We love bad guys in America — even when they're not really bad. Demonizing helps define the best in us. Here's an incomplete list from the history books: Indians, Quakers, witches, Englishmen, the federal government, Southerners and Northerners, Chinese "Celestials," Tammany Hall Democrats, Germans, Jews, Japanese, North Koreans, communists, socialists, Vietnamese, liberals, conservatives, gays, lesbians and Muslims. The Evil Empire and the Axis of Evil.
Now, a fresh group has been dropped into the cultural dunk tank. Bin Laden? Back-burnered, at least for now. Saddam? Gone and forgotten. Instead, in these jumbled days of economic uncertainty, fairly or unfairly, America's newest Snidely Whiplashes bear faces like those of Bernie Madoff, AIG executives and the private jet-flying heads of the Big Three automakers.