If I Had A Rocket Launcher

McJ's picture

Thanks to Bob for reminding me of this awesome song by Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn.
This song was written after his 1983 visit to Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico following the military torture campaign of dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. It is eerily appropriate to the ongoing slaughter in Gaza - not much has changed. How sad, how very, very sad.

This is a live version from the Montreal Jazz Festival.

If I Had A Rocket Launcher
Here comes the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher...I'd make somebody pay

I don't believe in guarded borders and I don't believe in hate
I don't believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would retaliate

On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation -- or some less humane fate
Cry for guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...
If I had a rocket launcher...
If I had a rocket launcher...Some son of a bitch would die


McJ's picture


OMG - dead babies sucking on the toes of their dead mothers - what a horrific image.
Thanks for posting that link SMDQR.

Ya just gotta love George Galloway for having the balls to stand up and say what needs to be said.
I wonder if there is any way we can follow his relief drive through Europe into Egypt?? Anyone know which press outlets are most likely to cover it?

Vive Palestine

Hyde Park was also the center of protests, with thousands calling for an end to conflict in Gaza

"...clashes occurred between police and around 20,000 protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in London - with an estimated 100,000 protesters airing their views around the city."

Here's the video SMDQR linked to:

"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

Good speech.

Good speech.

McJ's picture

Another pic

Another pic of the London protest.


"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

McJ's picture

US seeks ship to move large shipment of arms to Israel

I wonder how the Greeks will react to this?
U.S. seeks ship to move arms to Israel

LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tons of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.
The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as "ammunition" on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.

"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

The Sociopath Next Door

I've just finished the book which many have touted as required reading for understanding how people can be so mean.


The assertion of the book is:

One in twenty-five people have NO CONSCIENCE. They cannot feel remorse. They feel the need to win and to dominate, however. Everybody is their pawn.

Other than that characteristic, they can be anybody. Smart, average, talented or not, charming, boring, beautiful or plain. The only thing that sets them apart is that they have zero conscience. They have no emotional repugnance at killing or torturing. In fact, they delight in it as a thrill. Their concern is whether they can get away with it or not.

If the assertion is true, that explains some of the freak show.

There aren't enough brilliant sociopaths to pull off all the vicious stunts that our governments and corporations are capable of, so we need more explanations and the book provides at least one. It explains how people can be complicit, though it doesn't explain to me why people keep their mouths shut afterward. As discussed in WP land before, mortgages, fear for livelihood etc. are probably strong motivators.

The book cites a 1961 experiment, which has just been reconfirmed, in which the "teachers" are duped into thinking they were shocking actors with excruciating amounts of electricity for making mistakes on word pair memorization tasks. The overseer of the experiment, a convincing authority figure, calmly told them to continue over their meek objections and they did. It was the physical presence of an authoritative voice that was they key.

This experiment wasn't a one-shot deal and was nuanced a number of ways to check the accuracy of its conclusions.

This is beyond "let he who is without sin". The sociopath has absolutely no basis upon which to consider the feelings of others. They are amoral. Their brains are actually wired differently from the other 96% of humanity.

So, as I am watching videos of Radical Muslims crushing the arms of 8 year old bread-stealers, of Israeli's sitting in lawn chairs watching the bombs go off in Gaza, of Condaleeza and Cheney blabbing and of those believing her, this book puts a convincing interpretation on the events.

It also explains why the US military can produce things like The Whole Building Design Guide. (They are behind Europe but it's still pretty good.) I figure that is what the other 96 per cent are up to while they wait for an order from Cheney to electrocute somebody.


Re Sociopaths

Very good summary, IC. Thanks for posting it.

"There aren't enough brilliant sociopaths to pull off all the vicious stunts that our governments and corporations are capable of, so we need more explanations and the book provides at least one. It explains how people can be complicit, though it doesn't explain to me why people keep their mouths shut afterward. As discussed in WP land before, mortgages, fear for livelihood etc. are probably strong motivators."

I think your extra motivators are more than valid. Can I add some others?
At least one other study I have read put the incidence of socio/psychopaths at 6% (and rising in the US!). Add to this number the 25% or so of Millgram's experiment subjects that followered orders to the end and you have 30% of the population who will do whatever they are told. It is heartening to me that the majority didn't, though. To keep this majority participating to any degree requires constant reinforcement in the way of a false, deceitful narative from our media, I believe; to reinterpret reality, otherwise known as "spin". This is why I advocate strongly to people to throw their TVs as far away as they can.

