Remember the "super-predators"? They were the supposedly super-violent youngsters of dark complexion that conservatives kept screaming about in the 1990s. We were told they were about to unleash an unprecedented wave of vicious crime any day now.
Those super-predators don't exist, and never did. But the myth of the "super-predator" offers us a new (and, admittedly, partially ironic) lens through which to view today's corporate executives, a class of people which is apparently remorseless about the harm it causes in the pursuit of self-enrichment.
Let's be clear: No group of human beings is uniquely predisposed toward evil. But society and government are supposed to discourage people from from acting on their worst impulses, and when it comes to the corporate class they -- and we -- have failed.
Now the rise of the Corporate Super-predator Class could culminate in the election of one of its own to the highest office in the land.
Fear of Children
The myth of the juvenile "super-predator" was promoted by conservatives in the 1990s and 2000s. As Fairness and Accuracy in Media reported in 1998, politicized professors and mainstream commentators were terrifying the public with stories about the "remorseless brutality" we can expect to see from the "teenaged time bomb" that TIME Magazine's scare piece described as follows: "They are just four, five and six years old now, but already they are making criminologists nervous."
But those super-predator children never existed. In fact, juvenile crime rates have declined "significantly" since the early 1990s, according to FBI statistics. But the fear engendered by superpredator scare tactics has distracted millions of Americans from their economic plight, and the forces behind it. Maybe that's why ALEC and other corporate-sponsored organizations have funded the "Stand Your Ground" laws that led to the death of Trayvon Martin and a number of other young people.
If stoking fear of our minority children was a tactic to divert attention from the behavior of corporate leaders, it's been remarkably successful. Stories that "super-predators" were preying on the survivors of Hurricane Katrina helped distract the public temporarily from the real horror taking place there -- the horror of government neglect.
The "super-predator" described in now-discredited sociological works was a person who was inherently amoral and criminal because he lived in a social milieu which lacked both a moral framework and a means of restraining and punishing bad behavior.
Which gets us to Mitt Romney and today's top corporate executives.
One of Their Own
A highly wealthy American is now running for the highest office in the land with a nomination bought and paid for by his ultra-wealthy backers. The corporate class finally has the chance to elect one of its own, rather than depending on the compliance of someone else in that office.
Am I saying that the country's top executives, some of whom I have known and worked with, are the real-life equivalent of those mythical, ultra-violent young people described in the "super-predator" scare stories? No. Many of them are good, decent people who are doing the best job they can.
But there is a new culture of corporate leadership, one that's been growing over the last 30 to 40 years. This new culture is less moral and more selfish then the leadership culture that preceded it, and it is almost sociopathically indifferent to the effects of its own behavior on other people.
Spotting a Super-predator