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UNTHINKABLE 10/04/2013

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What’s Unthinkable – the Government shutdown? Yes, but we have something else in mind. Unthinkable is the title of the new independent film coming from Movies On A Mission. We’ve been in pre-production for the past three weeks and have assembled a kick-ass cast of Portland actors, including Randall Paul (“Eyes Wide Shut”), Dennis Fitzpatrick, Michael Biesanz, Drew Barrios, Deone Jennings and a ton more.
The script is based on actual events – a “murder suicide” according to local police, but possibly a professional assassination according to a well respected investigative journalist.
Want to know more? I’m producing and directing the film, but will jump in when time permits. In the meantime, stand by for updates from filmmaker and Unthinkable participant Laurie Gabriel straight from the trenches.




“SECRET FUNDS” 03/31/2013

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Movies On A Mission has just launched a new crowd funding effort for AFFIDAVIT, the film that will once and for all put an end to speculation about the CIA’s use of drug trafficking to raise “Special Funds.”

What are “Special Funds” you might ask?  Those are the off-the-books funds which are not budgeted by Congress or the President to fund special operations, such as training and arming the Contras during Iran-Contra of the 80s and today may even include tens of millions in Corporate donations to favored political candidates.  The OSS began “Special Fundraising” during WWII in Italy with the help of Mafioso Vito Genovese, by cornering the market on heroin.  Ever since, drugs have been a preferred means to fund CIA super secret operations, and today, as Washington and Colorado have voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuanna, we believe it is time that the Government’s criminal hypocrisy come to an end.

No, we are not the first to take on this mission.  In August, 1996, the San Jose Mercury News began publishing Gary Webb’s articles, The Dark Alliance, which revealed spectacular details of an Army-CIA drug ring which sold tons of cocaine to the street gangs of Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, the SJMN publishers caved in to pressure from Washington and withdrew their support for the Webb articles.  Not surprising, as David Guyatt comments in the footnotes to his articles “Deep Black – The Secret Wars of the CIA” – “Don’t expect the major media to inform you of what is really going on in the world. They won’t. To paraphrase Walter Mattheu’s one-liner uttered to perfection in the movie JFK: “These dogs don’t hunt.” Least-ways not anymore. The old media “blood-hound” is, today, curled up on a rug in front of the salary fire. His muscles have wasted, his belly is full and his nose has forgotten how to twitch – and his arm twitching dreams are of earlier days.”

Our film, AFFIDAVIT, tells the story of PFC William Tyree as documented by affidavits sworn by Tyree’s commanding officer, Col. Edward P. Cutolo and US Army Criminal Investigator, William Wilson, who served as the Army Inspector General of the May Lai Massacre.

Tyree took part in two black Operations, Watchtower and Orwell, both initiated by Edwin Wilson.  Watchtower was to “establish a series of three electronic beacon towers beginning outside of Bogata, Columbia, and running northeast to the border of Panama.” With the beacons in place and activated, aircraft could fix on their signal and fly undetected from Bogata to Panama, landing at Albrook Air Station. All told, 30 “high performance aircraft” flew the covert route to Albrook.

More alarming still, are Cutolo’s and Tyree’s allegations concerning a black operation suitably named “George Orwell” which saw the return of Edwin Wilson.   During a meeting with Cutolo, Edwin Wilson explained that “it was considered that Operation Watch Tower might be compromised and become known if politicians, judicial figures, police and religious entities were approached or received word that U. S. troops had aided in delivering narcotics from Columbia into Panama.” Based on that possibility, Cutolo, formed twelve separate Special Action Teams (SATs).  Operation Orwell was tasked with implementing intense “surveillance of politicians, judicial figures, law enforcement agencies at the state level and of religious groups.”  The underlying purpose was to provide the “United States government and the Army” with advance warning of the of the discovery of Watch Tower to enable them to “prepare a defence.”

Bill Curtis produced a broadcast television documentary, “Murder At Fort Devens” in 1998.  The program explored the prosecution and conviction of William Tyree for the murder of his wife, Elaine.  The documentary explored only what was available to the public at the time.  Tyree’s pre-trial judge, Judge James Kiliam found Tyree innocent and expressed his suspicion that “forces unknown” were at work behind  Elaine Tyree’s murder and Bill’s subsequent conviction.

