Law School Discussion

Psychopath attorneys

Re: "Groupthink"
« Reply #140 on: March 13, 2012, 02:27:43 PM »
Here it is another one, before it's too late..


In his memoirs, Albert Speer, one of Adolf Hitler's top advisers, describes the circle around Hitler as one of total conformity - deviation was not permitted. In such an atmosphere, even the most barbarous activities seemed reasonable because the absence of dissent, which conveyed the illusion of unanimity, prevented any individual from entertaining the possibility that other options might exist. In normal circumstances people who turn their backs on reality are soon set straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them. In the Third Reich there were not such correctives. On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fantastical dream world which no longer bore any relationship to the grim outside world. In these mirrors you could see nothing but your own face reproduced many times ever.

A more familiar, but perhaps less dramatic, example concerns some of the men involved with Richard Nixon and his "palace guard" in the Watergate cover-up. Here, men in high government office - many of whom attorneys - perjured themselves, destroyed evidence, and offered bribes without an apparent second thought. This is due, at least in part, to the closed circle of single-mindedness that surrounded the president in the early 1970s. This single-mindedness made deviation virtually unthinkable until after the circle had been broken. Several people afterwards, such as Jeb Stuart Magruder, Richard Kleindienst, Patrick Grey seemed to view their illegal behavior with astonishment, as if it were performed during a bad dream.

John Dean put it this way: When you picked up the newspaper in the morning and read the new cover story that had replaced yesterday's cover story, you began to believe that today's news was the truth. This process created an atmosphere of unreality in the White House that prevailed to the very end. If you said it often enough, it would become true. When the press learned of the wiretaps on newsmen and White House staffers, for example, and flat denials failed, it was claimed that this was a national security matter. I'm sure many people believed that the taps were for national security; they weren't. That was concocted as a justification after the fact. But when they said it, you understand, they really believed it.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded seconds after launching. Seven astronauts, including a civilian schoolteacher, perished in a fireball of smoke and flames. The decision had been made to go ahead with the launch despite a near disaster on an earlier Challenger flight and despite strenuous objections and warnings from knowledgeable engineers about the defective O-rings at the joints of the booster rockets. Were key NASA administrators ignorant of the danger or cavalier about the lives of the astronauts? I doubt it.

NASA had already conducted 2-dozen successful launches with essentially the same equipment. With their confidence boosted by previous successes, administrators were oriented toward a "go" decision. Second, NASA officials, like the general public, were caught up in the enthusiasm surrounding the launching of the first civilian (schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe) into space. Further, there were additional, practical reasons for NASA people to be victimized by their own wishful thinking: given NASA's need to secure congressional funding by displaying its efficiency and productivity, with the intense public interest in the "teacher in space" program and its wish to demonstrate its technological capabilities, lift-off was a more desirable decision than delay. Any mention of possible system failure would have suggested a need to spend more money, a conclusion NASA found distasteful in light of its commitment to cost-effectiveness and economy.

Unlike NASA administrators, engineers at Morton Thiokol (the company that manufactured the solid rocket boosters) were not concerned about the political, economic, and public relations implications of a decision on whether or not to launch. All they cared about was whether or not the damn thing would work - and given the subfreezing temperatures at the launch site, they objected strenuously to the launch. But the top execs at Morton were not so fortunate. For them, more was at stake than a successful launch. They were in great conflict. On the one hand, as engineers, they were sensitive to the opinions of their fellow engineers. On the other hand, as execs, they were dependent on NASA for a contract worth approximately $400 million per year. Thus, in part, they tended to identify with the same concerns that NASA administrators did. Robert Lund, Thiokol's vice president for engineering, at first opposed the launch but changed his position after he was advised to "take off his engineering hat and put on one representing management." How did Morton execs such as Lund deal with this conflict? Before their last conference with NASA administrators, they polled Thiokol employees but not the engineers - only other management personnel, who voted to "go" with the launch. Thus, in a conference between NASA officials and Thiokol execs the night before the fateful launch, participants reinforced one another's commitment to proceed.

Let's take stock. What do Hitler's inner circle, Nixon's "palace guard," and NASA administrators have in common, aside from the fact that they made tragic decisions? They were relatively cohesive groups isolated from dissenting points of view. When such groups are called upon to make decisions, they often fall prey to what soc psychologist Irving Janis calls groupthink. Groupthink is the mode of thinking that persons engage in when concurrence seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive ingroup that it tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action. Such groups typically perceive themselves as invulnerable - they're blinded by optimism. The latter is perpetuated when dissent is discouraged. In the face of conformity pressures, individual group members come to doubt their own reservations and refrain from voicing dissenting opinions. Consensus seeking is so important that certain members of the group sometimes become mindguards - people who censor troublesome incoming information, as did the execs at Morton.

