‘The Seeds Of Revolution Are Present In The Machinery Of Oppression’

On Corruption and Cover-Ups, Guy Mankowski interviews Will Black

Will Black is a writer and journalist with a background in anthropology and mental health care. His latest book, Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires, examines the corrupting influence powerful psychopaths have on societies.

#PsychopathicCultures front final

Guy Mankowski is a writer and academic. His current novel, Marine, explores whistle-blowing, cover-ups and corruption. He was recently awarded an Arts Council Grant For The Arts to research this subject, and has interviewed experts on corruption in sports and banking.


Guy and Will caught up for a chat about corruption and cover-ups, subjects which are hitting the headlines increasingly often.

Guy Mankowski: I found your book a brilliant read. You say in it that “the more complex organisations are the more opportunities there are for psychopaths to seize control”. Do you think the façades of professionalism, and its attendant bureaucratic tools, are consciously employed by psychopaths to cloak their behaviour?

Will Black: It’s hard to know, and I’m sure there is variation. But certainly some people who look at the world in a selfish and exploitative way would look at aspects of ‘their’ organisation and professional structures to maximise their influence and gains. And also protect themselves from losing those things.

This has weakened, fortunately, but historically there has been a rigid caste system in Britain, encouraging relatively narrow groups of people to enter and thrive within certain professions. The ‘high walls’ and ‘razor wire’ repelling those from the wrong ‘class’ from key professions historically may have done those professions harm, as they also kept out scrutiny. And enabled the undeserving privileged to dominate for too long – which is a waste of more widely-dispersed ability.

While these little empires remained like fortresses, the cultures within them would have appeared normal to many of those within them. This gives toxic characters free rein to maintain and develop the toxicity of those organisations.

GM: Your book describes toxic cultures in which systematic child abuse has tragically occurred. Given your background as a clinician, I wondered if you think that paedophilia might, in people with a vulnerability to psychopathy, be a reaction to a specific early psychological trauma? I am wondering if such trauma, combined with the psychopathic need for power, could be an explanation for mass child abuse in toxic cultures?

WB: It’s very hard to say. It seems to be the case, in Britain and elsewhere, that celebrity figures and abuse ring procurers have been investigated and prosecuted much more readily than the most powerful have. The few reasonably influential child abusers and rapists who have been convicted appear remorseless so far and, given any opportunity, use their prominence to smear victims.

I know there is great work going on in some prisons, in the UK and abroad, which encourages sex attackers to face up to what they have done and their impact on victims. So there is potential for us as societies to gain more insight into the above. However, I think it’s more complicated when it comes to abuse rings than solitary sex attackers – and especially so in the networks of powerful abusers that authorities are finally looking into. Coming clean enough to offer insight into the above question seems less likely in this ‘elite’ group, as they have a strong sense of entitlement, are supported by and protected by institutions and wealth, and any admission would breach the fortress of the group and cast darker shadows across ‘elite’ society.

The alleged Westminster abuse networks – and other ‘elite’ networks – appear to have a stronger code of silence than the Mafia at this stage. As a consequence, we can only speculate on the dynamics within these groups and what factors led members of the rings to do what they have done. When we hear accounts of those brave victims of abuse rings who have come forward, it certainly seems to me that ‘paedophile’ is the wrong word. Brutal violent rape of children is not about an ‘attraction’ towards children. It may be about power, transgression of societal norms (as Ian Brady sought). Or some kind of twisted personal or group rite, to amplify their sense of importance and power.

It may be that some of these powerful perpetrators were abused, but we must not assume a simple correlation. Some people who have had charmed lives still manage to become sadists. Their doing so might, in some cases, be influenced by a disposition towards psychopathy, but it could also be something enabled and encouraged by malignant aspects of ‘elite’ culture that have been hidden from public scrutiny. It seems very unlikely that it just so happened that a bunch of ‘VIPs’ suddenly started abusing children in networks in the 1970s and 80s. It seems more likely to me that culture has shifted enough in the last decade or so that more survivors have come forward. Furthermore technology (such as blogs and social media) has allowed muted voices to become amplified. It may very well be that these sorts of rings have operated for considerable time, but a culture of shame, fear, denial and oppression prevented victims from coming forwards in the way many have done in recent years. Whether or not the predators abusing those children can be described as psychopaths, the rings themselves would have appeared monstrous and all-powerful to the children preyed upon.