But today, armed with the affidavits of Col. Cutolo and Col. William Wilson, we know that PFC William Tyree was charged, prosecuted and imprisoned for a murder Col. Cutolo knew Tyree did not commit; a murder Cutolo conspired to falsely convict Tyree of in order to protect “National Security.”

How much longer, and how many more will be murdered, die accidentally or be discredited through incarceration so that poppies and cocca leaves can fund the secret wars of the CIA? Latin America was the secret CIA war following Vietnam.  Iraq and Afghanistan were next, both based on manufactured evidence.  We are still at war in Afghanistan.  How many more of our service peoples’ lives will be wasted based on wars generating “Special Funds” and on dark secrets protected by “National Security?”

There is only one thing we can do to stop this — for those who profit from “Special Funds” to be held accountable for the crimes they have committed. That is what  AFFIDAVIT is all about, to shed light on how this has happened and to reverse course on a military bankrupting a nation and its people. Will you support AFFIDAVIT?

We can only produce “AFFIDAVIT” with your help.  The film is crowd funding at www.usaprojects.org/project/affidavit.  Whether you are able to contribute twenty-five dollars or a thousand, every dollar is tax deductible and will finance a film dedicated to reversing a terrible wrong.

Eric Stacey,
Producer, Movies On A Mission, LLC


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Well, tonight it happens, at last.  The major media, NBC specifically, brings us the latest in PR from the Pentagon in the form of its new “reality” show, Stars Earn Stripes.  (8/7 c)

If ever there were a perfect example of the military industrial complex desire to warp the minds of young people into celebrating war, this is it….  You see, gradually, the military has decided that smaller and faster makes more sense for today’s “war on terror,” with small, highly trained strike teams from Special Forces and/or Navy Seals ready to penetrate borders and take out bad guys or rescue VIPs without the necessity of taking over a country via a massive invasion. Good thinking Pentagon brass.  Very efficient.  Saves money and lives.

However, “Stars Win Stripes” is a shameless attempt to turn marginal celebrities into world class warriors of Rambo stature.  Under the direction of Gen. Wesley Clark and Bertram van Munster, best known as the producer of The Amazing Race in association with Jerry Bruckheimer (producer of Top Gun 1 & 2, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, etc.), the show pretends to put TV “celebs” in harms way to let America fully appreciate what it takes to kill at close range.  NPR says the show is “stultifyingly boring as television and badly designed as a reality-competition show.”  With celebrities like Nick Lachey, Eva Torres and Todd Palin, can anyone seriously wonder what this show is really about?  –  Todd Palin?

If you’ve ever wondered how much of what Washington has to tell us about the military and war is the truth, Stars Win Stripes might get a passing grade for impressing us with the strength, skills and determination of Special Forces and Navy Seal types, but it does nothing to deepen America’s understanding of why we go to war or carry out covert missions in the first place.  And this is one of the great underlying problems of our current state of affairs in Washington.  The military-industrial complex in collusion with the mainstream media carefully avoid any discussion of what’s important for us (voters) to understand about things like “National Security” and the “War on Terror.”

Chris Hedges has quite a lot to say on the subject in his recent book, Empire of Illusion.  “The defense industries, like all corporations, rely on deceptive ad campaigns and lobbyists to perpetuate their lock on taxpayer money.  The late Senator J. William Fulbright described the reach of the military-industrial establishment in his 1970 book The Pentagon Propaganda Machine.  Fulbright explained how the Pentagon influenced public opinion through direct contacts with the public, Defense Department films, close ties with Hollywood producers, and use of the commercial media to gain support for weapons systems.  The majority of the military analysts on television are former military officials, many employed as consultants to defense industries, a fact they rarely disclose to the public.  Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star army general and military analyst for NBC News, was, The New York Times reported, at the same time an employee of Defense Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm.  He profited, the article noted, from the sale of the weapons systems and expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan he championed over the airwaves.”

So, while Stars Earn Stripes may find an audience with young folks interested in blowing shit up, I would like to point out the fact that though we may have the strongest and best equipped military in history, that is no excuse for treating the rest of the world like it has an obligation to become like usor else.

As David Swanson, author of War is A Lie, recently wrote about our little independent film, Purple Mind, “Here’s a movie of the sort Hollywood should be required to make every time it makes a glorification of war.”  But if you want to see our movie any time soon, you’ll have to do it on-line.  It may take NBC some time before they call.


