Anatomy of a Wolf Torturer

Gray wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Sadism is the word that psychoanalysts use to describe the specific malformation of manhood in the recent merciless and prideful torture and killing of a gray wolf. The young female was rendered helpless by her killer when he cravenly duct-taped her mouth shut, after he’d run over her with a snowmobile.

The gleeful smile on the face of this perpetrator, as he knelt in a Wyoming bar, holding his soul-crushed victim, speaks volumes. But it is volumes that he does not know about himself. Visiting pain upon others, in the way he did, reveals profound victimhood and fear in himself, experiences he keeps unconscious by making others experience it. Pitiable and forsaken at bottom, and in order to prop himself up, he made sure to evoke in others compassion for the wolf whose spirit he envied.

Those who follow such a leader, or celebrate him as some sort of hero or savior, might be enacting the same ejection from consciousness of their own repressed fear and failure of courage. Or, they are following one who appears to them to be strong, as they imagine him to be a protector against what they too cannot face in themselves. Or, further still, they might conceal their disapproval of his sadism, fearing his revenge should they speak up for the victim.

The Wyoming officials who allow this man’s inhumanity to go unchallenged might have any of the characteristics of his followers. Or, they may be protecting their jobs, in fear of employment retaliation, neglecting a moral responsibility. More disturbing still is the passive condonement, or active approval, by elected officials who are, first of all, in thrall to the illusions of power they imagine themselves to have, by virtue of their offices. They will say whatever they calculate is required in order to continue to be re-elected.

Facing the societal meltdown portended by recent increases in contempt and hatred, resisting any temptation not to think about it, that is the first line of defense against it. Looking away, and waiting for time to pass, as though things will be alright, offers a dangerous open door to cruelty.

Joseph Scalia III, Psya.D. is a psychoanalyst, environmental and social critic, living in the northern reaches of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. His environmental writings and interviews have appeared in numerous journals and podcasts in recent years. He is the author of Intimate Violence: Attacks Upon Psychic Interiority and numerous psychoanalytic journal articles. Scalia is in private practice in Livingston, Montana, and is President of Gallatin Yellowstone Wilderness Alliance, as well as a past President and current critic of Wild Montana (né Montana Wilderness Association).