Jon Ronson – 'Psychopaths have moulded society'

Interview: Jon Ronson – 'Psychopaths have moulded society'

credit: Emli Bendixen

As he takes his Psychopath Night tour across the UK, investigative journalist Jon Ronson continues to explore well-worn subjects that remain utterly relevant

He might shirk from the phrase 'timeless' being used about his work, but Jon Ronson's topics have a funny knack of refusing to go away. The journalist's print and broadcast work has covered political and religious extremism (Them), celebrities and child sex abuse (The Double Life of Jonathan King), the dark side of social media (So You've Been Publicly Shamed), and men who stare at goats (OK, that one might be a little more niche). With his latest touring show he revisits The Psychopath Test, his 2011 book which explored some high-profile as well as rarely-read cases, relating them to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, a 20-point test which claimed to conclusively detect psychopathic tendencies.

As you might expect, Ronson has problems with such sweeping diagnoses. 'One of the items on the checklist is impulsivity and another item is being cunning and manipulative, but how can you be both?' he wonders. 'Yet, if you put those to one side, the nuances of psychopathic behaviour have been anatomised by Hare in a brilliant way, but it is a very powerful weapon that gets misused constantly.'

For Psychopath Night, he will be joined onstage by two people who have been at the sharp end of, in one case, psychopathic behaviour and, in the other, the vagaries of the 20-point test. In broader terms, the world suddenly appears to be in the hands of individuals who might not be as lucid as we'd prefer them to be. 'Through the book, what I learned about psychopaths is that they have moulded society,' notes Ronson. 'And capitalism at its most ruthless is a physical manifestation of psychopathy.'

Jon Ronson: Psychopath Night is on tour during March and November.

Jon Ronson's Psychopath Night

The journalist discusses the funny, compelling and utterly terrifying events that led him to his bestselling book, The Psychopath Test.

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