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Today’s Review:

“There have been tons of movies about men who come home from war warped in some way. Most of them are horror movies, and none of them have to do with reality. Well, Eric Stacey has taken this specific genre and given it both a base in reality and a bit of hope!

“Roy has come home from the war on terror, but he’s not the same man who left and his family isn’t quite sure why. Roy is having nightmares; he’s distant and seems to be angry all the time. The family moves to a ranch to try to get away from everything and give Roy a chance to clear his head, but the isolation only makes things worse for Roy, until it seems that he’s in danger of losing everything, his family, his home and even his life. Until the local Sheriff steps in, recognizing Roy’s problem, and sends a friend to help Roy out and lead him down a path that will get him home.

“Purple Mind is one of the best dramas I’ve seen this year. It’s realistic, it’s scary and in the end, it reminds us that not everyone can come home from something as terrible as a war and go right back to life as we all know it. Stacey has given us a glimpse into what veterans with post traumatic stress disorder go through, and that helps all of us…both the vets to not feel so isolated and us to know what’s going on.”  — Brian Morton, RogueCinema.com



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I’ve been seeing promos for a new TV series featuring contestants (celebrities) who go on combat missions with Special Forces or Navy Seal teams.  Wow.  Along those lines, I think PTSD may also be on the way to claiming its very own specific film genre.  In the press and on the web, PTSD is getting nearly as much attention as romance, science fiction & action-adventure.  While the audience for PTSD themed films is nowhere near as large as those for the better established film genres, my sense is that we will be dealing with the consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan for a long time to come (many seasons, eh corporate sponsors?).

Certainly, there is plenty of drama and conflict attached to PTSD.  Joseph Bobrow’s recent article in Huffington Post told us “the most frequent reason soldiers gave for attempting suicide was… intense emotional pain.”  He then asks, “Did we need to spend $50,000,000 to find that out?”  The apparent stupidity of psychological researchers could drive a normal person over the edge.

The question Army researchers seem focused on is that because people who try to commit suicide do so in an effort not to harm themselves so much as stop the pain, that this supports developing new therapies which focus on “quelling” emotional pain rather than on dealing with “underlying issues” such as depression or post-traumatic stress.  Don’t VA shrinks already prescribe killer amounts of pain killing drugs just to mask the symptoms?

But there may be hope.  Bobrow reminds us that since time immemorial people have been using a combination of small peer support groups, expressive arts, vigorous recreation and secular ritual to transform unbearable trauma.

Good deal.  Our film, “Purple Mind,” focuses on Roy Matthews, a veteran suffering the unbearable trauma of having taken part in the Battle of Falujah where he not only lost his best friend, but also ripped apart families, killed women and children and imprisoned countless innocent Iraqi males.  Certainly, Roy Matthews’ experience of war represents a disturbing story of the trauma of war, but it is only one story.  There are as many variations as there are soldiers and veterans suffering PTSD, many who never saw a dead person, and more still who never left their homes.  Roy’s story is just one of many hundreds of thousands, twenty percent or more which will go untreated and unresolved… at least until it becomes an accepted practice within the military to see soldiers as whole people with mental and spiritual lives in addition to meeting the physical requirements of the battlefield.

But how long and how complicated is such an outcome to take?  Arizona provides a clue.  Last week we learned that if it turns out medical marijuana might help war veterans deal with their depression of PTSD, Arizona will treat veteran potheads  as hippie-no-good-nicks looking for a phony baloney excuse to get high.

“The decision to deny requests by veterans, care providers and others for medical marijuana use for PTSD, migraine headaches, anxiety and depression follows a recommendation by medical officials in the Department of Health Services.”  Bravo medical officials for keeping our veterans safe from pot!

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, yet another new study found that among soldiers, those who had engaged the enemy in combat were found to be twice as likely as others to admit hitting someone upon their return and one third of victims of the post-combat violence were said to be close relatives of the soldiers themselves.

“The association between performing a combat role and being exposed to combat, and subsequent violence on return from deployment, is about two fold,” Dr. MacManus told the BBC.

