The hipster grifter: Harbinger of a new world?


Robin Hood, if he ever existed, has been dust for centuries. However, his legacy -- the myth of the populist criminal -- continues to thrive. In the 1930's, rural bandits like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger were folk heroes to poor farmers who felt abused by the banks. A few decades later, marijuana-toking free spirits were the order of the day for 1960's and 1970's anti-establishment types. These, in turn, were replaced by slick, well-educated corporate criminals like Ivan Boesky, Martha Stewart, Michael Milkin and Sam Waksal. Each generation seems to choose its criminal avatar to represent its ideals and desires.

Today, the popular anger at Bernie Madoff, Dick Fuld, Allen Stanford and John Thain suggests that the era of the corporate criminal is coming to an end. Whereas the ability to defraud thousands of investors was once perceived as the prerogative of clever money men, it now smacks of unfair privilege and anti-social abuse. The question is, if the master schemer is out, who is going to replace him?

One likely candidate is the hipster grifter. Young, urban, sophisticated and amoral, the grifter lands somewhere between Charles Bukowski and David Bowie, and seems to view his (or more precisely, her) crimes with ironic attachment.