Pop Culture Gauntlet: Kanye West vs. The Enron Scandal

December 07, 2009 | Comments (0) | by T.R.

Welcome to Pop Culture Gauntlet, where people, places, and things from various subjects face off in a virtual cage match. As part of an ongoing series we will bring you new battles each week between randomly selected items from the Thunder Matt's PCG database. We will provide you with a brief background of both competitors. After reading, you can then vote on your choice in the poll located in the right sidebar column. Monday battles will run until 12am Thursday. Thursday battles will run until 12am Monday. Also we welcome any arguments for either competitor in our comments section. May the best man, thing, or whatever win.

Today's match: Kanye West vs. The Enron Scandal

Kanye West, as all of you know, is a prominent rapper, producer, musician, fashionista, and all-around insufferable douche. West rose to prominence as producer for Roc-A-Fella Records. He achieved notoriety for his work on Jay-Z's album The Blueprint, which was released moments after the Twin Towers were hit by the Iraqis on September 11, 2001. He has since released four solo albums of his own: The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), and 808s & Heartbreak (2008). His album Graduation was originally set to be released on September 18, 2007. However, (supposedly) noting the impending anniversary of our nation's darkest day, West had the release date moved to September 11. He would once again upstage the anniversary of our country's greatest domestic tragedy by being arrested on September 11, 2008 at Los Angeles International Airport following an altercation with a photographer. Though a genuine philanthropist at heart, West has gained most of his media attention due to his uproarious public meltdowns. From the infamous declaration at A Concert for Hurricane Relief that "George Bush doesn't care about black people", to his numerous award show acceptance speech interruptions, Kanye West is the entertainment industry's poster child of a "negative attention-getter".

Strengths: understands how to make himself the center of attention; musically inclined; charity work

Weaknesses: acts like a petulant child in public; believes he is God's gift; tendency to speak without thinking first

Fun Fact: Kanye's mother, Donda West, died in 2007 from complications following plastic surgery.

Enron was a Houston-based energy company founded by Kenneth Lay in 1985. The rise and fall of Enron is perhaps the most notable example of free market FAIL in U.S. history. Chief executives of Enron (including former CFO Andrew Fastow, former President, CEO and COO Jeffrey Skilling, and former Chairman and CEO Lay) used creative accounting practices to hide billions of dollars in debt, effectively pulling the proverbial wool over the eyes of Wall Street throughout the 1990s. Their particular brand of corporate malfeasance allowed Enron to portray itself as a genuine American success story, with a diversified portfolio that pushed it's stock price to $90 per share in mid-2000. Unfortunately for their employees and shareholders, the wheels jumped off the track in August of 2001. Skilling stepped down as CEO (after selling off 450,000 shares for a $33 million profit) as pressure mounted for Enron to open it's books. When the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked on September 11, 2001, Enron executives pointed and said "look over there!" as they grabbed their briefcases and ran in the opposite direction to the tune of "Yakety Sax". Ultimately, shareholders lost $74 billion leading up to Enron's collapse. Over 20,000 former employees, some of which lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in shares, won a paltry $3,100 for their troubles in a subsequent lawsuit.

Strengths: ability to work the system; generous executive compensation; woke America up to corporate greed

Weaknesses: chief executives are all currently in jail or dead; families destroyed; lost naming rights to the Astros ballpark

Fun Fact: Enron's original name was Enteron, which roughly translated to "intestines" in Greek. The name was thus changed.