The following is an excerpt from Clifford Ribner’s book, Freedom’s Last Stand.
People who actively seek public office in a republic or democracy – otherwise known as politicians – have one of the following two motives for doing so: (1) they either genuinely feel some calling to what they consider to be public service, and have personal integrity/morality ranging from high to barely passable, or (2) they are genuine, utterly amoral sociopaths obsessed with acquiring power over others, who will say and do anything – and can be counted on to tell big lies constantly and never to speak the truth about anything, nor ever to honestly reveal anything — about themselves, their actions and, particularly, their true motives for doing anything.
Unfortunately, the more power over citizens the state is given, or simply takes, the more power it also provides for those who purport to act in its name as its agents – and the more likely it is to attract the worst sociopaths to seek public office in order to wield that power over others.
To protect itself from these monsters, most of a republic’s citizenry – and, at a minimum, all recognized political parties – must be able to recognize any such sociopaths for what they are, and create barriers to preclude them from entering any position of power. If any sociopaths are allowed to get past any such taboos or other barriers excluding them, particularly in a democracy, they are likely, unfortunately, to succeed in their quest for power.
Indeed, if any sociopaths at all are able to achieve any legitimacy as candidates for any public office, the worst of the worst of them are certain to rise to power. This is because both of the perceived “charm” sociopaths (pathological narcissists) invariably project, at least to many, and their complete indifference to any moral, ethical, and even legal, constraints, necessarily puts any non-malignant opponents at an impossible strategic and tactical disadvantage. Because the sociopath is willing to say and do absolutely anything to win, the constraints any decent opponent respects and follows have the effect of completely disarming him against his unprincipled sociopath opponent: he finds himself in a gunfight with no gun, and with both hands tied behind his back – against an opponent who is armed to the teeth and perfectly happy to commit murder.
Thus, nothing is more dangerous to a republic than for any sociopaths to be (mistakenly) accepted – by the electorate, or by any ostensibly-legitimate political party – as legitimate political candidates or leaders, and so avoid the total ostracism they deserve – and the republic, for its own health, requires – on the merits.
Because of their obsessive need for power over others, their inherent contempt both for morality and for those they rule over, when given any chance to do so, sociopaths are willing to say and do absolutely anything they imagine they can get away with, including making “big lies” on the model described, and used, by Hitler – lies which are simply too big to be disbelieved by too many decent people.
This dynamic can be described as it has been by Lord Acton: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. An additional observation: the corruption that occurs and increases with the growth of state power permeates to society at all levels — including to all businesses — the providers of all needed and desired goods and services — subjected to overwhelming state power.
Those businesses so subjected simply have no choice but to engage in the corruption — in order to survive without being crushed. So too, the corruption spreads to the media which people rely on for information, media which need to participate in the corruption, even if only to continue to have access to information from the state – even though it becomes nothing but disinformation and misinformation as relayed to the public. And it engulfs popular entertainment, schools at all levels and, let us not forget, the so-called learned professions such as law and the social sciences, whose members actually, parasitically, profit from their participation in the corruption, and who pride themselves on their intellectual ability to split hairs and rationalize any action.
In Chapter 14, I describe how all these just-described corrupting processes have indeed taken place here in America, particularly since 1906.
How could this possibly have happened? What follows is my structural answer to that question; later chapters contain my description of the actual history of these events.
Consider: as humans, we each have our own, psychological blind spots which, even when we are intellectually aware of them, are virtually impossible to overcome. For example, if you suffer from serious, chronic illness, do you find it difficult, if not impossible to fully remember what it was like to be healthy? Or conversely, if you are relatively young and healthy, do you find it difficult, if not impossible, on some level, to fully comprehend another’s serious, chronic illness – even when it seems to stare you in the face in the company of a desperately sick parent or other loved one?
Similarly, decent, moral people (i.e., most of us) find it difficult, if not simply impossible, to comprehend someone who is truly evil and morally malignant. We may even feel guilty when so characterizing anyone – even when the evidence for such is overwhelming.
Specifically, even when we know for a fact, intellectually, that the evil person – a proven, serial liar, for example – is almost certainly brazenly lying to our face, it is incredibly hard, if not impossible, for us to fully comprehend that, yes, everything he is saying now (and likely has ever said) really is a lie – an inescapable conclusion based on his own, known past, fraudulent moral depravity.
We normal people feel compelled to project onto the sociopath how we would behave if we had engaged in the particular misconduct we know for a fact he previously committed, misconduct which, in our case, we would have considered personal failings, deviations from who we truly are.
