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Wall Street Debutants' Big Party
February 18, 2014 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society Initiation
posted by Renoroc (119 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Spoiler: it's just like in Eyes Wide Shut.
posted by goethean at 7:18 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Well, with a little less group sex, but yeah.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:25 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Other spoiler: it's just like Doonesbury cartoons from, like, the seventies. As nice as it is to have my prejudices gratified (that, at the highest level, capitalism - meaning actual capitalists, a small group of actually-existing people - organizes itself openly around racism, misogyny and homophobia), it's still somehow depressing.
posted by Frowner at 7:25 AM on February 18 [20 favorites]


So the super-rich are racist, sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic assholes.

I both hate it and like it when my assumptions are proven correct.
posted by xingcat at 7:30 AM on February 18 [11 favorites]


Venture capitalists are comparing the persecution of the rich to the plight of Jews at Kristallnacht,

I can think of a few differences, off hand, but, hey, I guess a little loss of entitlement is a big deal.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:30 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


For the last decade the bulk of my day-job experience has been admin work in finance.

While most of the people I worked with were indeed good and decent (one of my last bosses was a sweetheart, in fact), they were also not as highly-placed as these guys. And the ultimate vibe around the offices was such that this does not surprise me one bit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


Yep, I know people who have to interact with these types on a regular basis, the fact that they act *exactly* like turn of the century caricatures of robber-barons burning dollar bills and sitting on orphans doesn't surprise me one bit.
posted by The Whelk at 7:37 AM on February 18 [19 favorites]


"The rich...were dull and they drank too much, or they played too much backgammon. They were dull and they were repetitious."

Herein lies the banality of their evil.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:40 AM on February 18 [7 favorites]


That was really good. I mean, depressing and horrifying, but a good read and some interesting insight.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:41 AM on February 18


While most of the people I worked with were indeed good and decent (one of my last bosses was a sweetheart, in fact), they were also not as highly-placed as these guys. And the ultimate vibe around the offices was such that this does not surprise me one bit.

You know what assholes really learn in high school? Two things: 1) How to act like human beings and 2) when they need to. And in college, they cluster together (mostly in the greek system) and divide themselves into the ones who learned those lessons (who go on to become leaders of industry and finance) and the ones who didn't (who they keep around for fun and to make the rest of them look good).

I'm not saying your co-workers weren't fundamentally good and decent, but the majority of the assholes in Kappa Beta Phi spend the majority of their time masquerading as good and decent people. Some of them even come off as sweethearts, because that's what you learn when you're a teenage asshole -- how to blend and when you can take the mask off.
posted by Etrigan at 7:42 AM on February 18 [37 favorites]


All told, enough wealth and power was concentrated in the St. Regis that night that if you had dropped a bomb on the roof, global finance as we know it might have ceased to exist.

Sigh.
posted by emjaybee at 7:44 AM on February 18 [45 favorites]


Aphorisms (of the capitalist class)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 7:51 AM on February 18


I almost missed it in the byline, but this was written by Kevin Roose, author of Unlikely Disciple and broke into the industry by throwing himself at AJ Jacobs' feet to be his "intern".

Some balls on this kid.
posted by dr_dank at 7:55 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Frat boys? What a surprise...
posted by jim in austin at 7:55 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Well this explains why many of these bankers seem so disconnected from the rest of society.
posted by Jernau at 7:58 AM on February 18


If the guy who busted the author had actually taken the phone and/or broken it, bet he never would have been charged with anything and the author would have just been out a phone.
posted by immlass at 8:00 AM on February 18


I think the real surprise is how crazy it isn't. Every industry has this. Literally every industry has times when they get together and make fun of themselves, and making sketches about those who oppose them. Everyone. I imagine the problem with the reporter being there and videotaping was not because they're "afraid to be made public" but because it's private. It's like taping someone's romantic dinner, or a bachelor party. It's not for outside consumption - not because omg plutocrats, but because for fuck's sake, when you live in a fishbowl, you need to have something for yourself.
posted by corb at 8:00 AM on February 18 [10 favorites]


These guys were a lot more likely to have been found in the library than a frat party on any given Thursday night. Very smart guys whose ambition happened to have been channelled into finance. You could cleanly swap them for the faculty senate at Princeton and there'd be extremely little change on either end.
posted by MattD at 8:02 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


All told, enough wealth and power was concentrated in the St. Regis that night that if you had dropped a bomb on the roof, global finance as we know it might have ceased to exist.

So how tight is their security? I bet it is going to be a lot tighter in the future.
posted by koolkat at 8:03 AM on February 18


It's not for outside consumption - not because omg plutocrats, but because for fuck's sake, when you live in a fishbowl, you need to have something for yourself.

Won't somebody please think of the poor plutocrats.
posted by The River Ivel at 8:10 AM on February 18 [55 favorites]


Every industry has this.

Yeah, no. This is flat-out false and it is a great example of financial industry myopia. Other industries are not like this. I've been to programmers' social events. There is none of this sense that things must be kept private. Nobody cares if you are live-tweeting it. If a reporter were discovered to have "infiltrated" such an event the response would be bewilderment at why anyone would bother, not anger. Moreover, even though programming is a male-heavy and notoriously sexist industry, the jokes described would have been very poorly received at any programmers' event I've ever been to.
posted by enn at 8:12 AM on February 18 [104 favorites]


How frustratingly boring. Aside from the unsurprising levels of *ism/*phobia, this doesn't seem materially different from similar events for other groups.

Give me a call when it becomes like Society or The Ninth Gate or True Detective or that babyfur comic whence came the meme "BAWWWWWWW!!!"
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:13 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I imagine the problem with the reporter being there and videotaping was not because they're "afraid to be made public" but because it's private.

