The first reaction most decent people will have when seeing these pictures of last year’s Halloween costume party at the foreclosure mill law offices of Steven J. Baum is overwhelming disgust and nausea, followed by an overwhelming desire to storm these offices on Monday and “make an example.” But the employees of Steven J. Baum are, ultimately, wage slaves to the institutionalized cruelty and dehumanization that defines America’s economic system. The people pictured here look like legal assistants and secretaries and paralegals and receptionists and file clerks and low-level litigators, all probably underwater on their own mortgages and all much closer to economic catastrophe than they’d care to admit — this firm is in a suburb of Buffalo, after all. It is crucial that the Steven J. Baums of the world force their own wage slaves into opposition against the rest of the nation’s wage slaves. This is why Oakland’s police officers, many of them military veterans, are so ready to viciously attack other military veterans. It’s why a “Tea Party” of Ron Paul supporters was hijacked by the billionaire Koch Brothers and turned into a manufactured outrage of middle-class whites against middle-class whites (and the minorities and lower classes, as always).
Joe Nocera, writing in today’s New York Times op-ed section, explains how the owner of this deeply evil law firm encourages its employees to see their neighbors and comrades fighting foreclosure as enemies, as weak people who cannot game the system, as a worthless “other” not worthy of anything but bile and mockery:
[A] former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.
When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose.
The firm is a “top U.S. foreclosure practice,” meaning it is a top-down criminal organization — it has already agreed to pay $2 million in fines to the New York attorney general, to avoid further prosecution over its illegal foreclosure methods. Many other states are prosecuting the firm. Any successful criminal organization operates by creating a culture of conspiracy. The members of the crime operation do not simply do jobs; they pledge loyalty to the beliefs and personality of the kingpin, they see his enemies as their enemies, they are taught to feel nothing for those who suffer. This is what you see here: Office workers, American nobodies, people as likely to fall prey to an aggressive foreclosure mill as the actual victims, told to come to work and parade about as caricatures of their own victims.
There is more in the column, including the ritual mock murder of a lawyer who has sued the firm for its criminal practices, but you probably have the idea by now. It’s no different for the $60K nobodies at Fox News or the Nike employees who used to tattoo the company’s trademarked logo onto their skin, volunteering themselves as eternal chattel to a corporation that could send them all home forever, on Monday. This is “corporate culture,” in its most transparently despicable guise. [NYT via Boing Boing]