Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Have the psychopaths taken over America? 22 September '11

Our nation’s psychopaths got what they wanted last night - the execution of a man who in all likelihood was innocent.

Minutes after the lethal injection stopped Troy Davis’s heart - the former Georgia prison warden - Allen Ault - a man who's presided over many executions himself - had this to say about what it all means:

It exacts a toll whether you believe they’re innocent or they’re guilty. You’re actually killing somebody. Now there are people without conscience, psychopathic type people, some of them politicians and sadists who would volunteer. I mean I had letters volunteering to kill people. ...

And if we’re just reaping vengeance for somebody, I don’t see the justification in that, either.

The warden's words are especially poignant tonight - one night after the death of Troy Davis.

Are we a vengeful nation of psychopaths - a bloodthirsty people who can sleep just fine at night knowing that the United States may have just executed an innocent man?

If you've watched the Republican debates - and seen the crowds applaud death - and seen Governor Rick Perry say that he has no trouble sleeping at night over the 234 people he's killed in Texas - then it sure seems like we are:

Brian Williams: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you…


Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent? Rick Perry: No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all.

He's never struggled with that at all. Can you imagine putting 234 people to death and never even thinking about it? And this is a person that we're considering as president of the United States?

Is that who we are?

But it’s not just in our criminal justice system - and the senseless execution of Troy Davis - where American sociopathy and psychopathy is on full display - it’s pretty much everywhere.

Just look at our endless wars in the Middle East - complete with "death from above" drone airstrikes that have turned the killing of hundreds of people into basically a remorseless video game.

Millions, literally millions of men, women, and children have been killed, maimed, or displaced as the result of our recent wars - but has our nation lost any sleep over it?

Have the defense contractors who build war machines - and lobby politicians for more war - thought twice about the damage they are inflicting on millions of lives?

What about what just happened on Wall Street - where banksters gamed the entire nation and threw millions of people out of their homes?

Or how Goldman Sachs played in derivatives markets to make money in a way that distorted the price of food and triggered a global food panic that pushed a million people to the brink of starvation - did the banksters lose any sleep?

A recent Financial Times article - to this point - titled, "Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Bankers'" - went right after the psychopathy on Wall Street - it read:

The characteristics that make for good traders and investment bankers are pretty much the same as those that define psychopaths... Surely only someone with a serious personality disorder could have thought it was a good idea to sell a highly risky financial instrument like a CDO-squared to a naive investor who clearly did not understand the risks?

A quarter of our economy today is dependent on Wall Street - dependent on psychopaths doing incalculable harm to the nation without thinking twice about it - just to meet quarterly profit goals and to take home million-dollar-a-month paychecks.

So could it really be that the psychopaths have taken over much of our nation?

This isn't anything's as old as modern culture itself.

Ancient Indians referred to the the culture Christopher Columbus brought to the new world as "wetiko" - meaning a culture of cannibals - a culture that feeds off the lives of others.

From the way we consume energy - to the way we treat food animals - to the way we enslave and kill each other - there's always been a psychopathic strain in our culture - in all of modern culture - the last 7,000 years - for that matter.

One that in the last century was suppressed in some places by a more compassionate approach to the environment - a more compassionate approach to criminal justice - and social safety nets that have allowed us to care for each other - to create "We" societies like our ancient tribal ancestors lived in.

But here in America - these measures to root out psychopathy are being overturned left and right by people whose behavior suggests they may well be psychopaths themselves.

Whether it be a more blunted and inhumane criminal justice system that kills people like Troy Davis - or the dismantling of social safety nets that condemn millions of Americans to a life of desperation and sometimes death - the psychopathic culture is back - and it's being pushed by our own politicians - by people who former Georgia prison warden Allen Ault said are often psychopaths themselves.

This is a troubling reality in America today.

Norway just experienced an unspeakable tragedy at the hands of a psychopath - Anders Breivik - but unlike here - they didn't respond with psychopathic vengeance as a society.

Prisons are actually decent places in Norway where inmates are taught skills because most of them - obviously not Breivik, but most of them - will eventually return to society.

And they don't have the death penalty - and guess what - it works.

Norway has one of the lowest murder rates - one of the lowest incarceration rates - and one of the best prisoner rehabilitation rates in the world.

Unlike here - Norway doesn't let their psychopaths into politics or into the criminal justice system.

So in the aftermath of Troy Davis's execution - it's time for the United States to do some soul searching.

Every nation is in constant change - as Grace Slick said, "Life is change" - and our culture changed for the more compassionate and the better with the New Deal, and changed again for the more brutal and selfish with the Reagan Revolution.

So what's next?

Will we become a nation of people who genuinely care for each other, and builds institutions to respect and help each other - or will we become a brutal, libertarian nation where it's "every man for himself," the country run by psychopaths, and as Ron Paul implied, we're all free to die like dogs in the gutter?

The choice is ours - and the coming election will have a lot to do with determining that future.

That's The Big Picture.

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