Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Publicity, Sociopaths, Censorship and Suffering

Posted on | July 27, 2011 | No Comments

The media attention garnered by Anders Behring Breivik following the massacre in Norway has raised a few eyebrows. Following his crime, this interest, focused on his manifest and his writings in the social media, has been denounced by those who fear that this kind of notoriety will only encourage other psychopaths and sociopaths. Is there some truth to this, and what are the alternatives and their consequences?

I’ve read on Diane Duane’s blog of of the most thoughtful and careful criticism of this media frenzy; it is outstanding chiefly as it seeks to put the victims back at the center of public attention, and it also offers a delightful historical perspective. Still I am not entirely convinced by her arguments.

First of all, the need for publicity is not the only, nor even a chief motivation of psychopaths and sociopaths. In fact it does not even appear in the usual definitions of this disorder. It is however listed as a symptom of narcissism, another disorder sometimes linked with sociopathy (both share a few symptoms). In any case, there is no shortage of psychopaths who would rather not bring too much attention to their crimes – Vincent Lacroix wasn’t exactly advertising his desire to rob his victims of their life savings.

What more the interest on these individual is necessary to help us understand and ultimately unveil the other manifestations of this disorder. And if the media interest sometimes hardly rises above tabloid standard, it can also appear as well-documented,
lengthy articles.

I mostly fear the flip side of this coin : what happens when we forbid discussion on a topic? Are we really ready to re-establish this kind of censorship? We see for examples in victims of sexual aggression that the taboo is still heavy enough to prevent many of them from laying charges against their aggressor, or even simply seeking help. The institutionalization of this censorship was
pushed a dramatic level in Ireland where the Catholic Church was able to reverse in complete impunity directives that would have otherwise protected many children from their abuser.

Years of censorship have never eradicated any evil whatsoever. Much to the contrary it is by awakening people to the risk posed by some individuals, to the warning signs and by educating them on the real effects and scope of mental disorders and fanaticism that we will be able to halt their progression.

It is what Norway ultimately chose to do : to answer terror with more openness and democracy.


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