That guy wasn't trying to grab the reporter's phone because he was afraid their Latin motto would be released to the masses -- he knew damn well that "jokes" like those that were being told and universally laughed at in the room would embarrass them.

It's like taping someone's romantic dinner, or a bachelor party. It's not for outside consumption - not because omg plutocrats, but because for fuck's sake, when you live in a fishbowl, you need to have something for yourself.

When "something for yourself" is jokes about Hillary Clinton's appearance and Barney Frank's homosexuality -- and that's all they were, was "OMG she's ugly!" and "OMG he's a fag!" -- then I'm perfectly okay with that ugliness being exposed.
posted by Etrigan at 8:14 AM on February 18 [28 favorites]


Bohemian Grove sounds like a lot more fun. Frowner has this right: this comes across as a bad parody of Doonesbury mockery. Which isn't surprising that Gary Trudeau got it right: he went to Yale, and these guys were his classmates.

You could cleanly swap them for the faculty senate at Princeton and there'd be extremely little change on either end.

Nah. More dignity in their parties, fewer stupid skits, and better conversation at the faculty senate, though probably the same amount of sex with their trainees.
posted by deanc at 8:15 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Yeah, no.

Enh. It's a difference of degree, not kind. I've been to (inoffensive) events that were also sub rosa or self-consciously silly. This event is interesting because it's stupid and contains plutocrats, but it still doesn't seem all that structurally different from other events where people let their hair down, much to the chagrin of everybody else.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:16 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I've always wondered if Yale could be seen as a training camp for interests against the American people.
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


When "something for yourself" is jokes about Hillary Clinton's appearance and Barney Frank's homosexuality -- and that's all they were, was "OMG she's ugly!" and "OMG he's a fag!" -- then I'm perfectly okay with that ugliness being exposed.

I can promise you I've heard that Hillary Clinton joke at multiple unit functions when I was in the military, as well as a host of other shitty jokes. It would have made the exact same article, except with military jokes inserted instead of financial jokes.
posted by corb at 8:17 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure if its satisfying or disturbing to learn they are merely a wealthy set of philistines. They know little about humanity, culture, politics or economics: just making money, what it brings, and its power over others.
posted by john wilkins at 8:17 AM on February 18 [10 favorites]


There is power and reinforcement in groups; a self-fulfilling dynamic. The reason these empathy-deficient narcissists get together and hobnob is the exact reason they don't want the working masses grouping together.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:18 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do!
Who keeps Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do! We do!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
We do! We do!
Who robs cave fish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscar night?
We do! We do!

posted by Cash4Lead at 8:19 AM on February 18 [44 favorites]


It would have made the exact same article, except with military jokes inserted instead of financial jokes.

yeah but this isn't actually an excuse
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:20 AM on February 18 [60 favorites]


Developing a sophisticated and knowledgable sense of humor and understanding of human culture requires one to be engaged in popular media and culture and interacting with the larger world on a regular basis. Top levels of finance are not conducive to that sort of thing, so it is not much of a surprise that their social and intellectual growth stopped when they were in college. Except that they take it all So. Darn. Seriously. When you're that rich, you can never know if you're really funny. Everyone laughs at your jokes no matter what
posted by deanc at 8:22 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


It's called "Fuck You Money" for a reason.
posted by valkane at 8:27 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


when you live in a fishbowl, you need to have something for yourself.

These guys don't live in a fishbowl. These guys have the power to ruin the lives of millions of people, 99.9% of whom would not even recognize these guys if they passed them on the street. The fact that they are so disconnected from the world that by and large, the world has no idea what these guys are up to, day-in and day-out, is part of the problem. There's a reason these guys value their privacy so highly compared to most folks. Their relative anonymity shields them from responsibility for their actions in a way that highly-public politicians, for instance, don't enjoy. All these bankers would need to behave a lot better (or crash and burn spectacularly) if they were regularly subject to celebrity-paparazzi-levels of scrutiny.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:28 AM on February 18 [66 favorites]


The rich aren't funny.
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 AM on February 18 [6 favorites]


They don't have to be. That's part of being rich.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:29 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I can promise you I've heard that Hillary Clinton joke at multiple unit functions when I was in the military, as well as a host of other shitty jokes. It would have made the exact same article, except with military jokes inserted instead of financial jokes.

So the sneering bigots have all the guns and all the money? Great.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:32 AM on February 18 [16 favorites]


All these bankers would need to behave a lot better (or crash and burn spectacularly) if they were regularly subject to celebrity-paparazzi-levels of scrutiny.

Wouldn't everyone?
posted by three blind mice at 8:32 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


The rich aren't funny.

THIS IS YOUR DAILY REMINDER THAT KANGAROO JACK WAS WRITTEN BY NOTED BILLIONAIRE STEVE BING

On the other hand, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss comes from fuck-you money, and she's fine.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:33 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


when you live in a fishbowl, you need to have something for yourself.

They can (and I presume, do) have parties at exclusive resorts, private homes, or other places where the underclasses won't see them or gain access. They have much more privacy than you or me. If they had bothered to have security at this event, this article would not have been written.

You can bet that the next meeting will have it.
posted by emjaybee at 8:36 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I can promise you I've heard that Hillary Clinton joke at multiple unit functions when I was in the military, as well as a host of other shitty jokes. It would have made the exact same article, except with military jokes inserted instead of financial jokes.

