Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Psychopathy, Ian Watkins and sex crimes: the nature of evil

The sentencing of Ian Watkins, former singer of the band "LostProphets", for a catalogue of sex crimes against children, is another case that adds to the spate of reported crimes, and historical crimes, that have featured in the media since the death of Jimmy Savile. In the last week, a British TV weather presenter, Fred Talbot, has been arrested for historical crimes, as has a former headmaster at a prestigious boys' school.

A recent article by Giles Fraser talks about the nature of this type of "evil", and the possible motivations that occur in the mind of people like Watkins, Savile, and others like them. However uncomfortable it is to think about it, it is important to understand why these people exist: this is why there are people trained in the police and specifically in the area of criminal psychology.

While it should be unnecessary to say so, understanding why such crimes happen does not condone them; no more that understanding why Hitler hated the Jews condones The Holocaust.

To many, child sex crimes rank amongst the worst forms of evil, because the such violations of human rights are against those so vulnerable and innocent. As Giles Fraser's article made clear, these kinds of crimes are nothing about sex; they are about power, and an ultimate, amoral expression of it.

In this way, paedophiles like Savile and Watkins are not so "abnormal" that their evil cannot be understood; it is more that they have become so removed from morality and humanity that their mindset cannot be comprehended by someone with conscience.

The motivations of a psychopath

Psychopathy is a personality disorder defined by a complete lack of conscience towards their actions, and empathy for others.
Psychopaths can unflinchingly carry out the most appalling crimes: some (such as brutal dictators, or, at another level, cut-throat CEOs) can intellectually justify their actions to themselves as part of a wider goal; a dictator to preserve power and "order" to the country; a CEO can justify massive fraud for the sake of boosting a company's share price. These are the calm, amoral psychopaths.
Then there are those who do so not for the sake of a real "goal", or as a means to an end, but simply for the "pleasure" of the act itself: those that simply take pleasure in others' suffering. These are the sadists. And it is this type that are may be considered the worst; for they do their actions not to improve their situation, but simply for the hell of it.
While an amoral psychopath may cause harm for "rational" reasons (to better his own situation), a sadist will easily cause harm for no rational reason whatsoever. Sadists are capable of taking enormous (and irrational) risks for the sake of a momentary act of power against another. It is this that makes them more dangerous, and more difficult to deal with.

People like Watkins and Savile (and sex offenders in general) fall into the latter catagory, because the actions they carried served no "method" other than to cause harm to an innocent person. In this way, paedophiles may be classified as simply a more "extreme" form of sexual psychopath and sadist. Their behaviour and "motivation" fits into many of the attributes connected to psychopathy. They are not "unique" in their evil; they simply plunge to sickening depths of it.

(For more about "Sexual Psychopathy", see here)

The general consensus is that people like Savile and Watkins are products of their cumulative environment. While "psychopathy" as a general rule requires some type of biological dysfunction in the brain, it is also documented that many people who went to commit child sex crimes were themselves "victims" (of one kind or another) at an early age. In order for people like Savile and Watkins to carry out their crimes, there must have been something that had seriously gone wrong at some point. Like all psychological "monsters", they are invariably made, not born.

By understanding how these people are created, it is how crimes like it are prevented in the future.

Causes and solutions

Psychopathy and sociopathy (the latter is generally considered the environmentally-caused disorder, the former primarily biological) have existed in humanity probably since the earliest times in human history. The key to preventing (or limiting) its negative effects on society is to spot the warning signs early on; better still, make a child's environment as stable and balanced as possible.

Sadly, the changes in modern lifestyle, in the family and the effects of technology, have made that job much more difficult. As I've mentioned in a previous article, narcissism (one of the factors that can lead to psychopathy under certain circumstances) is being fed through a vicious circle of the breakdown of the family unit, leading to the young people replacing a fickle family unit with a egocentric "me" unit. Technology may also be playing a part in this, in a way that was never previously possible.

Apart from these negative signs, the positive is that psychopathy is in the public eye in a way never seen before. The more people know about it, the more people will be aware of its causes, and therefore know what they can do to reduce the chance of it becoming manifested.

We can only hope.

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