« Reply #141 on: March 19, 2012, 02:09:41 PM »


So, there you have it - the degrees of the closet - or "outness" - if you like. It is controversial whether outing a gay person is beneficial to the society and/or that person himself. Personally I think it does not make sense to out plain folk people, while it does to out public figures/people in authority.

Usually, the outed gay individual would go after a journalist and his newspaper who outed him. But even such lawsuits have proved unsuccessful in the long run. Here it is the Cruise's case with South Park:

The relevant "South Park" episode -- entitled "Trapped in the Closet" -- self-consciously skirts the outermost edges of the First Amendment's protection for parody. A court would probably deem it constitutionally protected, but only barely. Defamation requires a "statement of fact" -- and for this reason, most parody, because of its fictional nature, falls outside defamation law by definition.

But this is the rare parody that, fairly read, does make a statement of fact. In the episode, the animated version of Cruise literally goes into a closet, and won't come out. Other characters beg him to "come out of the closet," including the animated version of his ex-wife, Nicole Kidman. The Kidman character promises Cruise that if he comes out of the closet, neither she nor "Katie" will judge him. But the Cruise character claims he isn't "in the closet," even though he plainly is. No one could miss that the episode's creators are taking a stance and making a statement -- that the real Cruise is gay and hiding it.

The use of the euphemism "in the closet" -- used to refer to someone who is homosexual but who has not admitted his or her homosexuality to friends, family, or the public -- is transparent. Interestingly, the episode itself indicates that its creators know well that they may be defaming Cruise, and they know of his litigious history. The joke disclaimer preceding the episode announces that "All characters and events on this show -- even those based on real persons -- are entirely fictional."

At the end of the episode, the Cruise character threatens to bring a suit (not on the gay issue, but in defense of Scientology) "in England" -- which lacks a formal equivalent of the First Amendment. And all the credits at the end use the pseudonyms "John Smith" and "Jane Smith." Since the episode does indeed make a "statement of fact," the parody exception to defamation law won't save "South Park." Thus, the creators' only weapon against a possible suit by Cruise is a First Amendment defense. Fortunately for them, the Supreme Court has interpreted the defense very broadly.

[...] It's one thing to co-opt part of a song, or use a trademark, in a parody: Without using part of the original, the parody won't work at all; no one will know what its target is. But it's another thing to embed what would otherwise be a defamatory statement in a work of fiction: This is defamation in satire's clothing, and it's only in order to protect true satire that that the Constitution has been held to also protect this lesser creature. Generally, courts don't want to get into the business of picking out nuggets of fact from an otherwise fictional account. The upshot, though -- and courts know this, and accept this cost in the service of free speech -- is that parody and satire inevitably may become a refuge for rogues who seek to defame without liability. That seems to me to be just what's happening with respect to the "South Park" episode.

I'm not sure I understand the "statement of fact" thing stressed upon by the lawyer here - SP maintains that the whole thing is a parody, characters are all fictional - everything seems OK, with the FA protection in mind.

I mean, you have tabloids (papers) claiming outright that Cruise is gay - I just don't get the over analyzing kind of thing that the Yale lawyer is doing in the case of SP.

I am not a law student, but it looks like, ent, that "defamation" is a catch-all term for any statement that hurts someone's reputation. Written defamation is called "libel," and spoken defamation is called "slander." A person who has been defamed can sue the person who did the defaming.

The law of defamation varies from state to state, but there are some generally accepted rules. If you believe you are have been "defamed," to prove it you usually have to show there's been a statement that is all of the following:

*Published - the "statement" must be "published," which means, spoken, written, pictured, or even gestured. (Thus libel > slander).

*Published means that a 3rd party heard/saw the statement -- that is, someone other than the person who made the statement or the person the statement was about. "Published" doesn't necessarily mean that the statement was printed in a book -- it just needs to have been made public through TV, radio, speeches, gossip, or even loud conversation. (Of course, it could also have been written in magazines, books, newspapers, leaflets, or on picket signs).

*False - The defamatory statement must be false -- otherwise it's not considered damaging. Even terribly mean/disparaging things are not defamatory if the shoe fits. Most opinions (it must, thus, be a "statement of fact") don't count as defamation because they can't be proved to be objectively false.

*Injurious. Since the whole point of defamation law is to take care of injuries to reputation, those suing for defamation must show how their reputations were hurt by the false statement -- for example, the person lost work; was shunned by neighbors, friends, or family members; or was harassed by the press (like the case is with gay outing).

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #142 on: March 19, 2012, 03:06:10 PM »
"Outing" of closeted gays and lesbians is not a new phenomenon. It occurred during the McCarthy era and before, often with an intent to harm the closeted homosexual with the threat of public disclosure of homosexuality.

To extend a bit here and offer a hypo for you all: A married man is placed under surveillance by the FBI. During the 4+ years they're following him they found out that he engaged in 7 separate occasions in homosexual sex with other men in a couple of open public areas that gay men frequent. Three out of the seven instances were oral sex, two of them intercourse (being the active partner), and one time he just kissed the other guy and cuddled him a little bit.

