WHAT IF THE BOGEYMAN is real? In six words, that is what Stephen King’s “The Outsider” is all about. The adaptation of King’s novel for HBO was exceptionally well done. The viewer, along with the hero, is led through the crack in reality which the arrival of “El Cuco” (the Spanish bogeyman) in a small Georgia town opens up. By the final, blood-soaked episode the suspension of our disbelief has become an accomplished fact. The Bogeyman is real.

King is no fool, however. Marching in lockstep with the supernatural is his depiction of the psychic disintegration of “El Cuco’s” slave – the would-be military sniper whose psychiatric test-results were so disturbing that, in spite of his excellent marksmanship, the military authorities felt obliged to decline his application. Thwarted, embittered, violent: “El Cuco’s” creature, now a police officer, spirals down into that all-too-real bogeyman – the American mass-shooter.

The festering sore that erupts on the back of the necks of “El Cuco’s” slaves may be a crude metaphor, but that doesn’t make it a bad one. How better to represent the raging social inflammations that have left no part of the United States uninfected? With mass shootings happening virtually every other day in the USA, we reach, almost unconsciously, for concepts like “a nation living under an evil spell”. When “natural” explanations come up short, where else is there to look except through that crack in reality – at the supernatural?

Resisting this temptation, we reassure ourselves that, even if a mass shooting occurred every single day in the USA, the number of shooters annually would only come to 365. In a nation of 327 million human-beings, 365 shooters represents a vanishingly small sliver (i.e. 0.0001%) of the population. Real though these mass-shooter bogeymen may be, we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that there aren’t very many of them!

But, is that true? Is the number of psychopathic and sociopathic individuals in any given society truly as vanishingly small as we like to tell ourselves? Isn’t it more likely that the mass-shooters and serial-killers filling the headlines represent only the tip of a much, much larger iceberg of frightfulness? A proposition which, if true, raises another question: How big is that iceberg? What percentage of the population might best be described as “functioning” psychopaths and sociopaths?

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An answer, of sorts, was provided just a few days ago in a Spinoff post by David Brain, co-founder of “Stickybeak” an online polling agency. Brain had been keen to discover the “mood of the nation” as New Zealand entered its first week of Level 4 lockdown. By in large, Kiwis responded positively to Stickybeak’s questions. Trust and confidence levels in the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis were high.

Then came the question: “The government has now said that we all need to stay at home; not go to school or work; not travel or socialise with people outside our home for at least 4 weeks. Do you plan to comply?” It was not the fact that 91 percent of those participating in the poll affirmed their intention to comply with these rules that was surprising, but that 9 percent openly declared their intention to defy them.

It is a disturbing result to reflect upon. In the midst of a state of national emergency, when the best medical advice insists that everyone other than workers in essential industries must “stay home and save lies”, an astonishing 9 percent of the population sees no reason to take the steps deemed necessary to keep the population – especially the elderly and other citizens with compromised immune systems – safe. Not even the warning that widespread lack of compliance with Level 4 rules would see the lockdown period extended, was enough to give these ‘9 Percenters’ pause.

It is possible, of course, that those indicating their intention not to comply with the rules are the very same essential service workers who must leave their “bubbles” to keep the rest of us safe. We must hope so. Because, if nearly 10 percent of the population are either sociopaths: manifesting grandiosity, narcissism, lack of empathy and a general disdain for the moral precepts that govern the conduct of their fellow citizens; or psychopaths: manifesting behaviour that is deviant, dysfunctional, distressing and/or just plain dangerous, then we are all in very serious trouble.

If 9 percent of the population refuses to comply with the lockdown’s rules, then the rest of us are not about to be released from it anytime soon. Indeed, it’s difficult to see how the Government’s strategy of eliminating Covid-19 can possibly succeed if close to a tenth of the population intends to withhold their co-operation.

It makes you think of all the perpetrators of spousal and family violence with whom the Police are required to contend every day. It recalls the behaviour of all the bosses and managers who have already signalled their callous indifference to the fate of their businesses’ employees during the Covid-19 crisis. You count up the thousands of cyber-bullies and Twitter trolls who delight in inflicting pain and humiliation on their fellow human-beings. And you remember all the postings and comments you’ve read over the past 7 days about New Zealand becoming a “police state”, and a “nation of narks”, and you can’t help wondering whether 9 percent is an underestimate of just how many real bogeymen and bogeywomen are out there.

