I’m prompted to write by the recent massacre in Norway. The sociopath responsible made sure to tell us his reasons afterwards, which include various political issues, bigotry and the usual hum-drum. I think, however, that his primary purpose was simply to be noticed. Therefore, I propose we do not notice him.
How Sociopaths Work
Men want Fame, Money and Power. Money is the hardest to get, then Fame and lastly, Power. Anyone who leads a family, hires an employee, drives a car or owns a gun has power. Most of us use that power wisely. A few of us get fame, by getting noticed on the Internet, becoming a popular author, making it big in Hollywood and so on. Very few of us learn how to make a lot of money. The sociopath has found an easy way to get two of those three things, and possibly even the third, if he is lucky. He grabs a gun—instant Power. He massacres a throng of people—instant Fame. Then, after we train our cameras on him and ask him ‘why?’, we feed, house, clothe and care for him—security normally bought by Money.
Making a name for oneself using honorable methods is difficult. Becoming infamous is easy. It’s not particularly hard to find a crowd of people and kill them. Anyone who can flex his index finger has that power. In fact, killing people is one of the easiest things on this earth to do, right up there with opening ones eyelids. I won’t come up with examples lest I give sociopaths ideas, but trust me, it’s easy.
And so here we find the primal inner workings of the sociopath’s mind. He is neither stupid nor unreasonable. He simply gains the things we all crave using easy methods we all resist. From an animal perspective, his reasoning works. His simple methods succeed in achieving his desires. It is only when we look at it from the uniquely human perspective—call it morality, ethics, conscience, religion, common sense, decency or whatever—that we find fault.
Thus, the proper way to prevent future atrocities is to keep the sociopath from gaining what he wants. Make it a poor life decision that finds a sociopath powerless, impoverished and forgotten. If he can’t gain Fame, Money or Power by committing massacres, the simple animal within will dissuade him from committing atrocities since there is no pay-off. Here is how we remove each payoff:
The Norwegian massacre was so horrible that it made headlines around the world. Everyone wanted to know about it, and then all about him. What race was he? What were his motives? What are his political beliefs? The sociopath summed up these things in a long manifesto. He had quite a bit to say, but no audience. He knew that after committing such a horrible event, the world would want to know all about the offender, giving him an audience. By reading his manifesto, saying his name and giving his ideas attention, we are giving him exactly what he wants.
This sociopath’s manifesto plagiarized much of the Unabomber’s manifesto. Obviously, had we never publically released the Unabomber’s manifesto, the Norwegian sociopath would have not seen the Unabomber’s Fame payoff, and perhaps he would not have written a manifesto of his own. He knew that massacring children would give him infamy, just like the Unabomber and the Fort Hood sociopath before him (the Fort Hood sociopath, incidentally, recently enjoyed his own copycat).
The following steps should be taken to ensure that sociopaths receive neither fame nor infamy upon committing atrocities:
1) Throw the book at him. Use every method within the law to make the sociopath as miserable in life as he will be in death. Norway’s system of law is mocked by the world because they do not have a death penalty, and the maximum sentence for murder—any number of murders—is 21 years. The idea that this man will be out walking the streets again, doing talk shows, radio interviews and writing books is unacceptable, and only serves to give other sociopaths hope of one day making Money from their crimes.
2) Remove his name from print. Sociopaths, in order to satisfy their Fame desire, want to see their names go down in history. Rob them of this joy. Instead, simply refer to them as ‘sociopaths’. “Today, a sociopath killed 77 people in Norway. Here are the circumstances. Here is his horrible punishment. This is how we treat sociopaths, to deter future massacres.” Don’t give him a clever nick-name to sell salacious newspaper headlines like Jack the Ripper or Son of Sam, for doing so glorifies him and makes his lifestyle that much more attractive. Instead, give him no name so that he simply becomes Sociopath 08-2011.
3) Don’t publish details. Exactly how much does the world ‘deserve’ to know? I say, the bare minimum, including: A) The headline. B) Vague circumstances (for example, ‘killed on an island during a camp’). C) The punishment. Too many details give other sociopaths ‘proof of concept’ for what works, and a blueprint for imitation. Closed door hearings should be standard for all sociopath trials.
4) Never publish a manifesto. If one is provided by the sociopath, the law must use it to serve justice, but the world doesn’t need to read it. We must never allow massacres to be used as soap boxes for the sociopath. Nothing could be more tempting for a sociopathic author with no audience than to be guaranteed of one if only he massacres innocents and provides a manifesto.
5) Disallow all communication from prison. Allow him to receive letters if necessary, but by no means should a sociopath be free to communicate with the outside world, lest devoted followers receive inspiration and accomplices instructions.
6) Publish the punishment in exquisite detail. Why should a sociopath enjoy privacy? If he can’t prove his humanity by acting human, then he should be treated like an animal. This can include any number of punishments (torture excluded, for we mustn’t become animals too) that deter other sociopaths from choosing this lifestyle.
Sociopaths should not enjoy the creature comforts most of us have to work hard for. While I can’t find an example of guilty sociopaths making a profit from prison for their crimes, the fact that they live with food, medical care and warmth for the rest of their lives, while none of the rest of us are guaranteed that luxury, is enough to confound me.
Additionally, what will prevent the Norwegian sociopath from profiting from his crimes once he is released? Who can guarantee that people won’t buy his book, call him in for interviews and make an infamous celebrity out of him? After 21 years of food and care, the man will walk free, free to make a living off of his infamy. We mustn’t let this happen.
What could be more seductive to the sociopath than to not only be promised lifelong infamy and devoted followers, but also lifelong personal security? An animal would be a fool to not notice this evil method of satisfying his primal needs. We must rob him of this too. Either we kill him, or make his incarcerated life a misery. I vote for the latter, because I think it is most effective. We should not starve him, but neither should he enjoy diversity of life from day to day. Give him a cold room, hard floor, stale bread, tepid water—misery.
This, we can do nothing about. As I covered earlier, all of us have the power to commit atrocities. The only thing keeping us from doing so is our humanity. Stripped of this power, we are stripped of humanity.
Forget guns. Sure, we can outlaw guns first (and magically all criminals and sociopaths will decide to obey the law and not use them) but what next? Any man can kill dozens by driving a car through a busy mall. Shall we outlaw vehicles then? Any man can kill innocents by poisoning a jug of milk at a supermarket. Shall we outlaw the public exchange of goods? One thing that makes us human is having the power to act like an animal but choosing not to. Take away that power, and we have nothing else to be but caged animals.
This places the ball firmly in the media’s court. Sadly, they have a poor history of censoring themselves to help humanity at the expense of personal Fame, Money and Power.