GM: Later in the book you talk of the challenges facing those who would like to test for psychopathy, in order to undermine the power of psychopathic systems. Do you think it would it be useful for society to consider developing psychometrics to assess psychopathy in mass figures? Perhaps using their public behaviour and discourses as material instead of private material gathered in one-to-one sessions? Because – as you say – psychopaths in public positions would resist assessment.

WB: It’s a very tricky notion as, beyond the scientific integrity of doing so, in creating a shift in culture aimed at curtailing the influence of psychopaths, we could create a hostile and paranoid environment. It might turn out that this is what happens, but I don’t relish the prospect of societies feeling compelled to do something like this. Transparency is one thing, but a surveillance culture armed with psychological models could be as toxic as what we have now.
Fear of child-abusing strangers has already taken from many children the freedom my generation had to play out with friends and experiment with life – things vital to develop resilience and social intelligence. So, as well as harming their victims, abusers have cast a shadow over societies and infected culture with cynicism and fear. To create a business environment of such scrutiny that people can’t function naturally could cast a similar shadow. I think a better solution is to reward empathetic leadership practices, long-term thinking and a systemic approach to problem solving – rather than (as has often happened) reward a more psychopathic approach to business and work.

GM: I am surprised, when shocking stories about systemic abuse surface, that there isn’t a greater outcry. With regards to the Dolphin Square scandal there seems a) the widespread belief that it in due course it will be covered up and b) the sense that the government have no real appetite to address it. For instance, we saw Nick Clegg recently resist claims to investigate Cyril Smith, citing semantics about the fact that he is not in the same party as Smith was. Do you think this lack of willingness to investigate might at all be related to networks which assure mutual survival or destruction? (Without casting aspersions on any individuals).

WB: Yes, I’m sure that is true and I’m sure there are people involved who are not psychopaths and who are frankly scared and disgusted with what they have been party to. I think we sometimes credit individual ministers with too much power though. A former MI5 officer made the point at a talk a few years ago that governments come and go but the security services carry on as they see fit. And within specific intelligence services there are different factions with different agendas, but an ultimate function is to maintain social order and stability.

With that in mind – and before the internet made it possible for former care home children to have a voice, it might have seemed perfectly rational and right to help cover-up things that would unsettle society and cause unrest.
From a utilitarian perspective, non-abuser spooks covering up abuse in the past could have convinced themselves that they were doing something pro-social rather than psychopathic. However, now that more and more people can see the rot seeping out from the Establishment, it seems like a reprehensible thing to have done. It added to the abuse and betrayal of victims.

Those covering up these crimes in the 70’s and 80’s probably couldn’t have imagined that soon almost everyone would have devices that can broadcast information around the world in seconds. I’d suspect the abusers and those covering up thought victims of abuse were more likely to die young or become disregarded substance abusers than become articulate, supported people with a strong voice, compelling stories and the ability to broadcast what has happened. The problem now for the authorities is that the rot is so apparent to so many and – until people are satisfied it’s been completely exposed and cleaned up – all of politics and the security services will look suspect. As does the CPS and the police, when cases don’t make it to court.

GM: I worked in health care for quite a few years. There is lots of talk about psychopaths in business and politics, but I wonder if professions like psychology can be fertile grounds for a particularly elusive kind of psychopath, e.g. one who can call and respond with ideas of empathy and self-awareness to hide their aggression?

