Regarding the 9-year-old “psychopath”

Weekends are for speculation at the New York Times, and the paper’s Magazine section speculated it out of the park with this feature about whether young children can be diagnosed as psychopaths. For the purposes of our discussion, we’re going to put aside the question of what “psychopathy” actually is. That’s what reporter Jennifer Kahn has done, parenthetically noting that “the terms ‘sociopath’ and ‘psychopath’ are essentially identical,” connecting adult psychopathy to “cold, predatory conduct” and leaving it at that. Psycho-/sociopaths do bad things and don’t feel bad about them. They obey external rules of right and wrong, but they don’t internalize them in emotionally meaningful ways; they don’t want to be good. If it sounds to you like I am describing every child that has ever lived, you begin to understand the problem. If it doesn’t sound that way to you, it’s probably because there is something wrong with your brain, and society has no choice but to write you off.

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Friday links! Varieties of human experience edition

"I actually find nothing strange about Antonin Scalia. Bafflingly, I regard Antonin Scalia as the default human condition. Now bring me Solo and the Wookie."

We at Combat! blog spend a lot of time considering the problem of others. Partly that’s because I work from home, where I live with several terrariums. When you live alone, have no coworkers and socialize with an insular peer group, it’s easy to start thinking that other people are basically the same as you. They are not. The human experience is characterized first by its stunning variety, and what one person considers the givens of existence are, to another, mere trifles. Take lying, for example. When I lie, I have to take care that what I’m saying sounds like the truth. Otherwise, people will start to think less of me, and because I see the same people over and over again—the colloquial term for this phenomenon is “friends”—my life will get worse. For other people, lying is a sort of formality, the way Japanese people say ittadakimasu before eating. They just have to make the gesture of a declarative statement, and even though nobody believes them, that gesture is enough. It’s probably because they have no friends and the truth means to them what Rembrandt’s Christ With Arms Folded means to a labrador, but who knows? This week’s link roundup is chock full of absurd behavior undertaken by weirdos, and it serves to remind us that other people are startlingly different. Won’t you shudder in disrecognition with me?

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Friday links! National Donut Day edition

The picture above is of my friend Nick, captured in honor of today being National Donut Day. I love motherfucking donuts,* as anyone will tell you, but Donut Day is not what interests me about this photo. What interests me is Instagram, the website on which it was posted, and their ad copy: “Robert is using Instagram—a fun & quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo, then choose a filter to transform the look and feel of the shot into a memory to keep around forever.” Let us put aside “quirky,” in the same way that Caeser put aside Cicero, and consider how choosing a filter will “transform the look and the feel of the shot into a memory.” It’s true that memories are low-contrast and color saturated, just like Polaroids. Long after Nick and donuts are forgotten, this photograph of a man in military dress eating a croissant will implant a flickering, false memory in all who view it. You can see him taking the next step across the office—is it that much more difficult to see it happening from the same perspective in the room?

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