Although we can imagine what goes on inside of the heads of people like Dick Fuld, Bernie Madoff’s mind is indeed a foreign country to us. What he allegedly did goes far beyond ordinary greed or dishonesty. We cannot imagine what it must have been like to carry on such a huge fraud, apparently for years, even while being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Was he a sociopath? Is this the unmetaphorical version of American Psycho we’re experiecing, a man who murders the savings of those who most trust him?
Jessica Pressler thinks that at the root of Madoff’s scams might be an overwhelming narcissism. In fact, she writes that even those alleged Hanukkah gifts Madoff tried to send to friends and relatives are evidence of his narcissism.
His gestures are ostensibly to help other people, but it’s really all about him and how he wants himself to be perceived. I was thinking of you. Here are some things to remember me by. But he’s not even thinking about them at all: He didn’t even consider the effect his actions would ultimately have on the charities, or that the bonuses and gifts will be seized, or that his family will ultimately be ruined. Even now, he’s still obsessed with getting people to like him. Witness this telling moment, observed by the Post‘s Andrea Peyser, generally not the greatest observer of human nuance, during Madoff’s court date yesterday:
“He skulked into the courtroom looking grim. He looked around the room, seeking a friendly face, and ultimately gave a small smile to a woman in attendance. She frowned and looked away.”
Could this be the key to understanding Madoff? Could he just be a guy who wanted to be liked so much that he couldn’t admit to ever losing investor money on bad trades?