Please Notice the "X" that Marks the Stage Spot

To NAVIGATE - The paper has interactive Figures


1. Characters 1. Characters
2. Plots 2. Plots
3. Themes 3. Themes
4. Dialogs 4. Dialogs
5. Rhythms 5. Rhythms
6. Frames 6. Frames
7. Spectacles 7. Spectacles


PAPER TITLE: Critical Dramaturgical Analysis of Enron Antenarratives and Metatheatre


David M. Boje

New Mexico State University

July 10, 2002; July 31, 2002 version

Plenary presentation to 5th International Conference on Organizational Discourse: From Micro-Utterances to Macro-Inferences, Wednesday 24th - Friday 26th July (London). 


Enron shows us dramaturgy gone amuck. Enron is Metatheatre, defined here as the TAMARA-esque contending, fragmented, simultaneous, and multiple theatres that constitute the global economy. Key to developing a more critical dramaturgy is deconstructing the specter of Metatheatre, especially its romantic Poetics. I will propose what I call the Septet (plots, characters, themes, dialogs, rhythms, spectacles, & frames). Septet re-theorizes Aristotle’s Poetics and Burke’s Pentad, integrating their critical dramaturgy roots with more critical-postmodern turns taken by Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. Septet allows us to analyze, for example, how Metatheatre interpenetrates four spectacles (concentrated, diffuse, integrated and mega).  Enron’s critical dramaturgy analysis reveals how megaspectacles played in public Metatheatre to teach cathartic lessons of pity and fear (do not be an Enronite) to millions of spectators, who could confidently replug into the resanctified first three spectacles of concentrated illusion, diffuse global predation, and integrated hyper-reality. My intended contribution to a more critical dramaturgy is to oppose narrative closure with an antenarrative theory that builds upon Fairclough’s intertextuality work, and Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome processes.

Act I Scene I – A Death Bed. I would like to dedicate the honor of being invited to give this plenary talk to my dad, Daniel Q. Boje; he died March 12th 2002 (78 years old). December 2000, he called me, “David, I want you to research connections between the Whitehouse and oil; I don’t like what President Bush is doing to the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.”[i] He had worked in the late 1950s around ANWR repairing U.S. early warning defense installations. Dad called again, shortly after September 11th, “David, I want you to research the relation between oil contracts in the Gulf War[ii], and in Afghanistan, and the escalated War on Terrorism.”[iii] I flew to visit him, and explained, “Dad, I study Nike and Disney storytelling; I am not an oil industry economist or political scientist.” He said, “You work in a Business College, this is about business.” I finally agreed to do the analysis. Dad died before I could share with him those oil-Whitehouse-war connections that now are so very obvious to you due to the Enron debacle.[iv] I know this deathbed promise is why I reviewed over 9,784 Enron stories (Figure 3) for their critical dramaturgy, for this talk. Dad refused to be silent.

Enter 3 more Ghosts - I want to thank Cliff Oswick, Tom Keenoy and David Grant (2001), our conveners, and also guest editors of “Dramaturgy and Organizing,” a special issue of Journal of Organizational Change Management; they observe the field of organizational dramaturgy is split between Goffman-ites who assume theatre is a metaphor (Mangham & Overington, 1987) to apply to organization, and Burkeans who say “organization is theatre” (Rosen, 1985; Maital, 1999; Pine & Gilmour, 1999; Harvey, 2001; Kärreman , 2001; Somerset, Fahey & Mears, 2001; Boje, Cunliffe, & Luhman, 2002).  I say Enron is theatre, but would stretch both Goffman and Burke into more TAMARA-esque (Boje, 1995) theory, into the multitude of simultaneous theatres on networked stages, to which Grace Ann Rosile and I invoke the name ‘Metatheatre (Boje & Rosile, 2002a & b). Metatheatre is defined as the TAMARA-esque evolution and revolution in dialectic cycles of theatric-integration and disintegration, the networking of simultaneous stage-crafted performances seeking to instruct and control spectators and actors; these erupt into more fragmentation. Each integrating attempt of leaders and directors to evoke spectacular theatre, to control the center stage, to enroll a cast of characters, that will influence spectators, soon disintegrates as the pull of multiple scripts, plots, and characters spin Metatheatre out of control.

Enron is Metatheatre in 3 ways – First, Enron is Metatheatre in how it sets out to deceive using façade and illusion. For example, each year (between 1998 and 2001), an elaborate theatre stage was constructed on Enron’s 6th floor to simulate a real trading floor; it’s expensive theatre, $500 to set up each desk, and more for phones in this stage-crafted spectacle, and more for the 36-inch flat panel screens, and teleconference conference rooms; the entire set was wired by computer technicians who feed fake statistics to the screens. On the big day several hundred employees, including secretaries, played their rehearsed character roles, pretending to be ‘Energy Services’ traders, doing mega deals, while Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay played their starring role in the Enron Dramatis Personae to a target audience of invited Wall Street analysts, who can not tell real from fake.[v]

According to former Enron employees, on the sixth floor of the company's downtown headquarters was a set, designed to trick analysts into believing business was booming… former employee Carol Elkin said that it was all an act, and that no trades were actually made there. The people on the phones were talking to each other.[vi]


Second, Enron is Metatheatre as a way to control and motivate employees using the technology of theatre; several times a year, Enron hired choreographers and dramatists (Banerjee, 2002)[vii] to coach executives in character roles in elaborate corporate extravaganzas; executives and staff would dress in Star Wars or other costumes; executives would enter the ballroom riding Harleys or elephants to the thundering applause of employees and spouses.[viii] Finally, Enron is Metatheatre in a much more important sense of Shakespeare’s “Life is theatre” a part of our daily lives in work and consumption (Boje, Rosile & Malbogat, 2002). For example Rebecca Mark’s globetrotting visits on the Enron jet, became a road show complete with an entourage of WB, WFO, IMF, CIA agents mixed along with Mark’s hair dresser, make up artist, and a flock of assistants. When Mark landed, the force of the Whitehouse landed with her.

Enron’s success was masterful dramaturgy in all three Metatheatrical ways (façades to deceive investors, technology to control/motivate employees, and Enron life is theatre). Yet, the Metatheatre interplay of multiple, simultaneous, theatres and stages, disintegrated while its players tried to integrate and control the unraveling dramatis personae of Enron.  Enron did dominate, superstar of the energy markets, its theatre held power, but the TAMARA-esque dynamics, self-organized, and veered Enron into mega-scandal.

My contribution is to invoke Augusto Boal (1979) and Guy Debord (1967) to give Aristotle’s (350 B.C.E.) Poetics a more critical (postmodern) dramaturgy turn.[ix]  Without a critical dramaturgy perspective, a one-sided dramaturgy is likely to end in the kinds of mega-scandal that Best and Kellner (2001) call “megaspectacle” (Rosile, Best, & Boje, 2001). My approach to critical dramaturgy would reinvent Aristotle’s (350 BCE) six Poetics’ elements, and the ‘frame’ (1937) element that Burke (1972: 23) said he always wanted to append to Pentad (1945), and I unbundled two Aristotelian elements (rhythm & dialog) that Burke reduced to agency.  This yields seven dramatis elements (plots, characters, themes, dialogs, rhythms, & spectacles), which I take on a critical postmodern theory turn informed by Boal, Debord, Best, and Kellner (See TAMARA Journal, 2001).[x] My critical postmodern definitions are in the 3rd column of Table 1; some words are the same as Aristotle and Burke, but my Septet meanings are quite different. I prefer a more critical postmodern (Alvesson & Deetz, 1996; Best & Kellner, 2001) approach to dramaturgy that is a complementarity of critical theory and postmodern theory.

Table 1: Poetic, Pentad, and Septet Grammars of Dramatis Personae

Poetic (Aristotle)

Pentad (Burke)

Septet (Boje)

1. Plot (or Fable)

1. Act

1. Plots – have become inter-plots, interconnecting pre-plots in networks, in the middle of being worked out.

2. Character (or Agent)

2. Agent

2. Characters – the cast of characters are in the middle of being enrolled, and characters morph their persona in schizophrenic ways.

3. Theme (or Thought)

3. Purpose

3. Themes – themes of oppression fan out in rhizomatic weaves, and are met by themes of resistance.

4. Dialog (or Diction)

4. Agency


4. Dialogs – obfuscating language and double-speak mixed with euphoric testimonials and bland reassurances attain and shed meanings.

5. Rhythm (or Melody)

5. Rhythms – rhythmic resonances self-organize in chaotic patterns that refuse to freeze, and often disintegrate what was just integrated.

6. Spectacle

5. Scene

6. Spectacles – spectacles are intertextual to other spectacles; they embed in socio-economic contexts by decontextualizing and recontextualizing.

* Frame of Mind of spectator

* Frames of Acceptance/Rejection

7. Frames – Frames are ideologies that are in dialectic contest, resisting each other, and refusing to synthesize.

Key: * = Discussed, but not one of their main dramaturgical elements (Source of Table, Boje, 2002c). Appendix A offers re-readings of Aristotle, Burke, Boal, Freire, Debord, Best and Kellner, to set out the new Septet re-definitions.


Boal (1979) and Freire (1970), for example, extend critical dramaturgy to a more neo-Marxist critical theory, while Burke (1937, 1945, 1972) uses his Pentad to say that Marx is too focused on grotesque and burlesque frames of rejection; Burke prefers Nietzsche’s (1974/1887) more comedic frame of acceptance (Boje, Rosile, Durant & Luhman, 2002).  Burke is always uncomfortable with Marx’s dialectic, which only analyzes exploitation. Burke’s proposal is dialectic of frames of acceptance against frames of rejection; in frames of acceptance we accept the tragic and comedic circumstances and our powerlessness to change the system; in frames of rejection actively resist what is considered grotesque or burlesque forms of domination. My thesis is the Septet elements refuse to cohere (for long) in Metatheatre, and just will not resolve into narrative closure; the ‘cock-ups’ keep emerging (Gabriel, 2000: 60, 148) into more and more fragmentation. I have developed the Septet thesis elsewhere (Boje, 2002a, b), and will focus here on Metatheatre and its more antenarrative relationships.

I contend that underneath Enron Metatheatre are competing Tamara-esque antenarratives, the stories-a-making, the Septet elements refusing closure. Antenarrative is a bet that a pre-story can be told and theatrically performed that will enroll stakeholders in intertextual ways that transform the world of action into theatrics; at the same time the antenarratives never quite get there. My theory is that for Enron, an antenarrative rhizome process ends up in mega scandals packaged to entertain and re-educate us, but the Septet elements refuse to cohere; the force of Metatheatre to control and instruct in clever dialog and romantic plot is met by a counter-force in Metatheatre to disenroll characters, disintegrate plots into tragic-comedy, surface oppressive counter-themes and frames to the dominant play, and all the multiplicity of the poetic elements create disrupting rhythms, so that the spectacle decontextualizes, veering out of orbit. Metatheatre enrollment in galumphing Enron antenarratives took over a decade; a casting call signed up characters to play roles in eight intertextual antenarrative clusters we will analyze (Table 2); but it was unraveling from the very beginning in ways antenarrative theory makes clear (Figure 1).

Antenarrative theory (Boje, 2001a) is closely tied to Kristeva (1980a: 36) and Bakhtin (1981), who suggest that each text has an intertextual “trajectory” that is historical and social (Boje, 2001a, O’Connor, 2002). And it relates to Fairclough’s (1992) critical discourse analysis, i.e. his advancing the idea that the intertextual trajectory is embedded in hegemonic struggle. Antenarrative shifts the focus narrative analysis from “what’s the story here” to questions of “why and how did this particular story emerge to dominate the stage?” Used as an adverb, "ante" combined with "narrative" or "antenarrative" means earlier than narrative. Story is an account of incidents or events, but narrative comes after and adds, more "plot" and tighter "coherence" to the story line. Antenarratives collect events and characters into their psychic economy. Antenarrative rhizomatic flight continues as long as there is context left to transform (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). Antenarrative is about ontological ways of being in the world; it is not sensemaking, it is world making; antenarratives feed on new contexts, they consume contexts, they recontextualize. Antenarratives stay in flight until they become domesticated, or become coherent and tamed (Septet elements) within some dominant storyline; but the opposing forces of fragmentation, simultaneous emergences soon unravel what passed for closure. Spreading an antenarrative seems as harmless as sharing a bit of urban legend, or passing along a tasty morsel of gossip. Yet antenarratives threaten to change the world. Antenarratives seduce us into complicity; we feel somehow compelled to pass them along into our personal networks.

