Bernard L Madoff walks down Lexington Ave to his apartment on December 17, 2008 in New York City. US … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
Few people have been so widely publicized and publicly maligned as the notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff. After the federal prison office confirmed Madoff had passed away, the news was greeted with open condemnation and ridicule on social media.
Madoff was a former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange who pleaded guilty to staging the largest Ponzi program in history. He died of natural causes early Wednesday. He admitted in 2009 that he defrauded thousands of customers of billions of dollars over a decade-long scam. He was 82 years old.
Nothing good to say – but a lot has been said
The old adage “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all” certainly doesn’t carry over to social media, where comments on the deaths of famous people have generated as much denunciation as praise. In the case of Madoff, who underwent a thorough scrutiny of two television movie biographies, among other things, there was almost nothing good to say.
There were thousands of tweets on Wednesday, and there was no shortage of memes trying to find the humor in Madoff’s crimes.
Parody podcast Godcast (@TheTweetOfGod) tweeted, “Bernie Madoff is in hell. The devil is going to be broke in 18 months.”
Podcaster Travis View (@travis_view) recycled an old joke: “The only good thing about Bernie Madoff was that he had a perfect name for someone who ran a massive Ponzi program for decades. It’s like a car thief’s name is Joey Drivesaway. “
The closest comedian to actual compassion, Tim Dillon (@TimJDillon), who offered, “A bright light has gone out. And we’re all worse for it. Thank you for showing us anything is possible.”
“Bernie Madoff died. Now two people have to die under him and two people under each and so on and so forth for this thing to work,” wrote comedians / comedy writers The Sklar Brothers (@SklarBrothers).
Parody investment website @ParikPatelCFA suggested, “Now that Bernie Madoff is gone, it’s up to us to scam a new generation of investors.”
Others, however, were far stricter in their assessment, which led to Madoff’s fall.
“Never forget, Bernie Madoff didn’t go to jail for stealing, he went to jail for stealing from rich people,” @hasanthehun wrote.
Author Brian O’Sullivan (@osullivanauthor) wrote, “Bernie Madoff has died. His Ponzi schemes ruined life. Tears won’t be shed today. Be a good person to others. It’s not that hard.”
More than condolences
The deaths of Rush Limbaugh, Larry Flynt, and even Prince Philip saw notable reactions on social media, but in these cases the responses included both actual condolences and ridicule. It is easy to see why this is not the case with Madoff given his crimes.
The question, however, is whether Madoff – or really anyone – deserves such ridicule during these times. Obviously there is no respect for the dead on social media.
“People prefer to post negative comments, the worse the better,” said technology entrepreneur Lon Safko, author of the Social Media Bible.
“Check out every video on YouTube and even the best of them are full of smart comments and negative expressions,” said Safko. “A lot of YouTube posters just shut down their channels after the constant flood of negative feedback.”
It could be argued that social media almost encourages such comments.
“It would make sense if someone like Bernie Madoff died, it would provide these trolls with a platform on which to turn Madoff viciously without impact,” added Safko. “Just like Taylor Swift sings, ‘Haters will hate!'”