Qaddafi is a sociopath, a man impervious to any sense of self-doubt. His kind are all too common in positions of power. Sociopathocracy-government by sociopath is so common, the argument that the war in Iraq was a priority because it got rid of one such sociopath makes little sense. Yes the world is better off without Saddam, but for every deposed tyrant there are dozens more. Supposedly three percent of males and one percent of females are sociopaths. Among leaders the percentage is much higher. It makes you wonder what puts them in power.
Information theory, the science that provides us such useful concepts as signal to noise ratio, gigabytes and bandwidth also provides insights into the prevalence of sociopathocracy. The key insight is in what's called "redundancy."
You're at a large party with people talking all around you. You're in conversation with one person but the signal to noise ratio is low, meaning his voice, the signal, is quiet relative to the ambient conversational noise. Someone loud laughs in the background drowning out your conversational partner so you ask him to repeat what he said. You have to do that a lot actually.
Claude Shannon the genius mathematician and engineer for Bell labs who founded information theory showed how redundancy-repeating the message-- compensates for noise. He imagined a channel in which information is sent at a steady rate. Noise in the channel, for example static on a phone line, means that bits of information get drowned out. But if you send the same information again, chances are different bits will be drowned out and you'll be able to piece together the information. Shannon noted however that the more message redundancy is required the less new information can be sent. Conversation at that party is less informative because you waste so much time repeating yourselves.
Shannon was thinking about communication in which the listener is eager to hear correctly what the speaker is eager to convey correctly, but of course not all conversation is like that. Sometimes the listener would like to hear something else. At a party you might be done listening to a boring, repetitive guy but can't get away because he's filling your ears with stuff he's eager to say but you are not eager to hear.
Or imagine that you're at a group strategy meeting and one guy is dominating, insisting over and over that he has the answers. Dissenting opinions aren't heard because the dominant opinion fills the information channel. The more redundancy; the less information, but also the less variety of information.
Hitler's PR man Joseph Goebbels said "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over." Repeating himself he said "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."
A lack of self-doubt is, by definition a lack of variety. It's like drowning out dissenting opinions in one's own head with a redundant belief. Conviction, faith and confidence are contagious for all sorts of psychological reasons. We envy, are attracted to, and find charismatic the passionately insistent. Conversely, we surrender to them sometimes, as anyone with demanding children knows. You start to seek reasons why it's OK to give in to them just to get a little peace.
Shouting matches and other conflicts are really doubting-matches. We argue by casting doubt on each other's opinions. Redundancy is how we dominate in doubting matches, and sociopaths can out-redundant non-sociopaths, hands down. The insistent fill our ears until we can't hear ourselves or anyone else think a dissenting thought. Sociopaths repeat reasons why their opponents should doubt themselves and so, in doubting matches, self-doubters always lose.
I think the Radical Right--the Aways-Right wing--that has taken over the Republican party is a budding sociopathocracy. No, not on the scale of the worst culminations of such budding, but it pays to be wary nonetheless since all budding sociopathocracies start small. The movement's reckless disregard for how much it repeats the mistakes that have culminated in the sociopathocracies of higher magnitude should be checked by counter-caution. Fox News is nothing if not redundant. Watch Bill O'Reilly drown out any dissenting opinion.
In principle though I'm with the Radical Right on one thing. Its greatest enemy, as is mine, is sociopathocracy.
They mistakenly think that sociopathocracy is a product of certain ideologies and that their ideology including their passionate contempt for sociopathocracy make them immune to the risks of becoming a sociopathocracy. To them only Muslims, Liberals or Socialists could become sociopathocracies. There's no evidence of sociopathocracy is only the product of certain ideologies. Really it doesn't matter what the belief system is, so long as you repeat it and drown out the opposition. Call it peristuasion-persuasion by persistence. Call it memeocide-a concerted attempt to drown out and kill off dissenting ideas.
Indeed, ironically, what all sociopathocracies have in common though is this: They are all vehemently, viciously, virulently anti-sociopathocracy. More often than not revolutions in the name of liberation from sociopathocracies become the next sociopathocracies.
I'm sincere in my opposition to sociopathocracies, but then all of these other anti-sociopathocracy movements claim sincerity too. We are all and should be intolerant of intolerance. But none of us should ever assume that our particular ideology is somehow immune to sociopathocratization. Perhaps the most cancerous repeated lie is that sociopathocracies are the product of only certain ideologies. They are not. All ideologies, even mine and the Always-Right Wing's--our conviction that liberty and variety of thought is a fundamental virtue can become, as we are witnessing the basis for a budding sociopathocracy.
So what's a self-doubter to do? You can't nip sociopathocracies in the bud except by beating them at their own game, out-convincing potential supporters that they shouldn't support the sociopathocracy.
But reason is no match for repetition. Somehow you have to meet the self-certain with equal and opposite insistence and persistence. They'll accuse you of being a hypocrite and you'll have to do what they do, denying emphatically that you are or else you don't stand a chance. And yet somewhere you have to harbor some self-doubt or else what makes you anything other than another self-certain sociopath?