The field of investigative reporting involves bringing to the fore facts and figure that affect human interests and fair governance. This means conducting in depth research, looking at public records, doing extensive interviews, as well as checking and rechecking of facts before publication. Whether print or television, investigative reporting is essentially ‘watchdog’ reporting. This means reporting crimes, unfair practices, injustice, as well as other human interest aspects like environment, disease, and so on.
Investigative journalism can move public opinion and instill fear in those treading the wrong path. Slave trade, gun running, terrorist activities, drug trafficking, money laundering and so on are brought to the notice of the world by investigative journalism.
An investigative journalist must be unafraid, determined, patient, watchful, fair, as well as dog minded to be successful. The questions a journalist seeks answers to are: who is responsible for the wrong doing; what methods were employed; what are the consequences; what can be done to correct the wrong; can the wrongdoers be brought to book?
The keys are to dig up the first lead, tip, or hunch. Then sniff around for facts. Form an investigative hypothesis. Next, like a detective, gather evidence that will prove undeniably the hypothesis. This will involve interviews, documents, records, proofs, and intense paper work. Organize the information and write the report. Check facts, check chances of libel, and the laws. To be good at your work it is advantageous if you are familiar with the law, know the procedures, can conduct quick and accurate research, follow the money trail, and dig out facts.
Investigative journalism is a specialized field that uses journalism skills, curiosity, advanced research methods, and a determination to right wrongs. This field of journalism is what helps shape democracy and protects the lives of the innocent. Done correctly it can raise public opinion to such an extent that the way the world thinks and functions can be changed.
An investigative journalist must work within the confines of ethics written and unwritten and the laws. The work could include revealing scandals and tracing infringements of laws, rules, or morals. Bring to public notice the policies of governments, companies, and other organizations. And, institute social change by describing social, economic, political, and cultural trends.
To be effective in investigative journalism the journalist must have high standards of functioning and be above corruption. The principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fair play, and public accountability must be deeply ingrained in the mind and soul of the journalist. Since investigative journalism involves use of undercover sources and anonymous tips it is absolutely essential for the journalist to double check facts.
Investigative journalism is news with a difference. It is critical and in depth investigations to a happening or policy which will serve to prevent or correct a wrong, prevent crimes, save the planet from destruction, and shape the future of the world in more ways than one. It is reporting the unknown, the hidden, and so, the investigative journalist becomes the keeper or custodian of public conscience.
It is a field where a mere niggling thought or suspicion becomes an expose of wrong doings. It questions actions and decisions and brings to the limelight outrageous acts and in human actions. In simple terms an investigative journalist polices society in the larger interests of mankind.
What do you think? Are there some serious legal boundaries or issues we need to address with ethical investigative reporting? Some suggest we may have gone too far.
According to David McClintick (“Swordfish: A True Story of Ambition, Savagery, and Betrayal”), in the late 1980’s, the FBI and DEA set up dummy corporations to deal in drugs. They funneled into these corporate fronts money from drug-related asset seizures.
The idea was to infiltrate global crime networks but a lot of the money in “Operation Swordfish” may have ended up in the wrong pockets. Government agents and sheriffs got mysteriously and filthily rich and the whole sorry affair was wound down. The GAO reported more than $3.6 billion missing. This bit of history gave rise to at least one blockbuster with Oscar-winner Halle Berry.
Alas, slush funds are much less glamorous in reality. They usually involve grubby politicians, pawky bankers, and philistine businessmen – rather than glamorous hackers and James Bondean secret agents.
The Kazakh prime minister, Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov, freely admitted on April 4, 2002 to his country’s rubber-stamp parliament the existence of a $1 billion slush fund. The money was apparently skimmed off the proceeds of the opaque sale of the Tengiz oilfield. Remitting it to Kazakhstan – he expostulated with a poker face – would have fostered inflation. So, the country’s president, Nazarbaev, kept the funds abroad “for use in the event of either an economic crisis or a threat to Kazakhstan’s security”.
The money was used to pay off pension arrears in 1997 and to offset the pernicious effects of the 1998 devaluation of the Russian ruble. What was left was duly transferred to the $1.5 billion National Fund, the PM insisted. Alas, the original money in the Fund came entirely from another sale of oil assets to Chevron, thus casting in doubt the official version.
The National Fund was, indeed, augmented by a transfer or two from the slush fund – but at least one of these transfers occurred only 11 days after the damning revelations. Moreover, despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, the unfazed premier denied that his president possesses multi-million dollar bank accounts abroad.
