Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

“In every competition in life, the cheaters are going to have an advantage. The people who act immorally,
who have no regard for truth, are gong to have an advantage over those who play by
the rules. The result is that those who achieve positions of power will be the
most ruthless, the most sociopathic, the ones with no conscience.”

Stefan Verstappen

‘All wrongs reserved’

Although the picture of Seattle is fetching, I have to thumb this page down. There are two reasons for this: Apparently having somehow circumvented my popup blocker, it created a popunder advertisement in a new window, and the written content was copied from Wikipedia without attribution.

Seattle by twilight

Seattle by twilight is a sight to ravish the eye. (But then, what city isn’t?)
[ Image Source ]

The first of these offenses I could perhaps forgive, but the second is intolerable.

What makes it so egregious is its hypocrisy: The site operator has posted a copyright warning at the bottom of the page, warning readers, “All rights reserved.”

Exactly what rights would those be? The rights to the copied text, or the rights to the photograph, which appears on dozens of other sites easily found on TinEye?

The least this webmaster could do, since his business model apparently consists of copying and republishing other people’s images and writing, without their knowledge and consent, for a profit, is offer simple attribution instead of attempting to lay claim to their work for himself. It’s called “common decency.”


Returning to this page during a general update/upgrade on 22 February 2015, I had to think for a while about its fate.

After all, “GetInTravel” is a modest website probably making relatively little money. Why keep up a page to scold the operator for what many will see as a trivial omission of attribution? And why pile on by returning to it and adding to it, when the operator is neither a prominent political figure nor a large corporation?

The trouble is, psychopathy is contagious. Not, of course, the actual genetic innate personality disorder, but the thinking that accompanies it: the absence of empathy, conscience or shame; the consequent willingness to cheat, steal, tell vicious little lies that destroy lives.

As I discuss on other pages, psychopathy represents what was once an evolutionary feature set for leaders of tribes, some of which became today’s nations and some others yesterday’s. Uninhibited by conscience or fear of consequences (for anyone other than themselves), and filled with the glib charm of the snake-oil salesman, sociopaths are supremely well adapted to present themselves as decisive, authoritative, larger-than-life “protectors” willing to take charge and defend lofty tribal “values” against any designated enemy who does not share them. They are thus well adapted to politics, and hold the balance of power in most 21st-century societies.

If people without conscience rule, they rule without conscience. This is obvious. Less obvious is that the entire society will function with an impaired conscience, because it serves the interest of wrongdoers to make as many others as possible perceive their wrongs as unimportant, or even right according to some tortured and gaslighted logic.

If those people also own the media, they can construct a media environment and shape (and export) a culture, complete with its hidden ethical pathogens. If they own the biggest and most powerful corporations, they can define a business ethos. If they own the “think tanks,” they can provide authority for the media message and ideological framing for office-holders. If they own academic institutions, they can decide whether their admissions standards are to favor the talented children of the poor or the mediocrities of “good family,” and whether to wink at a culture of cheating or act effectually to prevent it.

If those people own all of these things, the culture of cheating becomes universal. As does the culture of dishonesty and disrespect for others, when in a democratic republic, one would expect the opposite to be alertly enforced on the assumption that the others are one’s equals and have a right not to be used as objects. One cannot wholly blame the cheaters, the liars, the thieves: What they do is adaptive behavior. But it is also a sort of treason, for at some point they have made a moral choice, however unarticulated or even largely unconscious, to adapt to pathology in pursuit of a pathological “success.”

I would not properly demonstrate the scope of the pathocracy problem if I did not also demonstrate its range of scale. It can mean very dramatic horrors for many thousands or millions of unoffending people, but those are just the barbarities that were too enormous to hide (although we remain disturbingly ambivalent about some of them to this day). I am convinced that the real horror of psychopathic society is played out, every mincing millisecond of every night and day, in an erosive flood of individually inconsequential acts of dishonesty, disrespect, and unequal justice, on the smallest and most personal scale.

What we find on this site is petty dishonesty, carried on shamelessly in full public sight and for many years. But how fair is it, and how “trivial,” to all the other site operators who try to play by the rules and write their own content, to have to compete with someone who is willing to obtain content the “efficient” way: by simply taking it and claiming it as his own?

Make no mistake: This website operator does not sin alone. What we see here is also a symptom of a global moral pandemic, for no one would cheat casually were there not a culture of cheating to let him do it. Cheating, if successful, is not merely tolerated in a pathocratic society; it is admired. On a smaller scale, it is excused or at least downplayed; it is normative; no one thinks anything of it.

No one will think anything of this culture unless and until proofs of its pervasiveness are put before him. This denial, too, is both a necessary consequence and a symptom of exactly the cultural pathology it exposes. The more we reflexively shy from the thought that our “leaders” are sociopaths and our whole world is in peril from their soulless machinations, the more we need to ask ourselves to what extent we have internalized their values without ever suspecting it.

Originally published as an adverse review of a photo essay.

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