As the Scots once prayed, and in these dismal times may still pray: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.” A grim list, to which Stephen King would no doubt add his own special plea for divine deliverance: from all those who position themselves outside the boundaries of human kindness and solidarity.



  1. Great article Chris. The incidence of sociopathy and psychopathy is hard to measure as these conditions are not absolute, but rather fall on the broader spectrum of antisocial personality disorders.
    Nevertheless, I share your concerns.
    The large body of people sitting at the non-empathetic end of that scale explains why neoliberalism took hold and persisted. As a philosophy that essentially worships greed, it holds great appeal to sociopaths and psychopaths, allowing them to justify their behaviour.
    Indeed, because they are unable to even understand the notion of altruism and caring (which they simply percieve as ‘weaknesses’ other folk must ‘endure’), the financialisation of every aspect of our lives under the current abhorent economic system gives them an understandable measure of what’s “right” and “wrong”.
    The corporate profit-before-all motive is perfectly psychopathic in that regard.
    The incidence of psychopathy in our business and political ‘highflyers’ will be much higher than for the general populace.
    Suggested reading for anyone interested is Dr Robert Hare’s book “Without Conscience”. He is a world renowned expert and respected academic in the field. If you ever sit and wonder why the world can be so unbelievably bad at times, then understanding psychopathy will give you the answer.

  2. Chris
    Brilliant series that is!
    Hey, we’re all in your camp, but who is the real outsider here? It’s JA and her Govt – every day she releases lots of infected people into NZ – by NOT quarantining them on arrival. OMG, she even defends her approach!!! Every time they say ‘majority still linked to overseas travel’…my blood just boils.
    Putting the country in lockdown and dishing out money weren’t the big decisions, they are no-brainers.
    Shutting our borders to people arriving would have been the REAL big decision. But JA does not do REAL big decisions. She just does those that look good on camera.
    What’s the point us of be complicit, when the very govt that says we must do so, doesn’t??? Does that not make you angry already Chris?!

    • Agree with everything you say . Last week 5000 people cam through the border. 3600 went into volentary isolation. What a joke as we get the message everyday that most cases still lead back to travellers.
      Jacinda is good at being nice but does not come over as being able to make the really hard calls..This rolls over to the lockdown as it is very loose and throws a huge burden on police to decide if an activity is in or out .

    • Yes our borders should be shut and every person who has come in should be in a hotel in Dorkland waiting their time to be released. Imagine if one of these people has the virus, you know surely that is a crime equal to some of the crimes that people in Aotearoa are locked up for in our prisons. They only people allowed in should be Kiwis and they get locked up immediately.

  3. It is important to keep the lockdown but also important not to let a ‘jackboot’ and ‘vigilante’ mentality to become part of the lockdown.

    It should be up to police and authorities to ‘question’ and ‘attack’ others over what they are up to. And the police also need to be sympathetic to a wide range of situations which if not leading to social contact should be allowed.

    There can be other factors at play, such as NZ extremely high family violence, Perinatal depression and other types of depression, where being cooped up at home can lead to triggers. It is for the best, if people who are not feeling well mentally are allowed to ‘get out’ and have that walk, drive pie or whatever they need without some jackboot on their case making the situation worse and allow a bit of peace and separation between families who might need it.

    In addition the social media post from the North Shore where a family walking together were attacked verbally by another person who had his aggressive, abusive (incorrect) views on their family walk caught on camera should be discouraged.

    Remember the lock down is about saving lives, not adding to the hospital admissions through violence that can be triggered by the lockdown or vigilantes!

    • The police cannot be everywhere, “Savenz”. They rely on the community to support them.

      If you want sufficient police numbers, we’d have to have ten, twenty, times our current number. Plus a para-military force perhaps when people get stroppy.

      THAT is a police state.

      “Remember the lock down is about saving lives, not adding to the hospital admissions through violence that can be triggered by the lockdown or vigilantes!”

      The lockdown can only work if people comply. If near-10% refuse, that endangers us all. If we don’t act collectively to help each other, we will surely perish individually.

