Ludicrous: Matt Taibbi Accused of Being Anti-Semitic for Goldman Sachs Article
“The [Rolling Stone] article makes a very compelling case against Goldman Sachs, but I think the problems it identifies are pervasive in financial firms and corporate America in general,” says Nell Minow, who is the co-founder of the Corporate Library, a research firm that tracks corporate-governance issues. “We need to launch substantive financial reform rather than weighing the faults of one firm versus another.” Minow’s point is this: spend too much time on Goldman and you miss the fact of how broadly the financial system and the regulations that are supposed to keep profiteers in check failed us. And she’s right.
It’s been interesting, to say the least, watching the public reaction to my Rolling Stone piece last week. I of course expected that some kind of highly unpleasant response would come my way from Goldman and its allies in the press, but I admit to being surprised a little by the form this response took. Obviously I don’t want to dwell on this business, because it’s beyond boring when someone in my position complains about his critics, but I feel like I have to say something about at least a few of the talking points of the inevitable Goldman counteroffensive, which in various forms (letters sent to me personally, public comments) have reached my desk in the last few days.
The most ludicrous of these, and the one that surprised me the most, is the accusation that my article was anti-Semitic propaganda. The first letter I got on this score I actually mistook for a joke sent to me by one of my friends. Then I got another one which I quickly realized was not a joke at all. “Isn’t it convenient,” it read, “that an Arab-American writer for Rolling Stone looks at Wall Street and picks the most prototypically Jewish firm around to demonize.”
The last time I heard something similar was a few years ago, when Debbie Schlussel, a severely dimwitted Detroit-based right-wing pundit, railed against my supposed Arabness after I wrote an article about the Lebanese population in Dearborn, Michigan. I wrote to her to let her know that I’m actually Irish and Filipino, and not at all an Arab, but never got a response. This time the charge is a little different, as several writers complained that my article was “a rehash of every classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory” and “a pale copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
The evidence for these charges seems to be as follows. One, I used the word “tribe” somewhere near the end of the piece. Two, the term “blood-funnel” was used (one person also hinted that the use of a squid image was somehow anti-Semitic, but I was not entirely clear what was being referred to there). Three, I “singled out” Goldman and failed to level similar charges at “less Jewish firms” (yes, one letter-writer actually used that phrase) like Morgan-Stanley.
A few points in response to this preposterous argument. Firstly I’m going to make a blanket denial and just say that the question of religion was so far outside my thinking while writing this piece that I never even considered it. If this issue had even entered my head so much as once, I probably would have been more careful, and it is remotely possible that I might not then have used a distantly suggestive word like “tribe,” if only to avoid having to answer charges like this. But I didn’t consider it, for the simple reason that it’s completely ridiculous and not at all relevant.
For one thing, while Goldman’s founders a gazillion years ago were apparently Jewish, I seriously doubt that religion plays any role at all in the makeup of the modern Goldman. I don’t have any way of knowing this, but I would be shocked if it weren’t true that a majority of Goldman’s current employees were not Jewish. And whatever the reality is, I don’t care; it’s not a concern of mine and we didn’t make it a concern in the article.
If anything it seems to me that what defines these Wall Street characters is not religion but the absence of it: even a hardened atheist like myself comes away from the experience of reading about the last two decades of Wall Street history shocked by that community’s complete and utter Godlessness and moral insanity. What I’m saying in other words is that if any of these clowns actually had a real religious sensibility, we wouldn’t be in this mess — and that’s coming from someone who believes all religions to be inherently ridiculous. For Goldman now to hide behind the cloak of Jewish victimhood is both more obnoxious and less convincing than Marion Barry wearing a dashiki after the indictment.
Then there is this other argument, the one being bandied about by Time magazine, among others. According to Steven Gandel of Time, the problem with my piece is that it is — get this — too specific. According to the above passage, focusing on Goldman in particular when attempting to explain (in general) the crimes of Wall Street to ordinary readers is somehow a distraction from the “real problem.” To repeat:
…spend too much time on Goldman and you miss the fact of how broadly the financial system and the regulations that are supposed to keep profiteers in check failed us.