The New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser appears mentally ill, as if she lacks the capacity for imaginative empathy. For example, she recently changed her mind and supported the rights of gays to marry, but only after her own niece gay-married. In her column, she noted minds were changing across the state. “The reason is plain,” she wrote. “This is personal.” As in, narcissistic? Peyser doesn’t seem able to grasp anything abstract; she only understands things that affect her personally.
So imagine what she has to say about the geese of Prospect Park.
In a recent column about the ongoing goose wars, she writes, “Call me cruel. The only good goose I know is served on a plate.” OK: you’re cruel. No doubt about it. But that cruelty seems like merely a symptom of something deeper: psychopathy, perhaps, or narcissistic personality disorder? I’m not the first to consider this. “Andrea Peyser is…mentally ill,” writes the only commenter on a New York Magazine profile, “sick on the soul.”
Not caring about geese is one thing, but Peyser relentlessly mocks anyone who does. They’re “goose-rights wackos” with “too much free time on their hands” who love “vile creatures.” She even mocks the penurious patrons of a Pennsylvania food bank who will eat the Canada geese rounded up and exterminated by the department of environmental protection this year: “I hope I never get that hungry.” (emphasis added)
Peyser frames the goose debate around aviation safety, but why is that something she cares so much about? Is it because she rides planes?
What Peyser ridicules is what she seems incapable of doing: caring about something besides oneself, imagining the suffering experienced by a consciousness that is not one’s own. There are names for that inability in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
But, hey, at least she’s no longer calling for the deaths of Prospect Park’s geese. (In a column last year, she led with “the geese must die.”) Anne-Katrin Titze, a NY State DEC licensed wildlife rehabilitator and Prospect Park wildlife advocate who met with Peyser for her column, explains that she and her partner Ed Bahlman were instrumental in effecting this change of heart. “It is interesting that she doesn’t mention meeting us at the lake,” Titze wrote in an email, “and yet it still had an impact on her writing.”
It was important that Peyser agreed to meet us at Prospect Park’s lake, because in her previous column she commented erroneously that the number of geese was growing. Ed and I met her at the Parkside entrance to the park so we could show the empty lake and the molting feathers. As we walked the eastern side of the lake she kept asking, ‘where are the geese?’ This experience, of walking the expanse of the lake to come upon the low number of molting Canada Geese peacefully congregating on a hill, convinced her that we were right in saying that the USDA would not come, nor should they come. After seeing 23 of the [park’s] 29 molting, flightless geese, she said, ‘that doesn’t seem like a lot of geese.’ She asked, ‘what do you think of the announcement that the USDA is not coming here?’ Ed said ‘that it was the best possible response after what happened last year.’ This kind of information and firsthand observation made it impossible for her to call for a 2011 cull in Prospect Park.
Peyser might be incapable of empathy, but at least she (sometimes) possesses a capacity for cold logic!