The Psychopath Test

Jon Ronson

Armed with the now-infamous, 20-point Hare PCL-R Checklist, Jon Ronson attempts to “spot” psychopaths. As expected, the people he interviews, who readily exhibit their psychotic bona-fides, are in complete denial about or rationalize their symptoms as necessary tools for a successful life. This is especially true of the sacked corporate wrecker, former Sunbeam CEO Al Dunlap, who took delight in firing employees: “You may have a fancy sports car, but I’ll tell you what you don’t have: a job!” Psychopathic traits, such as lack of guilt, remorse or empathy, and parasitic or manipulative tendencies obviously come in handy to many CEOs and politicians. According to Robert Hare, the checklist’s author, “corporate professionals displayed psychopathic traits at least four to five times the prevalence in the general public.” Not too surprising. As with his previous work, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Ronson is able to coax humor out of an otherwise dark topic. He provides a wide array of characters—psychiatrists, Scientologists, murderers, victims of violence—even a former MI-5 agent who comes out as a cross-dresser claiming to be Jesus: “I know I am the Messiah. It’s up to you to find out why you can’t accept that.”