Edi­tor’s Let­ter

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE GQ - Nick Smith FOL­LOW NICK @NICK_SMITHGQ

A so­ciopath, ac­cord­ing to an amal­gam of def­i­ni­tions, can be de­fined as a per­son who has an­ti­so­cial per­son­al­ity dis­or­der, char­ac­terised by a dis­re­gard for the feel­ings of oth­ers, a lack of re­morse or shame, ma­nip­u­la­tive be­hav­iour, unchecked ego­cen­tric­ity, and the abil­ity to lie in order to achieve one’s goals. Sound like any­one you know? Scarily, I think we could all iden­tify some or all of these qual­i­ties in cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als among our peers. Even more scarily, af­ter look­ing at the reams of in­ter­net en­tries on “How to spot/deal with a so­ciopath,” I worry that I might dis­play, or have dis­played at some point in time, so­cio­pathic ten­den­cies. Dr Martha Stout, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and for­mer Har­vard Med­i­cal School in­struc­tor, es­ti­mated in her book, The So­ciopath Next Door, that one out of ev­ery 25 of us is a so­ciopath. Thank­fully, her anal­y­sis also shows that if you’re wor­ried that you may be dis­play­ing so­cio­pathic ten­den­cies, and are con­cerned about its ef­fect on the way oth­ers per­ceive you, then you’re likely un­af­fected by the dis­or­der. Phew, glad I’m off the hook. But it did get me think­ing about this era of trolling, of po­lit­i­cal vit­riol feed­ing on xeno­pho­bia and big­otry, where all forms of me­dia host a plat­form for the one in 25 to estab­lish, re­in­force and ex­ploit cul­tural di­vides to suit their own pur­poses. So­cial me­dia sites like Red­dit and Twit­ter al­low for sub­con­scious and con­scious dis­re­gard, bul­ly­ing and bait­ing by pro­vid­ing an odd com­bi­na­tion – anonymity and a mega­phone. Sure, a lot of the voices are swal­lowed up in the ca­coph­ony, but the most po­lar­is­ing seem to shout loud enough to garner a raft of mis­guided acolytes. Closer to home, if you look at the white-hot topic of mar­riage equal­ity, the ar­gu­ment over a plebiscite that asks, ‘Should the law be changed to al­low same-sex cou­ples to marry?’ and the pro­vi­sion of $7.5m in ad­ver­tis­ing funds for both the ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ cam­paigns, you’ll see a pol­icy that en­gen­ders so­ciopa­thy. The fine print says that the cam­paigns fall un­der the purview of po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing, which isn’t ob­li­gated to be fac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate. That means the cam­paigns, and I’m think­ing of the ‘No’ cam­paign specif­i­cally here, don’t ac­tu­ally have to tell the truth to get their mes­sage across. It’s be­wil­der­ing. Can you imag­ine the dis­re­gard, ma­nip­u­la­tive be­hav­iour and catas­trophis­ing that’s about to be un­leashed, tar­get­ing hu­man be­ings who just want the op­por­tu­nity to live their lives as freely as every­body else? And all the ‘No’ cam­paign­ers have to do is add the re­ally fast voiceover at the end of the ad – ‘autho­rised by Aus­tralia’s lead­ing so­ciopaths.’ Fun­nily enough, ex­treme po­lit­i­cal move­ments and par­ties seem to be a mecca for so­ciopaths. In the lead-up to the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, one name comes to mind – Trump. And not just Trump (ad­mit­tedly, we tried to get an in­ter­view with him, but he’s a lit­tle gun-shy around his quotes in print), but his ‘ex­trem­ist’ sup­port­ers. Meet Milo Yiannopou­los, the anti-mus­lim, gun-lov­ing, proTrump icon of the al­ter­na­tive right-wing move­ment, on page 164. Our glo­be­trot­ting fea­ture writer Adam Baidawi spent a lu­di­crous (and ex­haust­ing) day with the man who re­joices in the so­cio­pathic tag with which he’s been anointed. In his own words, and with­out shame, he says that, “So­ci­ety needs its so­ciopaths.” He goes on to say that so­ciopaths are needed for the world to pros­per and evolve, and are re­spon­si­ble for the hu­man race’s many suc­cesses. “So­ciopaths are doc­tors, lawyers and jour­nal­ists,” he says, “all of the peo­ple that keep so­ci­ety tick­ing over. The peo­ple we re­ally fuck­ing need. I don’t un­der­stand why so­ciopa­thy has this weird stigma at­tached to it.” Now, you may not know Yiannopou­los’s pol­i­tics, but you might know him for his un­wa­ver­ing trolling cam­paign against the re­cent, all-fe­male Ghost­busters re­make for “typ­i­fy­ing a post­fem­i­nist, misandry-laden world,” as Baidawi so elo­quently ex­plains it. Yiannopou­los aimed his vit­riol squarely at Les­lie Jones, an African-amer­i­can lead in the film, and mo­bilised his fer­vent fol­low­ing to un­leash a bar­rage as well. His fol­low­ers even hacked her icloud ac­count to post nude pho­tos. In light of the at­tack, his re­sponse was flip­pant – “I’m sorry for be­ing so pop­u­lar, but I’m not re­spon­si­ble for what 350,000 peo­ple on the In­ter­net say.” In the in­cred­i­ble in­ter­view that you have to read to be­lieve, he adds, “Do you go af­ter Se­lena Gomez when her fans send death threats to Justin Bieber?” As I write, I feel I’ve fallen foul of the one thing I was lament­ing at the start of this col­umn by run­ning the fea­ture on Yiannopou­los – the will­ing­ness of me­dia to give so­ciopaths a plat­form. I don’t know how I feel about that. Are we try­ing to un­der­stand him, ma­lign­ing him, or giv­ing him a big­ger mega­phone in which

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