On vampires: bad anti-capitalism

PictureThe financial crisis, as many people have noted, has been a hospitable time for populist critics of finance capitalism. (As one capitalist blogger puts it, “with the Economist hosting forums for money manager Jeremy Grantham to denounce the financial industry as a “blood-sucker,” with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calling Goldman Sachs “blood-sucking,” with the Huffington Post and the New York Times running articles denouncing the financial industry as “parasitic,” with the Atlantic running a piece by Michael Kinsley pondering a much-discussed article comparing Goldman Sachs to a vampire squid”.)
The partial and one-sided critique of finance capital makes sense in a time when financial instruments have brought poverty and misery to many, but it is an inadequate response.

American trade union blogger Stephen Diamond wrote this recently:

I’ve been banned from the website Naked Capitalism run by Yves Smith. (Follow the link to read our exchange – beware the language used by Smith is not for the faint hearted.)

This is the first time that has happened, but in the atmosphere now being created it is not a surprise. Interestingly the ban occurred not after I expressed disagreement with Smith over the Goldman SEC case, which I had done several times but only after I asked her about her claim to have reviewed her legal conclusions with firms involved in the case. She is refusing to tell her readers who those firms are or at least what their role in the case is. Yet, as I explain here, that is important.

It is pretty clear there is a layer of naive anti-Wall Street populism emerging now that would rather not bother with niceties like arguments about the rule of law. Yves Smith is, unfortunately, one of the leaders of this pack. And she has penned a rather simplistic attack on finance called “Econned” which takes up the populists’ cause, laying particular blame at the foot of – wait for it – economics professors! Who knew academics could be so powerful.

But Smith is not alone in the populist crowd. Carl Levin, of course, is another leading figure as is the SEC. They all want to find a dastardly evil doer in the latest crisis of capitalism and they decided to pick Goldman Sachs (although now apparently Goldman has company.) Smith, sadly, picked up the borderline anti-semitic attack on Goldman penned by Matt Taibbi, who infamously called Goldman a “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” and she has allowed the slur to fester on her site.

(Megan McArdle has the silver bullet response to Taibbi’s Goldman conspiracy theory in The Atlantic here.)

Of course, whether intentional or not, Taibbi is tapping into ages old anti-semitic imagery. While Smith now is attempting to distance herself from the remark, here on the Corrente Wire blog she seemed to welcome a similar form of this horrific imagery. There are literally dozens of references on her site including by guest bloggers like Marshal Auerback to vampires or vampire squids.

Read the rest – and also the post-script:

Maybe now that blogger Yves Smith is featured on the cover of Calcalist, an Israeli business magazine, she will stop referring to bankers, including Goldman Sachs, as “vampire bats” or “vampire squids” and also speak up in protest when those who post on her blog Naked Capitalism do so.

Diamond’s targets are in the political mainstream, but it is striking how similar the imagery and the language is to new right people like Kevin MacDonald, or far right blogs like Original Dissent or The Occidental Observer.

For an interesting take on this issue, see “The Anunnaki, the Vampire, and the Structure of Dissent” by Marcus LiBrizzi.

One Response to “On vampires: bad anti-capitalism”

  1. 1 Global news and analysis « New Politics Review

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