      Chris has sussed it very well in his piece above. You would do well to give it deeper consideration.

    • So what do I do when all these young guys cycle past my house together, they are clearly not a bubble! If their parents know then they should be in trouble as well.

  4. Spare a thought for the kids who are home 24/7 with their abusers in NZ.

    New Zealand Child Abuse Statistics

    On average, 1 child dies every 5 weeks in New Zealand.

    Between 1 January 2019 and 30 November 2019, 11 children and young people have died as a result of homicide in New Zealand.

    The Homicide Report

    Released 13 May 2019

    Every 8th homicide victim in New Zealand from 2004 to 31 March 2019 was a child
    More than two thirds of the victims were aged 2 or under
    Of the cases where the killer’s relationship to the victim was known, 27% were mothers, 24% were fathers, and 17% were de facto partners.


    Family violence statistics

    • Helena Jordan: regarding your link, YouTube has posted a message: “that video has been removed for violating YouTube community guidelines”. Whatever the hell that means….

  5. Less judgement is needed in these times!

    Coronavirus: Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s rant over Kaitaia’s ‘joke’ of a lockdown criticised by locals

    Especially when you got it wrong last time.

    Coronavirus outbreak: Dr Lance O’Sullivan warns not to get ‘overwhelmed’ by the hype

    And funny enough Lance was in China at the time of dismissing Coronavirus, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=12303228 kinda like got caught up in the Chinese propaganda which also seemed to dismiss Coronavirus for months, including arresting Chinese doctors who warned other doctors about the outbreak to try and keep them safer…https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/doctor-punished-coronavirus-warnings-dies-disease-who-confirms-n1131556

  6. There is some quite unsophisticated thinking occurring over the lock-down. Sure, I’m 100% compliant with the rules but I’m also smart enough to realize that the lock-down rules don’t make scientific sense in some areas:

    • Military and police are some of the best people amongst us and simultaneously some of the worst, no other organisation asks its employees to sacrifice there own lives or take lives for their country. Before the lockdown a police officer had been charged with rape. The story was chilling how lawyers described video footage showing the defendant hiding behind things before waiting for the coast to clear and entering the victims room.

      So we can trust in the military and police to do there job and we can give them taxpayer money to train and become really good at it but when it comes to idolising the police and military as in going out of your way to thank them for there service or apologise for police brutality (which is very American) don’t because they are simultaneously the best and worst of us. We can respect them but at the same time they’ve got to be left well enough alone.

  7. All you have to do with this poll is scroll down to the methodology and aims of Stickybeak.

    “Respondents were self-selecting participants, recruited via Facebook and Instagram.”

    “Stickybeak is a New Zealand startup launched globally last June, that uses chatbots to make quantitative market research more conversational and therefore less boring and even fun for respondents.”

    So it’s complete shit designed for sale to what passes for the media nowadays to peddle to gullible fools. Or as Wikipedia’s article on self selection bias says… SLOP.

    “Self-selection bias is a major problem in research in sociology, psychology, economics, politics and not only its research but its practice, too, and many other social sciences. In such fields, a poll suffering from such bias is termed a self-selected listener opinion poll or “SLOP”.”

  8. An online clicky sticky poll is one thing (autocue fumbler Mark Richardson is building his career on them) but facts are another. Everyone is complying with martial law. No one has been arrested for breaking lockdown let alone the half million you are projecting. I heard Mike Bush giving his opinion on people getting outside and exercising during lockdown and he said “it’s legal but…” There are no buts when it comes to enforcing the law, you are either breaking it, in which case Bush and his jackboots can arrest, or you are abiding by the law, in which case the public have a right to be left the fuck alone. His view of the law seems to be a subjective ideological standpoint where you are within your rights to do something, but should refrain from doing so for reasons unknown (probably Freudian). This is authoritarianism. It is the surveillance state created by successive governments, their cronies and their enablers. It is the judicial system where demigods in funny wigs sentence some to jail for smoking weed or fishing for trout. It is the police force where minorities can be targeted more than others. It is this ridiculous 2 metre social distancing paranoia fear of others and the sudden militarisation of supermarkets. This system has been created by faceless, wealthy sociopaths at the top of the food chain who use their network of useful idiots to rule and destroy and make a profit (Stephen King has probably yet to create characters as vile as this). They have been self isolating their whole lives and so may it continue.

