The Song in the Static … The Goldwater Rule

Both in the spirit of helping other up-and-coming writers and in sharing articles worth reading, I would like my readership to read the following post from a good friend of mine dealing with the dangers of diagnosing another from far away, especially when it comes to targets of high visibility.  Read Mr. Schneider’s post, and we’ll continue from there.

Read it?  Great.  Let’s continue his train of thought, but from an antisocial perspective.  What harm is there in diagnosing someone as antisocial (or narcissistic in the case of the linked article) from afar?  After all, we know what sheep look like and we know what wolves look like, so if something looks like a wolf, does it truly matter if we are up close or in safety when calling a wolf a wolf?  Well, there are the ethical concerns of doing as much, and then there are the practical concerns inherent to such a process.  We shall start with the ethical concerns and wrap up this post with the practicality of calling wolves, wolves.

Ethically, it’s a dangerous step to call another antisocial, much less afflicted with ASPD, via the bravery of being out of range.  As with any documented psychological condition, there needs to be a negative impact on the self or others for a series of intrapersonal traits to become “disordered.”  This is not an objective science, but rather subjective, and as such, should be left to professionals that can tease out the song from the static.  True disorder is uglier than most can imagine, and only the professional, the antisocial, and the antisocial’s “victims” know for sure if behavioral patterns experienced are indicative of suffering.  Exploring this via analogy, the burden of proof is with the prosecutor when it comes to crime.  She has to prove, to varying degrees, that the defendant was guilty of a particular crime.  This is done in as objective of a fashion as possible so that a reasonable person can come to agreement with her assessment.  With disorders and diagnosis via distance and proxy, the burden of proof is left with the “disordered.”  Once social or “professional” opinion is reached, it’s an uphill battle to prove otherwise.  It should be clear that diagnosis from afar is unethical, but is it necessary?

Mr. Schneider points out that regardless of the etiology of the proxied diagnosis, it has a real impact on the way in which those with true disorder are treated by others, escalating as the importance of the “prime example” increases.  He uses narcissism and Donald Trump as the example.  Donald Trump is a very important and very recognizable person.  By diagnosing him from afar, it creates the equation “person with diagnosis” = “akin to Donald Trump.”  Political motivations aside, we can see how this would polarize a base of neurotypicals almost immediately.  The author sums it up nicely:

Offering a differing opinion from Gartner was science writer Christie Aschwanden, who posed the question, what is the point in even giving Trump the diagnosis of NPD, which Gartner showed support for? Gartner argues that had he been given a diagnosis, Trump would have been less appealing to voters, but as I just mentioned, I do not entirely view that as true. People who already supported him would have more than likely written off the diagnosis as “fake news,” while people who were already against him would have probably just spammed the link to his diagnosis on Facebook with the caption, “IMPORTANT!!! PLS READ!!1!”

Now we see that the interpretation of disorder becomes tied to socioeconomic and/or political status and leanings which means that not everyone that believes in a certain proxied diagnosis will react the same.  We have a heterogenous response to a “static” diagnosis.

So what about the practicality of associating someone with a disorder from afar?  The cold reality is that humans are adept at recognizing patterns.  We equate stoves with “hot”, dead bodies with “danger”, so on and so forth.  Patterns save lives and mitigate distress.  Going back to my opening paragraph, if something looks like a wolf, does it matter from how far we view it?  Not really.  It may not be ethical to make associations of people with disorders outside of the professional’s office, but it certainly fits the pattern-recognition and its benefits that humans rely on day in and day out to make good decisions.  Maybe we just need to lower the bar a little bit.  Rather than getting worked up with the terms “disorder” and “diagnosis”, I posit that we simply need to identify “toxicity.”  Toxicity should be avoided.  We know what it looks like, does it really need a name in all cases?

Lay off the armchair psychology.  You know people you wish not to associate with, so do not associate with them if you do not have to.  We can recognize patterns with out being able to define them in words, and the disorder of others – regardless of whether it meets professional standards for diagnosis – should be left nameless.

Drag the Waters
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  1. beneficii says

    I remember I had discussions on Twitter with people who said that only the mentally ill can do evil: If one commits an evil act, then they must have mental illness. I did not continue the discussion from that point on.

    It seems to me some people aren’t aware of their shadow.

    • FNP says

      I think it’s more like the inability for the majority of people to recognize that they themselves are not representative of everyone. They have to believe that the only way someone could do an evil act is if they were significantly different from the norm. Reality, on the other hand, doesn’t work that way…

  2. Anonymous says

    Think of the big bad wolf and the three little piglets. Notice how it’s not “a wolf and three pigs”? It seems to be a lot easier for many people to build up emotional hatred and pity when the words are as exaggerated as the corresponding emotions. Your typical wolf you see every day hardly stands out from the lock of sheep. For all *I* know, *I* might be the wolf, and *I* rather make it clear that this particular big bad wolf is very different to *me*. Note the asterisks, the actual me is oblivious to emotional connotations in words, but it’s helpful to figure out what gets people so railed up in these overblown debates. The president doesn’t care for the American citizens whose houses got dismantled by a hurricane? Noted. Not surprising or worth debating for hours. It’s not even entertaining to hear y’all talk about it. Can I please enjoy my ale here and get back to more productive topics? Like how they “messed up” the Klingon subtitles in Discovery? And that’s another example for the same thing. There’s like one grammatical error in how they don’t put the “and” at the end of a sentence which arguably passes as a dialectal deviation. But it apparently makes the conversation more entertaining.
    For anyone who’s incidentally not quite seeing my analogy, transfer the terminology of the fable to the topic of the American president by making it “the psychopath and the poor citizens”.

  3. Joe says

    Eckhardt Tolle has a very good discussion regarding mental illness and suggests that it can be quantified by our consciousness. The idea that an honest man can lie and a good man can steal is based on a situational premise. I think what is missing is the basis for the disorders. Namely did it arise from abuse or over indulgence? Trump of course is very narcissistic and may even perhaps be disordered, but “Borderline” America is his mistress and she will control him like a puppet. Her praise inflates his ego and her criticism makes him try harder. As Shari Schreiber states in her website “” the Narcissist is no match for the “Borderline”. Thoughts?

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