I prefer to return to Aristotle’s terminology system but give each critical postmodern meaning. Aristotle’s dramaturgy needs revision, it is too linear and its characters are on a single stage, with spectators remaining in their seats, following a coherent plot: “in a play” says Aristotle (350 BCE: 1459b: 5) where “one can not represent an action with a number of parts going on simultaneously; one is limited to the part on the stage and connected with the actor.”  A more critical dramaturgy is like Krizanc’s (1981) play Tamara, which has simultaneous scenes occurring on multiple stages, and where spectators do not stay in their theatre seats, but walk and run to chase the actors from stage to stage in a network of plots and unfolding storylines (Tamara, 2001).  For Krizanc, the spectators, become what Boal (1970) calls ‘spect-actors’ (spectator and actor), and their lesson is how easy it is to be complicit in, yet forget the oppression of fascism, and be distracted in the who-done-it spectacle. We can apply Tamara to Enron, to critically investigate a network of emergent dramaturgical spectacles, where spectators chase spectacles from trading floor to boardroom to the meeting rooms of congressional, SEC, and Justice Department hearings, without addressing their own complicity in the spectacle of predatory capitalism, with its Metatheatre run amuck.

Spectacles are one of the Poetic elements. For Aristotle (350 BCE), spectacle was the least important of six elements (Table 1). Burke’s (1945) dramatism translated spectacle into scene. To me, it is much more. Metatheatre of capitalism is an intertextuality of four types of spectacles (Boje, 2002a) listed in Appendix B (concentrated, diffuse, integrated, and mega). Spectacles are one of the Septet elements.

The contribution of Septet to critical dramaturgy is to analyze the Tamara of Enron Metatheatre by tracing its antenarrative complexity, networking, and hegemonic-complicity across multiple and simultaneous stages. I assume that contemporary organizations produce, distribute, and consume spectacle Metatheatrics, yet the dialectic of disintegration opposes the integrative attempts by executive players to control the global stage. Antenarrative plays a special role in the oscillating, contending, and morphing metascripting of Metatheatre.

Metascript is defined as the multiplicity of scripts, mostly unwritten ones, that constitute the micro (utterances) and macro (inferences), the structure, behavior, social dysfunctions, and hidden costs/revenues, and the potential and complicity of the socio-economic performance of Metatheatrics of complex organizations (Boje & Rosile, 2002a, b). Organizations do not have one script, they have a plethora of scripts: talking notes by executives; strategic plans, customer service dialog, what to say at your performance review, etc. Most of life is scripted, and we are suspended in networks of scripts.  Metascript is this multiplicity of scripts that define our field of actions in Septet ways, where strategies are plotted, rhythms find their time patterns, characters get trained in their lines, and many feel con-scripted and imprisoned in their character roles and dialog; there are themes of working conditions for on and off stage performers, and some of the mindsets are incommensurate with other mindsets; a mess of directors, script editors, and characters learning and refusing their scripted lines compete for time on the center stage. Metascript is what Foucault (1970) would call the carceral, since even executives follow scripts, though they have a hand in writing and directing scripts for most of the cast of characters assembled in Metatheatre. Yet, metascripts unravel, decompose, and people forget why 40 versions of a form are used, or how the official script got to center stage.  The raveling unraveling is an antenarrative and highly rhizomatic process.

We shall explore, for example, how the latest scandals repeat many antenarrative elements of Enron spectacles enacted 15 years earlier.  The explanation for megaspectacle, in antenarrative theory, is the ways the multiplicity of pre-stories, fragmented stories, and the non-closure of attempts at concentrated, diffuse and integrated spectacle, destroys emerging grand narratives (Boje, 2001a). In sum, the theatrics of capitalism is a process of antenarrating, a way to cultivate mass hyper-illusion, even fraud out of a pre-narrative broth and some dramatic show-person-ship.  Table 2 summarizes eight antenarrative clusters, sorted by spectacle that we will explore. It also provides a breakdown of how the Septet elements (from Table 1 & Appendix A) are used to analyze eight antenarrative clusters. The antenarrative clusters form intertextual networks that territorialize and deterritorialize the world of Enron in rhizomatic lines that “are constantly crossing, intersecting for a moment following one another” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987: 203). The antenarrative clusters can interconnect and in an instant take off in new directions (p. 505) as presented in Figure 1. Antenarratives are “in the middle,” and “in-between” (p. 293) refusing to attach the beginnings and endings needed to achieve narrative closure (Gabriel, 2000).[xi]  The nature of the Metatheatre world is the dialectic multiplicity, fragmentation, decomposition, and disintegration of antenarrative clusters.

Table 2: Eight Enron Antenarrative Clusters sorted by Spectacle type


A. Enteron 1986


At least 5 antenarrative version contend, as the legend of the Enteron continues to unfold

B. Vader’s ‘Gas Bank’ 1990-2001

There is disputed ownership of the Gas Bank idea; the idea morphs into the trading floor concept; it is a way to not repeat G, but does.


C. ‘Near Death’ Greenmail 1987


Jacobs & Leucadia could have liquidated Enron with a successful takeover, but Milken of Drexel Burnham Lambert intervened.

D. ‘Mark the Shark’ builds Global Empire 1991-2000

Stories of oppression, the beating of villagers in India, and other antenarrative tales of resistance never pierce the charade of globalization-success; Mark is Skilling’s rival, until he forces here out (a scenario he denies).


E. Cowboy Capitalism 1985-2001



Antenarratively connected to G (Valhalla Rogue Traders) and morphs into F (Masters of the Universe).

F. Masters of the Universe 1998-2001

Appears to mimic Bonfire of the Vanities, ostentatious gala events and life styles of the rich and famous.


G. Valhalla Rouge Traders 1985-1987


Before there was Enteron or Enron, in the formative days of the Houston Natural Gas merger with InterNorth, a third “rogue” entity sold oil futures in a city called Valhalla.

H. Greek Mega-Tragedy 2001-2002

A through G are intertextual to the succession of Greek (and Shakespearean) tragedies that become antenarratives of the collapse of Enrononomics.


Figure 1 provides a graphic depiction of the intertextuality among the antenarrative clusters. The idea is the antenarratives of one cluster migrate and interpenetrate with those of other clusters.  The Key at the bottom of Figure 1 gives examples of antenarratives that move in-between the clusters listed in Table 1.  Figure 1 suggests many of the pieces of “H” (Greek Mega Tragedy) of the Enron collapse were present in antenarrative clusters, such as “G” (Valhalla Rogues), the oil traders of 1985-1987 who brought about an SEC investigation, Andersen Audits, off-shore accounts, creative accounting processes, and scandal. To take another example, pre and post to the “A” (Enteron) cluster, George Bush Jr.’s spectrum 7 oil company had Enteron partnerships (1985 & 1986); in other words George Bush did not just begin Enron-relations with corporate and executive contributions to his gubernatorial or presidential campaigns.

Figure 1: Enron Intertextuality among Antenarrative Clusters



A:H Renaming game recommences after collapse of Enron.

E:(D:F) Cowboy Capitalism combines with Mark the Shark globe hopping strategy

E:H Houston galas play & morph into White House scandals

B:H Offshore accounts, fake records, and Arthur Andersen  of B repeat in H.

B:D  Skilling’s 10 year war to oust Rebecca Mark (‘the Shark’)

F:H Bonfire of the Vanities interpenetrates with White House, Congress, & UK elite appointments to Enron boards and committees

C:H As in C, shareholders in H seek control and liquidation of Enron

G:B Valhalla Rogues resurfaces in Gas Bank

G:E Valhalla Rogues merges with Cowboy Capitalism

G:H  Off-balance-sheet accounts and offshore banking & Arthur Andersen repeat from G to H

D:H Oppressive tales of villagers in India do not play on center stage until collapse

D:F Mark’s global capitalism plays into Masters of the Universe

H  Each of the antenarrative clusters reemerges in post-collapse inquiries



There are antenarrative relations before the megaspectacle “H” became a ground zero and it became fashionable for reporters to research trials of campaign contributions. Each of the antenarrative clusters in Figure 1 is part of rhizomatic relations between the clusters. The structure of the presentation is, to use critical dramaturgy theory to analyze eight antenarrative clusters. I present and order them by their type of spectacle, rather than trap them in a linear chronology (See Appendix B for definitions). The point is not the chronology, but the intertextual weave across the antenarrative clusters, how early ones seems to go dormant and achieve resolve, only to re-appear again as ghostly characters, themes, and frames thought to be dead and buried. We begin with two concentrated spectacles (weaving them to others as we go).




How could Enron-collapse have happened? I believe that antenarrative (rhizomatic) assemblages constitute two concentrated spectacles, Enteron and Vader’s Gas Bank, and these resurface in the other types of spectacles. Enteron exhibits concentrated spectacles in its bureaucratic self-portraits of power. The second spectacle, the Gas Bank, players seek to transform the bureaucratic ideology of the merger to a more post-bureaucratic market forces entity, a virtuality of lite-assets. In this first one, the very naming of the new merger is an emerging concentrated spectacle out of a set of very opposed characters, who refuse to get it together, then find scandal as their reward for cooperation (and this will come back in subsequent spectacles as a haunting ghost).

A-Enteron antenarrative cluster – Enter stage left, CEO Kenneth Lay, and from stage right, his feuding six board members, evenly split between the three from Houston Natural Gas and three from the much larger, InterNorth Inc. (from Omaha, not Houston, not even Texans). The merger-naming process is a simple example of antenarrating, a comical pre-story of what could be.  Please do not dismiss this first cluster as a trivial account, for there is something instructive about its antenarrative process. In 1985 Lay made an antenarrative bet that the energy industry could be re-ordered through “strategic narration” into a new plot (Barry & Elmes, 1997: 430); yet, even in the beginning the plot kept unraveling, and off-stage are other plotters, engaged in megaspectacle (#G in Table 2), while these players do the name game.

Lay’s company was seriously burdened with $4.3 billion in debt, incurred by the merger. The scene stretches between 1985 and May 1986 board meetings; Lay is playing the showman each time. “Why isn’t InterNorth ahead in the name; why put Houston Natural Gas first?” asks one InterNorth board member. Lay breaks the tie vote, and settles on the name, ‘Houston Natural Gas/InterNorth Inc.’ The name is quite boring, and too long. So in yet another meeting they agree to shorten it to ‘HNG/InterNorth.’ But it still was not very “cool” as names go. Lay thought it an entirely forgettable name, and still too long; it was just too plain and ordinary, not suitable at all for the biggest natural gas pipeline system operator in the U.S. The board shortened the name, again, to the unmelodious "HNG/INI" (ironically, each side of this split board had three letters). 

Lay was still disappointed, and sought the help of a public relations firm, Lippincott & Margulies, to craft yet another name.  The consultants, after hearing Lay had once worked for Exxon (now there’s a name), drew logos with pipelines and gas jets, and conducted multilingual database and focus group research, proposed their PR solution, the Greek word, “Enteron” (King, 2002).  “Enteron,” was defined by the PR consulting-rhetors as the first syllable of "energy" and by splicing “ter” to the slick, with-it “on” to its end (as in “Energy - right on”). Enteron is “a pipeline system transmitting nourishment," surely the PR hacks said that (Saffire, 2002). So the merger began life as Enteron.