He later rescinded this last bit of disinformation. The president, he said, has no bank accounts abroad but will promptly return all the money in these non-existent accounts to Kazakhstan. These vehemently denied accounts, he speculated, were set up by the president’s adversaries “for the purpose of compromising his name”.
On April 15, 2002 even the docile opposition had enough of this fuzzy logic. They established a People Oil’s Fund to monitor, henceforth, the regime’s financial shenanigans. By their calculations less than 7 percent of the income from the sale of hydrocarbon fuels (c. $4-5 billion annually) make it to the national budget.
Slush funds infect every corner of the globe, not only the more obscure and venal ones. Every secret service – from the Mossad to the CIA – operates outside the stated state budget. Slush funds are used to launder money, shower cronies with patronage, and bribe decision makers. In some countries, setting them up is a criminal offense, as per the 1990 Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime. Other jurisdictions are more forgiving.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands issued a press release November 2001 in which it welcomed the government’s plans to abolish slush funds. They described the poisonous effect of this practice:
“With a few notable exceptions, the practice of directing funds through politicians to district projects has been disastrous. It has created an atmosphere in which corruption is thought to have flourished. It has reduced the responsibility of public servants, without reducing their numbers or costs. It has been used to confuse people into believing public funds are the ‘property’ of individual members rather than the property of the people, honestly and fairly administered by the servants of the people.
The concept of ‘slush-funds’ has resulted in well-documented inefficiencies and failures. There were even accusations made that funds were withheld from certain members as a way of forcing them into submission. It seems that the era of the ‘slush funds’ has been a shameful period.”
But even is the most orderly and lawful administration, funds are liable to be mislaid. “The Economist” reported recently about a $10 billion class-action suit filed by native-Americans against the US government. The funds, supposed to be managed in trust since 1880 on behalf of half a million beneficiaries, were “either lost or stolen” according to officials.
Rob Gordon, the Director of the National Wilderness Institute accused “The US Interior Department (of) looting the special funds that were established to pay for wildlife conservation and squandering the money instead on questionable administrative expenses, slush funds and employee moving expenses”.
Charles Griffin, the Deputy Director of the Heritage Foundation’s Government Integrity Project, charges:
“The federal budget provides numerous slush funds that can be used to subsidize the lobbying and political activities of special-interest groups.”
On his list of “Top Ten Federal Programs That Actively Subsidize Politics and Lobbying” are: AmeriCorps, Senior Community Service Employment Program, Legal Services Corporation, Title X Family Planning, National Endowment for the Humanities, Market Promotion Program, Senior Environmental Employment Program, Superfund Worker Training, HHS Discretionary Aging Projects, Telecomm. & Info. Infrastructure Assistance. These federal funds alone total $1.8 billion.
“Next” and “China Times” – later joined by “The Washington Post” – accused the former Taiwanese president, Lee Teng-hui, of forming a $100 million overseas slush fund intended to finance the gathering of information, influence-peddling, and propaganda operations. Taiwan footed the bills trips by Congressional aides and funded academic research and think tank conferences.
High ranking Japanese officials, among others, may have received payments through this stealthy venue. Lee is alleged to have drawn $100,000 from the secret account in February 1999. The money was used to pay for the studies of a former Japanese Vice-Defense Minister Masahiro Akiyama’s at Harvard.
Ryutaro Hashimoto, the former Japanese prime minister, was implicated as a beneficiary of the fund. So were the prestigious lobbying firm, Cassidy and Associates and assorted assistant secretaries in the Bush administration.
Carl Ford, Jr., currently assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, worked for Cassidy during the relevant period and often visited Taiwan. James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs enjoyed the Taiwanese largesse as well. Both are in charge of crafting America’s policy on Taiwan.
John Bolton, erstwhile undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, admitted, during his confirmation hearings, to having received $30,000 to cover the costs of writing 3 research papers.
The Taiwanese government has yet to deny the news stories.
A Japanese foreign ministry official used slush fund money to finance the extra-marital activities of himself and many of his colleagues – often in posh hotel suites. But this was no exception. According to Asahi Shimbun, more than half of the 60 divisions of the ministry maintained similar funds. The police and the ministry are investigating. One arrest has been made. The ministry’s accounting division has discovered these corrupt practices twenty years before but kept mum.
