Narcissistic Contagion: the Masters of the Universe spread their virus all over Marie Antoinette's cake

Narcissistic Contagion

by digby

I've been chronicling the whining and sniveling from the Masters of the Universe since the beginning of the economic crisis. It struck me from the start as a particularly stupid approach --- Marie Antoinette level stupid. Not only have they sounded like petulant children, they've been defending the practices that could end up killing their own golden goose. At some point, this greed and avarice will not only bring this house of cards down it will lose a whole bunch of these morons their own fortunes. It's self-destructive, which is why I keep thinking of these fools as gamblers rather than investors. This is a moment to be smart, lay low, accept some restrictions and live to fight another day.

Today's entry in the sniveling sweepstakes is a doozy. You have to read the whole sickening whine to get a true sense of just how bad it it, but here are just a few little excerpts:

“Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” the JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO [Jamie Dimon] told an audience member who asked about hostility toward bankers. “Sometimes there’s a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole.”
At a lunch in New York, Stemberg and Allison shared their disdain for Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires public companies to disclose the ratio between the compensation of their CEOs and employee medians, according to Allison. The rule, still being fine-tuned by the Securities and Exchange Commission, is “incredibly wasteful” because it takes up time and resources, he said. Stemberg called the rule “insane” in an e-mail to Bloomberg News.
“Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let’s call it an attack on the very productive,” Allison said. “This attack is destructive.”
Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”
Tom Golisano, billionaire founder of payroll processer Paychex Inc. and a former New York gubernatorial candidate, said in an interview this month that while there are examples of excess, it’s “ridiculous” to blame everyone who is rich.“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.
“It’s simply a fact that pretty much all the private- sector jobs in America are created by the decisions of ‘the 1 percent’ to hire and invest,” Rosenkranz, 69, said in an e- mail. “Since their confidence in the future more than any other factor will drive those decisions, it makes little sense to undermine their confidence by vilifying them.”
Schiff, 48, disclosed assets of at least $64.7 million before losing the 2010 Republican primary for a Connecticut U.S. Senate seat, according to filings. He’s wealthier now, even though his taxes are “more than a medieval lord would have taken from a serf,” he said.
Capitalists “are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas” and provide health care to millions.

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”
Oh, boo hoo hoo. (I wonder how much he tipped the waiter.)

This extended tantrum brought to mind one of the earliest posts I did on this subject back in 2009:

This crisis in AIG required that people such as this, who admittedly made a ton of money over the years, work for very little for a time until they could get the company back on its feet. They might not be rewarded to the tune of 750 thousand dollars for a years work, but if they made arrangements for deferred compensation down the road, after the taxpayers were repaid, I have little doubt they would have made out very well in the long run. Instead they are having a public tantrum at a time when they should be keeping the lowest possible profile. (Why are we supposed to believe these people are so smart that these companies can't do without them, again? I keep forgetting.)

I mentioned narcissism in passing yesterday and got an interesting email from journalist and author Tim Hall, who wrote an extremely interesting article for the NY Press on the subject during the Enron scandal. He explains what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is and interviews a well known expert on the subject:
I’m very interested in the concept of corporate narcissism. Many companies are successful without also engaging in criminal behavior. In your opinion, how much of the recent wave of business scandals in the U.S. is attributable to a corporate "culture of narcissism," and how much to a number of very misguided—and possibly narcissistic—individuals?

The "few rotten apples" theory ignores the fact that affairs like Enron and WorldCom were not isolated incidents—nor were they conducted conspiratorially and surreptitiously. What is now conveniently labeled "misconduct" was an open secret. Information—albeit often relegated to footnotes—was available. The charismatic malignant narcissists who headed these corporations were cheered on by investors—small and institutional alike. Their grandiose fantasies were construed as visionary. Their sense of entitlement—never commensurate with their actual achievements—was tolerated forgivingly. Their blatant exploitation of co-workers and stakeholders was part of the ethos of the virile Anglo-Saxon, natural selection, can-do, dare-do version of capitalism. Everyone colluded in this mass psychosis. There are no victims here—only scapegoats.

In the late 1990s, you couldn’t swing a dead cat on lower Broadway without hitting a dozen Internet "visionaries," touting companies that then went bankrupt. These individuals seemed to literally come out of nowhere—suddenly everybody was a Genius with a Big Idea. Do you have any thoughts on whether certain business cycles (like the Internet boom) actually create narcissists? Or do they simply attract preexisting narcissists looking for quick and easy wealth?

The latter. Pathological (or malignant) narcissism is the outcome of a confluence of an appropriate genetic predisposition and early childhood abuse by role models, caretakers or peers. It is ubiquitous, because every human being—regardless of the nature of his society and culture—develops healthy narcissism early in life. Healthy narcissism is rendered pathological by abuse—and abuse, alas, is a universal human behavior. By "abuse" I mean any refusal to acknowledge the emerging boundaries of the individual. Thus, smothering, doting and excessive expectations are as abusive as beating and incest.

Pathological narcissism, though, can be latent and induced to emerge by what I call "collective narcissism." The way pathological narcissism manifests and is experienced is dependent on the particulars of societies and cultures. In some cultures, it is encouraged. In others suppressed. In collectivist societies, it may be projected onto the collective; in individualistic societies, it is an individual’s trait.

Families, businesses, industries, organizations, ethnic groups, churches and even whole nations can be safely described as "narcissistic" or "pathologically self-absorbed."

The longer the association or affiliation of the members, the more cohesive and conformist the inner dynamics of the group, the more shared are its grandiose fantasies ("the vision thing"), the more persecutory or numerous its enemies, the more misunderstood and exclusionary it feels, the more intensive the physical and emotional experiences of its members—the stronger the bonding myth. The more rigorous the common pathology.

Such an all-pervasive and extensive malaise manifests itself in the behavior of each and every member. It is a defining—though often implicit or underlying—mental structure. It has explanatory and predictive powers. It is recurrent and invariable—a pattern of conduct melded with distorted cognition and stunted emotions. And it is often vehemently denied.

What steps might a corporation take to protect itself from being ruined by this kind of narcissistic contagion?

The first—and most obvious—step is screening. Mental health management is often considered a low organizational priority—frequently with calamitous outcomes. Employees on all levels—especially the upper echelons—should be tested periodically and regularly by professional diagnosticians for personality disorders. Those who test positive should be sacked.

There is no way of containing narcissism. It is contagious—weaker people tend to emulate narcissists, stronger ones tend to adopt narcissistic behaviors in order to fend off the narcissist’s unwelcome attentions and overweening demands.

I would have to say that this particular virus is contagious among the ruling class in general.
And it's spreading.

Rich people complaining about being "disrespected" is distasteful at any time. Doing it right now is a sign of a serious disorder.

Update: The poster boy.

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