As have I. And that article has been written -- for instance, after the Tailhook scandal. And the Tailhook Association made some positive changes, and it is still a going concern, and the Navy is a better organization for it, and Navy pilots somehow still have "something for themselves." Some secrets deserve to be subjected to the harsh light of day.
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 AM on February 18 [17 favorites]


Re: every industry having something like this: no. Perhaps it is more common in super hierarchical industries, where there's a more obvious and smaller group of successful people at the top whom everyone else is trying to emulate and become (finance, military, hollywood (though maybe they do all their roasting in public)). And in male-dominated industries. It does sound awfully reminiscent of frat tales I heard, and the sort of people involved in them who I knew somewhat, from private liberal arts colleges.
posted by eviemath at 8:40 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I've worked with these sorts. It surprises me. Sorta.
posted by jpe at 8:42 AM on February 18


Hey, they've at least got a decent percentage of women in their leadership ranks, people.
posted by gsh at 8:46 AM on February 18


Eh, these are people who have dedicated their lives to making more and more money, even though none of them can be said to "need" it. They typically feel that they are under siege even though they have so much more than everyone else -- this is why they haven't retired yet and pursued some "passion" project. They live in an insular world divorced from the masses, even though their actions can have a great effect on other people. A lot of them probably have some "connection" to something outside of finance, they donate money to scientific research or fund a classics professorship at their Ivy alma mater, something that they were interested in when they were younger.

I guess I don't see how this is particularly noteworthy. I mean, these are tremendously powerful and rich people whose values are at odds with most people's, and they know it. This is a world where someone can get a seven-figure bonus and feel cheated and humiliated; they know that 99% of humanity cannot relate to this. They have weird jokes and it's not surprising that they're not above mocking the appearance or sexuality of the people they perceive to be their political oppressors, although I don't think that's their defining characteristic.
posted by leopard at 8:47 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Spoiler: it's just like in Eyes Wide Shut.

I was disappointed to see it is actually nothing like Eyes Wide Shut. Was this a joke or something? Because I don't see how the comparison was made beyond the "private society" and rich aspect.

What I read about was not the least bit interesting . Shitty jokes are shitty jokes. And jokes are often crass. You can chalk up jokes to being unfunny and crude, but I'm not sure it warrants the label above of "racist, sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic assholes." Assholes, for sure, especially for telling sexist and homophobic jokes, but a lot of comedy does that--some good, some shitty. I didn't see anything in that article that was racist unless you are calling them racist because the crowd appeared to be predominantly white--a fact that does not in itself warrant the claim of racism. And trans-phobic? Not sure where that comes from unless cross-dressing for performance is transphobic, a claim I'm not sure I understand.

However, this event struck me as banal. It's a group of people both celebrating and ribbing themselves in the name of having an evening of "fun" with their colleagues. There wasn't anything particularly interesting about this group. Our local bar has an event every year where lawyers sing crappy derivative songs with legal focus and tell bad jokes... basically this. They do the same thing in DC with politicians. It's basically a "thing."

I get that people have a philosophical and ethical problem with these Wall Street exec types. I don't quibble with their dislike of these people. But I fail to see how this event is anything close to evidence in support of the case against Wall Street execs beyond the general complaint. The event was generic and could have been a group of any number of other groups (e.g., doctors, lawyers, politicians, actors, etc).

But Eyes Wide Shut? I would go to that kind of because the pageantry seemed really interesting and thrilling in a creepy way. It at least wouldn't be boring. This party just seemed like a group of unfunny, boring assholes that you couldn't pay me to attend to listen to their shitty jokes and self-referential blather.
posted by dios at 8:48 AM on February 18 [10 favorites]


I'm trying to think of one positive thing to say....

...the blurry picture of the neophytes seems to have one or two actual women in it? Or maybe they're just men with a greater commitment to looking good in a costume wig.
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


So it turns out that a gathering of of our financial "Masters of the Universe" is somewhat reminiscent of a Moose Lodge holiday party in 1956.


I'm actually not that surprised by this.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:54 AM on February 18 [7 favorites]


As have I. And that article has been written -- for instance, after the Tailhook scandal. And the Tailhook Association made some positive changes, and it is still a going concern, and the Navy is a better organization for it, and Navy pilots somehow still have "something for themselves." Some secrets deserve to be subjected to the harsh light of day.

The problem with Tailhook was not the dirty jokes, but the sexual assault. I agree with you that some secrets need to be subjected to the harsh light of day, but shitty jokes and crossdressing do not raise to that bar.
posted by corb at 8:57 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Literally every industry has times when they get together and make fun of themselves, and making sketches about those who oppose them.

Yeah, I have to tell you that I've been to industry events in my field and nothing like this has ever happened. Ever could happen, really. I've also been to mostly-all male fancy parties with men in titles in court dress (with rituals and songs!) and it was still 100% more funny and less terrible.

also seriously who is opposing these guys? what is possibly going poorly in their estimation? they control world finance! they have millions of dollars! they could do scrooge mcduck dives into gold piles! and they could pay for the resulting hospital fees!
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:57 AM on February 18 [10 favorites]


three blind mice: " Wouldn't everyone?"

I doubt it. The folks who are quoted are apparently closeted homophobes and misogynists who are also comfortable privately bashing the people they ostensibly serve: the less-wealthy public.
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Other industries are not like this. I've been to programmers' social events. There is none of this sense that things must be kept private.. I suggest you google "Ruby Conference Sexism". You will be disappointed. Then again, most of the folks involved in those messes didn't seem to want to keep it quiet, so much as were confused why their actions were construed as negative...

I am not at all surprised by behavior of those titans of finance. It's on a grander and flashier scale than what you'll find at golf clubs, but that sort of cavalier attitude toward any number of -isms can be found across the US, at the relatively 'low' level of what ever passes for the upper-middle class on up. That's not to say it's widespread among that demographic, just that it's not too hard to find if you go looking for it. And you can certainly find it in liberal as well as conservative circles - the jokes are different, but the sense of entitlement and superiority is the same.
posted by combinatorial explosion at 8:58 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Every industry has this. Literally every industry has times when they get together and make fun of themselves, and making sketches about those who oppose them. Everyone.

