Do you believe in the reliability of serial killer profiling? Judging from the movies and TV shows of the past few decades, even before Facebook, Twitter, the NSA and Creepy Uncle Google came along to help law enforcement officers do half their investigative work of a suspect (and by suspect I mean, of course, absolutely anyone who could even possibly have been connected in even the most spurious of ways to a criminal act), the criminal profiler could essentially describe the basic appearance, personality type and psychological background of the likely killer.
Still, one does have to wonder the reliability of such profiling. I mean, let’s be honest here. Have you ever seen a movie or TV show about a serial killer that was criminally profiled as a white guy, a loner, in his 20s to 40s, capable of moving about freely among society without drawing attention to himself, charming, good looking in an unexceptional way and, well, so on. From what one can gather about the job from movies and TV shows, the job of serial killer profiler is the stuff of dreams are made of. You show up at the crime scene, go over the available data, hand over a boilerplate template, collect your money and go home.
That’s how the FBI criminal profilers of serial killers on TV and in the movies do it anyway. But is the fictional serial killer profile in any way comparable to the actual profile of a serial killer actually utilized by the FBI?
The following is quoted directly from “Behavioral Analysis Unit-2 ” published by the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime Critical Incident Response Group of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Attendees at the Serial Murder Symposium agreed that there is no generic profile of a serial murderer. Serial killers differ in many ways, including their motivations for killing and their behavior at the crime scene. However, attendees did identify certain traits common to some serial murderers, including sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity, the need for control and predatory behavior. These traits and behaviors are consistent with the psychopathic personality disorder.”
“Psychopathy is a personality disorder manifested in people who use a mixture of charm, manipulation, intimidation, and occasionally violence to control others, in order to satisfy their own selfish needs. “
“The interpersonal traits include glibness, superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, and the manipulation of others. The affective traits include a lack of remorse and/or guilt, shallow affect, a lack of empathy, and failure to accept responsibility. The lifestyle behaviors include stimulation-seeking behavior, impulsivity, irresponsibility, parasitic orientation, and a lack of realistic life goals.”
That description is, in a nutshell, the typical profile for a serial killer established by the FBI. And yet, when one reads that profile, the bulk of those personality traits upon which the FBI has established a likely pattern of psychopathy shared by serial killers also fits another shared group of individuals who are the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to respect from law enforcement.
Predatory behavior. Lack of empathy, remorse and guilt. Failure to accept responsibility. Stimulating seeking behavior. Manipulation. Intimidation. A need to control others. Irresponsibility. When the FBI profiler reads those words, his mind automatically turns to serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer . When I read that list of personality traits, my mind automatically turns to guys like Donald Trump, venture capitalist Tom Perkins, Mitt Romney, the CEO under whom Lehman Brothers came to a spectacularly pathetic end: Richard Fuld , Jordan Belfort who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and, well, the list goes.
Basically, if you pick a name at random out of the list of America’s most successful corporate executives or the Wall Street players in league with them to do far more damage to far more people than all those identified as serial killers by the FBI, you are likely going to pick a name that fits the FBI’s profile of a serial killer.
Of course, there is one huge, glaring, quite notable difference that separates serial killers from corporate executives and Wall Street players. Serial killers go to jail for their crimes. Those other psychopaths get bonuses, severance packages and movies made about them by once great directors at the tail end of their sad downward spiral in hackdom .