We are all prisoners of our faulted personalities, but only primary psychopaths use theirs systematically to target or imprison others. They lack the capacity to empathise, something normal people develop from early childhood. Considering people as objects, psychopaths survive by preying on what seems an incomprehensible weakness of normally empathic people. The condition of primary psychopathy is linked to lifelong dystunction of the amygdala, at the brains emotional core. At least 1% of people grow up as psychopaths, and not all are criminals. Features include pomposity, bullying, fearlessness, lack of real friends, lying, the capacity to believe ones own lies, and targeted aggression. The most socially dangerous become expert at masking their true nature. They use positions of power to select and mould others in their own image, and to dominate and control organizations. This is especially dangerous in institutions with special powers enshrined in the law. In a blatant recent example of collective psychopathology, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, a pair of young lovers, were falsely accused of murdering Amandas flatmate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, on November 1st 2007. The couple were vilified and demonized, and had to serve four years in prison before the successful outcome of a hard-fought, laborious and costly judicial appeal. As with medieval witch trials, many of the rest of us bought into an impossible story spun by a psychopathy-driven organization and fed to a press whose default position is itself intrinsically psychopathic. My central thesis will be that Societies and Professional organizations at all levels need transparent fail-safe mechanisms to detect and neutralize such individuals, who operate under Hervey Cleckleys Mask of Sanity. Such safeguards were absent in Perugias polizio-prosecutorial system, which also freely exploited defects in gutter press and blogosphere.
Declaration of interest: There is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research reported.
Funding: No specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sector.