In this chapter, Jon Ronson examines the work of Elliot Barker. Barker was a psychiatrist at Oakwood Prison in the 1960’s. Inspired by the work of Paul Bindrim, who operated nude psychotherapy sessions, Barker believed the way to cure psychopaths was to pump them full of LSD while naked and surround them with other hallucinating violent offenders. In their drug-haze, the men, schizophrenics and psychopaths alike, appeared to be healed and rehabilitated. Upon the release of the ‘cured’ psychopaths, 80 percent of them re-offended, as opposed to the typical 60 percent; Barker accidentally taught psychopaths to fake empathy better and allowed them to become greater criminals.
I found this chapter disturbingly hilarious. Admittedly a nihilist, the idea that anyone could be so romantically naïve to believe that a drug-fueled, naked, new-age feeling share could cure a violent psychopath is riotous to me. However, while the gullibility of the psychiatrists is amusing, the consequences are not. The deaths of innocent people due to idealism are as saddening as it is unacceptable. Otherwise, the chapter is fascinating; a riveting story peppered with disgusting facts, Ronson shows yet another side of psychopathy.