WB: The concept of psychopathy – or at least the term – is relatively new. I think we have a lot further to go in understanding different types of psychopaths, and others deemed to have antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders. Research into mirror neurons and the ’empathy switch’ has been illuminating, as it showed how empathy can be switched on or dialled up in certain circumstances. I suspect we will find more about how for healthy people in extreme conditions – such as war – it can be also dialled down. So in the fairly precarious, chaotic and confusing environment of a psychiatric ward or A & E service, there are certainly clinicians who previously shared no characteristics with psychopaths who learn to suppress normal human responses – like fear and horror – to make rapid decisions and manage to sleep at night. Equally, there could be some perfectly good clinicians who are drawn to the excitement and power of making life-changing decisions, but who – under different conditions – could be rather unpleasant psychopaths.

GM: In my novel I explore the fact that organisations do not protect whistle-blowers, and so social networking is increasingly exposing and confronting corruption instead. Are you concerned that powerful organisations will find ways to close this loophole? You mention in the book that the Wikipedia pages of the powerful seem to be changed very quickly if any evidence of their wrongdoing is placed there.

WB: We can’t assume that the freedom we currently have on social media will always be available to us – and many people have nothing like the power we have in the UK to communicate without being dragged off somewhere. However, the internet has become such a vital tool in business that, if it ceased to function, corporations and economies would also struggle to function. All sorts of markets are now so dependent on the internet that nations would be destabilised if the web went down. This reality means, ironically, that as long as capitalism as we know it operates, the masses will have communication tools at our disposal to challenge aspects of the system. As is often the case, the seeds of revolution are present in the machinery of oppression.

Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires is available via Amazon and bookshops.

Guy Mankowski is the author of the novels ‘Letters from Yelena’ and more recently ‘How I Left The National Grid’.


Filed under Abuse, News, Philosophy, Politics

19 responses to “‘The Seeds Of Revolution Are Present In The Machinery Of Oppression’

  1. As with many cover-ups, it may make perfect sense to put it in place at the time, but when they start to unravel more harm is done that was being avoided. The public has a long memory – and this is aided by the internet.

    Plus institutions involved in a cover-up – whether the intelligence services, political bodies or police change change over time. And contemporary people in those fields may have much incentive to expose the rot of their predecessors or questionable colleagues. It might be a systemic effort to make it look as those systems have cleaned up (and the Met seems to be trying to do in relation to Dolphin Square and North Wales police appear to be doing in Operation Pallial) or driven by individuals who wish to rise above the toxicity of the systems they are in and expose wrongdoing, such as Tom Watson. In any case, these systems are not monoliths and, as the cultural and technological context changes, these institutions often have to change or remain increasingly toxic.

    Standing on a putrid carpet while other people try to pull it up to expose the rot isn’t a good look at the moment. Look at the response Leon’s Brittan’s defenders got when they stuck up for him and dismissed concerns about the Westminsters abuse files.

    • Sabre

      Agree in general, however, I’m not so sure about the public’s long term memory. We’ve had a forgotten unforgettable expenses scandal, WMD neutralising war (sans WMD) leading to 100,000 plus civilian deaths not to mention our own dead and maimed soldiers, destabilisation exercises in Libya and Syria amongst others, Goverment facilitation of the Banksters collapsing the global economy by selling the equivalent of dog s**t packaged in Harrods gift boxes onto the global markets with their collateralised debt obligation sub prime mortgage scam and then going on to bail them out with our money.

      I do find your optimistic view of different types of revolutions refreshing and sincerely hope that it trumps my somewhat pessimistic view in the fullness of time.

  2. Sabre

    Haven’t read the book yet but I will do.
    With reference to the exchange above I agree that it makes sense that within the Security Services there have always been ‘factions’ rather than an homogenous cohesive group.
    I have alluded to the possibility that some elements in the Security Services have taken the sincere view that exposure of such scandals may possibly give rise to consequences even worse than covering them up, a case of be careful what you wish for.

  3. Some people might find Robert Hare’s writing about Jon Ronson’s Psychopath Test interesting. Professor Hare emphasises that “spotting psychopaths” as Ronson puts it is difficult, complicated and any checklist used is just part of a large process of assessment / information gathering about that person.