The conflicts between government interests and the individual interests of soldiers and veterans was highlighted in a press release from The American Federation of Government Employees today.  “Dr. Michelle Washington, a post-traumatic stress disorder specialist at the Wilmington, VA Medical Center, has seen her performance rating lowered, job duties altered and job titled changed stemming from her Senate testimony about mental health care access wait times, says AFGE.”   Washington and others have faced adverse actions from the VA in a “coordinated pattern of retaliation” for bringing to light mismanagement at the VA.

“For eight months, Dr. Washington has been under attack for speaking the truth about the unmet needs of veterans facing severe mental health problems,” said AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox. “It is time for the agency’s highest level appointee over our veterans’ health care system to take prompt action to fix this situation and make Dr. Washington whole in terms of her job duties, job title and performance ratings.”

Cox called the VA’s treatment of Dr. Washington, “highly illegal, extremely disrespectful of the Congressional hearing process and threatening to the VA’s ability to identify deficiencies in services it provides to veterans.”

Mini-series anybody?  No?  Not enough drama?  Well, here’s more…

Former Connecticut Supreme Court Judge Barry Shaller’s recent book, “Veterans On Trial: The Coming Battles Over PTSD” suggests that, “Since courts in America stand uniquely on the front lines of dealing with the unsolved problems of society, courts will bear the brunt of postwar mental health problems.”

The key-art of our film “Purple Mind” tells the story in a nutshell.


Judge Shaller seems to agree.  “We should really look to our veterans with all their training and education, their experience to be leaders and model citizens. They are, after all, law abiding people who go through an experience that changes them in some ways, and causes them problems. I don’t think it’s enough that they just recover. I think that that’s setting the bar too low. … What the military should institute is a training program for soldiers’ re-entry into society, comparable in duration to basic military training.”

Very enlightened, Your Honor.  Wanna hit?





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I don’t understand why more people aren’t really angry about the number of people who have died in our two wars.  The other day, Michael Moore described the Iraq and Afghanistan “conflicts” as our two “ongoing Auroras.”

Seems that when one of our own unleashes a deadly attack on unarmed civilians with assault weapons in a theater in Colorado, we can’t stop talking about it.  But when we kill over a million innocent civilians in Iraq, we can only talk about the unfortunate results to our own troops, who I’m calling “Casualties of the Lie.”

Yesterday, I posted a five minute compilation video featuring ex-CIA asset Susan Lindauer discussing her experiences as the first non-Arab American detained under the Patriot Act for threatening to expose the Bush Administration’s lies about advance warnings of the attacks of 9/11 – lies which stand to this day as the justification for our “War on Terror.”  Trouble is, the terrorists were not just the hijackers, they were also those who took advantage of their advance knowledge of the attacks to bring down the World Trade Center and Building 7 by controlled demolition.

Don’t believe me?  Well, you’re not alone.  Most people refuse to think about Govt. complicity in the 9/11 attacks.  If they did, no one would have signed up to go off to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  If they did, we might not be witness to 18 veteran suicides a day and people wouldn’t be so impossibly familiar with the term “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

If the advance warnings of the 9/11 attacks had been responded to appropriately when the Attorney General and the President were warned, according to Lindauer, there would have been a much more satisfying result.  Through Lindauer, Iraq had offered far better than the threat of war:  they offered to purchase a million American automobiles every year for ten years; they offered American oil companies 1st tier oil export contracts; they offered American business reconstruction contracts for buildings and infrastructure throughout Iraq; and, they offered American technology companies contracts to upgrade the entire Iraq telecommunications system…. all that in exchange for our lifting sanctions responsible for the death of 5,000 Iraqi children a month.  You’d think Bush and Company would have at least considered such a great deal.

Instead we got Paul Bremmer who systematically dismantled Iraq, top to bottom, destroying a civil society and giving birth to a ten year war whose only beneficiary was the US Military Industrial Complex, and a war which still threatens to send the United States into bankruptcy.

But why does it matter, you ask, now that we’re “out” of Iraq and “winding down” in Afghanistan?  It matters because far too many people don’t want to think of America as an aggressor nation.  They want to think of America as “preserving freedom” via a military strong enough to stand up to any threat.  It matters because the trillions spent on our wars of aggression might better serve America by being spent on education, innovation, renewable energy, healthcare and infrastructure, things things which would really benefit America and Americans, things which would create jobs and turn the economy around.

If you believe the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were/are dedicated to “preserving freedom,” ask yourself this question:  What memories live in the mind of a soldier who served multiple tours in Iraq?  Ask yourself why that soldier is twice as likely to die by suicide than members of the general population.  Ask yourself what kinds of trauma, combat and deployment did that soldier experience?  Ask yourself why that soldier’s “fight for freedom” would the cause him to turn to drug and alcohol abuse, to become depressed enough to commit suicide.  Why?  In exchange for his fight to “protect our freedom,” our soldier comes home with depressive symptoms five times that of his civilian brothers and sisters.  And it is all related to stress.  Stress in the form of exposure to death – not just of his buddies, but of innocent civilians as well.  Our soldier comes home feeling isolated and disconnected.  He feels ineffective, no longer deployed or actively involved in military culture, he feels like a failure who doesn’t belong, a burden to others and unable to readjust… because there is little in common between the experience of war – especially an illegal war – and the experience of civilian values.  The war has ripped that dignity from his soul forever – unless he is fortunate enough to receive some honest and meaningful therapy.

Most returning soldiers are reluctant to speak about their experience in the war zone, especially if it contradicts the official story.  Soldiers can lose their benefits if they criticize the military.  But there are a handful of brave soldiers who are unafraid.  They belong to groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War, whose members spoke at the Winter Soldier testimony before Congress in 2008, describing the kind of experiences – clear examples – of why a soldier would come home suffering from PTSD, depression and thoughts of suicide.  Soldiers who are willing to speak truth to power, are the soldiers who truly deserve our respect.  They are the men and women who inspired us to make our film, “Purple Mind.”  They are men and women America needs to embrace and learn from in order that we not be deceived into another unjustified war designed to benefit a few large corporations at the expense of the United States of America.


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CIA-asset Susan Lindauer was the first non-Arab American detained under the Patriot Act.  Her crime was her August, 2001 effort to alert Congress and the White House to the imminent threat of terrorist airborne attacks targeting the World Trade Center.

The truth must be told.  Please share.


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If you’re someone seeking the truth about what’s going on in Washington or in our excursions into the Middle-East, it’s nearly a sure thing you won’t find it in the mainstream (corporate) media.  Our little indie feature film, “Purple Mind,” reflects what hundreds of Winter Soldiers had to say about their experiences in Iraq, but unfortunately a majority of Americans still prefer to believe the fictions of 9/11 and Sadam’s weapons of mass destruction.

This past weekend, I met ex CIA-Asset Susan Lindauer, who was the first non-Arab American prosecuted and silenced under the Patriot Act from talking about her direct knowledge of terrorist World Trade Center attacks well in advance of 9/11.  Susan’s story is terrifying, but now available from Amazon.com – “Extreme Prejudice” – a fascinating study in how the Patriot Act nearly destroyed Susan, eviscerated the US Constitution, and continues to threaten us all today.

One of the “secret charges” brought against Susan was an accusation that she received a book from Iraqi colleague about the US Military’s use of depleted uranium and the resulting birth defects suffered by Iraqis and cancers by American soldiers.  John Ashcroft’s US prosecutors said Susan’s possession of this “classified information” constituted a risk to demoralizing US troops and they attempted to imprison her without trial for up to ten years, an effort which, thankfully, Susan was able to overcome.

So, today I would like to share what one Winter Soldier had to say about what really demoralizes the troops.  Here it is…


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I sure didn’t expect to be writing about mass murder today, but it’s pretty hard to ignore when a lunatic gunman opens fire on the audience of a midnight movie.  Apparently there are some similarities between how James Holmes conducted his mass kill and “The Joker’s” excessive killing in “The Dark Knight.”  But I am in agreement with others who refuse to give credence to the idea that the movie made him do it.  Rather, I think that the more detached from reality we become as a society, the more psychopaths we hatch to kill us when we’re unaware.

Our film, “Purple Mind,” illustrates the result of an organization which conditions men and women headed for combat to suppress their emotions when it comes to killing.  The tougher our warriors are in battle the better.  They are trained to put their feelings inside little boxes and shut their feelings away while they are at war.  The danger is that these men and women come home and suddenly they’re expected to become “normal” again, like turning on a switch.  But it doesn’t happen that way, does it.

Films are more violent today then ever in the history of cinema.  Our bad guys are generally psychopaths who have become more and more glorified as our movies have moved further from depictions of real life to stories reflecting the excesses of the comics films like “The Dark Knight” are based on.  Hey, they’re fun.  But they are also way out there!

So, with all that in mind, I thought I’d repost an article from Scientific American, “What Psychopath Means.”  It’s pretty interesting.

By Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz  | November 28, 2007

We have all heard these phrases before. “Violent psychopath” (21,700). “Psychopathic serial killer” (14,700). “Psychopathic murderer” (12,500). “Deranged psychopath” (1,050). The number of Google hits following them in parentheses attests to their currency in popular culture. Yet as we will soon discover, each phrase embodies a widespread misconception regarding psychopathic personality, often called psychopathy (pronounced “sigh-COP-athee”) or sociopathy. Indeed, few disorders are as misunderstood as is psychopathic personality. In this column, we will do our best to set the record straight and dispel popular myths about this condition.

Charming but Callous
First described systematically by Medical College of Georgia psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley in 1941, psychopathy consists of a specific set of personality traits and behaviors. Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.

Not surprisingly, psychopaths are overrepresented in prisons; studies indicate that about 25 percent of inmates meet diagnostic criteria for psychopathy. Nevertheless, research also suggests that a sizable number of psychopaths may be walking among us in everyday life. Some investigators have even speculated that “successful psychopaths”—those who attain prominent positions in society—may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.

Most psychopaths are male, although the reasons for this sex difference are unknown. Psychopathy seems to be present in both Western and non-Western cultures, including those that have had minimal exposure to media portrayals of the condition. In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University, found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe “a man who … repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and … takes sexual advantage of many women—someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment.” When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”

The best-established measure of psychopathy, the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), developed by University of British Columbia psychologist Robert D. Hare, requires a standardized interview with subjects and an examination of their file records, such as their criminal and educational histories. Analyses of the PCL-R reveal that it comprises at least three overlapping, but separable, constellations of traits: interpersonal deficits (such as grandiosity, arrogance and deceitfulness), affective deficits (lack of guilt and empathy, for instance), and impulsive and criminal behaviors (including sexual promiscuity and stealing).

Three Myths
Despite substantial research over the past several decades, popular misperceptions surrounding psychopathy persist. Here we will consider three of them.

1. All psychopaths are violent. Research by psychologists such as Randall T. Salekin, now at the University of Alabama, indicates that psychopathy is a risk factor for future physical and sexual violence. Moreover, at least some serial killers—for example, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Rader, the infamous “BTK” (Bind, Torture, Kill) murderer—have manifested numerous psychopathic traits, including superficial charm and a profound absence of guilt and empathy.

Nevertheless, most psychopaths are not violent, and most violent people are not psychopaths. In the days following the horrific Virginia Tech shootings of April 16, 2007, many newspaper commentators described the killer, Seung-Hui Cho, as “psychopathic.” Yet Cho exhibited few traits of psychopathy: those who knew him described him as markedly shy, withdrawn and peculiar.

Regrettably, the current (fourth, revised) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), published in 2000, only reinforces the confusion between psychopathy and violence. It describes a condition termed antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which is characterized by a longstanding history of criminal and often physically aggressive behavior, referring to it as synonymous with psychopathy. Yet research demonstrates that measures of psychopathy and ASPD overlap only moderately.

2. All psychopaths are psychotic. In contrast to people with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, who often lose contact with reality, psychopaths are almost always rational. They are well aware that their ill-advised or illegal actions are wrong in the eyes of society but shrug off these concerns with startling nonchalance.

Some notorious serial killers referred to by the media as psychopathic, such as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, have displayed pronounced features of psychosis rather than psychopathy. For example, Manson claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and Berkowitz believed he was receiving commands from his neighbor Sam Carr’s dog (hence his adopted nickname “Son of Sam”). In contrast, psychopaths are rarely psychotic.

3. Psychopathy is untreatable. In the popular HBO series The Sopranos, the therapist (Dr. Melfi) terminated psychotherapy with Tony Soprano because her friend and fellow psychologist persuaded her that Tony, whom Dr. Melfi concluded was a classic psychopath, was untreatable. Aside from the fact that Tony exhibited several behaviors that are decidedly nonpsychopathic (such as his loyalty to his family and emotional attachment to a group of ducks that had made his swimming pool their home), Dr. Melfi’s pessimism may have been unwarranted. Although psychopaths are often unmotivated to seek treatment, research by psychologist Jennifer Skeem of the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues suggests that psychopaths may benefit as much as nonpsychopaths from psychological treatment. Even if the core personality traits of psychopaths are exceedingly difficult to change, their criminal behaviors may prove more amenable to treatment.

