Sunday, 31 January 2010

"... not a class story. It’s a crime story."

Greed. It's the underpinning of that oft-quoted christian aphorism "The poor will always be with us". The consequence of letting the greedy run roughshod and unchecked is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer - and recently, in increasing numbers.

Matt Taibi has written an impassioned response to a NYT Op-Ed by David Brooks who defended wealthy bankers and, by implication the MASSIVE scams they engineered. Taibi expertly fillets tedious and disingenuous arguments that rationalize and justify the bottomless greed of financial manipulators.

Brooks here is trying to say that by criticizing, say, Goldman Sachs for mass thievery — criticizing a bank for selling billions of dollars worth of worthless subprime mortgage-backed securities mismarked as investment grade deals, for getting the taxpayer to pay them 100 cents on the dollar for their billions in crap investments with AIG, for forcing hundreds of millions of people to pay inflated gas and food prices when they manipulated the commodities market and helped push oil to a preposterous $149 a barrel, and for paying massive bonuses after receiving billions upon billions in public support even beyond the TARP — that in criticizing the bank for doing these things, people like me are primarily interested in being divisive and “organizing hatreds.” [...]

What’s so ironic about this is that Brooks, in arguing against class warfare, and trying to present himself as someone who is above making class distinctions, is making an argument based entirely on the notion that there is an lower class and an upper class and that the one should go easy on the other because the best hope for collective prosperity is the rich creating wealth for all. This is the same Randian bullshit that we’ve been hearing from people like Brooks for ages and its entire premise is really revolting and insulting — this idea that the way society works is that the productive “rich” feed the needy “poor”, and that any attempt by the latter to punish the former for “excesses” might inspire Atlas to Shrug his way out of town and leave the helpless poor on their own to starve.

That’s basically Brooks’s entire argument here. Yes, the rich and powerful do rig the game in their own favor, and yes, they are guilty of “excesses” — but fucking deal with it, if you want to eat.

Taibbi also identifies an implicit bias in commercially oriented media:

The propagandistic argument [Brooks] makes about the dangers of “populism” is spelled out here as clearly as you’ll ever see it expressed in print, and this exact thing is a key reason why so much of the corruption that went on on Wall Street in the past few decades was allowed to spread unchecked.

That’s because this argument is tacitly accepted by almost everyone in our business, and most particularly is internalized in the thinking of most newspaper editors and TV news producers, who over time develop an ingrained habitual fear of publishing material that seems hysterical or angry.

This certainly has an effect on the content of news reporting, but perhaps even more importantly, it impacts the tone of news coverage, where outrages are covered without outrage, and stories that are not particularly “balanced” in reality — stories that for instance are quite plainly about one group of people screwing another group of people — become transformed into cool, “objective” news stories in which both the plainly bogus version of events and the real and infuriating version are given equal weight.

There's another aspect to the media coverage of the bankers' debauchery that has bothered me. Throughout it all, most if not all the engineers of these fraudulent investments remained anonymous and faceless. Understand this - the Wall Street financiers who masterminded the complicated schemes that left hundreds of thousands of US citizens bankrupt and homeless won't be held accountable for their crimes. They have walked away from the carnage with fat bonuses in their pockets.

Not so Bernard Madoff. He has become the scapegoat for Greed, diverting attention away from the blue-bloods and their wannabees at the top of the food chain.

There's a wide vein of anti-semitism in our North-American societies; exploiting the case of Bernard Madoff to draw attention away from the structural causes of the financial collapse is so very convenient. And so repulsive to many Jews, given that the majority of Madoff's clients/victims were members of, or connected to the social and cultural networks that he navigated.

Unfortunately the institutional champions of judaism are too busy attacking the critics of Israel to note a most insidious and repugnant populist display of anti-semitism shrieking at them in headlines, news items and prurient stories on TV, publications and the Internet during the last year.

Madoff has become the new Shylock. Is this happenstance? I don't think so. This is judeophobic opportunism, in my humble opinion. But don't expect rightwing socons David Frum or Mark Steyn to point this out. They know how their bread is buttered - and they like it that way.

1 comment:

Cliff said...

Great minds spot the same pull quote. ; )

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