So then why did Lay and the “Enteron” Board decide against the name? Indeed, their name choice turned into a mini-scandal. There are competing antenarrative versions. Even in such a simple decision, competing antenarratives vie for realization, and dominance, and a rhizome of pre-stories never quite sorts out one version to satisfy the historians. This is more than just PR; it is about selling the merger on the global stage, how to enroll investors and how to achieve closure in all the Septet elements. It is about naming the Metatheatre, and putting bits and piece into metascript. There are five inter-weaving antenarratives in this cluster, and together they dissolve the attempt at closure.

One antenarrative accounts for the demise in a tale that a nameless employee, hearing they were working at a company called Enteron, uncovered a definition that had something to do with “intestines” (Cobb, 2002, Ahrens, 2002). Second is the version that says the soon to be Enteron board member grabbed their dictionary, and reported Enteron, was some kind of digestive tube (‘enteric canal’), and was just not a proper logo to typify the merger of two old, but respectable bureaucratic firms (Ackman, 2001).  Upon hearing the bally hoot, the consultants, no doubt, said that the ‘enteric canal’ represented Omaha pipelines; did that mean HNG was the fetus coming through the alimentary pipeline? Third, is the version about a resourceful news reporter who uncovered that the word meant "intestinal.”[xii] A fourth version is one board member shared the name with shareholders, but got a reply, ‘what did utilities and pipelines have to do with fecal and digestive undertones?’  A fifth antenarrative version is that “an impertinent classics professor down the road at Rice U. -- pointed out that the high-dollar consultants had somehow managed to select the Greek word related to Enteropathy, some kind of disease of the intestines (King, 2002).[xiii]  Antenarratives have a lot of trouble pinning down their narrative coherence, their main characters and plots, but here the themes converge, and the dialogs about meanings are part of the Septet-dynamics.

Whatever antenarrative version you choose, it is clear that some unnamed person found a definition like this one completely out of the question: “Enteron, the body cavity of the coelenterates, which has one opening functioning both as mouth and anus.”[xiv] A sequel to this antenarrative cluster, says the ‘Enteron’ board gave the PR firm of Lippincott & Margulies 24 hours to get a respectable name or not be paid (Saffire, 2002).[xv]  Another version of the sequel is the enterprise remained Enteron for the three days it took to find a better name (Hammel, 1997).[xvi] Another is that before the official announcement, the renaming took place at the March 6, 1986 board meeting.  From a narrative point of view, rejecting Enteron as a name choice is now antenarrative legend.

At the March 6th 1986 board meeting, a revision to the ‘Enteron’ moniker was motioned, seconded, and voted into being; ‘Enron’ succeeded the Enteron antenarrative expulsion.[xvii] Enron’s expensive consultants truncated the name, keeping the "En-" prefix to Enteron, still denoting "energy," tossing out the intestinal-“ter,” and retaining the "-ron" suffix, which meant to express vigor of people named “Ron” (as in Ron-ald Reagan?).[xviii] And Enron was a new bet that characters would enroll in the debt-saddled enterprise. Still, “in hindsight, Enteron seems right for a company of such ungoverned appetites” (Keller, 2002). Enteron is also an apt antenarrative derivative meaning to Enron, the implosion of the guts and intestines, of mouth fused to anus, in the so-called ‘New Economy.’[xix]

Enron is not yet; it is not a very “concentrated spectacle,” still needing rehearsal to find a coherent Metatheatre. Yet there are the beginnings of Metatheatre, performances staged badly to sustain a public image in the midst of crisis. There is also an Enteron-Bush connection (Re-enter David’s Ghostly father). George W. Bush's Spectrum 7 oil company had a partnership (18.75% interest) in May of 1985 with InterNorth in Martin County Texas oil drilling. That same month, InterNorth merged with Houston Natural Gas (HNG)--which gave birth to Enteron. Bush’s Spectrum 7 entered into a second deal, this time with newly named Enron, in October of 1986 until bush sold his company a month or so later.[xx] The Bush relationship to Enron began in 1985 and 1986 oil deals, continued with gubernatorial campaign contributions, then to presidential contributions.

B. Vader’s Gas Bank - A second concentrated spectacle was being reshaped within the ever-transforming Enteron-Enron enterprise. Skilling was known at the Harvard B-School to be “capable of some of the most extraordinary drama” says Jeffrey Schoenfeld, Associate Dean of Yale School of Management, who knew Skilling at Harvard (Schwartz, 2002: 1). 

Management consultant Tom Peters, who helped train Skilling at McKinsey in the late 1970s, remembers him as intelligent, determined and charismatic.  “I saw a shockingly bright guy, Peters says. “He is the classic example of a person capable of selling ice to Eskimos” (Steffy & Levy, 2002: 33).

Skilling was known as Darth Vader, a charismatic-character image he enjoyed, to the point of dressing as Vader at company functions, referring to his traders as the “storm troopers” and decorating his mansion in the black and white Enron colors, which were also Vader’s colors. Skilling was also known as “The Prince” a reference to Machiavelli. New hires were told to read “The Prince” cover to cover or be eaten alive (Schwartz, 2002: 1).  One executive reported this passage described Skilling well: "It is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with" (Schwartz, 2002: 1). I have a key informant inside Enron, who has contributed to ideas I develop here.  In particular the difference between Enron front stage and back stage. My insider informant contrasted Skilling and Lay this way:

If you got into an elevator with Ken Lay, he would introduce himself. Even though everyone in the elevator knew who he was. He would reach over and shake your hand, give you an opportunity to introduce yourself. He created a caring environment.


When I got in the elevator with Skilling. I never once saw Skilling say anything to anyone to anybody or me on an elevator ride. It was not his way; he did not care about people (Interview, April 25, 2002).

One antenarrative is that Jeffrey Skilling came up with the “Gas Bank” strategy in 1989, while still working as a senior partner for McKinsey and Company in Houston (Kaminski & Martin, 2001: 43-44; Steffy & Levy, 2002: 32). Gerald Bennett, however, has a different pre-story; Bennett was in charge of Enron’s intrastate pipelines in 1989, and says it was his idea; Skilling grabbed idea and credit (Barnes, Barnett, & Schmitt, 2002).  Who done it, we can no longer determine.

But, whom ever the author, the dialog and emplotment  (Ricoeur, 1984) went like this: Enron would be intermediary between buys and sellers of natural gas, exploiting the spread between the buying and selling price. In this “Gas Bank” antenarrative, “gas producers” were “depositors” in the “commercial bank” and the “consumers” were the “borrowers”; “Enron” was the “bank” that “pooled the deposits” (i.e. the supply commitments) to fund long-term (15 year or more) commitment to gas buyers (the borrowers).  What happened with the Gas Bank idea is also unsettled. In one version, when Skilling presented his “Gas Bank” antenarrative to the assembled Enron Board and executives, the idea was soundly rejected.  However, in yet another version, Kenneth Lay himself decided to ignore their advice, and give Skilling a chance to make it work. Others say it was Richard Kinder, Enron's president, (and not Kenneth lay) who asked Skilling to join the company to run the new Gas Bank adventure (Barnes, Barnett, & Schmitt, 2002). Most storytellers agree that on June 29, 1990 Skilling left McKinsey to join Enron. Skilling described Enron’s Gas Bank strategy as, “get in early, push to open markets, position ourselves to compete, and compete hard when the opening comes” (Kaminski & Martin, 2001). 

In 1989, Skilling (or Bennett) also came up with a “Gas Swap” strategy, to remedy failed negotiations between Enron and a Louisiana aluminum company; Enron could not physically transport gas from its own facilities and make the Louisiana deal profitable (Kaminski & Martin, 2001). That Gas Swap strategy “called for the customer to buy gas locally, paying a floating price, and simultaneously purchase a swap from Enron in which Enron would pay the producer's floating rates and the producer would pay Enron a fixed rate” (Kaminski & Martin, 2001: 44).  The Gas Swap was a metascript-fix to the Gas Bank antenarrative; as in a commercial bank model, the Gas Swap would be equivalent to a “deposit guarantee system.”  There were glitches to the plot. The initial Gas Bank plan did not persuade gas producers to sell Enron their reserves. Enron decided to offer money upfront to entice gas producers to deliver gas, later on, at the pre-agreed price. The problem was where to get the money? 

Be thy intents wicked or charitable?” (Hamlet’s ghost, scene IV). Enter Andrew Fastow, a finance whiz kid from Continental Bank in Chicago, who moves to Houston (which made his wife much happier, since Houston is the home of her prominent family).  In 1991, Fastow comes up with a way to get the money, a ‘partnership strategy’ called “Cactus.” Cactus partnerships took in money from banks and lent it to “energy producers energy producers in return for a portion of their existing gas reserves” (Barnes, Barnett, & Schmitt, 2002). Like the Gas Bank antenarrative, the Cactus re-scripting has disputed beginnings.[xxi] Fastow would become instrumental in the hundreds of of-the-balance-sheet partnerships the would become the Achilles heel of Enron by 2001 (See Figure 1). Fastow had a reputation as a mean-spirited manager; he was Vader’s lieutenant, and would bear down on subordinates; the other side of Fastow’s character was known among the Houston social circle set, a benefactor to the arts (along with his wife). An important antenarrative is forming at this phase of the concentrated spectacle formation; financial wizards can keep the Gas Bank alive, and stop the kind of rogue trading that the Valhalla high-stakes gamblers pioneered in 1985 (see antenarrative cluster G below).

“If you ask an outsider what industry Enron is in they will say energy. If you ask an insider they will tell you that we are in the risk management business. We provide certainty of delivery and certainty of price,” Andrew Fastow, CFO, Enron Corp (cited in Kaminski & Martin, 2001: 44).


Skilling and Fastow implemented a ‘Market Forward Price Curve’ method, based upon Enron’s unique knowledge of price information (from Gas depositors and customers).  Each day, every commodity-trading desk posts a single forward price curve, calculated directly from gas market prices (and used to predict the future price of gas or some other commodity).[xxii]

There were four significant changes to Enron by 1991 when Skilling and Fastow developed Gas Bank into the pre-cursor to the Energy Bank and Trading Floors. First, the bureaucratic organizational structure inherited from the Enteron (HNG/InterNorth) merger had to be reengineered; it was reduced from 15 layers of management to 4, thereby moving decision authority closer to people who possessed the knowledge. Second, Skilling changed the HRM performance review policy, to implement his infamous rank and yank system (the goal was to remove the 20% lowest performers each year).  Third, management and trading talent were recruited, primarily from Harvard and Stanford B-schools’ top graduates (luring graduates with $20,000 signing bonuses, $80 K salaries, and annual bonuses of up to 100 percent). Fourth, the risk management strategy for gas trades was changed from “experience, intuition, and estimates of potential losses” to a one-unit-sensitivity-risk analysis (for example, one basis point movement in interest rates, or one dollar move in the price of crude oil), and finally to a more sophisticated value-at-risk (VaR) approach at the portfolio level (Kaminski & Martin, 2001).[xxiii] This philosophy was combined with recruiting only those B-school grads who were high risk-takers. As we shall see, (Antenarrative Clusters E, F, and H), declining energy market fortunes by 2000, coupled with the rank-and-yank performance system, and adding the CIA/FBI spying email monitoring by the late 1990s, together with Skilling’s Machiavellian strategies and Fastow’s aggressive personality installs a macho risk-taking Enron corporate culture, and despite the ratings by Fortune, this “best place to work in America,” is back-stage, the most oppressive places to work in America.

Enron’s Gas Bank morphed in deals such as ‘Jedi LP.’ JEDI is Enron-speak for “Joint Energy Development Investments.” Jedi began in 1993 as a partnership of Enron and the California Public Employees Retirement System (Calpers), to invest in natural gas projects and assets; CalPERS invested $250 million in a partnership. In 1997, Enron bought back its stake in JEDI from CalPERS for $383 million and immediately sold it to another limited partnership called Chewco, named after the Chewbacca character in "Star Wars." Chewco was run by a former Enron executive. Then came other partnerships called LJM1 and LJM2 (both run by Mr. Fastow).   On Oct. 24 that Fastow ($30 million richer) had been replaced as CFO and put on leave. On Nov. 8th 2001 Enron decided Chewco, LJM1, & LJM2 should have been consolidated on their books since 1997, which reduced prior reported net income by $586 million. The Securities and Exchange Commission began to investigate. Enron wrote down shareholder equity by $1.2 billion when it closed out its relationships with the LJM partnerships.  There is also Kenobe Inc and Obi-1 Holdings. Off-the-balance sheet partnerships helped to hide losses of $ 2 billion each in the water and telecommunications businesses, another $ 2 billion lost in a Brazilian utility investment, and an additional $ 1 billion lost on an electricity-generating plant in India.