Even low-level prefectural bureaucrats and teachers in Japan build up slush funds by faking business trips or padding invoices and receipts. Japanese citizens’ groups conservatively estimated that $20 million in travel and entertainment expenses in the prefectures in 1994 were faked, a practice known as “kara shutcho” (i.e., empty business trip).
Officials of the Hokkaido Board of Education admitted to the existence of a 100 million yen secret fund. In a resulting probe, 200 out of 286 schools were found to maintain their own slush funds. Some of the money was used to support friendly politicians.
But slush funds are not a sovereign prerogative. Multinationals, banks, corporation, religious organizations, political parties, and even NGO’s salt away some of their revenues and profits in undisclosed accounts, usually in off-shore havens.
Secret election campaign slush funds are a fixture in American politics. A 5-year old bill requires disclosure of donors to such funds but the House is busy loosening its provisions. “The Economist” listed in 2002 the tsunami of scandals that engulfs Germany, both its major political parties, many of the Lander and numerous highly placed and mid-level bureaucrats. Secret, mainly party, funds seem to be involved in the majority of these lurid affairs.
Italian firms made donations to political parties through slush funds, though corporate donations – providing they are transparent – are perfectly legal in Italy. Both the right and, to a lesser extent, the left in France are said to have managed enormous political slush funds.
President Chirac is accused of having abused for his personal pleasure, one such municipal fund in Paris, when he was its mayor. But the funds were mostly used to provide party activists with mock jobs. Corporations paid kickbacks to obtain public works or local building permits. Ostensibly, they were paying for sham “consultancy services”.
The epidemic hasn’t skipped even staid Ottawa. Its Chief Electoral Officer told Sun Media in September 2001 that he is “concerned” about millions stashed away by Liberal candidates. Sundry ministers who coveted the prime minister’s job, have raised funds covertly and probably illegally.
On April 11, 2002 UPI reported that Spain’s second-largest bank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), held nearly $200 million hidden in secret offshore accounts, “which were allegedly used to manipulate politicians, pay off the ‘revolutionary tax’ to ETA – the Basque terrorist organization – and open the door for business deals, according to news reports.”
The money may have gone to luminaries such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Peru’s Alberto Fujomori and Vladimiro Montesinos. The bank’s board members received fat, tax-free, “pensions” from the illegal accounts opened in 1987 – a total of more than $20 million.
Latin American drug money launderers – from Puerto Rico to Colombia – may have worked through these funds and the bank’s clandestine entities in the Cayman Islands and Jersey. The current Spanish Secretary of State for the Treasury has been the bank’s tax advisor between 1992-7.
The “Financial Times” reported in June 2000 that, in anticipation of new international measures to curb corruption, “leading European arms manufacturers” resorted to the creation of off-shore slush funds. The money is intended to bribe foreign officials to win tenders and contracts.
Kim Woo-chung, Daewoo’s former chairman, is at the center of a massive scandal involving dozens of his company’s executive, some of whom ended up in prison. He stands accused of diverting a whopping $20 billion to an overseas slush fund.
A mind boggling $10 billion were alleged to have been used to bribe Korean government officials and politicians. But his conduct and even the scale of the fraud he perpetrated may have been typical to Korea’s post-war incestuous relationship between politics and business.
In his paper “The Role of Slush Funds in the Preparation of Corruption Mechanisms”, reprinted by Transparency International, Gherardo Colombo defines corporate slush funds thus:
“Slush funds are obtained from a joint stock company’s finances, carefully managed so that the amounts involved do not appear on the balance sheet. They do not necessarily have to consist of money, but can also take the form of stocks and shares or other economically valuable goods (works of art, jewels, yachts, etc.) It is enough that they can be used without any particular difficulty or that they can be transferred to a third party.
If a fund is in the form of money, it is not even necessary to refer to it outside the company accounts, since it can appear in them in disguised form (the ‘accruals and deferrals’ heads are often resorted to for the purpose of hiding slush money). In light of this, it is not always correct to regard it as a reserve fund that is not accounted for in the books. Deception, trickery or forgery of various kinds are often resorted to for the purpose of setting up a slush fund.”
He mentions padded invoices, sham contracts, fictitious loans, interest accruing on holding accounts, back to back transactions with related entities (Enron) – all used to funnel money to the slush funds. Such funds are often set up to cover for illicit and illegal self-enrichment, embezzlement, or tax evasion.