As an aside, an interesting commentary I read once on Millgram's Stanford experiment noted that there was no follow up on the people who refused, despite the pressure, at the outset or very early on to participate in torturing others. This would have been truly valuable and the failure to take up this aspect points out, to me, the agenda behind the experiment. I think it is noteworthy that it took place at Stanford which has received huge funding from the CIA.

We are trained from birth with carrots and sticks to respect all those in authority over us and do what we are told because authority figures are (always) right. i.e. we are taught that authority is good and so whatever they do or say is good. So violence and power over others are not bad in themselves but only bad when not sanctioned by authority or worse, against authority. (The only political group that really understand this fundamental flaw in out culture is the Anarchists and, of course, everybody else detests them!).
I think the impact of the violent God so often recorded in the Old Testament has had a huge and largely unnoticed impact on this very aspect of our worldview and the behaviour that follows it. The prime example, of course, is Zionism, both jewish and christian varieties.

The books of Alice Miller are extraordinarily insightful regarding violence in our society, how it got there and its resultant wars and oppression. The answer also presents itself but it is long term, unfortunately.

McJ's picture

ICGREEN: Another book

The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckey, MD

From Wiki:
"The Mask of Sanity is a book written by Hervey Cleckley, M.D., first published in 1941, describing the clinical interviews of Cleckley with incarcerated psychopaths. It is considered a seminal work and the most influential clinical description of psychopathy in the 20th century. The basic elements of psychopathy outlined by Cleckley are still relevant today.[1] The title refers to the normal "mask" that conceals the mental disorder of the psychopathic person in Cleckley's conceptualization.[2]

Cleckley describes the psychopathic person as outwardly a perfect mimic of a normally functioning person, able to mask or disguise the fundamental lack of internal personality structure, an internal chaos that results in repeatedly purposeful destructive behavior, often more self-destructive than destructive to others. Despite the seemingly sincere, intelligent, even charming external presentation, internally the psychopathic person does not have the ability to experience genuine emotions. Cleckley questions whether this mask of sanity is voluntarily assumed to intentionally hide the lack of internal structure, or if the mask hides a serious, but yet unidentified, psychiatric defect.[3]

An expanded edition of the book was published in 1982, after the DSM, the manual used in the United States for categorizing psychiatric disorders, had changed the name and standards for the classification of psychopathy to antisocial personality disorder, incorporating most of Cleckley's 16 characteristics of a psychopath listed below.[4] The original edition of the book is no longer available."

You can download the original edition of the book for free at the link below.

I've read Cleckley's book

I've read Cleckley's book and is strikes me as trying too hard to purify society. Cleckley is one of those people who abuses the term "psychopath" for his own purposes. An interesting debate would be to have Thomas Szasz against Hervey Cleckley, but Cleckley's dead. Szasz would poke many holes in Cleckley's theories.

Cleckley's book reminds me of astrology -- like Linda Goodman's "Sun Signs," a bunch of hooey masquerading as serious analysis.

Alice Miller's Thou Shalt Not Be Aware is far more insightful and instructive on what underlies the anti-social behavior of most humans. Cleckley's view is that of a prison warden -- he'd reduce the number of these "psychopaths" by jailing them. Miller's view is that of one who would like to reduce the number of "psychopaths" by eliminating the social factors that lead to creating a sociopathic perspective.

Of the two, I find Miller more interesting and far more useful. Cleckley's perspective could be used to "institutionalize" anyone who just doesn't "fit in," and that scares me.

McJ's picture

It's been some years

It's been some years since I read the book but I don't remember him hypothesizing anything along the lines of a purification or a reducing of the amount of psychopaths by jailing them. What I remember is his examination of a number of case studies of patients he had treated over the years and his analysis of what he was seeing (which he believed was an illness or distinct mental disorder classified as psychopathy). I believe the edition I read was the original book so I haven't read what he had to say in the expanded edition after psychopathy was reclassified to the more generalized anti social personality disorder.

