Home » Strange Answers to the Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Full Transript)

Strange Answers to the Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Full Transript)

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.

He said, “Well, you’ve got to believe in you!”

And I said, “Manipulative.”

He said, “That’s leadership.”

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?”

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, because 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.”

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.

 

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