Less known is the role of these furtive vehicles in financing unfair competitive practices, such as dumping. Clients, suppliers, and partners receive hidden rebates and subsidies that much increase the – unreported – real cost of production.
BBVA’s payments to ETA may have been a typical payment of protection fees. Both terrorists and organized crime put slush funds to bad use. They get paid from such funds – and maintain their own. Ransom payments to kidnappers often flow through these channels.
But slush funds are overwhelmingly used to bribe corrupt politicians. The fight against corruption has been titled against the recipients of illicit corporate largesse. But to succeed, well-meaning international bodies, such as the OECD’s FATF, must attack with equal zeal those who bribe. Every corrupt transaction is between a venal politician and an avaricious businessman. Pursuing the one while ignoring the other is self-defeating.
What I want to discuss in this article is the basic idea of honesty. The internet is a wonderful place to do business, but with the continuous flood of spyware, malware, and spam, it can be a horrible and very frustrating for the average user. I am amazed, but not surprised, by the unethical practice of businesses using popups and spam to sell a product. It isn’t surprising because the fact is that those business practices work. Any of us that have worked in this field for awhile know that traffic is king.
My experience has been one of honest return for honesty when dealing with customers. Maybe it’s not a quick buck, but I can look at myself in the mirror in the morning and know I did the right thing. I would rather have a customer for life than a fly by night sale to a customer that I tricked into buying my product. It isn’t always about the bottom line of making cash. It should be about service and product value. Over the past couple of years I have had more business cleaning up computers that have been completely overran with viruses, trojans, and spam than I’ve done computer builds. The number one complaint is ëI just want to be able to use my computer, not worry about viruses and trojans and updates!!!í Do I profit from unethical business practices? Yes I do when I spend an hour cleaning up a computer. Do I take the time to teach the user? You bet I do! I spend an hour to two hours with a client after I do a cleanup or a computer build. Do I lose money with this practice? Yes I do, but I gain respect from the customer and that customer will always come back.
The one major challenge with doing business online is that we don’t always get to be face to face with our customers. Even so, there are ways around this that will bring value to your customer and value in repeat business. It doesn’t cost that much to call and thank someone for their business. It doesn’t cost much to send out a thank you card. I think at times we forget that email isn’t the only way to communicate. With the prevalence of spam it isn’t always the best way to communicate either. The internet can be a very impersonal place. It is ethically challenging to all of us who try to sale a product or business online. Is there a chance of giving away too much with little return? That is always a chance we take when we offer advice or tips to a customer. I can guarantee that over time, the word gets around, and your business will develop a core group of customers who value your service and will tell others.
Being a small business is a challenge in the fast paced retail world of chain stores. We can’t offer the huge discounts the major chain stores can, but we can offer service value for the product. I challenge anyone in the IT industry to take that little bit of extra time to teach users the do’s and don’ts of surfing the web. It will benefit your business and benefit the customer as well.
The perpetrators of the recent spate of financial frauds in the USA acted with callous disregard for both their employees and shareholders – not to mention other stakeholders. Psychologists have often remote-diagnosed them as “malignant, pathological narcissists”.
Narcissists are driven by the need to uphold and maintain a false self – a concocted, grandiose, and demanding psychological construct typical of the narcissistic personality disorder. The false self is projected to the world in order to garner “narcissistic supply” – adulation, admiration, or even notoriety and infamy. Any kind of attention is usually deemed by narcissists to be preferable to obscurity.
The false self is suffused with fantasies of perfection, grandeur, brilliance, infallibility, immunity, significance, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. To be a narcissist is to be convinced of a great, inevitable personal destiny. The narcissist is preoccupied with ideal love, the construction of brilliant, revolutionary scientific theories, the composition or authoring or painting of the greatest work of art, the founding of a new school of thought, the attainment of fabulous wealth, the reshaping of a nation or a conglomerate, and so on. The narcissist never sets realistic goals to himself. He is forever preoccupied with fantasies of uniqueness, record breaking, or breathtaking achievements. His verbosity reflects this propensity.
Reality is, naturally, quite different and this gives rise to a “grandiosity gap”. The demands of the false self are never satisfied by the narcissist’s accomplishments, standing, wealth, clout, sexual prowess, or knowledge. The narcissist’s grandiosity and sense of entitlement are equally incommensurate with his achievements.
To bridge the grandiosity gap, the malignant (pathological) narcissist resorts to shortcuts. These very often lead to fraud.
