Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joe Hunt: White Collar Psychopath

Paradox Philosophy

Joe liked to persuade people that life was best lived and business best done according to what he called "paradox" philosophy. It was a combination of situation and utilitarian ethics: the ends justified the means, and one should do whatever had to be done to benefit oneself. From different perspectives, the same item or situation can have contradictory qualities: White is black and black is white. Everything depends on how you look at it. As long as there was a payoff, one could reconcile oneself to doing anything. Anything.

The core group of "boys," as they called themselves, prepared a presentation in 1983 to give to 30 prospective members, in which Joe outlined how the club would be formed. Sue Horton points out that he took his central tenets from science fiction: People would operate in "cells" comprised of a small number of members, and a "nexus" for communication. They would propose "shapes," or monetary projects, for approval by the whole club, and the shape would have an "output."

The club itself was to be run by specific levels of personnel, and the three founders were to be called "Shadings." A Shading someone who operated in a shaded realm between black and white was eligible for leadership because he was the one who best understood paradox philosophy and who was committed to protecting it by doing whatever needed to be done. Shadings would be judges in the Paradox Court, and they would resolve all internal disputes.

As Joe put together his company and brought in more members — always young men from families of wealth or breeding he gave them a test, which was later described in court as the following:

"Would you murder someone, if you knew you could get away with it, for a million dollars?"


"Would you do it if it were a matter of saving your life?"


"Would you murder someone if you had to do it to save your mother?"

"Well... yes."

"Then you can't claim that you have a line you won't cross." 

If there were no moral absolutes, as Joe contended, then it was just a matter of believing sufficiently in the situation to take the necessary action.

Joe was always angling for psychological leverage, no matter what the gain: one-upsmanship with a wine connoisseur, deceiving an investor about where his funds were going, or manipulating his partners to do whatever he asked.

In fact, they did not even get salaries. Most had allowances from their parents, so Joe would buy them things, pick up dinner tabs, and sometimes offer them rolls of cash from out of his pockets. He kept pretty strict control over them. He was the benevolent father.

"He mesmerized us," one of the members later admitted. Joe had a charismatic manner and an ability to tell convincing stories about his success, as well as to lay out clearly what had to be done to continue to have that success. The others all bought into his schemes and became emotionally dependent. Joe's method was to instill in them an all-encompassing desire for flashy cars, beautiful girls, and classy living so that they'd go along with anything he did, including murder.