Ronson’s Risky Observation on Psychopaths and Questioning about Psychiatry “You shouldn’t define people by their maddest edges” Essay

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Ronson’s Risky Observation on Psychopaths and Questioning about Psychiatry
“You shouldn’t define people by their maddest edges”
(Ronson)
In a TED talk titled “Jon Ronson: Strange answers to the psychopath test” given by a writer Jon Ronson, he discussed a “gray area” of psychopaths, where he cast doubts on the its margins, and, to some extent, questioned the credibility and nature of psychiatry. Ronson took many risks in his lecture, including both publicly addressing his personal experience and stance towards the topic “psychopath” (Ronson), and applying rhetoric such as sarcasm and metaphor. This essay, after summarizing Ronson’s lecture, focused on analyzing how these risks affected his purpose and audience. Overall, the risks he took worked out effectively, mainly for two reasons. On the one hand, though he proposed a perspective on psychiatry which diverges from the mainstream, his personal experience was quite objective and convincing. On the other hand, the strategies he used in demonstrating ideas were humorous and generally acceptable, which therefore made his ideas impressive to his audience. In Ronson’s talk at TED, he primarily discussed his experience interviewing a so-called psychopath called Tony and a wealthy “chainsaw” Al Dunlap. Afterwards, he reflected on his observation and questioned the psychopath tests, as well as psychiatrists’ tendency to perceive others’ behaviors as demonstrations of a psychopath. He started the story with the cause that triggered his interest in the topic, psychopaths. As he stated, he first read a list of mental disorders in his friend’s book, and found himself possessing twelve of them, starting to wonder if psychiatry is a pseudo-science. Then he was inspired to meet a psychology expert, Brian, who suggested him to interview Tony, a psychopath at Broadmoor who asserted that he faked his madness in order to avoid being sentenced to jail. Afterwards he depicted his visit at Broadmoor, where, as Ronson noticed, patients generally were overweight and wearing sweatpants. Tony, however, was in “good physical shape” and “wearing a pinstriped suit” (Ronson). Then they talked about how he was sent to Broadmoor and how he tried to get out. According to Tony, he beat someone up when he was and decided to fake madness, by applying some plots he learned in movies and books, which lead him to Broadmoor. Later on, he tried to convince the psychiatrists that he was not mentally ill. For instance, he talked to the nurse about an article he read, that the U.S army was training bumble bees to detect explosives, and this behavior, was recorded by the nurse, as a sign of illusion. Also, he tended to stay in his own room, because patients in adjacent wards were “serial killers” (Ronson). And this action, again, was perceived as proof that he was “aloof and grandiose” (Qtd. In Ronson). After the visit, Ronson found Tony “completely normal”, and therefore, he wrote to Tony’s clinician, Dr. Maden (Ronson). The ironic part is, Maden admitted that Tony had been faking madness. However, faking madness, itself, was a sign of madness, because Tony behaved cunningly and manipulatively. Confused, Ronson then continued his exploring in psychiatry. He said that he took a course taught by Dr. Hare, who invented the psychopath checklist, and became a certified psychopath spotter. Under suggestion given by Hare, who argued that capitalism rewarded some people because of their glibness and manipulative personality, which are manifestations of madness, Ronson decided to give a try to interview a “corporate psychopath” (Ronson). Ronson, again, talked about his interview. He went to visit Al Dunlap, the wealthy “asset stripper” in 1990s. As Ronson observed, Dunlap’s mansion was decorated by sculptures of huge animals, predatory animals. They then talked about the psychopathic traits, and they both agreed on the fact the Dunlap do possess the “mad” characters defined by Hare:…