to psychopathy ? [↩]
- Noun is here used as an adjective, like you'd say "because these bitches aren't terribly phat". Dood spends too much time with "black" "culture", what can I say. [↩]
- It is extremely unlikely you even get to have such a wonder as a pre-pubescent psychopath. What "others" ? I am unaware of a single case documented to date -- I don't mean fiction-"documented", I have a few of those I made myself, tyvm. I mean irl documented. [↩]
- This, importantly, is not psychopathy. This is curiosity, a perfectly legitimate childish activity. The mother was neglectful. [↩]
- We didn't have counselors, back when we were kids, but as a five year old I bit my mother's friends on the face (as a friendly gesture) ; and later (ie, in highschool), my substitute teacher, mostly on the scruff of her neck (she loved it).
Seriosuly now, biting has absolutely nothing to do with mental health, you're supposed to fucking do it. [↩]
- No, actually, fucking inconsequentially has long been the male ideal. As it got recently realized, the inconsequential conception seems to have moved into focus as the next societal goal. Foal and let the state take them, you say ? They're too much trouble anyway, you say ? [↩]
- Of what course ? Which is this course off which the 9 yo psychopaths naturally come ? [↩]
- O really ?!
Mkay, I feel something's amiss. What now ? [↩]
- Absolutely no fucking effect whatsoever -- for the same money they could've told him he's gonna be President and the NYT is coming to derp inconsequentially about that instead.
You don't just become a psychopath anymore than you just become a daffodil or a colibri bird or something ; and besides... there's definiely more US Presidents than 9yo psychopaths in the US, you realise that. Do you ? [↩]