I've also worked in theater for 10+ years, and I can attest that we did not ever do anything REMOTELY like this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


corb: "The problem with Tailhook was not the dirty jokes, but the sexual assault."

No, the problem with Tailhook was a culture which encouraged male soldiers to create a hostile work environment for their fellow female soldiers. Flag officers knew what was going on and allowed it to happen unchecked and unopposed. The sexual assaults were a symptom of that larger problem.

Tailhook was the very epitome of rape culture. It started with men demeaning and degrading women and preventing them from moving up the ranks, and then escalated into them being sexually assaulted.
posted by zarq at 9:03 AM on February 18 [29 favorites]


Wouldn't everyone?

Not everyone has the amount of power these guys have.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:05 AM on February 18


Hey, can we please not get into a derail discussion of military/rape culture and have that fight here? I'm not sure this link calls for that argument. I'd appreciate it.
posted by dios at 9:07 AM on February 18


Is there a name for the phenomenon where people who engage in a particular illegal or ethically questionable way (drunk drivers, rapists, tax cheats, etc) believe that everyone else does it too? I see it most in defense of drunk drivers; people saying that outrage against drunk drivers is hypocritical because everyone does it, or calling it an honest mistake that could have happened to anyone. But it's interesting to see that it also applies to secret society hijinks of bankers/lawyers/politicians/military. Seems like there ought to be a name for it, if there isn't one.
posted by hades at 9:07 AM on February 18 [17 favorites]


It's like taping someone's romantic dinner, or a bachelor party. It's not for outside consumption - not because omg plutocrats, but because for fuck's sake, when you live in a fishbowl, you need to have something for yourself.

Good thing they have all of that money, then! I would hate for them to suffer any emtional discomfort. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go work one of my three jobs.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:13 AM on February 18 [19 favorites]


[Folks, the rape culture thing is a big derail here and going to basically doom this thread. Can you send your responses over MeMail if you want to continue that side conversation?]
posted by jessamyn at 9:14 AM on February 18


also seriously who is opposing these guys? what is possibly going poorly in their estimation? they control world finance! they have millions of dollars! they could do scrooge mcduck dives into gold piles! and they could pay for the resulting hospital fees!

I think we overestimate how much these people want money for the sake of having money. What they want is esteem and admiration. Which makes sense because every choice they made was about choosing that which they assumed was the most prestigious and admired thing: first, the act of making money in and of itself was what they believed would show that they were successful, but also every choice they made about what college to attend, what fraternity to join, what financial firm to apply to, what neighborhood to live in, etc.

The idea of ridiculing them or considering them public malefactors seems like the most unfair thing in the world because they spent their lives trying NOT to be in that class of disfavored people.

You see this all the time from people who don't have money problems: their biggest complaint is generally that they have to follow rules or have people complain about them-- things they thought their work would allow them to buy their way out of.
posted by deanc at 9:19 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


when you live in a fishbowl, you need to have something for yourself

Sorry to beat on a dead horse here, but I'm not sure how much of a "fishbowl" Wall Street types really live in (I think outside of maybe half a dozen guys, you don't really have any household names). Beyond which, big players on Wall Street have lots for themselves. They have property, they have exclusive clubs, restaurants, resorts, gyms, etc where none of us plebs will ever have access to and they never have to think about us or worry about what kind of jokes they make. This is just one place among many.
posted by Hoopo at 9:20 AM on February 18 [11 favorites]


they want you to smile when you say that.
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 AM on February 18


Is there a name for the phenomenon where people who engage in a particular illegal or ethically questionable way (drunk drivers, rapists, tax cheats, etc) believe that everyone else does it too?

Maybe a particular example of the false-consensus effect.
posted by theodolite at 9:23 AM on February 18 [10 favorites]


Ok, upon actually reading the article, I'm shocked at how the author managed to reach into my brain and reconstruct my mental image for the phrase "malefactors of great wealth".

Is there a name for the phenomenon where people who engage in a particular illegal or ethically questionable way (drunk drivers, rapists, tax cheats, etc) believe that everyone else does it too?

Up here in my neck of the woods we call it "Ford Nation".
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:26 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


So unfair that these extremely wealthy rich white men can't have a safe space.
posted by windbox at 9:39 AM on February 18 [17 favorites]


I could see the the guy from this commercial being a member of this society.
posted by mach at 9:45 AM on February 18



I think the real surprise is how crazy it isn't. Every industry has this. Literally every industry has times when they get together and make fun of themselves, and making sketches about those who oppose them.

So , Kappa Beta Phi bigwigs are "opposed" by gay people, women, and the 99%? That must be awfully oppressive. I'm sure they feel very vulnerable.

I suppose in the Landscape Horticulture industry we potentially might make fun of city planners or difficult clients*. But they are not oppressed minorities, and we wouldn't be joking about them for their mere existence, especially since there are more good city planners and clients than bad. However, ranting about specific bad clients or dumb encounters with the city is nothing like getting together regularly to joke about faceless Others in the aggregate.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:46 AM on February 18 [7 favorites]


It also matters, when choosing to make fun of large groups of people, whether those people are marginalized, whether you have power over them and whether you are explicitly and obviously a part of a system that keeps you in power over them.
posted by NoraReed at 9:50 AM on February 18 [12 favorites]


The thin-skinned, fearful nature of the 1% always surprises me. I mean, do they really fear the pitchforks and torches? Is their fear disproportionate, or do the 99% have more power/potential than we think we do?