The narcissist cares only about appearances. What matters to him are the facade of wealth and its attendant social status and narcissistic supply. Witness the travestied extravagance of Tyco’s Denis Kozlowski. Media attention only exacerbates the narcissist’s addiction and makes it incumbent on him to go to ever-wilder extremes to secure uninterrupted supply from this source.
The narcissist lacks empathy – the ability to put himself in other people’s shoes. He does not recognize boundaries – personal, corporate, or legal. Everything and everyone are to him mere instruments, extensions, objects unconditionally and uncomplainingly available in his pursuit of narcissistic gratification.
This makes the narcissist perniciously exploitative. He uses, abuses, devalues, and discards even his nearest and dearest in the most chilling manner. The narcissist is utility- driven, obsessed with his overwhelming need to reduce his anxiety and regulate his labile sense of self-worth by securing a constant supply of his drug – attention. American executives acted without compunction when they raided their employees’ pension funds – as did Robert Maxwell a generation earlier in Britain.
The narcissist is convinced of his superiority – cerebral or physical. To his mind, he is a Gulliver hamstrung by a horde of narrow-minded and envious Lilliputians. The dotcom “new economy” was infested with “visionaries” with a contemptuous attitude towards the mundane: profits, business cycles, conservative economists, doubtful journalists, and cautious analysts.
Yet, deep inside, the narcissist is painfully aware of his addiction to others – their attention, admiration, applause, and affirmation. He despises himself for being thus dependent. He hates people the same way a drug addict hates his pusher. He wishes to “put them in their place”, humiliate them, demonstrate to them how inadequate and imperfect they are in comparison to his regal self and how little he craves or needs them.
The narcissist regards himself as one would an expensive present, a gift to his company, to his family, to his neighbors, to his colleagues, to his country. This firm conviction of his inflated importance makes him feel entitled to special treatment, special favors, special outcomes, concessions, subservience, immediate gratification, obsequiousness, and lenience. It also makes him feel immune to mortal laws and somehow divinely protected and insulated from the inevitable consequences of his deeds and misdeeds.
The self-destructive narcissist plays the role of the “bad guy” (or “bad girl”). But even this is within the traditional social roles cartoonishly exaggerated by the narcissist to attract attention. Men are likely to emphasize intellect, power, aggression, money, or social status. Narcissistic women are likely to emphasize body, looks, charm, sexuality, feminine “traits”, homemaking, children and childrearing.
Punishing the wayward narcissist is a veritable catch-22.
A jail term is useless as a deterrent if it only serves to focus attention on the narcissist. Being infamous is second best to being famous – and far preferable to being ignored. The only way to effectively punish a narcissist is to withhold narcissistic supply from him and thus to prevent him from becoming a notorious celebrity.
Given a sufficient amount of media exposure, book contracts, talk shows, lectures, and public attention – the narcissist may even consider the whole grisly affair to be emotionally rewarding. To the narcissist, freedom, wealth, social status, family, vocation – are all means to an end. And the end is attention. If he can secure attention by being the big bad wolf – the narcissist unhesitatingly transforms himself into one. Lord Archer, for instance, seems to be positively basking in the media circus provoked by his prison diaries.
The narcissist does not victimize, plunder, terrorize and abuse others in a cold, calculating manner. He does so offhandedly, as a manifestation of his genuine character. To be truly “guilty” one needs to intend, to deliberate, to contemplate one’s choices and then to choose one’s acts. The narcissist does none of these.
Thus, punishment breeds in him surprise, hurt and seething anger. The narcissist is stunned by society’s insistence that he should be held accountable for his deeds and penalized accordingly. He feels wronged, baffled, injured, the victim of bias, discrimination and injustice. He rebels and rages.
Depending upon the pervasiveness of his magical thinking, the narcissist may feel besieged by overwhelming powers, forces cosmic and intrinsically ominous. He may develop compulsive rites to fend off this “bad”, unwarranted, persecutory influences.
The narcissist, very much the infantile outcome of stunted personal development, engages in magical thinking. He feels omnipotent, that there is nothing he couldn’t do or achieve if only he sets his mind to it. He feels omniscient – he rarely admits to ignorance and regards his intuitions and intellect as founts of objective data.
Thus, narcissists are haughtily convinced that introspection is a more important and more efficient (not to mention easier to accomplish) method of obtaining knowledge than the systematic study of outside sources of information in accordance with strict and tedious curricula. Narcissists are “inspired” and they despise hamstrung technocrats.
