Taking Delight in Deception: Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan Admits Deception, but Big Media Embraces His "Purposeful Obfuscation" and Continues Gushing Adoration

By Jasper, William F. | The New American, October 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

Taking Delight in Deception: Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan Admits Deception, but Big Media Embraces His "Purposeful Obfuscation" and Continues Gushing Adoration


Jasper, William F., The New American


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan lives a charmed life. Besides pulling down an $8.5 million advance on his memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World (topped only by Bill Clinton's $10 million advance), he recently was treated to an orgy of media hype and hoopla usually reserved for screen idols and rock stars.

This hype continued even though during his dozens of media appearances in September, the fabled "Maestro" of central banking made at least two damning confessions that should have sparked universal outrage and a torrent of condemning headlines and editorials. However, Greenspan's admissions seem to have caused nary a ripple of discontent in his sea of media admirers.

Condoning Deception

In interviews on two high-profile television programs--with Mafia Bartiromo on CNBC and with Leslie Stahl on CBS' 60 Minutes--Greenspan admitted, with smug satisfaction, to willfully deceiving Congress when addressing them under oath about some of the most important Fed policies affecting the national and global economies. This blatant deception--in essence, lying--Greenspan brazenly, but casually, described as "purposeful obfuscation" and "destructive syntax."

Were his interviewers outraged by this shocking confession? Far from it; the revelation only seemed to deepen their awe and fascination. The September 17 onscreen performance of CNBC's Bartiromo was especially embarrassing to watch. Ms. Bartiromo, supposedly the consummate news professional, wavered between star-struck hero-worship and giggling girlie flirtation.

Here is the crucial exchange between the breathless Bartiromo and Greenspan:

Maria Bartiromo: All of these important economic events you are overseeing--the most important institution, and leading things. And then not only are you dealing with these crises, but then you've got to convey what's going on to people. That means Congress, the president, the media, the public. So what? You come up with Green-speak.

Alan Greenspan: Otherwise known as Fed-speak.

Maria Bartiromo: What is it?

Alan Greenspan: It's a--a language of purposeful obfuscation to avoid certain questions coming up, which you know you can't answer, and saying--"I will not answer or basically no comment is, in fact, an answer." So, you end up with when, say, a congressman asks you a question, and don't wanna say, "No comment," or "I won't answer," or something like that. So, I proceed with four or five sentences which get increasingly obscure. The congressman thinks I answered the question and goes onto the next one. [Emphasis added.]

Likewise, in his September 13 interview on 60 Minutes, Greenspan proudly paraded his record of deceit and misdirection. CBS' Leslie Stahl tells us that "in public Greenspan was inscrutable whenever Congress asked about interest rates. He resorted to an indecipherable, Delphic dialect known as 'Fed-speak.'" The 60 Minutes transcript then proceeds with this account of their conversation:

   "I would engage in some form of
   syntax destruction, which sounded as
   though I were ... answering the question,
   but, in fact, had not," Greenspan
   admits, with a chuckle.

   [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

   At one hearing, Greenspan said,
   "Modest pre-emptive actions can obviate
   the need of more drastic actions
   at a later date, and that could destabilize
   the economy."

   "Very profound" Greenspan says,
   after listening to his testimony.

   Greenspan personally worked on
   these "profound" comments.

   "But what would often happen is
   you'd get two newspapers with opposing
   headlines, coming out of the
   same heating," Stahl remarks.

   "I succeeded. I succeeded," Greenspan
   says.

Succeeded? Succeeded in deceiving many (but not all!) of the congressmen to whom he was testifying. Succeeded in deceiving the American people as a whole. …

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