I noted with interest Uri Averny's article which Chris Floyd highlights in his latest post Debunking the 'Human Shield' Myth. Averny uses the term moral insanity to describe the actions of Ehud Barak.
Ehud Barak – a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called “moral insanity”, a sociopathic disorder and says that "People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions."
I had not heard socio/psychopathy called that before so I did a google search on it. It found this:

Moral Insanity: A Brief History
Lucy Ozarin, M.D., M.P.H.
The term "moral insanity" is unfamiliar to psychiatrists today, but it was an accepted diagnosis in Europe and America throughout most of the 19th century. As late as 1883, the American Journal of Insanity (forerunner of the American Journal of Psychiatry) published an article titled "Moral Insanity."
Individuals who retained their intellectual capacity but harbored strange and unrealistic ideas had puzzled European physicians of the 18th century. Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) termed the condition manie sans délire. Jean-Etienne Esquirol (1772-1840) retained Pinel’s ideas. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), considered the first American psychiatrist, had studied in Britain and visited Pinel in Paris. In his 1812 book Medical Inquiries and Observations of the Mind, he used the term "alienation of the mind." Later writers believed there was confusion between hypomania and moral insanity.
Dr. J.C. Prichard (1786-1848) of England is credited with being the first to use the term moral insanity. In 1835 he wrote: "There is a form of mental derangement in which the intellectual faculties [are uninjured], while the disorder is manifested principally or alone in the state of feelings, temper, or habits. . .The moral. . .principles of the mind. . .are depraved or perverted, the power of self-government is lost or greatly impaired, and the individual is. . .incapable. . .of conducting himself with decency and propriety in the business of life."
In his 1939 Salmon Lectures in New York, Professor David Henderson of Edinburgh gives credit to Isaac Ray (1807-1881) for distinguishing between intellectual mania and moral mania. Ray believed the latter corresponded to Pinel’s manie sans délire. Ray’s opinions exerted considerable influence in courts of law.
The term "moral insanity" was still used in 1881 during the trial of Charles Guiteau, who had assassinated President Garfield. One psychiatrist for the defense said Guiteau suffered from moral insanity, and another testified he was a moral imbecile.
The term "psychopathic inferiority," first used by J.L. Koch in Germany in 1888, replaced moral insanity as a diagnosis. Henderson defined the psychopathic state to apply to individuals "who conform to a certain intellectual standard but who throughout their lives exhibit disorders of conduct of an antisocial or asocial nature." He termed it a true illness.
The term "psychopathy" was accepted in America. William A. White, a former superintendent of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., described it in his 1935 textbook Outline of Psychiatry, as did Philadelphia psychiatrist Edward Strecker, M.D., and Franklin Ebaugh, M.D., of the University of Colorado in their 1935 textbook. In 1941 Hervey Cleckley, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of Georgia Medical School, published The Mask of Sanity in which he described such cases. He believed the condition was a true illness.
The first psychiatric nomenclature in America, prepared in 1917 by the National Committee for Mental Hygiene in collaboration with the American Medical Psychological Association (forerunner of APA), proposed the rubric "psychosis with constitutional psychopathic inferiority." The eighth revision in 1934 used the term "psychopathic personality" with subtypes pathological sexuality and emotionality, with asocial or amoral trends.
APA assumed responsibility for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1952 and included the renamed "sociopathic personality disturbance" with subtypes antisocial reaction, dyssocial reaction, and sexual deviation. The 1968 revision uses "antisocial personality," and DSM-III and -IV retain this rubric.

I have only read excerpts of Miller's book and haven't read the others you suggest so can't really comment on them. I did however, read Linda Goodman's Sun Signs many, many years ago. I don't remember anything about that book. smiling

Perhaps James will have some thoughts - he seems much more knowledgeable on the subject than I.
"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

Some thoughts!

I haven't read any of the additional books recommended by Anon so can't comment on them. Though I have read Eric Fromm's "Escape from Freedom", it is so long ago that it would be foolish of me to say anything about it except that I remember being very impressed with it (and him) at the time (20 plus years ago).
My knowledge, such that it is, comes largely from my own experiences in dealing with these people (i.e. on the receiving end!), talking to others with similar backgrounds and lastly with reading fairly widely as a non academic. I recommend the books of Alice Miller (thanks to Arthur Silber for putting me onto them) and Martha Stout because they speak so clearly and with such understanding that I haven't found elsewhere. I don't think it is a coincidence that the best two authors that I have found are women. Psychopathy is about power and pride and women understand it and what it means far better than men.

The history of psychiatric inquiry into people seemingly without conscience is interesting, to say the least, but it has the potential to draw away from the main concern which is establishing for the wider public that these people do indeed exist, that they are relativley commonplace, how to recognise them and what to do about them.

I think a very valid secondary aim is to learn what this phenomenon means for us as human beings, i.e. what it says about the rest of us and how can we use this knowledge to everyone's advantage not just isolating these psychopaths. I actually prefer the old name, "psychopath", as "sociopath" tends to have its focus on lawbreaking; on contesting with society rather than leading it and so tends to be "legalistic" and a little narrow, certainly for our purposes.

