This may strike some readers as off topic (you’ve been warned!), but I find this exchange intriguing in a perverse way.
I have featured some of this story in Links. By way of background, various news sites reported that the internet group Anonymous had said it was going to mount cyber attacks on the Westboro Baptist Church, which among other things hosts the website GodHatesFags. Anonymous is best known for making life difficult for various players who have undermined Wikileaks, such as banks that have stopped processing donations to Wikileaks, but it has also played a role in supporting the rebellion in Tunisia by attacking non-essential government websites.
Specifically, a couple of weeks ago, a letter was published, supposedly by Anonymous, warning that if the Westboro Baptist Church didn’t shut down its public website, they would be targeted. It turns out Anonymous not did issue that letter, begging the question of whether it actually came from the church itself, as some have speculated, or a third party.
David Parkman arranged for representatives of the church and Anonymous to interact with each other. The Westboro congregant is so strident that she comes off poorly in the exchange. While it’s amusing in a sort of sick way to watch her, that is not the reason for featuring a clip like this.
This example may be too extreme a version to serve as a useful object lesson as far as most readers are concerned, but cults are extraordinarily effective business models. Goldman is a cult. It goes through elaborate and protracted screening processes to find people who are particularly eager (one might say desperate) to work there, which means they are preselected for their belief in the firm’s superiority. It goes to more extreme lengths than most Wall Street firms to enforce norms as well as rules (for instance, in my day, young associates were encouraged to have their summer shares in a particular Hamptons town. Being expected to have your social life wrapped up with fellow co-religionists is a cult phenomenon. Reports from recent summer associates lead me to believe the cult aspects are cultivated far more deliberately than in the past).
Consider: a couple of years ago, I knew someone in a senior staff position at Goldman who often did various studies for the management committee, usually on HR or firm culture matters. They would often be circulated among the managing directors, sometime more broadly. He was asked to look into the relationship between money and happiness. As most readers probably know, this is a fairly well investigated area, and most studies have come to the same conclusion: that once a threshold level of income is reached (usually enough to cover a middle class level of expenses, plus a bit of a buffer for savings/emergencies) more money does not make people happier.
When he reported these non-controversial findings, not only was his audience scornful and dismissive, but he was also instructed to keep the results confidential!
Now that may seem like an isolated example, but remember how quick and angry the reactions from most Wall Street denizens are when you challenge their pay levels. Their sense of entitlement is not based on a logically defensible position; it is an article of faith. But this exchange provides a crude but vivid reminder of the virtual impossibility of penetrating deeply held beliefs.
As reader Skippy noted,
The WBC is a prime example of how hard it is to engage in any reasonable discussion with BELIEVERS of any stripe, mental heroin methinks.
I wonder how many realize the fight is just starting, warming up, and unprepared for the acts that may be used against them.