But, as a scorpion is always a scorpion, a sociopath is always a sociopath, and his bad deeds are not, as with the rest of us, aberrational failings. They are his norm, what the sociopath always does, and expressions of his very nature. Any explanation he gives for any of his conduct is always a lie designed to hide his true motives and agenda, which are invariably amoral and/or malignant. He always wears a mask regardless what he is doing or saying. Nothing so terrifies him as honesty, and the possibility of being truly recognized and understood by others.
On the other hand, our experience of the sociopath is analogous to the experience of very high-quality virtual reality: even while telling yourself intellectually it is all a pure illusion, it is virtually impossible to abandon the experience of believing the genuine reality of what you are seeing and hearing – until physically removing the equipment creating the illusion.
Indeed, because it forces us to experience this phenomenon – and so teaches us this our remarkable psychological vulnerability to the total-believability effect of artificial hallucination — the technological development of virtual reality may do more to preserve future generations from mass madness than anything since Jesus Christ’s resurrection (not that the two are otherwise equivalent).
Sociopaths know how to exploit and manipulate these our hallucinatory blind spots. They exploit that knowledge, together with their own total amorality, to obtain power over decent citizens, cold-bloodedly seeking to control citizens’ thoughts and actions.
And if the sociopath can generate a mob – as through “community organizing” – angrily demanding support from all for his most radical proposals, he is happy to use that mob to sweep away any and all who oppose him.
Entire nations – including the most modern, intelligent, highly-educated and sophisticated – can fall victim to genuinely-evil, cynical manipulation via such emotional/intellectual blind spots, and become, en masse, absolutely convinced of the sheerest nonsense and, succumbing to such manipulated beliefs, say and do things they would otherwise consider inconceivable.
Sociopathic politicians force the public into the position of having to either believe them, or not, about something the politician claims is profoundly important to everyone. Even when the evidence is abundant that the politician cannot be trusted in anything and is, indeed, a pathological narcissist – that is, a psychopath or sociopath (the terms are synonymous) – normal decent people simply have a hard time getting their brains around the idea that someone is lying to their face about something profoundly important. It is that basic unwillingness to disbelieve that the sociopath preys upon.
Think not? Consider the case of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.
There was a nation in the heart of Europe, as educated, cultured (the home of, among others, Beethoven, Johan Sebastian Bach, Goethe, Emanuel Kant) and, yes, as Christian (a nation filled with spectacular churches, and at least 1500 years of Christian history) as any country had ever been. And yet we know beyond any doubt the blood-thirsty Nazi barbarism they descended into – barbarism ultimately supported by the overwhelming majority of those Germans.
And it was not simply the uneducated: although many professionals doubtless joined the Nazi party solely for selfish, non-political reasons, such as in order to obtain career-advancement, without necessarily being true believers, some of the most highly-educated and brilliant of all were indeed true believers – Martin Heidegger for example, as prominent a professional philosopher as lived in any nation during the 20th century – and a genuinely committed Nazi. Was he simply fooled?
The sociopaths Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, unabashedly revealed one of their most potent weapons (in a remarkable instance of self-confessed liars telling the truth for once) – the big lie. This was how Hitler put it in Mein Kampf:
“…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie , since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.…”
Among the many ways America was absolutely unique in all human history, aside from the Constitutional absolute prohibition on the status of nobility for anyone, and its attendant prohibition on any citizen having any hereditary claim to any public office, were (1) the Constitution’s combined strict restrictions on public officials’ actions and transparency and disclosure requirements for all official actions (to minimize secret, self-serving dealings among politicians harmful to the public), and (2) the genuine hope that the combination of the Constitutionally-very-limited power available to federal officials, and patriotism arising from public awareness of the unique individual liberty created for our citizens legally, would combine to result in many, if not most, federal officials taking office genuinely as a public service, with little or no hope of advancing their own careers by doing so.
The checks and balances and power-restrictions in the Constitution were designed to maximize our safety from all politicians who might actively seek public office, with impeachment and removal of true sociopaths, with no need for military action, specifically-contemplated and made available. And the hope that true, patriotic, liberty-loving public servants would indeed take public offices seemed truly realizable by the example of George Washington – an example which men of honor succeeding him — until Teddy Roosevelt— would be embarrassed to betray.
But, alas, sociopaths are always so difficult for decent people to spot, and once any of them gain entry to power, nothing but the power of violence can remove them from the scene. And once they obtain political office, they will use that office to expand their own power, and the power of the state they wield as its officers, as massively as they are permitted to do. And that is precisely what politicians in America have been doing for nearly 150 years — ever since they were able to get away, unconstitutionally, with doing so.