Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: There is much to be learned from the American school of writing SOS calls Rich White Treatment. You can bellyache all you want about income inequality and Two Americas and Listen Liberal, but until you’ve bothered to acquaint yourself with RWT writing, you’re not getting it.

RWT appears in our classiest, highest-profile, most influential journalism, as in this piece from the New York Times (Business Section) through which SOS will now scathe. As SOS does her thing, read the piece not as if you’re its intended audience – a few hundred rich white people, many of whom will read to the end only because they know Thomas Davis and in fact probably did some insidery trading with him themselves (the guy’s a nobody who did absolutely boring white bread dull as dishwater insider trading, so why would anyone read past the first paragraph except out of schadenfreude + anxious self-interest?). Don’t even read as a member of your social class … as a typical NYT reader…

No – try reading what SOS is about to quote and analyze as a common petty criminal, or as an ordinary struggling non-golf playing, non-bigtime gambling, non-private plane using, non-criminal living in Idaho. As you read, ask yourself why our nation’s paper of record is wasting ink on this guy, whose crimes, in a nation of insider traders, in a nation about to be presided over by a man with a court date for massive fraud, are totally undistinguished and unworthy of notice. Also ask yourself questions having to do with the writer’s point of view. From what point of view is this information being amassed and organized? What is the point of this article? What is the writer trying to accomplish?

The title of the piece announces its moral. The article will indeed be a morality tale.


Strap yourself in for The Great Gatsby. Prepare to appreciate the pathos of a man captured by a culture of status and ostentation.

The piece opens onto a blur of turfgrass.

At age 67, Thomas C. Davis should be enjoying all the perks of a long and distinguished career at the pinnacle of Wall Street and the Texas business elite. These include golfing at the prestigious Dallas Country Club and Preston Trail Golf Club, where he was a member; trips to Las Vegas and golf tournaments on the private jet he co-owned; and fractional ownership of two professional sports teams, the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars.

The blur of turfgrass never leaves this article; it’s sprayed all over like aromatherapy spritzer. There are charity golf tournaments (Davis stole the proceeds), “golf legend Lanny Wadkins,” golf legend Phil Mickelson, naughty sports gambler William Walters (“The two often played [golf] together, especially when they were both living in Southern California.”), and “wealthy friends and fellow golf club members.” (Poignantly, Walters himself was arrested at the Bali Hai Golf Club.)

But don’t let the blur occlude the bullshit that announces itself outright in this first paragraph, which stuffs itself full of words one associates with Winston Churchill (distinguished, elite, prestigious…) even though if you read the whole article it’s clear that Davis was always a measly garden variety crooked mid-level capitalist pig. The very first thing the writer tells us about Davis – his very distinguished very advanced age – means to make him an elder statesman brought tragically low by late-life seduction into a world of shiny appearances.

So next we get some paragraphs recounting his many disgusting crimes – not just theft from a charity and insider trading, but lying to the SEC and trying to destroy evidence and all kinds of other shit.

Some story elements are good from the point of view of a reader looking for vivid detail, but even they could be better in obvious ways. Here’s an example:

And after the F.B.I. agents left, he took a prepaid cellular phone he had used to leak the information and threw it into a creek near his Dallas home, destroying evidence and obstructing justice.

Yes… okay… but shouldn’t that have been a water trap?

After acknowledging that this guy’s crimes “have received relatively little attention” – without stating the reason for this (they don’t merit attention), the NYT writer now moves to the weighty question of Why. Why would a rich person seek greater riches? Hm. Hm.

He wasn’t really rich. He was “desperate for money.” He was a “distinguished” (there’s that adjective again: “the distinguished white-haired…”) desperado desperate for money. Why was he desperate for money?

Well, because he was essentially a career criminal who gradually (I’m sure his lawyers will argue it was his advanced distinguished age and its depredations) got sloppy. He was a greedy amoral motherfucker who over time lost the knack of being a successful greedy amoral motherfucker. Happens to the best of us. Only the New York Times business page would try to turn it into a national tragedy. Only a culture committed to criminalizing its undistinguished criminals and decriminalizing its distinguished would write articles like this. His Wall Street friends are “shocked” and “stunned” (an easily stunned lot, that) that this “pillar” (I am not making this up) would fall… Because after all until very recently he didn’t do things like owe

the I.R.S. $78,000. His brokerage account was heavily margined, and he had run up tens of thousands in credit card debt. He owed $550,000 to one of his investment funds.

Mr. Davis sought salvation in gambling…

Sought salvation. Sweet. And SOS is sure he never amassed credit card debt or owed stuff to an investment fund or had a big IRS bill or tried to gamble his way to God before the great fluted pillar he used to be crashed shockingly to the ground.

And now, as his morality tale wraps up, as darkness begin to shadow the turf, bad things happen fast and furious to this desperate man.

In just one month, March 2011, Mr. Davis ran up gambling losses of $200,000 at one Las Vegas casino. He owed $178,000 for the private jet. And he had to cover the $100,000 he had taken from the charity.

SOS is particularly fond of this line, appearing almost at the end of the tale.

The government has shed little light on Mr. Davis’s motive, other than that he needed money.

She loves the image of the NYT writer squinting with all his sympathetic might over the question WHY? WHY? He even asks the government!

And what does the government say? Fuck you! He wasn’t a distinguished anything! He was a greedy motherfucker who got caught.

It maketh SOS giggle.

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3 Responses to ““[T]he annals of insider trading are filled with people who knew better, from Ivan Boesky to Rajat Gupta. What’s perplexing is their motives. Like [Thomas] Davis, they were already rich and successful beyond most people’s dreams.””

  1. dmf Says:

  2. AYY Says:

    Rich white treatment? Where’s the racial angle in the story?. This is standard NYT human interest stuff that NYT and other papers apply across the board–except for Trump, George Bush, Clarence Thomas. etc.

  3. AYY Says:

    Oh, and one more thing: As each passing year goes by, 67 becomes less and less of an “advanced age.”

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