The Banks, Media, and Social Distress

  • Robert W. Rieber
Part of the Path in Psychology book series (PATH)


We live in a society that relentlessly attempts to litigate and legislate morality, yet the spirit of this age does not encourage morality. Such a situation inevitably results in superficial moral codes that dictate conflicting values. The attitudes of our times are the result of a social character that has, in a sense, overextended itself in such a way that everything has become possible and the rules of the game are constantly mutating. Morality is viewed as something we can invest in for our own personal profit, not that of society. This corresponds to Moynihan’s idea of defining deviancy “down,” which is related to our concept of social distress.1


Accounting Firm Banking Institution Social Distress Media Imperialism Loan Association 
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  1. 1.
    The issue of defining deviancy in different ways has become an interesting concern as of late. Crabhammer’s notion of defining deviancy “up,” in contrast to Senator Patrick Moynihan’s notion of defining deviancy “down,” addresses the issue of political correctness that places emphasis upon such issues as date rape, academic policing of the use of epithets, false memory syndrome, and child abuse. Crabhammer’s notion is that we are creating deviancy where deviancy does not and should not exist. Moynihan’s notion is that we are redefining deviancy by playing it down and accepting things that not only should not exist but that also are detrimental to society’s welfare (as mentioned in Chapter 2, we have a tendency to downplay the negativism associated with crime, in that it is no longer seen as a crime to be a criminal). Such things would include the general disintegration of the family (particularly the widespread acceptance of children being born out of wedlock), which holds relevance to our discussion of the causative factors associated with the psychopathy of everyday life.Google Scholar
  2. Really, the business of defining deviancy “up” or “down” is dependent upon where the person who is doing the defining is standing; in either instance, what is occurring here is deviancy being defined “away.” These observations, in my opinion, are best understood as symptoms of society’s rapid social transformation, which is part and parcel of the processes of social distress and the psychopathy of everyday life, which grows out of the social distress syndrome.Google Scholar
  3. Moynihan offers three categories of redefinition: (1) altruistic (i. e., redistribution of mental health services); (2) opportunistic (i. e., acceptance of alternative family structures); and (3) normalizing (i. e., acceptance of unprecedented levels of violent crime).Google Scholar
  4. These three categories are descibed as an “interactive” process, reciprocally affecting one another. Moynihan provides a lot of documented evidence to support his contention. See D. P. Moynihan, “Defining deviancy Down,” American Educator, Winter 1993-94, 12-18; C. Crabhammer, “White-Collar Crime,” New Republic, November 22, 1993.Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    A classic category of criminal activity was referred to as white-collar crime. Criminologists who wrote about it rarely managed to plumb the depths of character of the white-collar criminal, probably because they were mostly sociologists. If one looks back 50 years or so at white-collar crime and criminals, they are remarkably similar to today’s offenses and offenders. See H. J. Vetter and L. Territo, Crime and Practice in America (St. Paul: West Publishing, 1984), pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    Noam Chomsky’s work relating to the media, as well as other political works, provides us with ample evidence regarding this matter. Especially pertinent to this is the recently released film about Chomsky’s intellectual career, which is appropriately titled The Manufacturing of Consent.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    The Keating S&L scandal is the most alarming case of the hundreds of S&L collapses that have recently taken place, given the circumstances leading up to the bank’s bailout in 1989. Keating purchased the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association for $51 million in 1984. He went beyond the traditional procedures for S&L institutions, taking advantage of the relatively liberal regulations for such banks in the state of California. When depositors came in to buy federally insured certificates of deposit, tellers at Lincoln S&L directed them to sales representatives who sold them junk bonds issued by American Continental, a corporation formed by Keating. The Federal Home Loan Bank in San Francisco began an investigation of Lincoln’s growth and investment activities during 1986 and urged Washington to examine the case, since they found that Lincoln was operating under questionable loan and accounting practices.Google Scholar
  8. In September 1990, Keating was charged by a state grand jury for duping investors into buying junk bonds. During the trial, which lasted nearly a month, depositors, many of them elderly, said that they were not fully informed of the riskiness of the bonds and that they did not fully understand that the bonds were not federally insured. On December 4, 1991, Keating was finally found guilty of securities fraud. His defense attorney, Stephen C. Neal, contended that the prosecution had “utterly failed” to prove that Keating had engaged in criminal activity, since all the risks pertaining to the bonds sold to the depositors were fully explained in the prospectus given to the buyers.Google Scholar
  9. For a further discussion of the S&L scandal, see S. Pizzo and P. Muolo, “Take the Money and Run: A Rogues’ Gallery of Some Lucky S.&L. Thieves,” New York Times Magazine, May 9, 1993).Google Scholar
  10. 5.
  11. 6.
    A good example of this is the most recent terrorist attack in early 1993 when terrorists planted a bomb in the World Trade Center and caused panic and death in New York City’s financial district.Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    See Moynihan’s discussion on the effect of the interest group rewards derived from the acceptance of alternative family structures. D. P. Moynihan, “Defining Deviancy Down,” American Educator, Winter 1993–94, 12-18.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    Another example of this was seen in spring of 1993 in the difficulty the United Nations experienced in their attempts to bring food into the war torn areas of Somalia. More often than not, the food never reached the people for whom it was intended.Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    In his discussion pertaining to Jim and Tammy Bakker, Saxe further provides the reader with additional insight into the ubiquitous nature of the phenomenon known as the psychopathy of everyday life. Saxe says, “Recent history has not spared even religious leaders from involvement in scandal and deceit. From the Reverend Jim Bakker, convicted of fraud, to Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, found to have engaged prostitutes while proselytizing against the evils of sex, examples of destructive deceptiveness abound.” L. Saxe, “Lying: Thoughts of an Applied Social Psychologist,” American Psychologist, 46(4):409–415.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert W. Rieber
    • 1
  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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