    • Hear hear. Mike Bush is entitled to his opinion but he should take off his blue pinafore and big man pants to do it, civvy styles

  9. Interesting topic Chris. What I am seeing though, is that during the early stages of the lockdown, there was a lot of “we’re in this together” mentality but that does seem to be breaking down. We’re seeing some greatly benefit from the lockdown, others seem to have no impact whatsoever and others bearing the full brunt, and that feeling of injustice may trigger greater social problems than we may never realise until it’s over.

    Nearly all small to medium businesses and their employees are doing it hard, some taking massive pay cuts while they continue to work from home. Many in the public sector continue to get full pay while staying at home doing home renovating or gardening, and certain businesses are creaming it because they fell on the right side of the ledger in regards to what is deemed as essential…or they have the ear of people making these decisions.

    And to make matters worse, the ones suffering a great deal, are seeing people let in the country without full quarantine and a lack of testing on all fronts, so the trust in the decision makers is falling daily. So you may put me in that 9% of psychopaths, but until I see leadership that is really making some real tough decisions are we are ALL doing our bit, then why should i be taking the hits whilst others clearly are not.

    • yeah so we have weak biosecurity at the boarder. Well as weak as it is possible to fund under neoliberalism. Boarder security has been subjected to the same treasury formulas that cut NZDFs medical units (I don’t enjoy either Labour nor Nationals defence policies).

      So Labour and National cut spending for political reasons. It’s good for there image. Then the buaracrate comes along and makes boarder people redundant, that’s good for his salary. Then the tourist ignores health warnings because they’ve put in for the holiday 6 months in advance, now or never.

      Why should any of these people care about society and the consequences of there actions?

      • I believe Treasury has a Budget and staffing revision now and then. When was the last?
        I suppose that if one looks in the right place it is possible to find out what their annual funding is. Do we have to have Treasury by law? And why are they necessary? Did we have a period when we did all right without them?

  10. There will be a lot of anger building up in the compliant majority at those not complying. This will become a serious issue. And it all stems from one and one thing only:
    Labour simply cannot use clear language in any of their directives or policies. Even after 8 days of this.
    For example (for those with kids):
    “You should avoid leaving your room” has a very different effect than “You are grounded”.
    “You should avoid driving to a surfspot or doing an ocean swim” has a very different effect than ” You are not allowed to drive to a surfspot and cannot go for an ocean swim”.

    Or take that buzzword “Rent Freeze”…I can’t interpret it any other way as “I don’t have to pay rent”. What a stupid thing to put out there when all they had to say “Rent increases are NOT ALLOWED”.

    It’s all about their ‘caring let’s not offend anyone’ language – that’s not what is needed here!

    Jacinda will have real problems with her daughter one day if she can’t even use words like “Grounded!”or “DON’T TOUCH!”…or even just “NO!”

  11. Like every single thing.
    We’re only as strong as our weakest links.
    I’ve just been to a small supermarket for essentials; wine, and walked in on a fat man coughing down one of the aisles. It was that kind of watery cough that you know contains bits of lung and many wee beasties.
    I shouted ” Fat man coughing! ” then ran for it.
    I had a proper industrial respirator in my car and put it right fucking on man. It covers my eyes and everything then I went back inside as Mr Phlegm sputtered past the veggies.
    While I was standing there waiting in my full face paranoia device for the bony woman with the tattered ankle tattoo to pay for her bag of lollies and her super slim filters I thought? ” What a perfect time for an armed robbery? Everybody’s wearing a mask! “

