Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Borrowed.. and not Returned

In Malcolm Gladwell’s “Something Borrowed,” he questions whether plagiarism can be a reason to ruin a person’s life and reputation.  After writing memoirs for Dorothy Lewis, both Lewis and Gladwell realize they have been plagiarized in Lavery’s Broadway play, “Frozen.”  Because of having contradicting feelings, not knowing whether to feel flattered or angry for having his words as well as Lewis’ life story stolen, Gladwell analyzes different forms of plagiarism.  Gladwell examines plagiarism within music by comparing similar notes on the piano but in different songs, written by different artists and also the same for comparing melodies and tunes in different songs with different artists.  Gladwell then speaks with Lavery regarding how she didn’t understand that she was plagiarizing his article and Lewis’ life stories. She says that she thought the article was “news” with no emotional value attached.  Gladwell realizes that plagiarism shouldn’t ruin someone’s life reputation or life unless it is fully, 100% plagiarized because words are not owned.  He understands that the origins of words get lost and that people reinvent them over time.  So, people cannot claim words as their own property.  In Lavery’s case, she had created a fictional character based off Lewis’ life, but Lewis’ character faces different circumstances than the actual Lewis.  Gladwell claims that this is not plagiarism and that plagiarism should not ruin someone’s life and reputation.
            I never knew that plagiarism is such a broad term.  This article confuses me because, now, I really know if paraphrasing someone else’s idea is still considered plagiarism rather than taking their idea as inspiration and transforming it into my own.  I would still cite where I get information though because that has just been embedded into my memory and I’m pretty sure I would still get in trouble for “academic dishonesty” if I didn’t cite ideas that were created from someone else’s.  But it’s interesting that plagiarism is determined only if the full text is copied rather than a small amount or even most of it is copied.  So, to me, Gladwell’s idea of plagiarism is that as long as the writing/tune/melody/song, anything, is different, it’s not the same.  But I feel really bad for Lavery because her life is ruined now for being considered a plagiarizer and for losing all her credentials as a writer.  But it makes sense why Lewis was so angry since Lavery took her life and then changed it to have her fictional character be in an affair with the psychopath.  With people believing this is based on Lewis’ life, they now also believe she had the affair in reality when she didn’t.  Like my mom ALWAYS says, “copying is the best form of flattery,” but I think there is a fine line between being flattered by someone copying you and being creeped out by someone writing about your life through a fictional story, and then changing it for the worse (because who is insane enough to want to have an affair with a known psychopath?)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Madness Makes a Damn Good Story

In Chapter 7, Jon Ronson examines the reason why he has become so interested in understanding psychopaths.  He realizes that the most important part of journalism is to investigate in a topic that proves to be interesting, entertaining, and captivating to an audience.  Identifying madness, the extreme aspects of a personality, is what truly enthralls an audience.  After being criticized for his study on psychopaths by Adam Curtis, Ronson begins researching other journalists who have singled out individuals based on their madness.  He meets a woman named Charolette Scott and questions her on why and how she picked individuals to examine for a reality television show.  Her answer was that she picked people based on which medications they were currently prescribed with.  She realized that the best stories were based on those who had the most problems.  The people couldn’t be too emotionally dysfunctional, as in mental disorders, but the perfect amount of dysfunctional; people had to be emotionally unstable, but stable enough to avoid inflicting harm on oneself.  Her responsibility on the reality tv show was to find people who would fit well enough to be interviewed.  She had to repeatedly listen to peoples’ problems.  According to Scott, the only way to be emotionally detached was to demoralize others in order to feel everything but empathy for the people.  Much like the businessman psychopaths, Scott had to emotionally detach herself in order to perform her job to the best of her ability.  Thus, as a journalist, finding the correct interviewee with enough madness to captivate an audience is the most important factor to being successful.  In Ronson’s conversation with Scott, she continues to discuss how too much madness can be bad and turn off viewers; yet the perfect amount was if the interviewee was prescribed with a drug to treat depression, which then leads to the discussion on how the person became depressed.  This chapter shows how journalism and broadcasting is a manipulative way to show off the correct amount of madness that will absorb an audience and create more viewers.
I really enjoy this book.  I like how Ronson continues to seek out and uncover the mysteries of different roles psychopaths play in society and how they manipulate the system to benefit themselves.  I thought story about Deneese was extremely upsetting because ABC family basically ruined Deneese’s life (and her sisters’ life) by having her family who she loved and trusted tell her that they were ashamed by how ugly she was, then telling her that she was cut from the show because her surgery would take too long to heal.  That would be the absolute worst thing to ever hear!! That really puts a damper on ones’ confidence and self esteem levels, definitely to the point of having to be prescribed for depression. Finding out how some producers choose the people to be starred on tv was especially surprising since they are chosen based off how crazy they are. Chapter 7 was interesting to read as well because of Al Dunlap.  It was interesting to find out that most of the checklist items for a psychopath were related to succeeding in boosting his career as a CEO because he was not afraid to manipulate people or fire the ones he thought were really lazy right on the spot.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An interesting question...