To summarize, we are tracing the antenarrative versions, the competing pre-stories, and in the contested, unresolved histories, to see what patterns appear.  There are emerging concentrated (Enteron and Gas Bank) spectacles, which have yet to marry with more diffuse spectacles (in the next section), and then into more integrated spectacles. There are also early, tamer versions of megaspectacle scandals (Fastow’s Cactus and Skilling’s Gas Bank try to resist being #G “Valhalla rogue oil traders” but, as we shall see, the off shore accounts and accounting practices of the rogues returns again and again to haunt Enron). Finally, in these antenarratives, there is stagecraft, showmanship, front and back stage plots and counter-plots, and the assembling of the cast of characters for a set of scripts which is still opposed by the builders of pipelines and utility buildings (see #D Mark the Shark and the building of Empire). We have only begun to describe the Metatheatre stages and players.




            Spectacle, in its technical definition, is oftentimes a theatric performance that as it diffuses legitimates, rationalizes, and camouflages violent and predatory production and consumption (Boje, 2001b, c, d, 2002: Scene 12; Best & Kellner, 1997 & 2000; Firat & Dholakia, 1998).

            C- Greenmail antenarrative – Taking the show on the road is a more diffuse spectacle that can draw negative revue. For example, Chairman and Founder Lay, on October 21, 1986, discovered that he had to fend off a greenmail attack of notorious Irwin Jacobs. Jacobs had invested substantial sums since 1985 in HNG/InterNorth.  This cost Enteron, make that Enron, $13 million (U.S.) premium above the stock price for his 5.1 million shares, to make Jacobs disappear. Another fellow named Leucadia amassed another 2.3 million shares. The Jacobs and Leucadia combined shares represented 16.4% of Enron’s stock. Enron paid the green mailers $47 a share; $357 million was paid to buy back a total of 7.6 million shares (paying 6% above market value and borrowing $100 million from Citibank). Michael Milken’s bond unit at Drexel Burnham Lambert arranged the financing.[xxiv] This was the beginning of many transactions with Citibank, including the financing of a power plant in India. Enron’s board sold its greenmail shares to a new employee stock ownership plan. T. Boone Pickens, Chairman of Mesa Petroleum, said a week after the buy back, “Greenmail is a symptom of weak management, and Enron's executives have folded in a big way” (cited in McGeehan, 2002).

            This is a pre-death event, a foretelling of the mega-collapse. This pre-death is a special pre-narrative, a combination of events such as changes in deregulation laws, the hostile take over by Leucadia and Jacobs, the nationalization of a Peruvian pipeline, $4.3 billon in merger debt,  and losses from Enron’s oil trading activities (i.e. in 1987 the price of natural gas was falling reacting to declining oil prices, which combined to drastically cut Enron's income). Enron reported a loss in 1987 of $29.3 million on revenue of $5.9 billion. It was this emplotment of events, a reversal of fortune, that led Enron’s management to decide their future depended upon launching new unregulated businesses. They began to listen to their consultant Jeffrey Skilling, and the more concentrated Enron spectacle script came into being. Skilling and Lay were key showmen in Enron metatheatre. It is theoretically interesting to note that, the concentrated, diffuse, integrated, and megaspectacle, each have their antenarrative tracings during this time period; in other words, they are not a linear sequence of spectacle transformations, nor are they additive; each has its own roots.

            I will make the case that the 1987 scandal is an antenarrative becomes dormant, then re-erupts in late 2001, a tragic flaw that just never quite goes away; a corporate culture that is hubris, bent on breaking the rules and misleading investors in elaborate masquerades (sometimes frauds). For example, Enron’s megaspectacle congressional hearings, SEC and Justice Department hearings, following Enron’s December 2001 bankruptcy, is pre-saged by this slightly less spectacular 1987 scandal. Unlike the 2001-2002 megaspectacle sandals, Lay was able to handle the 1987 trading scandal at a time when public attention was elsewhere (i.e. the October 1987 stock market crash).

            D- ‘Mark the Shark’ builds Global Empire Rebecca Mark (dubbed ‘Mark the Shark’) is described as “blond and tall and tone, she was sleek and fast and know how to bite” (Peraino, Murr and Gesalman (2002: 24). Wearing stiletto heels and tightly tailored size-6 Escada suits, Mark used her “Sex in the City outfits,” “her femininity” and “Harvard-honed… no-nonsense manner” and “powerful mentors” like Henry Kissinger,  “to disarm, then buffalo the men sitting across the table” (Peraino, Murr and Gesalman, 2002: 25).  Hired in 1991 as CEO of Enron Development Corporation, ‘Mark the Shark’ would become the most powerful woman in America by 1998 (age 41).

Mark the Shark used theatre to keep her image up at in Houston. She was away several months out of the year, and therefore, at least twice a year, flew home (in style) in the Enron jet, then depending upon theme, she would costume, in leather and ride in on the back of a Harley, or dress as Santa for the annual Christmas event, or ride in on an elephant, as part of a professionally scripted skit to promote her India conquests (Frey, 2002: C01). Mark, like Lay and Skilling, used Metatheatre in more ways than this.

She played her role on the global stage. Mark was tight with the World Bank, IMF, and WTO (they financed many Enron utility and pipeline deals, getting countries such as China to build pipelines and plants with special loans). While Mark courted the World Bank for support for her $2.4 billion liquefied natural gas power plant in Dabhol India, Kenneth Lay treated government politicians to gala events, and Jeffrey Skilling revved up the Mighty Man (storm trooper) force to make aggressive energy trading deals.[xxv]  These separate theatres intermingle as Enron Metatheatre.

 It is ironic that Enron, which maneuvers to pay no tax in the U.S. (four of the last five years), has their commercial interests placed at the very heart of U.S. foreign policy. A report by SEEN Sustainable Energy & Economy Network, 2002: 3), for example, documents how 21 U.S. government agencies, multilateral development banks, and other national governments gave Enron (and Mark) some very deep pockets. $7.219 billion financing toward 38 projects in 29 countries facilitated their global reach. Enron’s ties to the World Bank from 1992 to 2001 provided $761 million (tax payer dollars) in Enron support and political pressure for countries to get with Enron programs, and loss aid. Together with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank pressured the world’s government to pursue deregulation and privatization of the power and energy sectors of the global economy. 

She refused to fly commercial. Instead, she'd glide into Third World outposts on the Enron private jet with a retinue that included a personal hairdresser and makeup assistant” (2002: 25). The Shark devoured energy utilities and pipelines around the globe. And her tactics involved force. While U.S. news reporters gave only heroic details of Enron performance, the world press was less congratulatory.

In the Dominican Republic, eight people were killed when police were brought in to quell riots after blackouts lasing up to 20 hours followed a power price hike that Enron and other private firms initiated. The local population was further enraged by allegations that a local affiliate of Arthur Andersen had undervalued the newly privatized utility by almost $1billion, reaping enormous profits for Enron (SEEN, 2002: 3-4).


In India, police hired by the power consortium of which Enron was a part beat non-violent protestors who challenged the $30 billion agreement – the largest deal in Indian history – struck between local politicians and Enron (SEEN, 2002: 3). Enron’s 2,184-megawatt Dabhol power plant since 1992 has been resisted. "Free us from Enron" reads one report (Dugger, 2001: 1). Said to be the largest the largest gas-fired plant in the world has produced many anti-Enron crusaders. The Dabhol plant produced electricity that cost three times as much as competitor’s prices, and six times more than the coal-fired plant it replaced.

Enron outside the U.S. has long been a target for the forces of anti-globalization. In countries around the world, Enron was seen as a Darth Vader force (and the Shark), whose energy force came with price hikes, blackouts and sometimes brutality to repress any protestors. Despite the ‘deregulation’ means ‘market efficiency’ sloganing, in country after country, when Enron took over the market, rates for electricity skyrocketed (in Bolivia 51 to 100% or more), and countries with loans for the World Bank for Enron energy projects found their debt climbing. And Enron just hired its military security forces, or contributed more to a country’s politicians wherever they were needed to quell local rebellion. To Enron, governments and military security forces were convenient pawns in the diffuse spectacle of the globalization game. “So linked was Enron with the U.S. Government in many people’s minds that they assumed, as the late Croatian strongman Franjo Tjadman did, that pleasing Enron meant pleasing the White House” (SEEN, 2002: 3).

Enron Metatheatrics succeeded in keeping transparency, accountability, and oversight at bay. Singing their motto “world’s leading energy company,” wrapped in the U.S. flag, and supported by the World Bank, WTO, IMF, and 21 U.S. government Agencies, when Enron came calling, nations around the world beheld a diffuse spectacle mush more powerful than the pre-modern East India Tea Company. In 1996 Lay and Mark pleaded the Enron case before the World Bank annual meeting, where no poor person was invited to reply (SEEN, 2002: 11). 

I theorize that Enron’s Darth Vader corporate culture integrated with their Shark-reputation as a global trading company. In 1999, Human Rights Watch charged in a 166-page report, "The Enron Corporation: Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Violations," that Enron subsidiaries paid local law enforcement to suppress opposition to its power plant south of Bombay.[xxvi] That is the cry of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the top politician in Maharashtra, one of India's most industrialized states and home to Bombay, the nation's financial capital.”  Protestors such as, Pradyumna Kaul and novelist Arundhati Roy, say the Enron deal with India was meant to generate not just power, but bribes for corrupt politicians, and that the higher rates do not benefit the public (Dugger, 2001: 1). 

Enron also built its empire abusing local people’s rights. In India, Enron hired state security forces to beat peaceful protestors, make mass arrests, prevented free assembly, and even round up suspected protestors in advance of an anticipated demonstration (Raddock, 2000).  Enron contractors systematically harassed Veldur villagers on a new construction site, calling in security and police to drag peaceful protesting women by their hair into police vans.[xxvii] Protestors in the mid to late 1990s were asking for accounting transparency, an end to bribes to politicians, and ceasing projects with demonstrated environmental damage.  The storm trooper-security forces “beat people, detained them for further physical abuse, made mass arrests, usually arbitrarily; except for a couple of minor pieces of sabotage, such demonstrations were believed to be peaceful” (Raddock, 2000). This way the protestors voice of resistance was silenced, so except few reports countered Enron’s diffusing spectacle message of ‘greatest energy company in the world.’

The Shark’s way of diffusing Enron into the global empire, did not sit will with Vader’s “Gas Bank” script for expanding the Enron empire; Mark’s plot was to construct pipelines and build power plants, including a $3 billion plant India, and smaller ones in the Dominican Republic. By 1996 Enron had $19 billion worth of power plants in over two-dozen countries.

Enron diffused and grew strong as Mark and Skilling build the two sides of Enron.  But, Mark the Shark and Skilling the Vader had a 10-year Metatheatre rivalry that some say led to the ruination of Enron by 2000; their “brutal competition” between two top executives mixed “hubris” with “pride” and “lust” that “ultimately wrecked” Enron (Peraino, Murr and Gesalman, 2002: 22, 24). This is one theory, but to me, all eight clusters in Figure 1 started to gyrate in ways that cracked the crooked E.

 Mark had a plot for Enron to be an asset-based business. Skilling preferred "asset-lite" energy trading emplotment. Skilling wanted to wipe out not just the competitions, but also his internal rivals on the stage, which included ‘Mark the Shark.’  Mark responded by making bigger deals in more countries. They represented two distinct visions of how to build Enron; each tried to impress the Enron (Star Wars) emperor, Kenneth Lay; he cleverly gave them both the green light. 