    I’d be very concerned if we ended up with Atos or Group 4 ‘psychopath spotters’.

    Click to access hare%20commentary%20on%20ronson%20april%2017%202012.pdf

  4. Jason Leyman

    It’s a trivial matter nowadays to test candidates for political office for psychopathy. Just imagine how many wars and other atrocities could be avoided by screening out these utterly selfish and remorseless wolves?
    Start testing NOW!

    • With respect, that’s not really true. Despite what a cursory reading of The Psychopath Test might make some people believe, it’s a complicated and generally protracted process to get to the stage of a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder being made. A person may be admitted onto psych units a number of times before that diagnosis is made. People tend to be placed in personality disorder categories after various other conditions have been discounted.

      Also, consider the current general election – at what point are candidates screened, by who, for how long, paid for by who? If assessments are paid for by the parties then there will be questions about legitimacy and credibility of the assessment process. If done by the state, then many would argue that forensic psychiatrists have more urgent things to do.

      And if we are doing it when people are standing for parliament, why not local councils? School governors? Where does it end?

      I’m not saying that there isn’t a need for the public to be aware of the potential pathologies of leaders – it’s a key reason I wrote Psychopathic Cultures. Public awareness and the scope for people to be able to raise concerns within organisations is vital for psychopathic cultures to be tackled. But I hope we don’t get to a Blade Runner style scenario where anyone seeking any position of authority is sat down and subjected to a rapid and questionable ‘assessment’ tool.

      Anyone who has followed the scandal of Atos and poorly devised and executed assessment tools will be very wary of this. There is also a legal minefield as a rejection from office could lead to defamation actions left, right and centre.

  5. guymankowski

    I agree with will. The tools exist and revolutions are currently happening, slowly but surely. I recall watching an excellent with Chomsky, where he was asked about how the people can instigate change. I was expecting a complex answer but his response was basically ‘we all know how to do it- March, petition, etc’. We just have to do it. Here’s a link to a great article on how the public can push an issue from saturating the consciousness to actually changing somethinghttps://twitter.com/gmankow/status/593409584355790848

  6. robert hutchings

    you may be interested to know that rik clay was a desperate young man to get into the pop music world
    he began hanging around with music types and playing with drugs, in order to support this he became a rent boy
    and was soon leading the gay lifestyle, high level homosexuals were paying attention to the teenager
    and he was soon whistleblowing about what he found out from these high flyers.
    He was putting info onto the net about 9/11 and about the London olympics which British people really did not want.
    Rik was at several parties held by the staff of the spiritualist newspaper Psychic News all but one of staff were homosexual,
    word from passers by was that any young man walking past would have men catcalling and whistling from the windows of the building at them.
    These parties held in a Brighton hotel where lurid tales were told of the staff of psychic news along with several homosexual mediums and Psychic News was only promoting homosexuals to the churches and some churches like at walthamstow put up signs saying, ” this is a non heterosexual church like it or leave ”
    The man in charge at walthamstow was Keith Hudson a registered sex offender against boys, as was the psychic news editor Tony Ortzen whose real name is Tony Miller, other top mediums such as Colin Fry are alleged to be involved.
    Rik Clay began to whistleblow that these parties were paid for out of psychic news funds, with a minibus of young teenage boys from a london care home for their “enjoyment”
    The Nene report was commissioned by government into the sexual misuse of boys from 16 London care homes, children’s minister Margaret Hodge shredded it and Tony Blair D noticed it as several members on New labour were using these boys.
    In 2008 Psychic News newspaper collapsed through lack of funds where the money was embezzled out for these parties and a court case that the homosexuals there were harassing other men.
    Rik Clay gave an interview to Red Ice Creations radio and was due to come back again and talk of the homosexual takeover
    of the spiritualist movement by homosexuals in the same manner as the C of E and Catholicism, and some of the high flyers using these boys such as Greville Janner.
    When Rik Clay was found dead in bed aged 26, and no one not even his family would speak of it, but
    while Rupert Murdock was tapping the phones of Rik Clays family, the man behind the Chris Cooper Investigates radio show
    was tapping Murdoch, and he claimed Rik Clay was saying to much about what he knew and it was possibly mossad who killed him to ensure Rik Clays silence as Greville Janner is the most important jew in the UK, as head of the Board f British Deputies which is a government of jews within Britain, yes they have their own laws and are not strictly governened by ours.