The petty anger, I get; typical for a pampered privileged sort to be unable to handle any sort of mockery or dissent. The fear is more interesting.
posted by emjaybee at 9:52 AM on February 18 [12 favorites]


I suppose in the Landscape Horticulture industry we potentially might make fun of city planners or difficult clients*. But they are not oppressed minorities, and we wouldn't be joking about them for their mere existence, especially since there are more good city planners and clients than bad. However, ranting about specific bad clients or dumb encounters with the city is nothing like getting together regularly to joke about faceless Others in the aggregate.

It seemed to me that the gay joke was a joke about Barney Frank, who was the aggressive chair of the House Financial Services Committee and a bane of Wall Street. That the joke was a crappy gay joke probably had more to do with an uncreative joke writer who couldn't think of another way to zing Barney Frank than it had to do with an institutional war against gay people. So in your analogy, if the LH industry really hated a particular city planner and wanted to zing him, they might latch on to one of the limited distinguishing characteristics of that planner and try to make a crack on that characteristic (e.g., height, weight, orientation, ethnicity, etc). If it was a shitty effort that resulted in something hateful to a group identity, the joke would be less about a hatred of that group, but rather a poor attempt at humor. It's the same as making fat jokes about Chris Christie or breast jokes about Dolly Parton or Mormon jokes about Romney, etc. Distasteful? Sure. But I think it is over-reading it to claim that it is an example of them "getting together regularly to joke about faceless [gay people] in the aggregate."
posted by dios at 10:01 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


So , Kappa Beta Phi bigwigs are "opposed" by gay people, women, and the 99%?

The Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank "jokes" are primarily targeting Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank, who are powerful (and fairly wealthy) political figures in their own right. Now the way misogyny and homophobia work, these "jokes" are also attacks on all women and all gay people, but that probably wasn't the primary aim.

At any rate, these people aren't very complicated. I think they're actually simpler than most people on the planet: they just want to make more money and to be held in high esteem for doing so.
posted by leopard at 10:03 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


I've said it before. For these people, it is not enough that they get to shit on you, take your stuff, mock you, wreck your life savings, look down on you, and control your government.

They want you to admire and thank them for it, or else it's Not Fair.
posted by Legomancer at 10:04 AM on February 18 [31 favorites]


The petty anger, I get; typical for a pampered privileged sort to be unable to handle any sort of mockery or dissent. The fear is more interesting.

I know. I could understand the fear if someone had tried to gun down Lloyd Blankfein in the street, or if a bomb had gone off at HSBC's offices, but that kind of thing hasn't happened.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:04 AM on February 18


Count me in as being surprised at how mundane it was. You go in expecting a peek at the sophisticated goings-on at a private gathering of the nation's most powerful figures, but all you get is some banal joke-book humor.

It's not even very offensive. The Barney Frank joke used the word "buns".
posted by Team of Scientists at 10:15 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


So apart from the awful behavior, here's my question: do you think guys like Dick Fuld, Jimmy Cayne and the other very public faces of the Wall Street meltdown still get to go to these parties? Surely other attendees are just as responsible for the whole awful mess, but they didn't get as much media attention, so they're probably in the clear. But do you think Dick and Jimmy and the rest get to show up and their fraternity bro's just say, "Hey, you had a good run, don't worry about it?"
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:20 AM on February 18


Sometimes discrimination and bigotry isn't defined by what you say. Ask yourself: would any person of color ever feel welcome - or even comfortable - at these functions, and for righteous reasons too? It's not the fact that they're all white that makes it racist; it's the fact that there is a reason and culture causing them to be all white that is racist.

These things are a little more interconnected than people give credence to also. If they're making sexist remarks about women and about gender, I can be pretty damned sure that my sexual orientation is going to be up next on the firing squad too.

When you make a sexist joke about Hilary Clinton, she doesn't care. She's pretty plenty powerful and respected that she doesn't give a damn. You're not aiming the joke at Hilary Clinton; you're aiming the joke at every other woman in the room, and then by extension every other minority until they all clear the fuck out away from your toxic mess of a white boy's club.

I'm okay with calling them racist and transphobic even if they never said anything explicitly racist/transphobic.
posted by Conspire at 10:20 AM on February 18 [21 favorites]


I know. I could understand the fear if someone had tried to gun down Lloyd Blankfein in the street, or if a bomb had gone off at HSBC's offices, but that kind of thing hasn't happened.

If a bomb went off at an HSBC office, everyone would presume it was just the work of one of the rivals of their drug lord customers, anyway.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:21 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Distasteful? Sure. But I think it is over-reading it to claim that it is an example of them "getting together regularly to joke about faceless [gay people] in the aggregate."

yeah, but the fact that "we want to trash-talk Barney Frank, so we will so do by making fun of the fact that he's gay" was their thought process in the first place is kind of indicative of how they think of gay people in the aggregate in the first place. If they really groked that "making fun of homosexuality isn't cool", then they'd have gone to some other cheap shot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on February 18 [6 favorites]


So apart from the awful behavior, here's my question: do you think guys like Dick Fuld, Jimmy Cayne and the other very public faces of the Wall Street meltdown still get to go to these parties?

They're both on the 2012 membership list, so yeah, probably.
posted by the_bone at 10:24 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


But I think it is over-reading it to claim that it is an example of them "getting together regularly to joke about faceless [gay people] in the aggregate."

