May 22, 2012

5 Signs Your Child Is a Psychopath, According To The NYT

psychopath dragon nyt.jpg

The New York Times Magazine has a story describing a 9 year old boy who has been diagnosed as a psychopath. "Oh my God, that was such a moving article."  Shut it.

Strangely/not strangely, they spend very little time describing the kid's psychopathy, and a lot of time on describing everything else from which you are to infer his psychopathy.  It's like badly written female erotica, which is exactly what the New York Times Magazine is, penis never goes in vagina, it's all innuendo and mood and words words words words...

Here are the 5 signs of a child's psychopathy, according to the New York Times.

1. Ethnicity

You know how at the beginning of these profiles they always write, "In order to protect the privacy of the subjects, the names have been changed"? They don't have that here.  Instead, to protect their privacy, they use the real first names.  And where they live.  And the name of their doctor.

Why would they use the real names?  Employers/suitors already look at your drunken bikini pics and judge you hopefully favorably, shouldn't this kid's story be a little better protected?

Maybe the real names are important: there's Anne, the mom.  Boleyn?  No.  Oh.  Michael's the psychopath. Myers?!  No. Dammit.   Dad is Miguel.... oh. 

As there are 10 million psychopaths living within 60 blocks of the NYT offices and another 200 inside the NYT offices, it's odd they needed to travel all the way to Florida to interview one.  Maybe this psychopath is really interesting?  Nope.  Kill anyone?  Nope.  Cosplays The Ring?   Nope.  Started a hedge fund?  Nope.  Weird.  Long way to go for boring.

2. Feet

If this kid had a swastika carved in his forehead or a tooth ring you can bet they'd photograph it, privacy be damned.  No such luck, Michael refuses to look disfigured or appear black.  So instead of his face you're getting a picture of his feet.  Yikes.

psychopath kids nyt feet.jpg

Feet?  I suppose kids' feet are interesting to some readers (e.g. psychopaths) but there's probably another reason for the photo.  "It shows he's standing separate from everyone."  Yes, but you put him separate, right?  To tell us that he's separate?  You also told everyone to take off their shoes.

So other than obvious staging of this crime scene, the NYT wants you to know either  a) they're gypsies; b) mom's got 3 tattoos on her feet.  One's a star.  Do you know what a star tattoo means?  It means what you are about to read is her fault.

3. Hands:

psychopath kids NYT.jpg

Well, that could be a picture telling us he has reddish hair and no swastika on his forehead; or it could be a picture telling us his mom has a thumb ring and Lee Press On Nails.   

"Hey, no one's saying she's a bad mother!"  No. You're just saying it all makes sense.

4.  This:

psychopath dragon nyt.jpg

This is a picture of a blue dragon breathing blue fire.   If the TSA saw this laying on a flaming  bag of plastic explosives they would all go on break, so compellingly normal and safe and ordinary this drawing is.  It is so normal that I've given it to babies in the NICU for comfort.  They giggle.  Here, I made it more scary: 

psycho dragon 2.jpg

and even now Downy wants to make it the new symbol of freshness.  I don't know how the hell this implies Michael is a psychopath.  Does the Times now include a blotter acid insert?  Should I lick this?

5. Science:

The New York Times loves science, LOVES it, especially the kind with no numbers and frequent appeals to authority, especially ESPECIALLY if those authorities are from the cast of Freakonomics.  Here are the seven most important sciences according to the NYT:

1. Sociology
2. Political science
4. Climate science
5. Science fiction

7. NPR

8. Law

So when you see this:

Michael was almost two standard deviations outside the normal range for callous-unemotional behavior


One study calculated the heritability of callous-unemotional traits at 80%

you can be sure they have no idea what it means and have no expectation their readers do either, which is why they wrote it like that, in those words.  NB: "One study"= it must be true.  The readers think of genes as cluster bombs, if the father drops it into the mother her vagina explodes with untoward consequences. If you try to explain gene expression and interaction they start to glaze over, and by the time you hit imprinting all they hear is the theme to Dancing With The Stars.   Whenever you read the word "genetics" or "heritability" in the popular press as it relates to kids, it means one of two things:

a)  It's not your fault.


b)  it's your ex's fault.

To reinforce this to the target demo, the genetic link of psychopathy, in Michael's case, is through the hispanic guy. 


In fairness to the Times, I will admit they list, explicitly, several psychopathic behaviors that Michael exhibits:

he threatens his brother with a chair

he says he hates his brother

he watches Pokemon

he can go from perfectly calm to full rage, and then calm again

rages include punching toilets, though not people

his mom is exhausted

his dad is exhausted, but less so

he erases the dumb reporter's digital recorder

he goes to psychopath summer camp, and doesn't like it

Because these aren't terribly diagnostic by themselves,  the article is quick to mention the horrendous accomplishments of other child psychopaths.  One kid chopped up a cat's tail.  Another kid named Jeffrey Bailey drowned a toddler in the pool just because he was curious. Therefore, Michael is crazy.  "Dude, that makes no sense."  Dude, I'm just telling you what the article says.  "Some, including Michael, were actually worse; one had begun biting the counselors."  Wait, what?

Is Michael a psychopath?  I have no idea, but I do know that the purpose of the story isn't to describe psychopathy, but to entertain a demographic that has nothing else to do on Sundays now that Desperate Housewives has been canceled. Have you learned anything you didn't already know from this article?  "Don't let Michael date my daughter."  Check.  "Or my son!  You never know, it's wrong to assume!"  Double check.  And mate.  And I'm moving.

Scroll through the 631 deranged comments in the article, the two themes are "they need to remove the kid from the home for the family's safety!"  which is totally ok when it's suggested by a deranged Manhattanite with no understanding of who "they" is, but everyone gets all Founding Fathers when George Bush tries it. "What gives him the right?!"  Duh, you did.   The other popular theme is "My heart goes out to these parents, what they must be going through!" but you only ever say such things when you're not at risk; and since the article lets you know it only happens to certain kinds of other people, your patronizing condescension is encouraged.  "It is terrible, isn't it, but I guess it's true that other people are different from me."  I will observe that no one feels bad for Michael even though this is supposed to be genetic= "not your fault" and he hasn't actually hurt anyone, which is precisely the kind of psychopathic prejudice I expect from the NYT and its deranged readers.  Does anyone have any other suggestions besides extraordinary rendition or military academy?  No?  Then shut it.  The kid is nine.  You derangetons are 40 and still shamelessly retain the fantasy that your decaying mind and body will someday pull something off, meanwhile you're wrapping up shooting on his movie before puberty even hits.

Of course there are 9 yo psychopaths and of course you intervene early if you feel something's amiss and maybe Michael after all is one; but they sure haven't made a great case for it or the predictions for his future which, of course, are only implied, but you know. 

Here's one explicit prediction-- and it is the Hail Mary of psychiatric predictions, offered without the benefit of conclusive research but you meet me at the bus stop at 3:30 if you want to fight about it-- one of the most significant causes of psychopathy is being told, at age 9, that you are a psychopath, and that the New York Times Magazine wants to do a ten page story about you.  Yeah.  Oops.

--- --- live tweeting the butchery that is Fifty Shades Of Grey tonight (May 22) during the finale of Dancing With The Stars.