To some extent, they feel omnipresent because they are either famous or about to become famous or because their product is selling or is being manufactured globally. Deeply immersed in their delusions of grandeur, they firmly believe that their acts have – or will have – a great influence not only on their firm, but on their country, or even on Mankind. Having mastered the manipulation of their human environment – they are convinced that they will always “get away with it”. They develop hubris and a false sense of immunity.
Narcissistic immunity is the (erroneous) feeling, harbored by the narcissist, that he is impervious to the consequences of his actions, that he will never be effected by the results of his own decisions, opinions, beliefs, deeds and misdeeds, acts, inaction, or membership of certain groups, that he is above reproach and punishment, that, magically, he is protected and will miraculously be saved at the last moment. Hence the audacity, simplicity, and transparency of some of the fraud and corporate looting in the 1990’s. Narcissists rarely bother to cover their traces, so great is their disdain and conviction that they are above mortal laws and wherewithal.
What are the sources of this unrealistic appraisal of situations and events?
The false self is a childish response to abuse and trauma. Abuse is not limited to sexual molestation or beatings. Smothering, doting, pampering, over-indulgence, treating the child as an extension of the parent, not respecting the child’s boundaries, and burdening the child with excessive expectations are also forms of abuse.
The child reacts by constructing false self that is possessed of everything it needs in order to prevail: unlimited and instantaneously available Harry Potter-like powers and wisdom. The false self, this Superman, is indifferent to abuse and punishment. This way, the child’s true self is shielded from the toddler’s harsh reality.
This artificial, maladaptive separation between a vulnerable (but not punishable) true self and a punishable (but invulnerable) false self is an effective mechanism. It isolates the child from the unjust, capricious, emotionally dangerous world that he occupies. But, at the same time, it fosters in him a false sense of “nothing can happen to me, because I am not here, I am not available to be punished, hence I am immune to punishment”.
The comfort of false immunity is also yielded by the narcissist’s sense of entitlement. In his grandiose delusions, the narcissist is sui generis, a gift to humanity, a precious, fragile, object. Moreover, the narcissist is convinced both that this uniqueness is immediately discernible – and that it gives him special rights. The narcissist feels that he is protected by some cosmological law pertaining to “endangered species”.
He is convinced that his future contribution to others – his firm, his country, humanity – should and does exempt him from the mundane: daily chores, boring jobs, recurrent tasks, personal exertion, orderly investment of resources and efforts, laws and regulations, social conventions, and so on.
The narcissist is entitled to a “special treatment”: high living standards, constant and immediate catering to his needs, the eradication of any friction with the humdrum and the routine, an all-engulfing absolution of his sins, fast track privileges (to higher education, or in his encounters with bureaucracies, for instance). Punishment, trusts the narcissist, is for ordinary people, where no great loss to humanity is involved.
Narcissists are possessed of inordinate abilities to charm, to convince, to seduce, and to persuade. Many of them are gifted orators and intellectually endowed. Many of them work in in politics, the media, fashion, show business, the arts, medicine, or business, and serve as religious leaders.
By virtue of their standing in the community, their charisma, or their ability to find the willing scapegoats, they do get exempted many times. Having recurrently “got away with it” – they develop a theory of personal immunity, founded upon some kind of societal and even cosmic “order” in which certain people are above punishment.
But there is a fourth, simpler, explanation. The narcissist lacks self-awareness. Divorced from his true self, unable to empathize (to understand what it is like to be someone else), unwilling to constrain his actions to cater to the feelings and needs of others – the narcissist is in a constant dreamlike state.
To the narcissist, his life is unreal, like watching an autonomously unfolding movie. The narcissist is a mere spectator, mildly interested, greatly entertained at times. He does not “own” his actions. He, therefore, cannot understand why he should be punished and when he is, he feels grossly wronged.
So convinced is the narcissist that he is destined to great things – that he refuses to accept setbacks, failures and punishments. He regards them as temporary, as the outcomes of someone else’s errors, as part of the future mythology of his rise to power/brilliance/wealth/ideal love, etc. Being punished is a diversion of his precious energy and resources from the all-important task of fulfilling his mission in life.
The narcissist is pathologically envious of people and believes that they are equally envious of him. He is paranoid, on guard, ready to fend off an imminent attack. A punishment to the narcissist is a major surprise and a nuisance but it also validates his suspicion that he is being persecuted. It proves to him that strong forces are arrayed against him.
