Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

How common are corporate psychopaths in politics?

By Chris Golis - posted Thursday, 17 October 2013

There I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room when I spied the article heading on the front cover "HOW TO SPOT A PSYCHOPATH". The article was a reprint; first appearing in The Guardian as an extract/book review of The Psychopath Test by John Ronson. The article discusses Tony, a person who had been convicted and sentenced for seven years for Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH). Tony had decided to fake insanity by copying movie characters such as the one played by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. He was successful in getting of jail but was transferred to the Dangerous and Severe Personality Unit at Broadmoor. He soon realised he had made a mistake, particularly when he realised that he had subsequently been classified as a psychopath using The Robert Hare Psychopathy Checklist, (known as PCL-R) which lists 20 personality traits and behaviours that are detected by a structured interview.

  1. Glibness/superficial charm
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
  3. Pathological lying
  4. Cunning/manipulative
  5. Lack of remorse or guilt
  6. Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
  7. Callousness; lack of empathy
  8. Failure to accept responsibility for his or her own actions
  9. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  10. Parasitic lifestyle
  11. Poor behavioural control
  12. Lack of realistic long-term goals
  13. Impulsiveness
  14. Irresponsibility
  15. Juvenile delinquency
  16. Early behaviour problems
  17. Revocation of conditional release
  18. Criminal versatility
  19. Promiscuous sexual behaviour
  20. Many short-term (marital) relationships

(Perhaps the most famous book on corporate psychopaths is Snakes In Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare.)


Professor Antony Maden, the head clinician at Broadmoor, confirmed the decision that Tony was not mentally ill but a psychopath, as he faked insanity this was exactly the kind of deceitful and manipulative act that they do. Tony had so far spent 14 years appealing this decision with repeated tribunal inquiries but all his efforts had come to nought.

Ronson is charmed by Tony and begins to wonder if the only difference between a Broadmoor and Wall Street psychopath is that the latter is born into a stable, rich family. Finally Tony wins an appeal and is to be freed. Madden says that while Tony does have a very high level of some psychopathic traits in that never he takes responsibility, always blames others for events, is a manipulative bully and is always lying, Tony does not set out to do serious harm for its own sake. (Note this opinion does conflict with the evidence of a seven year jail sentence for GBH.)

In their final meeting Tony, true to his psychopathic personality, tells the author that he now fancies a married woman and he is going to manipulate her into arranging a divorce. Then Tony finishes the interview by telling the author that everyone is a bit psychopathic including the author himself. This is so true and as a personal example I "borrowed" the magazine from the waiting room.

There is a growing interest in psychopaths and organisational psychopaths in particular. Clinically, psychopathy is a disorder of the personality, involving a lack of affective empathy and attachment to others, superficial charisma and charm, manipulation, and the violation of social norms. Dr Hervey Cleckley's book The Mask of Sanity (1941) is widely credited with defining the clinical construct of psychopathy with 16 criteria. This work was amplified by Hare when he created the PCL.

The extent to which psychopaths are prevalent in the community is difficult to estimate – typical figures are 1% of the general population, 25% of the prison population and 3.5% of the business world. However I have seen (and agree with) estimates of 15% for the business community. More men than women are diagnosed as psychopaths and men are also disproportionally represented in prisons and managerial positions. Of course, not all male managers are psychopaths, just as all psychopaths do not have successful careers.

Craig Thompson


Perhaps the most likely example of a Corporate Psychopath in politics would be Craig Thompson. Now we have both the 1100 page Fair Work Australia report and Thompson's parliamentary reply we can through the checklist and see if he gets any ticks.

Multiple sexual encounters

Although Thompson denies it, the FWA report lists numerous incidents.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

12 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Chris Golis is Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence. He is an author, professional speaker and workshop leader. His site is

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Chris Golis

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Chris Golis
Article Tools
Comment 12 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy