I told you, I told you, I told you — the subconscious is where it’s at, Ronald Reagan was a sociopath

I tell you, I tell you, I tell you — to detect sociopaths open yourselves to your subconscious.  But do you listen to me?  Noooooooooo!

Brain damaged aphasics recognized him years ago.  They don’t have the rational language parts of the brain, but still see more of the truth than the majority of us do.

“The President’s Speech” from The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, 1985:
What was going on? A roar of laughter from the aphasia ward, just as the President’s speech was coming on, and they had all been so eager to hear the President speaking…

There he was, the old Charmer, the Actor, with his practised rhetoric, his histrionisms, his emotional appeal – and all the patients were convulsed with laughter. Well, not all: some looked bewildered, some looked outraged, one or two looked apprehensive, but most looked amused. The President was, as always, moving – but he was moving them, apparently, mainly to laughter. What could they be thinking? Were they failing to understand him? Or did they, perhaps, understand him all too well?


Exactly.  They saw right through him.

It was often said of these patients, who though intelligent had the severest receptive or global aphasia, rendering them incapable of understanding words as such, that they none the less understood most of what was said to them. . . .

[. . .] speech – natural speech – does not consist of words alone .  .  .  It consists of utterance – an uttering-forth of one’s whole meaning with one’s whole being – the understanding of which involves infinitely more than mere word-recognition. And this was the clue to aphasiacs’ understanding, even when they might be wholly uncomprehending of words as such. For though the words, the verbal constructions, per se, might convey nothing, spoken language is normally suffused with ‘tone’, embedded in an expressiveness which transcends the verbal – and it is precisely this expressiveness, so deep, so various, so complex, so subtle, which is perfectly preserved in aphasia, though understanding of words be destroyed. Preserved – and often more: preternaturally enhanced…

. . .

Thus the feeling I sometimes have – which all of us who work closely with aphasiacs have – that one cannot lie to an aphasiac. He cannot grasp your words, and so cannot be deceived by them; but what he grasps he grasps with infallible precision, namely the expression that goes with the words, that total, spontaneous, involuntary expressiveness which can never be simulated or faked, as words alone can, all too easily…

. . .

This is why they laughed at the President’s  speech.

. . .

If one cannot lie to an aphasiac, in view of his special sensitivity to expression and ‘tone’, how is it, we might ask, with patients – if there are such – who lack any sense of expression and ‘tone’, while preserving, unchanged, their comprehension for words: patients of an exactly opposite kind? We have a number of such patients, also on the aphasia ward, although, technically, they do not have aphasia, but, instead, a form of agnosia, in particular a so-called ‘tonal’ agnosia. For such patients, typically, the expressive qualities of voices disappear – their tone, their timbre, their feeling, their entire character – while words (and grammatical constructions) are perfectly understood. Such tonal agnosias (or ‘atonias’) are associated with disorders of the right temporal lobe of the brain, whereas the aphasias go with disorders of the left temporal lobe.

Among the patients with tonal agnosia on our aphasia ward who also listened to the President’s speech was Emily D. , with a glioma in her right temporal lobe. A former English teacher, and poetess of some repute, with an exceptional feeling for language, and strong powers of analysis and expression, Emily D. was able to articulate the opposite situation – how the President’s speech sounded to someone with tonal agnosia. Emily D. could no longer tell if a voice was angry, cheerful, sad – whatever. Since voices now lacked expression, she had to look at people’s faces, their postures and movements when they talked, and found herself doing so with a care, an intensity , she had never shown before. Emily D. also listened, stony-faced, to the President’s speech, bringing to it a strange mixture of enhanced and defective perceptions – precisely the opposite mixture to those of our aphasiacs. It did not move her – no speech now moved her – and all that was evocative, genuine or false completely passed her by. Deprived of emotional reaction, was she then (like the rest of us) transported or taken in? By no means. ‘He is not cogent,’ she said. ‘He does not speak good prose. His word-use is improper. Either he is brain- damaged, or he has something to conceal.’ Thus the President’s speech did not work for Emily D. either, due to her enhanced sense of formal language use, propriety as prose, any more than it worked for our aphasiacs, with their word-deafness but enhanced sense of tone.

Here then was the paradox of the President’s speech. We normals – aided, doubtless, by our wish to be fooled, were indeed well and truly fooled (‘Populus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur’). And so cunningly was deceptive word-use combined with deceptive tone, that only the brain-damaged remained intact, undeceived.


Nooooooooo!  Get that Howdy Doody face off that mountain (well out of this play pretend image)!

Even chiseled out of rock in this image, Reagan looks like a clown.  The empty eyes of a pseudologue!  The others are deep complex human beings.  Pseudologues are forever waiting for their emotions to tell them what role to play.  There is no there, there.

Practically everyone who dealt with Reagan said they hardly knew him and assumed there was a private Reagan no one knew.  No one knew the private Reagan, because there wasn’t one.  Reagan himself knew the reason, he titled his autobiography, “Where’ s the Rest of Me”.

2 thoughts on “I told you, I told you, I told you — the subconscious is where it’s at, Ronald Reagan was a sociopath

  1. I’ve always felt one of the greatest psychopathic personalities to be President was Richard Nixon. His personal notebooks were released some years back. They are basically “Notes to Self.” One stunning note he made was “When I meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, I must inquire as to the health of his wife,” i.e he had to think and plan about how normal people behaved.


    • Personally I’ve never made my mind up about Nixon in this regard. However tone deafness to normal human emotional interactions absolutely is a flag of possible psychopathy.


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