He tells himself that people, envious of his achievements and humiliated by them, are out to get him. He constitutes a threat to the accepted order. When required to pay for his misdeeds, the narcissist is always disdainful and bitter and feels misunderstood by his inferiors.
Cooked books, corporate fraud, bending the (GAAP or other) rules, sweeping problems under the carpet, over-promising, making grandiose claims (the “vision thing”) – are hallmarks of a narcissist in action. When social cues and norms encourage such behavior rather than inhibit it – in other words, when such behavior elicits abundant narcissistic supply – the pattern is reinforced and become entrenched and rigid. Even when circumstances change, the narcissist finds it difficult to adapt, shed his routines, and replace them with new ones. He is trapped in his past success. He becomes a swindler.
But pathological narcissism is not an isolated phenomenon. It is embedded in our contemporary culture. The West’s is a narcissistic civilization. It upholds narcissistic values and penalizes alternative value-systems. From an early age, children are taught to avoid self-criticism, to deceive themselves regarding their capacities and attainments, to feel entitled, and to exploit others.
As Lilian Katz observed in her important paper, “Distinctions between Self-Esteem and Narcissism: Implications for Practice”, published by the Educational Resources Information Center, the line between enhancing self-esteem and fostering narcissism is often blurred by educators and parents.
Both Christopher Lasch in “The Culture of Narcissism” and Theodore Millon in his books about personality disorders, singled out American society as narcissistic. Litigiousness may be the flip side of an inane sense of entitlement. Consumerism is built on this common and communal lie of “I can do anything I want and possess everything I desire if I only apply myself to it” and on the pathological envy it fosters.
Not surprisingly, narcissistic disorders are more common among men than among women. This may be because narcissism conforms to masculine social mores and to the prevailing ethos of capitalism. Ambition, achievements, hierarchy, ruthlessness, drive – are both social values and narcissistic male traits. Social thinkers like the aforementioned Lasch speculated that modern American culture – a self-centred one – increases the rate of incidence of the narcissistic personality disorder.
Otto Kernberg, a notable scholar of personality disorders, confirmed Lasch’s intuition: “Society can make serious psychological abnormalities, which already exist in some percentage of the population, seem to be at least superficially appropriate.”
In their book “Personality Disorders in Modern Life”, Theodore Millon and Roger Davis state, as a matter of fact, that pathological narcissism was once the preserve of “the royal and the wealthy” and that it “seems to have gained prominence only in the late twentieth century”. Narcissism, according to them, may be associated with “higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs … Individuals in less advantaged nations .. are too busy trying (to survive) … to be arrogant and grandiose”.
They – like Lasch before them – attribute pathological narcissism to “a society that stresses individualism and self-gratification at the expense of community, namely the United States.” They assert that the disorder is more prevalent among certain professions with “star power” or respect. “In an individualistic culture, the narcissist is ‘God’s gift to the world’. In a collectivist society, the narcissist is ‘God’s gift to the collective.”
Millon quotes Warren and Caponi’s “The Role of Culture in the Development of Narcissistic Personality Disorders in America, Japan and Denmark”:
“Individualistic narcissistic structures of self-regard (in individualistic societies) … are rather self-contained and independent … (In collectivist cultures) narcissistic configurations of the we-self … denote self-esteem derived from strong identification with the reputation and honor of the family, groups, and others in hierarchical relationships.”
Still, there are malignant narcissists among subsistence farmers in Africa, nomads in the Sinai desert, day laborers in east Europe, and intellectuals and socialites in Manhattan. Malignant narcissism is all-pervasive and independent of culture and society. It is true, though, that the way pathological narcissism manifests and is experienced is dependent on the particulars of societies and cultures.
In some cultures, it is encouraged, in others suppressed. In some societies it is channeled against minorities – in others it is tainted with paranoia. In collectivist societies, it may be projected onto the collective, in individualistic societies, it is an individual’s trait.
Yet, can families, organizations, ethnic groups, churches, and even whole nations be safely described as “narcissistic” or “pathologically self-absorbed”? Can we talk about a “corporate culture of narcissism”?
Human collectives – states, firms, households, institutions, political parties, cliques, bands – acquire a life and a character all their own. The longer the association or affiliation of the members, the more cohesive and conformist the inner dynamics of the group, the more persecutory or numerous its enemies, competitors, or adversaries, the more intensive the physical and emotional experiences of the individuals it is comprised of, the stronger the bonds of locale, language, and history – the more rigorous might an assertion of a common pathology be.