While the Shark was flying from country to country to make pipeline and utility deals, Vader slowly filled Enron headquarters with his Storm troopers. Ken Rice was one of Skilling’s top executives. Rice was having an ‘office romance’ with Amanda Martin; she was reassigned to Mark’s operation to be her aid and assistant.  Some of Mark’s colleagues suspected that Amanda was a spy for Skilling.  This suspicion was born out, when Amanda blew the whistle on Mark for overpaying for a UK water utility company, run by Mark’s fiancé.  Amanda the whistle-blower, urged Enron’s legal counsel to probe into Mark’s conflict of interest; the deal was blown. Another version, is, “according to a person close to Mark, it was Mark herself who decided to kill it (Peraino, Murr and Gesalman (2002: 28). In any event, Mark was forced out in August 2000, at a time when Enron stock was it its highest price $90.56 a share. Mark's smartest move was getting fired before the collapse. She received $82.5 million from the sale of stock.[xxviii] Skilling had won; after Mark left, water commodities, and energy plants and pipelines – hard assets – no longer fit Enron’s definition of being a virtual global trading conglomerate.




            In the last decade Enron’s concentrated spectacles diffused globally into more integrated spectacles, as Enron became the poster boy of deregulation (in country after country) and the heroic virtual energy-trading-corporation ruling the New Economy on the global stage. The integrated spectacle combines aspects of concentrated and diffuse spectacle (e.g. concentrated spectacle of Gas Bank and diffusion of Enron empire integrate, even after Mark departs).  Enron continues to diffuse and integrate by buying political influence, plundering world energy resources from Nicaragua to India, while presenting its corporate dramatis personae on the global stage as the New Economy-making entrepreneur and role model of environmental social responsibility, and philanthropy. It is Metatheatre at its finest. Enron's internally (not professionally) choreographed Metatheatre shows integration of its concentrated Darth Vader corporate culture with its diffuse (Shark) spectacles of Global Empire Building. “That which asserted its definitive excellence with perfect impudence nevertheless changes, both in the diffuse and the concentrated spectacle, and it is the system alone which must continue” (Debord, 1967: #70).  Here we explore two antenarrative clusters, key to Enron’s integrated spectacles: Cowboy Capitalism and Master of the Universe.

E-Cowboy Capitalism “Think strip clubs and Ferraris. Think bigger houses, better boats, and new wives. Think custom-designed vacations packaged by a company that does trips for the likes of Lyle Lovett and "Survivor II's" Keith Famie” (Frey, 2002: C01). Peraino, Murr and Gesalman (2002: 27-28) reported that Enron executives frequented Treasures, a “gentleman’s club” in Houston, and put their lap dance and drink charges on Enron credit cards. “Enron traders on their lunch break would buy a bottle of Cristal champagne (put to $575) and repair upstairs to the “VIP Room” (p. 27). Were there any sexual favors? “Said a stripper: “If a guy’s going to pay you $1,000, use your imagination” (p. 27).  In the two-tier Enron cowboy culture, executives just charged their strip club outings, while employees hid them in other accounts.[xxix]  There is a UK example of the Cowboy Capitalism cluster of antenarratives:

“ Greenwich, which became part of Royal Bank of Scotland after the takeover of NatWest… paid to take Enron executives to a Houston strip club… The bankers spent lavishly, entertaining Enron executives at venues including Treasures, Houston's largest lap-dancing club. "They took all the Enron guys. It was the way the town worked," said the former employee.  Greenwich NatWest was invited to be a founding partner of LJM Cayman --- NatWest invested $ 7.5m in LJM in June 1999 (Durman & Helen, 2002).


Former Enron executive Lou Pai, met his second wife in a strip club; he also cashed in his Enron stock for $270 million. Pai indulged his new wife in fine horses, purchasing a 77,500-acre ranch in Colorado. Pai was last seen trying to duck an ABC News reporter while denying that he had brought dancers from "a top Houston strip club" into Enron headquarters (Rich, 2002).

            Secretaries who traded sexual favors for positions nearer the top, were known as “French Lieutenant’s Women” Peraino, Murr and Gesalman (2002: 27).  Rebecca Mark had an affair with John Wing when he was her boss at Enron International. Skilling and Lay both divorced their first wives and married Enron secretaries. One Enron vice president told Marie Brenner, who writes in the new Vanity Fair (March, 2002), that he openly displayed at Enron headquarters, a "hottie board" to rank the sexual allure of Enron women.[xxx] Skilling got permission from the Enron Board of Directors in 1998 to date an Enron secretary, Rebecca Carter, whom insiders called “Va Voom” behind her back.  Carter was quickly promoted to executive secretary to Enron’s board of directors; her salary was raised to $600,000. Skilling married Carter in March 2002.

Skilling, Lay, and Mark built a cowboy corporate culture, one where hyper-competition reined supreme; where Skilling’s ‘Mighty Man’ force of Harvard and Stanford MBAs ruled. Hyper competition is winning by doing in your rivals so they cannot compete again. The Enron headquarters recruits dubbed their corporate culture socialization process, “Enronizing.” “Family time? Quality of life? Forget it. Anybody who did not embrace the elbows-out culture ‘didn’t get it.’  They were ‘damaged goods’ and ‘ship-wrecks,’ likely to be fired by their bosses at blistering annual job reviews know as rank-and-yank sessions” (Peraino, Murr and Gesalman (2002: 26). Skilling’s performance review committees earmarked the top 5% and the bottom 5% performers in each division (on a scale from 1 to 5). 15% of the workers each year from the “bottom” were fired each year. This is a system that inspired all kinds of concentrated spectacle, and drama. The bottom 5% who survived the rating game were sent to the Redeployment Office, known as the ‘office of shame.” They got a phone, a desk, and a chance to be rehired by some other division. To top 5% got to participate in Bonus Day, also known as Car Day, since lines of flashy sports cars were their prizes. They were invited to Mexico to race motorcycles in the famed Baja 1000, or Australia for a SUV outdoor adventure, or to Aspen for skiing. The Harvard and Stanford Ivy Leaguers believed they had made the big time with their “freewheeling” wilder the better deals; they were rewarded with bonuses “as high as $1 million” and they believed “they could reinvent not just the energy business buy the American business Model” and they thought they could “Change the World” (Frey & Rosin, 2002: C01).

In sum, it was a cowboy corporate culture that recruited the best MBAs (accounting and finance majors) from Harvard, Stanford and other Ivy League schools to become traders, accountants, and consultants; they were Enronized into the fraternity-like corporate values and norms in a winner-takes-all hyper-competitive culture. Many believed the hype of the corporate Metatheatrics. The moans of the villagers were ignored until the collapse.

            F- Masters of the Universe Enron has assembled its stages, fine-tuned its plots, integrated its spectacles, and seeks to cover over its cowboy-playboy spectacle with a mimetic of the lifestyles it imagines that the rich and the famous enjoy. Enron is being widely described as just another example of the "masters of the universe" hubris that Tom Wolfe pillories in his 1980s novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities (Broughton, 2002; Farhi, 2002; Shapiro, 2002; Williamson, 2002). Indeed, in their quest to dominate Metatheatre, and stay in the spotlight in Houston and on the global stage, Enron executives built their own Bonfire of The Vanities. It all appeared under control, and everyone wanted to feel its warmth. Enron gala events “were suitably imperial demonstrations of power, with “Tiffany glassware as door prizes and waiters standing by at all times with flutes of champagne” (Peraino, Murr and Gesalman (2002: 27). Greed is the shouting in the bond-trading room described by Wolfe as "the sound of well-educated young white men baying for money" in games of high-stakes gambling” (Wolfe quoted in Farhi, 2002). The Metatheatre played on virtual screens, but off stage and around the world, other scripts wanted to topple these Houston-stars. I want to review several fragments, then show how the attempts to integrate them unraveled.

Enron played its commercials on TV; in one a “clever young executive punctured the pretensions of a panel of windbag politicians with a single sharp word: ‘Why?’ It was supposed to be a thirty-second demonstration of the populist wisdom of electricity deregulation: Anyone could see that our legislators were arrogant fogies who kept us from having economic ‘choices’ simply because they thought they knew better than the people.”[xxxi]

Metatheatre spectacles were thought to integrate better with outrageous stage settings (executive mansions, opulent HQ); surely such a layer of glitter would shroud the Cowboy Capitalism and Enteron beginnings. Skilling, Fastow and Michael Kopper (Fastow’s lieutenant) lived in the exclusive Southampton Place suburb, bordering Rice University. Skilling often hosted huge events in his mansion.  But as their performative-appetites grew, they began to build in the even more elite Houston suburb of River Oaks, where Kenneth Lay lived. Costuming is everything to Masters of the Universe. Enron wives were known around Houston for their Mercedes, fur-trimmed sweaters and leather trousers (Broughton, 2002). 

The Metatheatre charade and façade “would have ended” says Beatty (2002), “if one man or woman who knew or suspected the truth had stood up and said no, I will not be Enroned into silence.” But, the cast was distracted from truth seeking by the fruits of economic terrorism.  "The economic terrorists at Enron had one cause: selfishness and Greed," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). Greed is Enron top executives routinely cashing in millions in stock options, while telling employees to hold onto theirs. Greed is life at the top of the corporate financial Ponzi scheme, [xxxii] the network of off-the-balance-sheet partnership used to turn debt into pseudo-profits (Beatty, 2002; Shapiro, 2002, Farhi, 2002). 

How did Enron’s theatrics become so dominant (and integrated) into the political world? Enron’s integrating spectacle incubated in the early years (e.g. Enteron) and (Cowboy Capitalism), and sought to be more closely tied to George H. W. Bush’s election in November of 1988 (as well as to his oil interests), then to George Bush Jr.’s election. Enron could not diffuse or integrate as spectacle, unless markets deregulated, and U.S. institutions such as WTO and WB helped nations finance the bigger deals. And what is wealth for, if not to rub elbows with the political stars?

Chairman and Founder, Kenneth Lay, since the 1988 election of first President Bush, was a veteran of playing the Washington political power game for big stakes. The fact is, Lay was a financial back for the Bush presidency, personally raising more than $100,000 and diverting another $700,000 from Enron for direct political contributions. In the early days, like 1988, when after the election, George W. Bush allegedly called Argentina's Minister of Public Works Rodolfo Terragno to pressure him to accept Enron's ''laughable bid'' for gas pipeline.[xxxiii]

Globally the Enron spectacle diffuses, and then integrates, as Enron in 1988 enters the UK power market, sensing that energy liberalization is immanent. Enron is the first company in UK to begin construction of a new power plant when the electric industry privatizes. Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling barnstormed the U.S., and Rebecca Mark, took on the world, advocating for deregulation, getting government out of free market capitalism. Lay’s showmanship help inaugurate the shifting Enron visions:[xxxiv]


Getting to center stage of Metatheatre was always the show’s aim. When Enron’s Executive Committee proposed the new company motto be “The coolest company on Earth” then-Chairman Kenneth L. Lay suggested wrapping the headquarters building in a pair of giant sunglasses. Enron’s strategic narrative emerges in such spectacle acts, as the corporate showmen dramatized their vision and their boldness in the conquest of the ‘New Economy.’ Enron had lots of talent. We saw how Rebecca Mark could strut on the global stage, and sell energy at six times the cost to the India elite. Jeffery Skilling, also acted with “showmanship” in putting on public relations efforts to promote Enron’s Gas Bank, in ways that were spectacular and Metatheatrical:


Mr. Skilling backs philosophy with opportunism and showmanship. In 1997, when Peco Energy, a large gas utility in Pennsylvania, was negotiating with state regulators over how it should be compensated for past investments, it offered to cut rates by 10 per cent. Enron saw a chance to enter the market and launched a lobbying and public-relations effort to promote its offer of a 20 per cent discount.


This is one-ups-man-ship, stage management, and knowing how to script theatre. The day Peco filed its plan with regulators, Mr Skilling got up at 4.30am and by 9am had done nine radio interviews. By noon, Enron had an airplane circling Peco's HQ in Philadelphia with a banner saying: "Enron doubles Peco's rate cuts" (Durgin & Skinner, June 26 2000).

