This came after this tweet.
The excerpt in the tweet about Sarah Palmer is from a Texas case decided in 1984: Frank B. Hall & Co., Inc. v. Buck, 678 S.W.2d 612 (Tex. App. 1984)2. I won’t spend any time distinguishing the fact pattern in the case from the instant facts Our Oaf believes are at issue in his current federal case or tell you why I believe Hall is completely without any precedential value because it just isn’t worth the time- yours or mine.
That’s because… Wow! Some fat targets here.
Let’s start with the DSM-III, all the iterations of which have been superseded since the publication of the DSM-IV in 19943. The DSM-III was the first iteration of this mental health diagnostic manual to discard the previously used terms sociopath and psychopath in favor of the classification of such conditions as antisocial personality disorder4. The DSM-III was first published in 1980, three years after the events occurred that gave rise to the Hall litigation. So, from a diagnostic standpoint, the terms sociopath and psychopath have not been used for over 35 years. There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that the terms still carry heavy-duty negative connotations, but they are connotations within lay parlance5. In any event Bill Schmalfeldt is simply wrong when he says “Sociopathy requires a DSM-III diagnosis.”
“Hey, wait a minute!,” you exclaim. Our Oaf hasn’t said anything about psychopaths, right? Aren’t we just dealing with his mischaracterization of the term sociopath here? Well, apparently in the world of antisocial personality disorders there is really no current distinction between the two for the purposes of making a mental health diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder6. The Houser paper quotes a source as saying that
It has been shown that people diagnosed with psychopathy means that the individual has no sense of morality or empathy amongst other traits, whereas people diagnosed with sociopathy do have a sense of morality and a conscience, but their morals do not reflect the culture in which they live7.
So maybe Schmalfeldt is on to something after all. If the distinction in the quote is valid, shouldn’t Palmer have properly deemed him to be a “frustrated psychopath” instead of a “frustrated sociopath?” Being of an inquisitive mind, I set out to see.
In 1995 a psychology researcher, Michael R. Levenson, developed and and published the “Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale,8” which is a research tool designed for the lay public to self-administer and report in assessing where an individual fits on two axes: primary psychopathy (psychopathic emotional affect) and secondary psychopathy (psychopathic lifestyle) measured against the entire population of persons who have done the same. This test instrument is available in an online interactive version9. I followed the link and this came up.
Aha! I thought. It really doesn’t matter whether Sarah Palmer thinks whether Our Oaf is a sociopath, a psychopath or whatever. It doesn’t matter what I think. Because, through the magic of paying attention, we can pretty much know what Bill Schmalfeldt thinks. Yes, oh yes we can. We can because the test is based on 26 pretty cut and dried questions and we have a ton of information about where Schmalfeldt would come down on each one.
So I held my nose and…
…stepped into Bill Schmalfeldt’s Birkenstocks.
Clicking on the “Start” button, the first thing we saw were the 26 questions.
We answered them based on everything I knew about The Oaf gleaned from more than a decade of his online postings. I tried hard not to let my personal feelings color the answers I chose, and where I was truly unsure of an answer I tried to give the benefit of the doubt. For most of the questions, though, the answer was immediately apparent, at least to me10.
I clicked “Submit” and held my breath. This page appeared.
On Bill’s behalf11, I clicked “Yes” twice and hit “Continue.”
This page came up. I didn’t think Bill would be interested in the new project, so we hit “Get results.”
We moved through a page where we entered Bill’s age, which I understand to be 62.
At last, the results. According to the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale and presuming my answers standing in Bill Schmalfeldt’s shoes were accurate12, the test says that, on the “Primary psychopathy” scale he scored a 4.3 out of 5. On the “Secondary psychopathy” scale he scored a 4.5. The page explains what these axes represent.
At the bottom of the page these scores were plotted against the overall population of takers of the test. I have enlarged this plot and added a “+” marker to show where Bill Schmalfeldt came out in relation to everyone else. As is noted, his score for primary psychopathy is greater than 93% of all test takers. His score for secondary psychopathy, which is the measure of “the antisocial aspects of psychopathy,” approaches the 99th percentile.
Can I say, based on this exercise, which was not done as a scientific undertaking and was not intended in any way to substitute for formal evaluation of Bill Schmalfeldt by qualified skilled mental health professionals, that Bill Schmalfeldt is a psychopath? No. Why? I could be wrong in the answers I gave while in his shoes, and probably was, although as I noted, I did my best to give honest answers supported by all the evidence I have available. Beyond that, though, it just isn’t for me to say. It is plenty for me to have concluded that Schmalfeldt is an Oaf, a lout and a jerk. But here’s the results of a test, which Bill Schmalfeldt is welcome to seek to refute if he chooses. You are likewise welcome to reach your own conclusions.
1 The DSM V was published in 2013. It takes about 1.3 seconds of Internet research to figure that out.
2 The opinion is online at https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/2437145/frank-b-hall-co-inc-v-buck/.
3 A Southern Illinois University Master’s candidate’s graduate research paper: Houser, Mallory C. “A HISTORY OF ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER IN THE DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND TREATMENT FROM A REHABILITATION PERSPECTIVE.” (Apr 2015), published online, while not a classic “learned treatise,” presents some helpful info in a very accessible form, and I cite to it in this post as a result: http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1795&context=gs_rp.
4 Houser, p. 5. With further refinements the DSM IV and V continued to use antisocial personality disorder as a diagnostic term.
5 Like calling someone an “idiot” or a “moron,” both of which used to be formal mental health diagnoses.
6 “Today, psychopathy and sociopathy lay within the realm of antisocial personality disorder even though many push for them to have separate diagnoses again, or to at least be understood as two completely different disorders.” Id.
7 Houser, p. 5, citing Pemment, J. (2013) Psychopathy versus sociopathy: Why the distinction has become crucial. Aggression and Violent Behavior 18, 458-461.
8 Levenson M., Kiehl K., Fitzpatrick C. (1995). Assessing psychopathic attributes in a noninstitutionalized population. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 151-158. http://nrc-iol.org/cores/ccnlab/publications/levenson_etal.pdf
10 While I don’t seek to interact in any way with Bill Schmalfeldt and have no idea whether he will ever even read this, in the interest of being fair-minded (and unless Dave, the boss here, objects), if he would disagree with any particular answer I would have given in his stead, he is allowed in the comments here to both ask about my reasoning in providing the answer and provide the answer he would give so long as he gives a brief explanation of why he would take exception. He needs to play nice and otherwise follow Dave’s rules, but we’ll let him take his best shot at demonstrating my answer wasn’t right.
11 Please note that nowhere while taking the test was Bill Schmalfeldt’s name, or anyone’s name for that matter, associated with taking the test except for in this blog post. The process provides for complete anonymity of the person being tested.
12 They were certainly truthful, at least by my lights. I would believe I can produce at least three distinct items of documentation that would support every “1” or “5” response I provided to the various questions.