Speaking of legalistic, Anon is quite correct in saying that "sanity"is a legal term and not a medical one. But, in practise, sanity is used in medical circles and is usually refering to a persons ability to function in society i.e. their level of delusional thinking. By that measure, psychopaths are not insane as they are most usually very high functioning, yet, ironically, they (in my experience) are delusional. They suffer from varying degrees of megalomania, an inflated view of their own power and control.
I remember one of the original NLP pioneers, whose name escapes me now, writing that what was crucial was whether a persons delusions were shared by others or not as to whether they were seen as "insane" or not. I think it is a very telling observation.

"People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions."
The quote above from Uri Averny is very accurate from my experience.
Another very illuminating quote, I believe is something like this -"Sociopaths don't know who they are. They only know what they want".
I can track down the author if you (or anyone)would like to know.

These are just some thoughts that have fallen out the ends of my fingers. Thanks for asking, McJ.

McJ, I just read Cleckley's


I just read Cleckley's book about 4-5 weeks ago, it's fresh in my mind. He doesn't come out and say he wants to purify society, but that sentiment is the underpinning of the whole book. His perspective is that of the jailor, not the helper. Another major problem is that Cleckley clearly approves of a certain life -- what he would call "moral" I'm sure -- in which people attend church, respect "the law," and are "productive members of society." His view is obnoxious to me. His fascination with his test subjects is so severely biased in favor of the Square Joe view of life, it's disposable. I think there's a good reason the book went out of publication... it sucks.

Anyone who's that fascinated with immorality, or social numbness, should just study serial killers instead. Don't let someone like Hervey Cleckley interpret things for you. Do your own interpretation. And as I suggested earlier, read Alice Miller's Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, and you'll begin to understand the origin of the personality that seems to lack a conscience. If you read Miller's book, you won't even need to remember what Cleckley wrote.

On Morality. The trouble

On Morality. The trouble with invoking morality is that it isn't useful. If one can answer why something is moral then that is then the argument for it being a good thing (or not), not it's "morality". If one can't establish a reason for something being moral beyond the fact that this something is moral in itself, then all you are arguing for is the status quo or at least what "authority" is saying is the status quo. Is, then, the staus quo good? This leads onto another question.
Anon, would it be fair, in your view, to characterise Cleckey's take on psychopathy as being aberant in society (status quo) whereas Miller's view is that pschopathy is a symptom of society's aberation seen in the context of human history and human design (for want of a better word)?

I hope WP will be in a position one day to finish the series of posts he was doing his (and his family's and friends') personal encounter with a psychopath. I'm sure it would be very valuable.

re Cleckley


Granting him a lot of benefit of the doubt, I think one of the things that hamstrung Cleckley is that when he was "treating" (holding as prisoners) his test subjects, the scope and depth of then-extant human psychology was not as broadly questioned as it is now. Just as Freud's theories about penis envy and oedipal/electra complexes later proved to be little more than his own personal idiosyncracies about sex and sex organs, I think that much of what Cleckley seemed concerned with is, today, trivial to an understanding of human psychology in the form of the anti-social personality.

And I swear, I can't get past the stench of Country-Club-Christian perspective in his observations and criticisms of his test subjects. He reminded me of Orrin Hatch or Pat Robertson in tone and perspective. Rigid, self-righteous, and looking to confirm his own biases rather than trying to find the truth. Frankly, I think Cleckley the type of person Erich Fromm was describing when he complained about those who feared freedom and personal responsibility enough to remain silent and complicit during Hitler's reign. Authoritarians and their willing subjects, I mean.

I think your statement comparing Cleckley and Miller is pretty accurate.

Personally, I like to avoid the terms "psychopath" or "sociopath" when talking seriously. I'll use them in a comically descriptive remark, but I don't think they have much serious utility. I prefer to consider the acts in question, the society in question, and the person in question... all on a case-by-case basis. I suppose that's due to the influence Alice Miller, Thomas Szasz and David Smail have had on my thinking.

PS to McJ

...and whomever else may be interested.

David Smail's Power, Responsibility and Freedom is an internet publication that you can read as a web page, or download as a set of MS Word 97 files. Here's the web link for the web publication --


I recommend reading this for a modern view on what Fromm and Miller have written about regarding human psychology and the role of the individual in modern society.