Yet the master of the Master of the Universe, and star performer was Lay. On the first week of January 2001 the revelry and celebration was a corporate theatrical event where champagne and liquor flowed:


Kenneth L. Lay strode onto a ballroom stage at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, walking between two giant screens that displayed his projected image. Before him, bright light from the ballroom's chandeliers spilled across scores of round tables where executives from the Enron Corporation… waited to hear the words of Mr. Lay, their longtime chairman and chief executive (Eichenwald & Henriques, 2002).


The text replaced his image on one of the screens.  An undercover reporter, Greg Palast, posing as a businessman anxious to buy into the political influence market, taped a lobbyist named Milner, who bragged how, for his client Enron, he had filched a copy of a  Parliamentary Energy Report in 1998 (Cohen, 1998). “Private meetings were arranged at the Treasury and with John Battle, the Energy Minister” (Cohen, 1998: 32). These examples demonstrate, that behind the scenes of the play of the vanities, was a market in buying influence, to keep the show at center stage. Sometimes scandal could not be contained or controlled.

In 1998 there was an Enron mini-scandal in the UK (a precursor to the megaspectacle # H below). Enron paid 15,000 pounds to sponsor a pre-dinner drinks reception. Buchanan (1998: 16) commented about the event in ways the U.S. press was not reporting until after the spectacular collapse. In the UK, Lay held gala dinners for Blair ministry and Labor Party, such as the one at Stakis Hotel in Blackpool. This is now known as the Enron cash-for-access scandal. “Among the invited guests mixing with Ministers were a clutch of celebrities including singer Mick Hucknall, comedian Eddie Izzard and actor Jeremy Irons, there to sprinkle the event with a touch of showbiz glamour” (Barnett, Ahmed, & Morgan, 2002):


The pre-dinner drinks will be sponsored by Enron (a large American power firm) whose chief executive, Jeffrey Skilling, has been quoted as saying, "You must cut jobs ruthlessly by 50 or 60%" and "Depopulate now. Get rid of people. They gum up the works". Alex Gallagher will be delighted to know that Enron is the only company about which Amnesty International has produced a report. It related to their power plant in India where the wives and children of protesting fishermen were allegedly beaten and imprisoned with the aid of Enron security personnel.


UK Enron chairman Ralph Hodge “admitted Enron had paid pounds 36,000 to Labour since 1997 for tables at party events” (Barnett, Ahmed, & Morgan, 2002). This includes one gala dinner attended by Mr. Tony Blair. However, the total figure is probably higher. Enron gave 38,000 pounds in 1998 to the Annual Labour party gala conference dinner event (and 25,000 to the Conservatives at the same time). 

            Just as in the U.S. with Enron executives meeting with White House Vice President Cheney to develop the nation’s energy policy, Enron executives and Ministers had similar meetings in the U.K. In the U.K. the gala dinner financing may have paved the way to lift a moratorium on building gas power stations. “The US embassy and US commerce department coordinated a campaign with Enron and other US energy firms to get the moratorium lifted” (Hencke, 2002: 11).  Like the White House, Downing Street insists there is no impropriety in the relations between government and Enron.  However, “three weeks after the 1998 Labour party conference… the government decided not to refer the company's pounds 1.5bn takeover of Wessex Water to the Monopolies Commission - thus giving the American giant a monopoly of water supplies in much of south-west England” (Wheen, 2001: 5). The British and U.S. political galas, private meetings, and contributions are part of a diffuse global pattern.

            Helping hands rewrote legislation and national policy was linked to campaign contributions, chummy positions on corporate boards, lucrative consulting contracts, that position Enron in the frame called “New Economy.” For example, James Barker, Bush’s Secretary of State, became a consultant for Enron. During the first Bush administration Enron received waivers from regulations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission headed by Wendy Gramm who was later appointed to Enron’s Board of Directors. Texas senator Phil Gramm’s wife was on the Enron Board of Directors and Texas separator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s husband was a partner in Enron’s law firm.[xxxv]  The Clinton administration made the waivers part of federal law. Enron and its chairman, Lay, forged their deepest financial bonds with the two Bush presidents: George H.W. Bush and, more recently, his son George W. Bush. Lay was a transition adviser to Bush after the disputed presidential election in 2000. Enron and a number of its executives, including Lay, had contributed more money to Bush over his political career than anyone else, an amount exceeding $550,000. Enron played both sides, giving 45% of its soft money to Gore’s Democratic presidential campaign and 55% to the Bush campaign. 30% of Enron PAC money went to Democratic campaigns, and the balance to Republican. Enron added $620,000 from company funds and Enron gave $520,000 to the Gore campaign. No fewer than 71 senators and 188 congressmen have been on the Enron gravy train (Rich, 2002). “Enron provides a textbook case of how corporate power subverts the political process in whatever country it operates (the US, the UK or India) through donations to political parties combined with intensive lobbying” (Bunting, 2002: 15). 

Bush called the then state governor, Tom Ridge, to pitch for Enron, whose bid duly succeeded. 'I called George W to kind of tell him what was going on,' said Lay at the time, 'and I said it would be very helpful to Enron if he could just call the governor and tell him Enron is a serious company.' Ridge was made Secretary of Homeland Security - Bush's new White House office - after 11 September (Vulliamy, 2002: 13).

Enron contributed significantly to the energy crises in California, that a swarm of Enron lobbyists pushed through legislative reforms for the next wave of the New Economy (broadband width). We could have seen behind the theatrical veil of Enron, if U.S. analysts and media had reported the same pattern of crony capitalism that Enron had enacted around the world before this crisis. Instead we became passive spectators.

            Enron’s integrative spectacle presented the mass illusion that the Wheel of Fortune would continue to reward investors, this even when executives were well aware that the reversal of fortune had already been revealed. I asked my Enron key informant about this:

… all during (this) time (January, 2001) they [referring to Lay and Skilling] were saying the stock is going to go to $126. Now, if they really believed it was going to $126 why were they all selling out. Lou Pai was doing the biggest selling.  You have to factor in the (particular) circumstances.  He was selling because he was getting a divorce. If you factor that in (the personal reasons) and you see there is still an event happening (Key informant interview, April 25, 2002).


June 19, 2001 Skilling issued a statement to the markets in which he reiterated "strong confidence" in its earnings guidance (Bethelsen, 2001). The stock rebounded slightly throughout the week, closing at $44.05 by June 21st. Skilling blamed regulatory interference with the "free market" for investor flight from Enron.  On Sept. 26, 2001, Enron's chief executive officer Kenneth Lay still urged employees to buy more shares in the Houston energy firm.  "The third quarter is looking great," Lay said.








            Enron’s integrated spectacles collapsed into bankruptcy on December 3, 2001, exposing a Metatheatre façade emptied of assets; the shock of the debacle erupted into a megaspectacle set of scandals that still unfolds.  The “A” through “F” antenarrative pre-story the collapse and are intertextual and rhizomatic to its megaspectacle storm. Our first six antenarrative clusters (A to F), are not typically labeled spectacles, though that is the technical term Debord (1967) would use. In this fourth type of spectacle, the megaspectacle comes closer to spectacle’s meaning in popular dialog. Spectacle in popular discourse is either scandal or some kind of debacle-tragedy aftershock, such as the collapse of Enron, the O.J. Simpson trial, the funeral of Princess Diana, or the collapse of the World Trade Center.  Here we focus on an early antenarrative cluster that is megaspectacle, the Valhalla Rogue Traders, and the more recent megaspectacle cluster we are now so familiar with, the succession of Greek Tragedies.

            G- The Valhalla Rogue Traders antenarrative – Some scandals are prophetic of future megaspectacles. As this antenarrative of megaspectacle begins, an HNG/InterNorth subsidiary (not yet Enteron, far from being Enron), an oil corporation sets up its office in Valhalla, N.Y., in 1985; there were a dozen employees, half of whom were oil futures traders (Kilgannon, 2002).[xxxvi] As this more mega scandal antenarrative unfolds, Enron’s auditors discover in January 1987 that Enron Oil Corporation’s (an Enron subsidiary) President, Louis J. Borget and Enron Oil treasurer, Thomas N. Mastroeni, were being accused by Enron’s internal auditors, and an alert Apple Bank security officer in Manhattan, New York, of diverting $142 million in company funds to Panamanian and other offshore accounts between 1985 and 1987.  January 23 1987 a security officer at Apple Bank in New York called in the Enron’s VP of auditing, David Woytek, that some very strange transactions were being made by Borget and Mastroeni through the Enron Oil Company (located in Valhalla, N.Y.). Woytek called Rich Kinder (Brenner, 2002). This is a prophetic spectacle, the first phases of an antenarrative that would morph and realize into some Enron trading floors in just a few years. And Kenneth Lay’s reaction in 1987 is not so different than his reaction now (Barnes, Barnett & Schmitt, 2001, italics mine).

The Enron CEO had been to England, Scotland, and Switzerland to pitch investors there on buying a piece of the action, and the road show had gone well. The corporate jet swooped into Gander, Newfoundland, to refuel. There, Lay's mood soon darkened. An aide told him that a brewing scandal… speculative activity in the company's New York crude-oil trading operation … was about to explode. "You could just see the blood drain out of his face," recalls an executive on the trip. "It was catastrophic." Lay peeled off and headed to New York for damage control.

As this antenarrative unfolds and refolds, Lay is tentative and cautious, and is not confronting Borget and Mastroeni for committing fraud; others assume he has his reasons. One is that Enron Oil Company “was bringing in profits of $30 million a year, one third of the company's [overall] earnings and offsetting the grim natural gas picture” (UPI, March 21, 2002, additions mine). The Enron Oil Co. did not produce any oil; they bought and sold oil futures; and this pattern repeats in Enron’s future. Also, prophetically, Borget and Mastroeni appeared to be cooking the books and using offshore accounts (UPI, March 21, 2002):

“The bank security man said that $100,000 transfers were coming from an Enron account at Standard Chartered Bank in Britain's Channel Islands”…

"Borget and Mastroeni appear to be writing checks to themselves," Woytek recalls the alert security man telling him…

Borget and Mastroeni hurried to Washington for a meeting with Lay and top corporate brass, but the perps were not aware that the auditors were looking at the Apple Bank and offshore transactions. Lay confronted Borget and Mastroeni, and heard this story:

Borget and Mastroeni told Lay that they opened the Apple Bank account to carry their enormous profits from 1986 into 1987 so as to start the year with a positive balance on the company books. Enron had exceeded its budget estimate for 1986, they said, and they created the Apple account to move money to 1987.

"There were a couple of things that bothered us about this story," said Woytek. "First was that this didn't explain why they had to fake a board of directors meeting and minutes to open the account. Secondly, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 had just been passed which meant lower rates for 1987 and we thought it would look to the IRS that Enron Oil was trying to move money out from under higher tax rates." (UPI, March 21, 2002).

Lay did not fire the conspirators after hearing such obviously tall tales; instead “Lay largely accepted Borget and Mastroeni's story and sent them back to New York” (UPI, March 21, 2002). Brenner (2002) observes that Lay swallowed the tale, “hook line and sinker.” Yet, how could such a tall tale be swallowed? What about a fictitious character in Beirut named ‘M. Yass” (pseudonym for My Ass)? There were other conspirators; in 1988, an Israeli and two Britons; each would eventually be accused by Enron of participating in oil scandal and fraud.

            There were costs associated with accepting the tale. By not confronting them quickly, the traders kept milking their con. Until Borget and Mastroeni, the main characters, left Enron holding the bag for about $ 1 billion in trading liabilities. Learning how to spin a scandal is an important Enron executive skill.  As in the 2000-2001 megaspectacle, there were several attempts by auditors to sort out the mess. The audit team went to NY following Lay’s meeting with the Valhalla executives.

Woytek said the team, which included Woytek, Perry, John Beard and Carolyn Key, were stymied from the moment they got to New York.