How does the media influence adolescents and teenagers in America?

The Media is a huge part of society so there has to be positive and negative effects on adolescents and teenagers.  I know that I like to look at magazines and look at runway shows to see what kind of outfits the models are wearing and get ideas from them for how I should dress for that season.  Not only does it help me choose which clothes I should buy, but it shows me how I should look, body image wise.  I’m sure this could be a cause for some adolescents to start eating disorders in order to look like the models in the media.  The media shows so many different ways to live life, for example it shows off the rich and famous, the poor people with disorders, criminals minds, teen drama series, and so many more different television shows that adolescents tune into.  Does the type o show teenagers watch have an effect on their social agenda as well?  The media has so much control over the public.  It would be interesting to find out what other holds it has on adolescents and how it affects their lives. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Psychopath Test and Toto

In Chapter 4, Jon Ronson examines Bob Hare’s hypothesis that psychopath’s brains differ from non-psychopaths brains.  Ronson attends a seminar on how to detect a psychopath from a non-psychopath conducted by Bob Hare, the man who made the PCL-R Checklist that decides the diagnosis of a psychopath.  Hare tests the responses of people through an electric shock test and a Startle Reflex test.  In the electric shock test, he found psychopaths had no pain inflicted on them and could not remember the pain of the electric shock. Non-psychopaths had the complete opposite reactions.  The Startle Reflex test studied the responses of people to the sight of grotesque images.  Hare found that psychopaths were “engrossed” and “absorbed” in the images while non-psychopaths were startled at the images.  The tests proved that there was an abnormality in the brain of psychopaths.  Their brains lack activation of the amygdala that determines unpleasantness; so, the message of unpleasantness is not sent to the central nervous system.  The results from Hare’s test led Hare to look for another method to detect psychopaths in a less obvious, hands-off method, thus, leading him to the PCL-R Checklist.  During Hare’s seminar, Ronson learned how to detect a psychopath through the structure of their sentences, by analyzing a person’s phrase, by looking for a lack of impulse control, and by detecting the art of manipulation. Throughout the chapter, Ronson constantly diagnoses people with items on the checklist, which represent the behavior of a psychopath.  Hare concludes that because psychopaths brains are wired without emotion, due to the lack of activation of the amygdala, they destroy societies and communities and are the cause of injustices since their brains cannot comprehend emotions.  Lastly, Ronson examined Adam Perkins who used functional MRIs (fMRI) to identify the difference in the brains of psychopaths.  Like Hare suggested, Perkins found no change in the amygdala on the fMRI when testing electric shock on psychopaths.  This proves that there really is a difference between a psychopath’s brain and a non-psychopaths brain. 
            Chapter 4 and 5 were really interesting to read.  I find it surprising that psychopaths and sociopaths can make their way up the social ladder and have powerful roles within societies.  However, I don’t understand how they are the cause of wars and injustices.  I also don’t understand how and why people were influenced by Toto Constant to join FRAPH when it is clearly defined as a far-right paramilitary group with intentions to terrorize people.  I wouldn’t think a lot of people would join a group that terrorizes, rapes, and murders other people unless they were all psychopaths.  I also don’t understand the connection the CIA and DIA have to Toto and the FRAPH.  I think Jon Ronson’s really funny.  It’s funny and really odd that he, as a person with excessive anxiety, searches for psychopaths to interview to try to understand them. Out of all the stories about psychopaths John Ronson has told, the one that has grossed me out and has surprised me the most is the story where the psychopath manipulates the emotions of the troubled kid and has him beat his parents with a baseball bat.  This really proves to me that psychopaths have no emotions and that they most definitely have different brain functions than non-psychopaths.