When the punchline of your joke is essentially "Barney Frank is gay," then you're saying that just being gay is worthy of derision. You want to take shots at Barney Frank's policies or statements or something else, fine. But making fun of his sexuality as a punch line in and of itself is ugly.
posted by Etrigan at 10:24 AM on February 18 [11 favorites]


They say a fool and his money are soon parted. We tested that by reading some of the skits performed at the annual Kappa Beta Phi initiation party.



MYTH: BUSTED
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:26 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


They're both on the 2012 membership list, so yeah, probably.

Interesting thing about that link: there are women on that list. Not many, but this isn't an exclusively all-boys club, which isn't really addressed in the article.

I have to wonder how this all plays out for those women, too.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:29 AM on February 18


I have to wonder how this all plays out for those women, too.

I imagine it involves a lot of eye-rolling.
posted by Legomancer at 10:31 AM on February 18


I don't think the major issue is that they made homophobic or sexist jokes. Those just make them look like garden variety assholes. The fact that they are joking about the near-disintegration of our economy and their unwarranted rescue by our taxes make it clear that they are unrepentant criminals who need to be regulated out of business before they ruin us again.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:36 AM on February 18 [22 favorites]


These were activities that amounted to a gigantic middle finger to Main Street and that, if made public, could end careers and damage very public reputations.

"if/could".

Don't hold your breath.
posted by chavenet at 10:38 AM on February 18


Ask yourself: would any person of color ever feel welcome - or even comfortable - at these functions, and for righteous reasons too?

You mean like Vikram Pandit that is specifically mentioned in the article? They actually have a link to a list of members. Now I don't know anything about these people, so I couldn't begin to tell you the breakdown by race (I'm assuming it is predominantly white male) and it doesn't appear to be equally distributed on gender lines. But my guess is that race is not as important as the titles. Whomever is CEO of Bear Stearns will be welcome regardless of race.

Now I suppose you make an argument as to whether the CEO of Bear Stearns is likely to be a white male, and I wouldn't argue that. But jumping to label all these members as racist seems a bit of a stretch if it is reasonable to conclude they would accept people of color with the right labels. My guess is these people are extraordinarily class-focused and class is more important to them than other things. But I could be wrong.

I'm okay with calling them racist and transphobic even if they never said anything explicitly racist/transphobic.

That strikes me as very wrong-headed.

was their thought process in the first place is kind of indicative of how they think of gay people in the aggregate in the first place. If they really groked that "making fun of homosexuality isn't cool", then they'd have gone to some other cheap shot.

I agree, in part. That's why I condemned it above. But it is dicey to overread it. One does not have to look hard at all to see examples of gay jokes from people you wouldn't overread like that, so I think a lot of that has to do with some buried assumptions you are making. Watch a Friar's Roast--if you can stomach it--and you'll hear gay jokes. I've heard them on the Daily Show. And why there is something clearly at play in the people making the jokes, I don't think we make the same assumption you want to make here.

Look, I'm not going to go bat for these guys. I'm sure a lot of these people are assholes. They tell shitty jokes. They are probably very boring. And I'm not going to argue will all the "Eat the Rich" arguments being made here. But this particular thing as reported here doesn't strike me as damning at any level. "Eat the Rich", but this article doesn't add to the argument at any level. The article just shows unfunny revelry of the type that isn't unique to them.
posted by dios at 10:41 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


All told, enough wealth and power was concentrated in the St. Regis that night that if you had dropped a bomb on the roof, global finance as we know it might have ceased to exist.

"And nothing of value was lost."
posted by wenestvedt at 10:42 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I can't get over the breathless references to "racks of lamb", as though lamb is an inherently plutocratic meat.
posted by Omission at 10:47 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


So how tight is their security? I bet it is going to be a lot tighter in the future.

I saw him on tv this morning and he said he rented a tux and just walked in. "I think they thought I was a waiter."

I believe in the future their security will be.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:52 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Look, I'm not going to go bat for these guys. I'm sure a lot of these people are assholes. They tell shitty jokes. They are probably very boring. And I'm not going to argue will all the "Eat the Rich" arguments being made here. But this particular thing as reported here doesn't strike me as damning at any level.

I hate to break it to you, but by using the "boys will be boys" defense to write off their using Barney Frank's homosexuality as the topic of their jokes about him, you are kind of going to bat for these guys.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:52 AM on February 18 [20 favorites]


Look, I'm not going to go bat for these guys. I'm sure a lot of these people are assholes. They tell shitty jokes. They are probably very boring. And I'm not going to argue will all the "Eat the Rich" arguments being made here. But this particular thing as reported here doesn't strike me as damning at any level.

It's damning insofar as it shows them to be boring assholes who can't tell a joke you couldn't read in a chain e-mail, and it's damning insofar as it shows they don't care about the harm they've done. Nice try, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:01 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I called it a homophobic crappy joke and them assholes in my first post here. I specifically condemned the joke. So suggesting I am defending them is false. The joke is wrong and should not have been said. I thought I made that clear. All my subsequent comments have done is suggest that people are making assumptions not directly warranted by the crappy, wrong joke. Just like it would be wrong to call Jon Stewart and the Daily Show a homophobic organization for making gay jokes, I'm not sure it is right to make such an assumption here where the target was squarely Barney Frank not gay people per se.

The problem here is people with a pre-existing bias against this group of people are trying to bolster their case against Wall Street by using this as evidence but the probative value of this evidence does not support the conclusion.
posted by dios at 11:01 AM on February 18


Bigotry is unfortunate, and not very forgivable in this day and age. But it is, sadly, commonplace. You'll find as many, or more, poor people as wealthy ones who are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and not very clever in their mockery of the things they fear and hate.