After a certain time period, the FBI decides to make the target aware of being under their surveillance (active surveillance), and also deepens its infiltration, such that his wife too is part of the game. The man is clearly in the situation of being defamed, given the fact that he's not a public figure, he doesn't consider him to be "homosexual," (truth-be-told, a lot of straight men may have 1-2 gay encounters a year with other men), and the First Amendment defense doesn't even apply in this case.

Because people tend to believe what the government say, he's clearly injured, with his wife divorcing him after a while (albeit, she never confronted him directly about the matter, not being allowed to even acknowledge to him she was approached by the agency). I think this would be a curious hypo, in that although statements were never printed or even publicly acknowledged, just like in the case of Cruise's "South Park," they're just as defamatory and injurious. Feel free to share. Please do.

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #143 on: March 20, 2012, 12:45:53 PM »


There are, however, other ways that similar types of defenses against the homosexual self-label can be articulated. These males to be "homophobic, gay-bashing hoodlums who pick up or are picked up by a gay male, have sex with him, and they exorcise their own homosexual guilt by assaulting and maybe killing him. The "exorcist syndrome" which is a version of the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" nature manifested by people like Cardinal Spellman and Roy Cohn. The phenomena is also similar to a "split personality" situation. One of the personalities is "the grand inquisitor," as McCarthy and Cohn had become in a spectacular way, and it needs to punish the homosexual part of their 'personality'. This internal war is also projected outward causing these socially created monsters to harm other gay males by ruining their careers or, as other males will do, punishing them may include physical assaults and even murder.


Here's another parallel from poster maj:


[...] The "grandiosity gap" - the painful and narcissistically injurious gap between their grandiose fantasies and their dreary and humiliating reality - becomes emotionally insupportable. They decompensate and act out. [...] Unbeknownst to them, they seek self punishment. They are at heart suicidal. [...] This is called "projective identification". They attribute evil and corruption to their enemies and foes. These forms of paranoia are called projection and splitting. These are all primitive, infantile, and often persecutory, defence mechanisms.

When coupled with narcissism - the inability to empathize, the exploitativeness, the sense of entitlement, the rages, the dehumanization and devaluation of others - this mindset yields abysmal contempt for the narcissist's victims. The overriding emotion of terrorists and serial killers, the amalgam and culmination of their tortured psyche - is deep seated disdain for everything human, the flip side of envy. It is cognitive dissonance gone amok. [...] To justify this apparent contradiction, the mass murderer casts himself as an altruistic savior of a group of people "endangered" by his foes. [...]

[...] Their cosmic significance is daily sustained by newspaper headlines, ever increasing bounties, admiring copycats, successful acts of blackmail, the strength and size of their opponents, and the devastation of human life and property. Appeasement works only to aggravate their drives and strengthen their appetites by emboldening them and by raising the threshold of excitation and "narcissistic supply". Terrorists and killers are addicted to this drug of being acknowledged and reflected. They derive their sense of existence, parasitically, from the reactions of their (often captive) audience.

Erich Fromm suggested that both Hitler and Stalin were narcissistic mass murderers. Hitler and Nazism are often portrayed as an apocalyptic and seismic break with European history. Yet the truth is that they were the culmination and reification of European history in the 19th century. Europe's annals of colonialism have prepared it for the range of phenomena associated with the Nazi regime - from industrial murder to racial theories, from slave labor to the forcible annexation of territory. [...] Moreover, Nazi Germany innovated by applying prevailing racial theories (usually reserved to non-whites) to the white race itself. It started with the Jews - a non-controversial proposition - but then expanded them to include "east European" whites, such as the Poles and the Russians. Germany was not alone in its malignant nationalism. [...] Nazism - and Fascism - were world ideologies, adopted enthusiastically in places as diverse as Iraq, Egypt, Norway, Latin America, and Britain. At the end of the 1930's, liberal capitalism, communism, and fascism (and its mutations) were locked in mortal battle of ideologies. [...]


What was the role of the Jews in all this? [...] The Jews constituted a perfect, easily identifiable, reification of all that was "wrong" with Europe. They were an old nation, they were eerily disembodied (without a territory), they were cosmopolitan, they were part of the establishment, they were "decadent", they were hated on religious and socio-economic grounds, they were different, they were narcissistic (felt and acted as morally superior), they were everywhere, they were defenseless, they were credulous, they were adaptable (and thus could be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They were the perfect hated father figure and parricide was in fashion.


Arguments for the strategic "outing" of public figures who are homosexual often claim that by revealing to the heterosexual community the significant contributions of homosexuals, homosexuality will become more acceptable to dominant society. As we recognize that not only actors, singers, and movie directors are "queer," but also CEOs, bankers and legislators, we will become more comfortable with homosexuality. But threatening to "out" the-average-Joe does nothing more than destroy his life and does not serve the community. Not to mention, that even by law, private individuals have a greater zone of privacy than do public figures.