by André Gayot
“The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys,” star restaurateur Mario Batali declared at a recent panel sponsored by Time Magazine. No surprise Mr. Batali got a lot of flak, especially, of course, from bankers and the like. The restaurateur realized belatedly that quite a number of his clients in his twenty fancy establishments might very well belong to or be associated with the banking industry because, according to his own terms, bankers “… have taken most of the money into their hands,” and thus can easily afford the hefty bills. Some talked vigorously of boycotting Batali’s restaurants. Deterring such a well-heeled clientele is not good business practice in these uncertain times.
Sorry, oops, my mistake, went Mario, who said through a spokesperson, “It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history.” So we get the message: these two guys are really bad, but bankers are OK. OK, but not angels?
The whole shebang is a little awkward, and a tad embarrassing. Mario, who is a good cook but a poor economist, needs to fine-tune his socio-political declarations and find the proper expression, litigation-less, to demonize the bankers. He should be aware that Stalin, as a communist, hated bankers, while Hitler, basically a socialist (a national-socialist helped by a smart minister of finances, Dr. Schacht), tamed the profession in question. So the comparison in any respect was not valid.
What would be more appropriate? Let’s try a more contemporary and softer one: “The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed is as good as Berlusconi.” That could work, except that Berlusconi has, in addition to his financial skills, a strong smell of “bunga bunga.” We have no evidence that all bankers engage in such a hyper sexual activity. It could pave the way for a class action in defamation. Forget Berlusconi.
Association with the Ku Klux Klan would not work either, because they mask their faces while the bankers don’t. They need not because what they do is legal, or so we are told.
Al Capone could be considered as a comparison, but bankers don’t use submachine guns to establish their point. Their only weapons are subprime loans and high interest rates which again are legal. Let’s drop Al Capone.
Equating justly all bankers to a negative character has proven a perilous and time-consuming enterprise. So our recommendation to Mario would be to just say: “The way the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it in their hands is as good as the bankers.”
Everybody will understand and you will skip the flak.