But the whole "Bailout King" thing though? These are people who pulled a major Reverse Robin Hood on the American people, multiple times, and they're proud of it. They are responsible for screwing legitimate businesses, for millions of lost jobs, homeless families, starving kids, and serious medical conditions left untreated. And they made up cute little songs about it to demonstrate their leet sploitz and to mock the people they have ruined. And they still have all the money and power, and there are no signs of that ever changing.

"A very special hell," to quote Shepherd Book.
posted by Foosnark at 11:02 AM on February 18 [20 favorites]


All these bankers would need to behave a lot better (or crash and burn spectacularly) if they were regularly subject to celebrity-paparazzi-levels of scrutiny.


I always thought a TMZ style blog about random rich, but not famous, people would be really popular. They think they're the most important people around? Let's treat them like we treat other famous people. Give out "map of the bankers" to tourists so they can drive around and see everyone's homes. Banker McBankster III has a mistress, exclusive photos here! Top 10 traits Mr. CEO looks for in his driver. Did you see what the COO wore to the merger meetings? Outrageous!
posted by Arbac at 11:06 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


I assume the security was so light because the people at the front door passed out after sighing at every "Do you know who I am‽"
posted by ckape at 11:08 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


Yes. I'm a bad person with preexisting biases because I'm not giving a group of rich white guys the benefit of the doubt on racist and transphobic attitudes when they have repeatedly demonstrated that they don't care about the consequences of their behavior and attitudes, foster a culture of bigotry, and explicitly were homophobic and misogynistic. Because that's not enough evidence for me to feel very threatened by them on racial axises.

Where have I heard that before?

Oh right. Like every moment of my life as a minority who dares to complain about the status quo occasionally.
posted by Conspire at 11:16 AM on February 18 [25 favorites]


But the whole "Bailout King" thing though? These are people who pulled a major Reverse Robin Hood on the American people, multiple times, and they're proud of it.

I know no one here really cares about the nuances of the financial industry, but not every rich asshole has the same interest in government bailouts. If it makes you feel better I'm sure there were plenty of wealthy sociopaths at this event who agree with you that the bailouts were an abomination, only that they care less about the Main Street aspect of it than you do, and more about their own relative status and perception that the guys at Goldman and Morgan were unfairly propped up. And for all we know it was these guys making "Bailout King" jokes.
posted by leopard at 11:23 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


All my subsequent comments have done is suggest that people are making assumptions not directly warranted by the crappy, wrong joke.

The assumption that crappy, wrong jokes belie crappy, wrong attitudes isn't a huge leap.
posted by Etrigan at 11:24 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


There's that quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel — 'When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.' These people are certainly not kind. But they cannot even be bothered to be clever, even though they insist they are some of America's most important people. And if in addition to their other problems, they cannot be either kind or clever, is it any surprise people hold them in such disdain? They're kind of crude, dumb, mean people who think people with pensions have too much money and that they don't have enough.
posted by deanc at 11:29 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I think we overestimate how much these people want money for the sake of having money. What they want is esteem and admiration.

No, they want power. And they have it. They know that the absolute amount of money they, you, and I have doesn't really matter. What matters is HOW MUCH MORE money THEY have than YOU. That's where their power flows from. Not the absolute. The multiple. And that's why they're winning.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:31 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I'm sure there were plenty of wealthy sociopaths at this event who agree with you that the bailouts were an abomination...for all we know it was these guys making "Bailout King" jokes.

Indeed! For all we know, it was angels, or ironic street performers, or plant-pod-grown body doubles! This whole thing might be some sort of happening social commentary!...or it could be a bunch of smug rich guys who think they're clever for ripping everyone off. WE CAN NEVER KNOW.
posted by daisystomper at 11:39 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


So, this is what someone with that kind of money does with their time?
I'm not missing anything.

On cue, the financiers shouted out in a thundering bellow: “DUM VIVAMUS EDIMUS ET BIBERIMUS.”
Well, they didn't put on bull masks and chase him.

The second thing I realized was that Kappa Beta Phi was, in large part, a fear-based organization.

Well, yeah. Only thing a junkie fears is running out of junk.

Bigotry is unfortunate, and not very forgivable in this day and age. But it is, sadly, commonplace.
Yeah, I think what's off putting is how, perhaps unexpectedly, puerile the tastes are. Which are inevitably self-destructive. Which wouldn't be a problem except for the resources involved.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:46 AM on February 18


deanc: "What they want is esteem and admiration."

Perhaps. The Trumps of this world certainly seem to want that.

But what many of them seem to want more than anything else is the power to shape the world as they see fit. VC Tom Perkins made waves last week when he said that people should only be allowed to vote if they pay taxes, and that the more you pay in taxes, the more votes you should get. He backtracked pretty quickly and said he was only joking. But the last time he made headlines it was for writing a letter to the WSJ in which he compared current American anti-capitalist fervor to the Nazi vilification of the Jews leading up to Kristallnacht. So there's a pattern. According to Tom, the rich are being victimized by the masses and not getting their fair share of the power.

Theoretically, this could loop back into your premise, too. We should (the recurring theme goes) admire and respect the rich and accord them the laurels they're due simply because they're better at creating jobs and stimulating the economy than the rest of us.
posted by zarq at 11:48 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]



It's not even very offensive. The Barney Frank joke used the word "buns".

Is this sarcasm? The joke doesn't make any sense if you don't use the word "buns".
posted by oneirodynia at 12:01 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


For all we know, it was angels, or ironic street performers, or plant-pod-grown body doubles!

I don't understand the sarcasm. There are indeed plenty of libertarian get-the-government-out-of-my-way rich people who rail bitterly to this day about the bank bailouts and about quantitative easing. Moreover, even the beneficiaries of the bailout money are probably more sensitive to criticism from other rich people about how they don't deserve their wealth than they are to criticism from you about how they ripped off the American people. They don't give a shit about your opinion enough to make crappy jokes about it. I'm not talking about angels or ironic street performers here, this is just what's going on. Do you think that the last thing Lloyd Blankfein does before he falls asleep at night is chuckle at how powerless you are?