"Borget knew we were onto him. He had us picked up a limousine and we couldn't enter the Valhalla offices without being announced," he said.

After three days the team was called back to Washington. Later an Arthur Andersen audit team was sent to Enron Oil to take a longer look.

Even then, the material from the bank and some company records were sufficient for Woytek to prepare a report recommending in April 1987 that the two Enron oil executives be fired.

"Everyone concurred," Woytek said. "Carolyn Key told me 'these guys are as crooked as a dog's hind leg.'" (UPI, March 21, 2002)


It was not until April 1987 that the audit team presented their findings to Enron’s board, and recommended that Borget and Mastroeni be fired. However, Ken Lay ordered that the two men be retained, but be stripped of the power to open bank accounts and make money transfers. 

But Borget and Mastroeni still had the authority to commit the company to multi-million dollar oil contracts. According to Woytek, they used that power to its full extent. "They went wild," he said, alleging that in the six months from April to Oct. 1987, they made oil commitments totaling $1.2 billion. Many of these were fictitious -- designed to enrich the two traders -- others would cause Enron grievous losses (UPI, March 21, 2002).


As in 2001, (and in their beginning, and in the greenmail episode) Enron was close to bankruptcy when the high-risk trades were discovered. “By the autumn of 1987, federal prosecutors in New York working under then U.S. attorney Rudolph Giuliani had detected the crime” (Brenner, 2002). And by October 1987, the S.E.C. had begun investigating the two top executives there, and the office was shut. On October 22, 1987 Enron executives, finally disclosed that so-called, "renegade crude oil traders" had been running two sets of trading books, and filing fake trading reports; Enron also finally fired Borget and Mastroeni; and then announced Enron would be taking an after-tax hit of $85 million in the third quarter of the year.

            Learning how to contain the damage and just when and what context to release the stories is also important. For example, before making this disclosure to the market, Enron had bought time to re-work the “renegade crude oil traders’” loss down to about $142 million; this included successfully selling off many losing contracts to other traders. The losses led Enron's management to discontinue its speculative oil trading operations, and focus on Skilling’s novel strategic plan, which ironically, would transform into trading just as speculative, first in gas, then electricity, oil, and lots more unpredictable things, like the weather.

            In 1990 former Enron employees Borget and Mastroeni settled their lawsuit, and pleaded guilty of defrauding Enron. “Enron charged in a March 26 1990 lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York State, "there was no such person (as M. Yass) and these funds had been diverted to Mastroeni's own personal use and benefit" (UPI, March 21, 2002). Borget served five months in prison (0n a one year sentence), and Mastroeni was given a suspended sentence and ordered to perform 400 hours of community service (UPI, March 21, 2002; Steffy & Levy, 2002).

Timing is everything. Unlike the late 2001 megaspectacle, since the 1987 scandal did not become public knowledge until October, when Wall Street Market crashed, the Enron debacle was hardly noticed. Ironically, both the 1987 and 2001 spectacles exhibited similar patterns of often-fictitious transactions, record destruction, backdating transactions and telling tales to mislead corporate officers. Arthur Andersen also played its significant character role, “Woytek's internal audit function was done away with [at Enron] shortly thereafter and they were all transferred to work for Arthur Andersen, which had a contract for internal and external auditing” (UPI, March 21, 2002). “In 1987 Kenneth Lay, chairman and chief executive of Enron Corp., gathered his 1,700 employees together at the company’s downtown Houston headquarters and made them a promise: It won’t happen again” (Steffy & Levy, 2002: 30). 

            The Valhalla antenarrative is rehearsal for future Metatheatre; by 1991, Skilling would ramp up the speculative energy trading floor operations, drive out Inter-North and HNG seasoned executives and replace them with Young Turks from Harvard and Stanford MBA programs. The concentrated spectacle would lead to a yes-sir culture, and one that would not keep the future megaspectacles in check.

H- Greek Mega-Tragedy Enron is a spectacular corporate saga of integrated spectacle, after thorough purging, one scapegoat sent to jail, and promised audit reforms, cowboy capitalism will magically ride off into the sunset; yet return again in just  a few years.

People believed the hype of the 1990s that the break-up of the electric utility monopoly would usher in free market capitalism’s New Economy world of cheaper energy. Even after the October 16 2001 write-down, analysts were still telling the Emperor how fantastic he looked in his new clothes.

Wave MOUSE over chart items click & go April 14 Internet bubble burst highest Enron stock price Jeff Skilling becomes Enron CEO J. Clifford Baxter resigns Jeff Skilling resigns as Enron CEO $1.2billion write down

Figure 2: Key Events in the Rise of Enron



            Figure 2 illustrates some key events that occurred as the stock price, reputation, and power of Enron collapsed. The masquerade allowed Enron to make its façade believable metatheatre, but some contextual events happened that put the pressure on. First, on April 14 2000 the Internet Bubble, by all accounts, did burst.  Second, the trades in gas and electricity contracts were as many as before, but not as profitable.  Third, the search for new markets to deregulate and exploit did not produce any winners. Fourth, the off-the-balance-sheet partnerships, as a place to hide weaker deals and debts had become an addiction; this worked as Enron stock prices rose, but since the debt was guaranteed by lots of Enron stock, falling prices made the risk higher and higher.  So for these reasons it is a wonder that Enron’s stock continued to rise until it hit its peak in August at $90.56; then came the steady fall from grace.

            Below we will tell how Skilling became CEO, on February 12 2001; as hard as he worked, as brilliant as he was, he could not keep the house of cards from collapse; the stage was shaking way too wildly to keep up the charade.

            In May 2001 J. Clifford Baxter, by police accounts, committed suicide; some say it was a better choice for a man of pride, than to face a Congressional hearing or an SEC inquiry. Straight out of Shakespeare’s Othello, the chief strategist and former Vice-chairperson who abruptly resigned last May seemed haunted by allegations of Enron’s wrongdoing, a class action suit, Congress subpoena, about the bankruptcy and shady financial dealings, got up early on January 25th, left his $700,000 home in affluent Houston suburb of Sugar Land, got in his brand new Mercedes Benz, drove a short ways, pulled over and shot himself once in the head with a 38 caliber revolver, leaving his suicide note. The irony is Baxter was among the very few Enronites who like Watkins raised objections within Enron about accounting praxis that inflated profit reports

            August 14 2001 Skilling resigned as CEO. There are many key events that follow, too many to depict in Figure 1. But on August 14, when the announcement came, it was clear to Sherron Watkins that Skilling was jumping off a sinking ship.  Some say the October 16 2001 $.1.2Billion charge against equity did the company in. Others did not notice all was lost, until the December 3rd bankruptcy. And even after this, investment houses (too many in fact) where advising their customers to buy more Enron stock; the metatheatre had been that powerful and successful. Ms. Watkins wrote Kenneth Lay a one-page cover letter after Jeffrey Skilling resigned as Enron’s CEO and President on August 14 2001. Lay called an all-employees meeting (August 16) two days later and asked employees for comments. That's when Watkins finally sat down to write a one-page anonymous letter on her computer at work.  She dropped it in the box at headquarters the next day.” After she sent Lay the now famous internal memo expressing her concerns about Enron (which definitely differed from the company line). The 7-page memo is an assemblage of prior texts. For example, Sherron Watkins pointed out that Enron vice-chairman J. Clifford Baxter had already "complained mightily" to then chief executive Jeffrey Skilling "and all who would listen, about the inappropriateness of our transactions."  Former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew S. Fastow tried to fire her but for fear that she would go public they promoted her. 

            At the August 16 company-wide meeting, Lay invited anyone troubled by Skilling's departure to meet with him. On August 20 Watkins called a friend at Arthur Andersen (AA) and asked for advice.  The next day, her AA friend drafted a memo detailing Watkins' concerns about Enron. Meanwhile, Watkins went to Lay seeking a meeting.

            Watkins met with Lay on August 22.  That is when the seven-page memo was discussed (cover page plus six page supplemental letter). By all accounts:


The [Aug 22] session was businesslike, and Lay seemed genuinely concerned.  Watkins brought along a six-page letter detailing her worries, and Lay promised to have a team of lawyers review the controversial deals. But he decided to use Enron's law firm, Vinson & Elkins, despite Watkins' unease about a conflict of interest. Vinson & Elkins had been paid for work on Condor and Raptor transactions. But Lay went ahead with the review--whose scope he kept strictly limited (Duffy, 2002).


The Watkins and the Vinson & Elkins texts are a juxtaposition of various voices and quotes supplemented by narrative interpretations that are written to be consumed by anticipated audiences.  As intertextual systems, the texts are embedded in wider social and historical networks. The two letters are produced to be distributed and to be consumed. This production, distribution, and consumption process of intertextuality is also part of a covert struggle of power and resistance.

            The subsequent rereadings and recitations include Max Hendrick III, of Vinson & Elkins, letter to James V. Derrick Jr., Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Enron Corp which is dated October 15, 2001 title “Preliminary Investigation of Allegations of an Anonymous Employee,” and subsequent Congressional testimony about Watkins’ texts. The Vinson & Elkins’ analysis of the Watkins letter and supplemental material (7-page text) yielded a nine-page text that is more intertextual in its dialoguing with Watkins text, quoting prior texts, anticipating being reread, and in its relations to other texts. Vinson & Elkins’ text is a permutation of texts, citing and referencing utterances from other texts that serve to neutralize the Watkins text, just in time. At the hearings, Watkins indicated she was “disappointed” and “frustrated” that Lay did not take action to fix the situation before collapse was inevitable.  The day after the Vinson & Elkins letter, i.e. October 16 2001, Enron rewrote its equity downward by $1.2 billion and declared losses of $544 million.


Wave MOUSE slowly over chart items click & go

Enron files bankrupcy Dec 2 2001 Big 3 change ratings to Junk Bond Nov 28 2001 Congressional Hearings begin Dec 12 2001 Justice Department opens a criminal investigation of Enron Jan 9 2002 Enron delisted from stock exchange Ken Lay forced to resign by bankrupcy order Justice Department orders Whitehouse to preserve Enron files Watkins testifies Lay was duped by SKilling et al Arthur Andersen indicted by Grand Jury plus Justice Dept. Enron and Greed News items Enron and Fraud news items Enron and Bush news items ENRONGATE Enron and Andersen Enron and Scandal

Figure 3: Key Events in the Post-Collapse of Enron (Weekly frequencies of News items).


I analyzed 9,784 news articles on Enron. There were 3055 items about Enron and scandal in the popular press, 3685 linking Enron and Arthur Andersen, 1153 linking Enron and President Bush, 1607 calling Enron fraud, and 384 articles linking greed to Enron.  Figure 3 gives a visual display of the themes and rhythms (see Septet, Table 1) that play out in the “H” antenarrative cluster. After Enron went into bankruptcy there was a brief flurry of articles about fraud in the last weeks of 2001, followed by another flurry of interest in fraud as the SEC, Justice Department and congressional hearings began in February.  One has to ask, why are there so few critical articles on Enron from 1985 until the December 2001 bankruptcy?  One explanation is that due to the institutional arrangements: campaign contributions and appointments of officials from Democratic and Republican parties; Wall street analysts getting paid to serve on Enron’s advisory boards or working for firms with Enron loans or stocks; Arthur Andersen with offices inside the Enron building and consulting fees outstripping their audit fees, etc. News is not reported when it happens, but when the institutional network says that news happens.  Put Figures 2 and 3 together, and you see that any beginning business student could se that the stock is plunging at an accelerating rate, well before the bankruptcy, before the SEC noses around, and before Skilling resigns. More than one analyst and reporter were reprimanded, reassigned, or fired, when they tried to file stories critical of Enron; in the news game, one waits until a major institution such as the SEC, Justice, or Congress is investigating a major corporate hero, before the media dogs are unleashed.[xxxvii]

            For Congress and the public, Sherron Watkins is scripted as a national folk hero, a manager who dared to tell the truth to the boss. One ready-made consumption of the Watkins’ memo is as theatre of confrontation, exposing Skilling’s confidence trick, so spectators to the Congressional hearings could now see the ‘star’ of the New Economy was poised on the edge of the abyss, would trip into the abyss and implode in a wave of accounting scandals. Congresspersons would utilize Watkins’ memo and her dramatic testimony as proof that Enron executives were swindlers; all too aware of the games they were playing. “Andrew Fastow would not have put his hand into the Enron cookie jar without the explicit or implicit approval of Mr. Skilling,” Watkins said at one hearing where she was seated at the same table as Skilling. And Mr. Skilling she said “put the fox in charge of the hen house.”[xxxviii]  Watkins is writing a book titled, “Power Failure” about the Enron spectacles.

