NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The CEO whom I call the "Rodney Dangerfield of Corporate America" (because he gets no respect), Patrick Byrne of Overstock.com, recently placed a screed on Overstock's main page attacking Goldman Sachs (GS) and talking up his frivolous "naked shorting" suit against Wall Street banks.I had just learned about the Byrne histrionics when I read an article in New York magazine this week, a sympathetic profile of Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Blankfein is portrayed as an affable guy, overflowing with "humility" throughout his career, bald and cuddly, bewildered by all the vitriol, all the "vampire squid" hyperbole. Resign? No sirree. This graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School is staying on, despite attacks from the likes of Evelyn Davis, a respected shareholder advocate here portrayed as something of a crackpot. No bullies are going to push him out of the schoolyard. The article was featured on the cover as "Lloyd Blankfein vs. the Haters."Arrogant? You bet. Dishonest? Certainly. But what do you expect from Goldman and Blankfein, especially in the context of an article that gives short shrift to its unholy deal with hedgie John Paulson and only briefly mentions the No. 1 source of outrage against Goldman -- that it was the most direct beneficiary from the bailout of American International Group ( AIG), with $2.9 billion in taxpayer money flowing directly to Goldman. Thanks to such government largesse, for which nothing was asked in return, Goldman and the other banks prospered while the nation sank into recession. The 2008 Wall Street bailout turned out to be the sweetest trade Wall Street ever pulled off -- trading billions in taxpayer money for its not going out of business. That's the reason why Goldman and the other banks are so despised. It was an outrage, and Blankfein is far too smart a man to be "bewildered" by the justifiable anger directed at his firm. At first, I dismissed this article as yet another example of the Goldman public relations machinery -- very much visible in the article in the form of PR chieftain Lucas van Praag -- trying for the umpteenth time to revive the reputation of the joke-telling, public housing project-raised CEO. The article didn't break much new ground and hasn't gotten much attention, probably because Blankfein made many of the same points in an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins last month.
- The conspiracy-mongers benefit from their conspiracy theories. Goldman Sachs is a big, fat, supremely wealthy, Jewish-sounding target. It is doling out enormous bonuses to its people at the same time that the rest of America is suffering. So whether one attacks Goldman Sachs to make a sociopolitical point (Glenn Beck) or to divert attention from one's own failures (Patrick Byrne), Goldman is an irresistible hate-object.
- Goldman is a vampire squid. As I and other non-conspiracy-mongers have pointed out, there is much truth to the hyperbole and wrath directed at the firm. Yes, Goldman Sachs does bad stuff. Yes, it is entrenched in government. Its alliance with John Paulson, under which the short-seller worked in cahoots with Goldman to design mortgage-backed financial instruments, with no disclosure to potential buyers, is a prime example of a company with no moral principle other than "gimme."
- Goldman benefits from the conspiracy theories. Just read the Jenkins interview and the New York profile and you can see what I mean. The attacks on Goldman have given the firm a PR opportunity, deliberately equating well-warranted criticism with conspiracy tales.