For months now, I’ve been seeing this one photograph of this one guy, over and over, in The Wall Street Journal — almost always with stories I was uninterested in reading, so the picture just sort of registered in the background.
It was the sort of picture that no sane company publicist would ever have distributed, unless it wanted
its CEO to be hated. And you knew this was a CEO; the picture just radiated, "I’m the kind of guy who thinks he’s really hot stuff because I’m so absurdly overcompensated." And you know, I seldom think that when I look at people. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt (something that drives some of y’all crazy, because you’re always wanting me to join you in despising somebody, and I just don’t feel like it — not necessarily because I’m a nice guy; I just don’t feel like it). But this picture INSISTED that you not like the guy. If a psychologist included this photo in a Thematic Apperception Test, I suspect there would be a surprising uniformity in the stories the subjects would tell.
Well, we’ve all been paying more attention than usual to Lehman Brothers the last few days. For tomorrow’s op-ed page, I happened to choose this Nicholas Kristof column, which in a nutshell is about a guy named Richard Fuld who got paid the equivalent of $17,000 an hour while he was running that company into the ground.
Needing art for the page, I searched AP photos for "Richard Fuld." And lo and behold, what should pop up but that very same picture that’s been half-registering on my mind the last few months. That’s it above and to the right. It was taken by Kevin Wolf at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Jan. 22, 2007. I especially like the way Mr. Wolf thought to include the satellite image of the Earth in the frame, just in case we missed the whole "master of the universe" thing going on.
And apparently, to the extent that this guy Fuld will be publicly remembered, he’ll be remembered looking like this.
Well, I feel so much smarter for knowing that now. But not nearly as smart as he apparently thought HE was.