A little late

Hi. I'm a little late to the party I guess. I emphatically agree with Anonymous on the superiority of Miller's analysis. Maybe it's because I studied mathematics, but I'd rather understand how one becomes a sociopath and Miller to me seems to provide understanding, instead of simply pointing fingers and saying "Bad men." I haven't read Cleckley's book either.

SMDQR's picture

Treating them worst than animals

GAZA (Reuters) - A Palestinian man captured by Israeli troops in Gaza said after his release on Friday that he had seen the corpses of many Islamist fighters bulldozed into piles covered with sand.


James makes a good comment,

James makes a good comment, especially his reference to Alice Miller. I would suggest Miller's Thou Shalt Not Be Aware.

Also helpful to explain the political system behavior of those loosely called "psychopaths" is Erich Fromm's book called Escape from Freedom, which explains how many people do not want the freedom to choose because they cannot handle the responsibilities inherent in having such freedom -- that the freedom requires one to choose morally and ethically, with social awareness. Fromm suggests that these many people who feel a fear of freedom are easily manipulated by those who are driven by pure selfishness, the so-called "psychopaths" of human society.

It's also important to balance this sort of reading with some notes on what is "sanity" and what is a "psychopath." It's important to note that "sanity" is a legal concept, not a medical one. "Sanity" basically references what a majority of authoritarian people would prefer to have in the way of human behavior, and behavior which such authoritarians deride will fall in the "insane" category.

"Psychopath" is an antiquated construct that is related to "sanity" -- for the purpose of culling "unwanted" members from polite society, to put them in various types of sequestration -- jail, prison, mental hospitals.

To learn more on the compulsions of authoritarians in the realm of mental health, one should read Thomas Szasz and David Smail.

James and Anonymous,

Thanks to both for extra books to read. I'm thinking that people should read this stuff before they ever step foot in a job. Maybe late high school. What do you bet 20 to 30 % of managers would just quit?

It really is a shame that nobody followed up on Millgram's refuseniks. However, I heard on the radio that someone has just done an update on the experiment. Maybe the refusal was examined this time.

to ICGREEN, You're


You're welcome.

I think people still would become managers. After all, people all across America strive to be managers. What surprises me is that "management" is a very non-productive activity, and an outgrowth of bureaucracy. It is not an evolution of efficiency-minded behavior or organization. If an organization's work units are so large that "managers" are thought needed, it's likely the organization is too large and ought to scale back. Of course this is anti-American, because in America everything is supposed to want to grow and everything is expected to grow, most of all profits and resource consumption. It's pretty much an inescapable result under capitalism.

In addition to Alice Miller, Erich Fromm, Thomas Szasz and David Smail, you might want to look into C Wright Mills and probably his book The Power Elite, and maybe Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class.

Good points

If you want a book that destroys management theories, I suggest Kevin Carson's Organization Theory, whose final drafts are freely available here.

Mutualism/left-wing libertarianism offers a pretty fascinating take on politics. Hope it'll convert you.

Of course this is anti-American, because in America everything is supposed to want to grow and everything is expected to grow, most of all profits and resource consumption. It's pretty much an inescapable result under capitalism.
Don't know about whether it's really inescapable under capitalism alone. It's certainly inescapable under capitalistic gigantism, as you understand; and gigantism exists to empower the capitalist class, by making all industries capital-intensive, and by deskilling labor.

Well, there's plenty of interesting stuff in there. Be sure to check it out.


Looks like your book got thrashed by your readers! smiling Tough crowd.

Thanks for the blog, though.

McJ's picture


Just saw this comment.
Not 'my' book laughing out loud
And I don't mind the thrashing - it's all about moving in the right direction for me and we gotta learn somewhere, somehow and I haven't discovered any manuals on the right way to do it. (Know of any?)
I consider myself a 'work in progress', makes me feel better!
This searching for truth is a nasty business.
And information is 'good' if it leads you to knowledge - no?

"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

McJ, I definitely didn't


I definitely didn't mean to trash your book. Hervey Cleckley's book is very useful, but it has flaws. For sure it's worth reading. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I just meant to point out where Cleckley seems to miss a few critical points, in my view.

McJ's picture

no worries

no worries, I'm just joking with ICGREEN - I found no offence - I'm open to your viewpoints and I really don't know enough about it to put up an argument.

And once again, it's not 'my' book.
Now, if I had written a book and you had 'thrashed' it, then maybe the fur would be flyin..... laughing out loud laughing out loud

"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

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