Such an all-pervasive and extensive pathology manifests itself in the behavior of each and every member. It is a defining – though often implicit or underlying – mental structure. It has explanatory and predictive powers. It is recurrent and invariable – a pattern of conduct melding distorted cognition and stunted emotions. And it is often vehemently denied.
In the 25 + years of working with some of the best people in Business Development within the power generation industry, we have found some unique characteristics that separate these individuals from the rest. It doesn’t seem to matter what organization they work for, or the services, the client base or the economic climate. We find that these individuals are in fact the top 3% of the professionals in their field. In addition to learning to think as CEO’s, Presidents, entrepreneurial leaders of Business Development units, we’ve discovered they have acquired the behavioral characteristics of a leader. They have learned how to set strategic and operational objectives in putting together plans, how to be visionaries and see opportunities for their organizations that other individuals may miss, and in the role of ethical Business Development, they have mastered the 12 Core Competencies, a benchmark to measure leaders.
One of the most compelling definitions of a leader is an individual whose mere presence inspires the desire to follow. When asked if leaders are born or bred, the general consensus is that leadership can be taught. While few of us have had the opportunity to be formally trained or mentored in leadership, all of us are called to be a leader at different times and circumstances in our lives. Leadership is first about who you are as an individual, not what you do, and the term character best describes the core characteristic of a leader. It is this part of an individual that inspires other to follow, so we see character as the summation of an individual’s principles and values, core beliefs by which one anchors and measures their behavior in all roles in life. Principles and values of a positive leader include loyalty, respect, integrity, courage, fairness, honesty, duty, honor and commitment.
If character is the summation of our principles and values, then ethics is the application of them. To understand more about character development, we can reach back nearly 2500 years to the writings of Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle taught that moral virtue is acquired by practice. Ethics, according to Aristotle, is moral virtue that comes about as a result of habit. Ethics has as its root ethike, formed by the slight variation of the word ethos (habit). Aristotle explained that moral virtues do not arise in us by nature; we must accept them, embrace them and perfect them by habit. Leadership training emphasizes that understanding leader values and attributes is only the first step in development. A leader must also embrace values and practice attributes, living them until they become a habit.
In the Business Development role, success requires a fusion of who we are as an individual, along with our principles, values, ethics and their application. It’s a unique combination of what we know, how we apply it and what we do.
There are many professions in the world that require strong will, stamina and courage to get occupied. Thousands of policemen, doctors, firemen, rescue teams save people every minute. Graduating form the University and mastering one of the professions mentioned above you think only about successful application of your knowledge in practice. A couple of years after you become a famous doctor, an honorary resident and a dedicated family man. But then one accident in your practice turns your life upside down and makes you reconsider your system of values and personal code of ethics.
Racing towards the hospital in the middle of the night, you think about what you are going to see. Entering a room, you see one of your patients lying down with eyes closed. A sense of guilt overwhelms you, when you hear colleagues’ words “No hope”. The situation drove you to the choice you need to make: either to shut down the apparatus of support and release a patient from suffering on his way to death or do nothing in order to save good name you acquired during your practice. Leaving the room, you start going back to your student years where the problem of euthanasia was discussed frequently. What was your attitude? Of course you thought of this way out as of unacceptable an inhumane as most of people think. Did you really give a problem a good thought being a student? Obviously it never occurred to you that you may appear in front of a choice like that. And now, having a reputation of a professional, what are you to choose?
Euthanasia is determined as an act of merciful killing that releases a person from suffering. Now this term has to be specified, because the specialists of Middle Ages released their patients not only form physical but also from spiritual sufferings. Nowadays obligations of doctors are limited by law and in some states euthanasia is prohibited by law, unless one of he family members presents a request that is further investigated. There are several moral aspects of such a decision. On one hand there are Ten Commandments of the Holy Bible, one of which states “Do not kill”. After humanism was established as a philosophical current, some consider euthanasia a crime. On the other hand there are words of Hippocrates that pleads to help the needy regardless their position in the society. If nothing but sufferings awaits a person on a short way to death, why should a doctor who understands the situation let someone be tortured? Isn’t it even crueler than killing somebody? These are moral aspects of the problem, but the code of professional ethics requires action and you are to make the choice. Only after you consider everything and make the right decision you deserve to be called a professional and be respected even more.