Psychopathy reminds us that media depictions of mental illness often contain as much fiction as fact. Moreover, widespread misunderstandings of such ailments can produce unfortunate consequences—as Tony Soprano discovered shortly before the television screen went blank.


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With the constant stream of articles in publications big and small across the U.S. about soldiers dealing with PTSD, I’m hopeful that more people will wake up to the fact that PTSD is something that affects not just returning soldiers, but all of those around them as well.  How does that work, you ask?  Consider two recent stories.

A recent article in the LA Times described Ruth Moore, once a “vivacious” 18-year-old serving in the Navy who was raped by a superior outside a club in Europe.  The result of the rape was that Ruth attempted suicide and was discharged, diagnosed by the Navy with borderline personality disorder, an ailment she says she did not have.

Moore applied for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs but was denied multiple times — despite submitting witness testimony that she had been raped. Finally, after decades, Moore won 70% compensation for the post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, and depression that had made her unemployable.  The process took Moore 23 years to resolve and she counts herself as one of the “fortunate ones.”

Another recent article in the LA Times describes the real life nightmare of Staff Sgt. Joshua Eisenhauer, who woke early one morning to shouts and footsteps in the darkness, then a banging on his door.  As Eisenhauer rose from the mattress on the floor of his apartment in Fayetteville, N.C., he reached under the bedding for his Glock 19 pistol and fired into the darkness.

What Eisenhauer didn’t know was that the noises weren’t insurgents storming his position in Afghanistan, but firefighters responding to a minor fire on Jan. 13. Eisenhauer, a veteran of two Afghanistan combat tours diagnosed with severepost-traumatic stress disorder, suddenly became the target of an ensuing gun battle with police.  Eisenhauer was shot in the face, chest and thigh, finally passing out from blood loss. When he was first able to speak in a hospital two days later, according to his lawyer, he asked a nurse: “Who’s got the roof?”

Now Eisenhauer is inmate No. 1304704 in Raleigh’s Central Prison. He faces 17 counts of attempted murder of firefighters and police officers, nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and other charges. No firefighters or police were hit.

Just two examples of ex-military dealing with PTSD in a country filled with communities and families living with 500,000 veterans also dealing with PTSD.  As Sgt. Eisenhauer’s case demonstrates, it is becoming increasingly important that we all become aware of the potential of everyday situations with the potential to trigger flashbacks in someone wrestling with symptoms.

We originally made our independent feature film,  “Purple Mind,” to encourage veterans dealing with PTSD to seek help, but it has also become clear that our film might also benefit others as well.  We are all closer than we might think to a possible encounter with someone experiencing a flashback.

With the VA able only to treat a fraction of those suffering from PTSD, the Wounded Warriors Project has published a list of ten tips to help those dealing with PTSD and to help others understand that PTSD can be treated and is a normal human reaction to abnormally stressful situations.


1. Let the veteran determine what they are comfortable talking about and don’t push.

2. Deep breathing exercises or getting to a quiet place can help them cope when stress seems overwhelming.

3. Writing about experiences can help the veteran clarify what is bothering them and help them think of solutions.

4. Alcohol and drugs may seem to help in the short run, but make things worse in the long run.

5. Crowds, trash on the side of the road, fireworks and certain smells can be difficult for veterans coping with PTSD.

6. Be a good listener and don’t say things like, “I know how you felt,” or, “That’s just like when I…” Even if you also served in a combat zone. Everyone’s feelings are unique.

7. http://www.restorewarriors.org is a website where warriors and their families can find tools on how to work through combat stress and PTSD issues. Learn about more mental health support resources that ease symptoms of combat stress.

8. Remind warriors they are not alone and many others have personal stories they can share about their readjustment. Talking to other warriors can help them cope.

9. Allow and encourage warriors and their family members to express their feelings and thoughts to those who care about them.

10. Let them know that acknowledging they may have PTSD says they’re strong, not weak.