  12. I have a ghost story.
    These true events happened to me.
    I owned a very beautiful and very large old building once. It had a managers residence upstairs and office’s and a public space below. It was a glorious example of 1911 arcitexture built in brick with Greek features.
    Then, I had to sell it. I owned it for 27 years and was there to celebrate its one hundredth birthday and my mum went there to die.
    It was with a heavy heart that I sold that building. Is it a bad thing, to love an inanimate object?
    A week or so after I signed the sale and purchase agreement, I lay asleep in the front bedroom one morning to wake up unable to move a single muscle.
    I woke up to the sensation of someone coming and sitting down on the edge of my bed. I literally felt myself sinking down towards the edge of the matteress as the weight of their invisible self settled…
    I lay there…awake now and wondering what the fuck was going on. I could move my eyes, that was all. I struggled and strained and tried to focus on my arms and legs as an invisible force held me in a vice like grip. Then! I could move my head slightly left and right… then, I could move my fingers, then my toes and legs and arms. As I writhed to escape my invisible constraints I leaned up on my left elbow and said out loud…” What, that fuck was that about ! ? ”
    Then the misery of moving my stuff. ( Too many ‘then’s. I appreciate that.)
    I went back to welcome the new owners and it was at that point the new owners wife said ” Ah, you never told us about the ghost then? Did ja? ”
    I said ” Ghost? What ghost?” She said ” I made th’ bed an’ when I went into the bedroom later, there was a bum mark on the edge of the bed, right there! Wasn’t me, and hubby was at work.”
    Their bed was exactly where mine had been in the main upstairs bedroom.
    What she never knew, was that I very quietly asked that spirit what next Saturday’s Lotto numbers were.
    “Spirit could you guide my hand… ”
    Nothing. Not one cent. Thanks very bloody much, ghost.
    Or not…
    ” Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being unable to move, either at the onset of sleep or upon awakening. The individual’s senses and awareness are intact, but they may feel as if there is pressure on them, or as if they are choking. It may be accompanied by hallucinations and intense fear.”

  13. This seems alarmist to me. And the term ‘Stay home and save lives’ misses a v in your version.
    This:Then came the question: “The government has now said that we all need to stay at home; not go to school or work; not travel or socialise with people outside our home for at least 4 weeks. Do you plan to comply?” It was not the fact that 91 percent of those participating in the poll affirmed their intention to comply with these rules that was surprising, but that 9 percent openly declared their intention to defy them.

    Is too wide a question to have its answers taken on strict face value. Each part of the question needs to be defined. Not travel – only when necessary to the supermarket – is that yes or no.
    Not socialise – does that mean that I can’t talk over the fence, see my friends in the street if I keep
    two metres away?
    I feel depressed enough already without being taken on a paranormal trip to hell. I don’t watch zombie movies either. What you watch and read gets into your brain, and when there is so much important stuff and helpful and cheery stuff that gives a laugh and helps you to carry on. there isn’t time for creepy tales too close to improbable reality. Talk us up please Chris.

  14. Just a small point that has been worrying me. If the police start arresting people for infringements of the lock down, where exactly are they going to keep them? Police cells would soon fill up, and would they then start sending people to overcrowded prisons/breeding grounds for the virus? In fairness to the police (not something i particularly promoted in the past) there job requires close contact with some fairly unsavoury characters. This i should imagine would have many of them on edge, without the power tripping occasioned by a few.

    • Good point. G A P. It’s time for Society to arise from the tomb that Margaret Thatcher relegated it to. (In keeping with the theme of the paranormal that Chris has introduced.) Authoritarian is the last resort here, punitive is resorting to what should be held at bay, as the fist in the velvet glove.
      Try ‘Perhaps Love’ in our dealings first.

  15. The words of Perhaps Love by John Denver. They are very poignant, meaningful now. (By the way that is Welsh Bryn Terfel and Rhys Meirion also sounds Welsh.)

    Perhaps love is like a resting place, a shelter from the storm
    It exists to give you comfort, it is there to keep you warm
    And in those times of trouble when you are most alone
    The memory of love will bring you home

    Perhaps love is like a window, perhaps an open door
    It invites you to come closer, it wants to show you more
    And even if you lose yourself and don’t know what to do
    The memory of love will see you through

    Love to some is like a cloud, to some as strong as steel
    For some a way of living, for some a way to feel
    And some say love is holding on and some say letting go
    And some say love is everything, and some say they don’t know

    Perhaps love is like the ocean, full of conflict, full of pain
    Like a fire when it’s cold outside, thunder when it rains
    If I should live forever, and all my dreams come true
    My memories of love will be of you

    Love to some is like a cloud, to some as strong as steel
    For some a way of living, for some a way to feel
    And some say love is holding on and some say letting go
    And some say love is everything, and some say –
    .. they don’t know.

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