Essay: First Dominique Strauss-Kahn, now former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. What is it about power that makes the men at the top behave so badly?
Cynics will tell you that modern society looks like a pyramid, with a few powerful psychopaths on top and a narrow slice of clueless subordinates just below them. The rest? The nobodies – the losers.
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Anthony Weiner scandals would certainly seem to bolster that theory. In DSK's case, it's difficult for ordinary mortals to grasp why a man—a Socialist no less—who stood an excellent chance of winning the next French presidential elections would behave like a decadent aristocrat helping himself to the help. The Weiner case, if that's at all possible, is even more bizarre.
Anthony Weiner, who just resigned as Democratic congressman from New York, is extremely bright and has friends, like the Clintons, in high places. Weiner was already a few rungs up on the ladder of what was expected to be a brilliant career, with some seeing him as New York City's next mayor. He can forget that now. Why? Because of some ridiculous Internet photos of a well-built, well-endowed guy in his underpants.
The guy of course was Weiner, who had taken to sending the photos to young women. The story broke first on a conservative blog. It wasn't long before it was picked up by all the U.S. media channels. At first, an indignant Weiner denied involvement, calling the whole thing a right-wing plot. A few days later, however, he fessed up. Yes, he was the guy in the photos. And he'd tweeted them to at least six young women, he told reporters at a press conference, choking up as he apologized to his wife and family.
The Weiner case has high comedy value, starting with his name, which is pronounced like something that isn't just another word for hotdog. (Yes, in case you don't yet know, In American slang it also means penis.) The possible wordplays on "Weiner's wiener" are endless. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show came up with 57, all of them hilarious. But when you've stopped laughing, you start to see just how unfunny the story is. Because yet again, it demonstrates that psychopaths apparently possess the qualities you need to attain positions of power.
Psychopaths are not stupid — on the contrary, they are often highly intelligent and can be extremely charming. The problem is, they can't grasp the meaning of the word "empathy."" They can't begin to imagine what other people are feeling. Their focus is exclusively on themselves. In their unfettered narcissistic craziness it never occurs to them that maybe a hotel housekeeper isn't really up for sex with a 62-year-old IMF boss, or that even younger women might not find the sight of a middle-aged politician's penis particularly seductive.
Strauss-Kahn and Weiner's blind self-adulation has turned out to be the rope they've hanged themselves with. But it was exactly the same rope – that same narcissism – that brought them into positions of power in the first place. That's the thing. Seen that way, the cynics and their pyramid theory may have a point. And it's no consolation that there are many studies out there showing that the number of psychopaths in top management is well above average.
Read the original article in German.
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