    • dpack

      a quick look with a few search tools found a lot of stuff ranging from odd to nasty odd. mostly with a illuminati ,nwo,mad as a box of frogs style.

      that there may be some truth that the unfortunate chap knew too much and was telling too much but if there is it has been well hidden in a huge pile of crazy.


      the local paper seems to suggest a quiet tragedy but the bulk of the online internet stuff could easily be thought of as belonging to a world of smoke and mirrors intended to conceal a simple but dangerous truth.

    • TonyM

      Why is it that when men abuse girls they aren’t described as high level heterosexuals working in a mainly heterosexual environment? Yet when men abuse boys it’s used as an excuse to bash “homosexuals.” In fact some of the abusers of boys we’ve heard of lately were married (to women).

      Many people switch off as soon as something turns into this sort of attack, so you undermine your case by doing it. There are numerous gay and bi men (some of them victims) who want to see abusers brought to justice.

      This is men committing abuse and often they team up to do it whether the victims are male or female. End of story.

      • Sabre

        Because most people are heterosexuals working in a mainly heterosexual environment a description to that effect is redundant.
        The PC approach has led to all manner of (unintended?) consequences, instead of being able to pose, for example, the question why do so many gay men abuse children? And starting an argument as opposed to a row, whereby the question can be asked,answered,disputed explored,proved,disproved where context and nuance can
        be considered etc we are left in
        the position where everyone is cowed into either vocal acceptance of what is perceived to be the politically correct answer or silent adherence to our own biased preconceived answers, neither of which is optimal IMHO.

      • Good points. And certainly the Paedofile Information Exchange were very savvy to this and played on it by making it seem like society wishing to curtailing child abuse was synonymous with homophobia.

        The other thing to say, which I touch on a bit in response to one of Guy’s interview questions, is that ‘child sexual abuse’ isn’t the same as ‘having sex’. I’m sure it annoys many other people when we read salacious newspaper stories of “sex parties” in relation to the violent abuse of trafficked and vulnerable children. These activities seem to go beyond sexual attraction into the realms of sadism, power and (perhaps narcissistic) efforts to stand outside the norms of society. It therefore isn’t these people’s homosexual or bisexual leanings that make them significant, it’s their deviousness, maliciousness and callousness.

  7. DR Laverty

    Reblogged this on DR Laverty and commented:
    A culture of nutters?

  8. dpack

    “the seeds of revolution are present in the machinery of oppression.”

    i cannot add anything to that

  9. barb

    i think most of us who are really watching and learning want a revolution however not in a violent way just a new way of life . my worry is that the ptb would make it that way . just my simplistic view

    • Revolutions are happening all the time – scientific, technological, economic, political and cultural. I’m sure most people reading this site recognise that. But it’s critical to get as many people as possible to recognise that these revolutions are going on and they can be part of them / help shape them.

      If not people can be paralyzed by the sense that nothing changes and they have no power. The pre-election hysteria by the traditional newspapers is quite telling. For me it seems like a death rattle. Most people reading papers now mentally unspin them and many many people do this overtly on social media. So the power of these mediums is diminished. And if the power of the mediums is diminished, the authority of those behind them is certainly diminished. One doesn’t need to have a fantastic blog to challenge the authority of the traditional media and powers, just a willingness to unspin the spin.

      The media is just one example, though a pivotal one. Greater transparency, awareness and public assertiveness is enabling more people to influence key aspects of society. So these inevitable mini revolutions aren’t just driven by elites with vested interests.

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