Look, I get it, there's some psychological benefit to relishing how completely awful and evil these people are. But most of this stuff is barking up the wrong tree. There are plenty of hedge funds that are very happy to recruit minorities, as long as they worship money and are smart/hard-working enough to do whatever it takes to make more. A lot of these wealthy finance folks are Democrats. A lot of these wealthy finance folks are people who make their money by providing financial advice to giant corporations about how to issue bonds and shares and how to buy other companies; their work just isn't that political (although of course there is always some conflict between capital and labor). But the problem with finance doesn't stem from homophobia or misogyny or drug use or bad politics or the fact that its leaders feel ridiculously entitled to the absurd amounts of money they make. It's simply that if no one polices people who worship money above all, some of them are going to leave massive destruction in their wake.
posted by leopard at 12:10 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


These guys were a lot more likely to have been found in the library than a frat party on any given Thursday night. Very smart guys whose ambition happened to have been channelled into finance.

You mean to tell me that the rest of them are even dumber?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:10 PM on February 18


These guys were a lot more likely to have been found in the library than a frat party on any given Thursday night. Very smart guys whose ambition happened to have been channelled into finance.

In my experience, those very smart non-frat guys are the ones working for the asshats in this article.
posted by Etrigan at 1:17 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


So, did we really actually learn something new here or just confirm our biases? Because I didn't really see anything at all shocking in this article. Does Roose really think this?
These were activities that amounted to a gigantic middle finger to Main Street and that, if made public, could end careers and damage very public reputations.
Because I sure as hell don't. What was the worst thing he reported? A homophobic joke about Barney Frank and a sexist Hillary Clinton joke. What was actually surprising here? That these guys are assholes? I honestly thought that everyone knew that, already. If you don't already know that, then you probably didn't think those jokes were so awful, either.
posted by Edgewise at 1:42 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


"Bailout Kings" was the worst thing, IMO. At that point, I briefly thought this article must be satire.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:05 PM on February 18


This is flat-out false and it is a great example of financial industry myopia. Other industries are not like this.

Other areas of human endeavor are not like this. Most people at least try to be useful.

I don't know why people think someone who is wealthy is automatically smart. Indeed, I think it's mostly the opposite. Anyone with any worth I've ever met, any real intellect, has been fairly indifferent to material gain.

I think of Marcus Aurelius - “Such as are your habitual thoughts; such also will be the character of your mind."
And any exaggerated trait must be a mental grotesquerie.

Defending mass accumulation of wealth for its own sake as any sort of intelligent exercise is as absurd as defending the pursuit of pleasure in a chronic masturbator. No one calls Masanobu Sato a genius. But at least he's not harming anyone.

And I think harming someone is part of the point. I think money is invisible in many ways so the sense of privilege has to be exercised in some way - specifically behaving badly, which not only includes actual oppressive actions but sharing in reveling over them.

I don't think we learned anything new here. But I think it's important to speak the unspeakable, or at least, the unspoken if not tacitly accepted (thanks to PR).
Which is that there's really no question there is no altruism at all behind the financial industry, quite the contrary.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:10 PM on February 18 [12 favorites]


I'm reminded of Bush "looking for WMDs" at that correspondents dinner. Who's writing these guys' jokes?
posted by hades at 3:12 PM on February 18


Kappa Beta Phi

I see what you did there
posted by threeants at 3:24 PM on February 18


I suppose in the Landscape Horticulture industry we potentially might make fun of city planners

I was about to say my profession doesn't "oppose" anyone...but now I know better. ENEMY THY NAME IS HYDRANGEA
posted by threeants at 3:45 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


people should only be allowed to vote if they pay taxes, and that the more you pay in taxes, the more votes you should get.

I could sign up for that... if "the amount you pay in taxes" is measured as percentage of your net wealth.
posted by anonymisc at 4:52 PM on February 18


Actually, no. No I couldn't sign up for even that.
posted by anonymisc at 4:54 PM on February 18


Iron Men of Wall Street
posted by homunculus at 6:13 PM on February 18


VC Tom Perkins made waves last week when he said that people should only be allowed to vote if they pay taxes, and that the more you pay in taxes, the more votes you should get. He backtracked pretty quickly and said he was only joking. But the last time he made headlines it was for writing a letter to the WSJ in which he compared current American anti-capitalist fervor to the Nazi vilification of the Jews leading up to Kristallnacht. So there's a pattern.

How tech's culture war feeds the art of the outrageous
posted by homunculus at 6:14 PM on February 18


Team of Scientists: Count me in as being surprised at how mundane it was.

From the end of the article:
The first and most obvious conclusion was that the upper ranks of finance are composed of people who have completely divorced themselves from reality. No self-aware and socially conscious Wall Street executive would have agreed to be part of a group whose tacit mission is to make light of the financial sector’s foibles. Not when those foibles had resulted in real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.
It's easy to gloss this over with their bad jokes and dumb skits, but this paragraph really nails why their "mundane" event isn't so mundane.

Yes, lots of industries have stupid skits and make bad jokes, sometimes in mildly offensive ways. But when they go as far as to hire security to keep out journalists, it's because they know they're saying and/or doing things that the public at large would really not like.

This is not lawyers singing bad karaoke at a bar, unless those lawyers work in some lines about committing perjury or tampering with evidence and getting away with it.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:07 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


the philosophical anthropology of the 1%
posted by homunculus at 5:14 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


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