            However, the focus on fraud subsided, as Andersen’s relation to Enron unraveled in stories of shredding and non-transparent auditing practices. The greed line (the lowest line on the figure) picks up a bit of steam in early 2002. In the early going, the Enron scandal was all about the Whitehouse links to Bush, the administration, Republicans and then Democrats. However, as the Bush administration emphasized that the Enron scandal was a business scandal and not a political one, reporters turned their attention on Andersen, and the Enron Scandal (darkest line in the figure) drew less attention. In short, megaspectacles have an antenarrative trajectory and are intertextually influenced by other megaspectacles. 

            The players believe their own scripted performances. Skilling for examples says “I did not believe that the company was in any imminent financial peril” after he left in August 2001.[xxxix] He faces the Congressional hearings with the same “cold eyes and an odd smirk on his face” that my key informant saw in his elevator rides in Houston. As Skilling evokes his denial, “several financial officers screamed at the” TV set, "Bullshit!" (Brenner, 2002). And another Enron officer watching the TV, says, "Now Jeff will say, ‘I don’t recall,’" and 27 times Skilling did not disappoint him” (Brenner, 2002). These Enron executives, who had cheered Skilling when he was named C.E.O., now critically review his megaspectacle performance.

Some spectators have taken to the streets. About 600 Arthur Andersen supporters participated in a rally on March 21 2002 in Philadelphia. Protesters there and in Washington, D.C., complained that the indictment against the 89-year-old accounting company was unfair (Sloan, 2002: A61). The carnival of resistance to spectacle grows (Boje, 2001b).

Act 3: Last Scene: Discussion of Metatheatre relation to Spectacles and Antenarratives

            The transmogrification of Enron was done in antenarrative and Metatheatre. We also believe the antenarrative process works within these four interacting spectacles (Boje, Rosile, Durant & Luhman, 2002: 2).  This critical dramaturgy analysis concludes that Enron transformed the energy industry in a grotesque frame (Burke, 1937) in an interpenetrating set of spectacles that was megaspectacle from the get go; Enron took the concentrated spectacles of Enteron with the (virtual) Gas Bank and the diffuse spectacles of Greenmail and Mark the Shark’s Empire of Pawns, and integrated that into Cowboy Capitalism meets Masters of the Universe hubris and greed, but the scandals played all through Enron’s history.

            How could Enron happen? There were plenty of people around the world how were trying to be heard, trying to blow the whistle. And there were many people who did not want to listen. Enron happened because Enron is Metatheatre.

Enron is Metatheatre in three interpenetrating ways: the façade of the 6th floor Hollywood trading floor theatre where employees pretended to be on the phones doing their trades, the globetrotting road show theatre of Mark the Shark, and the unconscious theatre where people did their day-to-day character roles without dramaturgical awareness. The Metatheatre played scenes for the “Good Old boys” New Economy, grasping together a series of plots for global conquest, with Machiavellian characters as players, in shrouding themes of oppression in ‘free market’ and ‘deregulation’ Star Wars dialog, beating out rhythms of predation, within frames of tragedy and comedy, until the integrated spectacles disintegrated into megaspectacles; In short, all the Septet elements came into play.

There is an antenarrative network of action where Kenneth Lay, Rebecca Mark, and then Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow would answer strategic narrative questions of ‘what,’ ‘why,’ ‘who,’ ‘how,’ ‘with whom,’ and ‘against whom’ in the New Economy played out in Metatheatre. The New Economy grand narrative of free market capitalism through deregulation being the most efficient ay to organize the energy industries was being resisted, but few listened until the masquerade turned transparent with the SEC investigation, the October 16th 2001 1.2 Billion charge against equity, and the bankruptcy in December; the façade had cracked and over the Christmas holidays (comparing Figures 2 and 3), the media dogs were unleashed.

What I think is interesting is tracing the antenarrative process of how the first three spectacle forms regain center stage once the megaspectacle scandals no longer draw spectator interest. The media dogs were unleashed to create evil character stories about Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, and Andrew Fastow, while painting an otherwise unknown accounting manager (Sherron Watkins) to be the whistle blower and the hero of the tale. As the mega scandal became a media tornado, it blew in several directions (Figure 2), shifting focus from the fraud of arrogant machiavellian executives, to complicity with the Bush administration, then onto counting the campaign contributions of democrats and republicans. There were a few articles about the system of capitalism having collapsed, and all the checks and balances from the SEC to the Accounting associations, to the Whitehouse, Congress, and Senate were becoming the focus of spectacle-inquiry. But in late January, the Whitehouse and Republican Party fought back, and spun the tornado from the political economy of free market capitalism relationship to the State, towards Arthur Andersen; those accountants were to blame; their executives would be going to jail; a believable scapegoat had been found to quench the appetite of the spectators. I think this analysis confirms once again what Foucault (1979) observed, in our words, the Metascripts control not only the employees and Wall Street analysts, the executive-stars (Enron, AA, and Whitehouse) of Metatheatre are equally con-scripted; In Foucault’s terms, they are in the carceral and under the panoptic gaze (yet they have more say in writing and directing the scripts). There is an old indigenous saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”; and, it also takes a village to raise a fraud. Sending Arthur Andersen, like the scapegoat into exile, does not change the system.

This is about legitimation and re-legitimation. It is about then it is OK for the silent to voice their resistance, and when the institutional framework will listen. Then after the media turns its attention to some new scandal, it is about how to restore consumer and employee confidence in Business, and voter confidence in the State. This is best done through launching legitimating antenarratives; small bets are made that big changes can be made in framing spectator’s mindset by constructing pre-narratives. Barnes, Barnett, & Schmitt (2002), conclude, for example, “The Enron debacle doesn't mean capitalism is broken. Nor does it fully discredit a devil-take-the-hindmost management style… Enron is about a band of pretty smart people who thought they had found a way to defy the laws of business physics and who created a culture that couldn't recognize that those laws were, in fact, immutable.” They conclude their only crime is hubris! I would disagree. I prefer a more critical postmodern dramaturgical theory and analysis.

Only with Enron’s collapse, did stock market analysts, business professors, and Fortune and Business Week writers begin critically review Enron dramaturgy; how did such a tragic masquerade fool so many investors and employees, for so long (Boje, 2002a). I submit that Enron’s antenarratives, its rise to fame transformed the dramatic action, if not the plot of the New Economy, in ways that legitimated Free Market ideology; and Enron’s fall from grace promises to rewrite the rules of capitalism, but only if we do not get side tracked into believing that a few executives and a few accountants are the root causes of megaspectacle.

There are several important critical dramaturgy implications of this study for future corporate theatre projects (Clark & Mangham, 2001).  First, theatrical methods should not ignore antenarrative dynamics. It is important to not only compare narratives but also to see how antenarratives form, reform and transform. In the case of Enron, scandal, strange accounting practices, and political influence were ingredients from the beginning. Second, analyses that refer to a unitary universal spectacle (e.g. “The story of Enron is the story of unmitigated pride and arrogance,” says Jeffery Pfeffer[xl]); such reductionistic tag lines, in my view, miss the morphing of spectacles and their changing inter-spectacle relationships through complex rhizomatic antenarrative practices.  Third, fixing dramaturgical terms and ratios at one point in time, misses how ratios shift across antenarrative trajectories. For example, a Burkean-type of plot/spectacle ratio can become a frame/spectacle ratio over time.[xli] There are intertextuality and rhizomatic relationships that must be traced.  Fourth, it is not the spectacles that are important to compare, but the emergence of Tamara-esque networking of spectacles can be analyzed in future projects. In the play Tamara de Lampikita is a portrait artist who refuses to use here art for social critique and instead paints for the fame and wealth she receives from the aristocracy. In addition, Tamara the play, is a who done it in a Mussolini mansion, but as people chase stories and actors from room to room and in effort to find who to blame, the spectators turned spect-actors (Boal’s term for spectator who is also an actor) miss their own complicity in fascism. That is, the point of the play is to use postmodern theatre to awaken the consciousness of spect-actors to their own complicity; that means it is “we” who are complicit since “we” are the village (universities and business colleges) that trains the accountants, executives, and politicians and consume the megaspectacles as mass entertainment.  Fifth, each spectacle conveys an ideological framing that is quickly opposed by counter-frames. For example, the ideological framing of Enron as the superstar of Free Market capitalism is opposed by the ideology of Enron and its global pawns where deregulated power costs more and is less efficient, and where Enron is a frequent violator of Human Rights around the globe; and these ideologies are opposed by one that says that Enron is just greed and hubris, or just the fault of Auditing fees (that pay a little) mixed with Consultancy fees (that pay a lot). The more grotesque frame of critical theory suggests that Enron is the resultant of predatory and hyper-competitive practices of global capitalism; a more romantic frame argues that the Enron and Arthur Andersen spotlight turned the state’s attention on ways to repair 401 k plans, close loop holes in annual report notes, change the incentives of executives in reformations of stock sharing laws, and changes to political contributions which are expected to put a cap on corporate and PAC giving. Whether this is an actual repair to the checks and balances of late modern capitalism or an exercise to restore consumer and investor confidence in Business and the State, time will tell. Finally, it is important to recover rhythm and dialogic rhetoric in a more critical and postmodern dramaturgical analyses of corporate Metatheatre. For example, in Septet Dramaturgical Analysis, rhythm and dialog are recovered from Burkean reduction into just agency. And in the Septet, I have argued that it is possible to give a postmodern turn to Aristotle’s Poetics and to Burke’s Frames in ways that trace the antenarrative dynamics of spectacle genres (concentrated, diffuse, integrated, and megaspectacle). For me, the most important lesson of Enron is that the antenarrative roots of Enron’s collapse in 2001 go back to its beginning in ways that are rhizomatic and intertextual.  Everyone wants a simple story to make sense of complex dynamics, but this is not always helpful. In the case of Enron, the eight antenarrative clusters are contextualizing and recontextualizing processes of change. The antenarratives recruit a cast of characters and constitute both metascripting and metatheatre practices.

In sum, Enron is Metatheatre in the Theatres of Capitalism. IN the theatres of capitalism the concentrated spectacles of McDonaldization, Disneyfication, Las Vegasization, and now Enronization are combining with diffusing spectacles into the global marketplace, and into their integration, but also into rhizomatic relations to scandal after scandal and sometimes into the perfect storm of megaspectacle. Megaspectacles, as we have discussed, change direction through self-organizing forces, but also through the legitimating and gate keeping forces of institutional relationships. A critical dramaturgical analysis revels how the retrospective sensemaking and historical revisionism storytellers get permission from the institutional economy to restory heroes of the New Economy into villains. Blame must be assigned, and in megaspectacle, there is an Aristotelian search for the tragic flaws, for the traits of those heroes whose fortunes were reversed, so that the mass of spectators learns its lesson; greed and hubris lead to debacle. However, I have argued a counter-claim, that there can be no spectacle without spectators.

Did no one say no, prior to Sherron Watkins on August 16, 2001? There were people saying no around the world to Enron, since 1985, the more important question is why was none listening?  I conclude it is because most of us were enrolled in the integrated spectacles as passive spectators, as consumers, rather than as spect-actors who were becoming conscious of the possibility of choice. The spectacle could not survive if we were not passive spectators, consuming it – that is our complicity. We live and work in Metatheatre, as its producers, distributors, and its consumers. The world is a stage; it is our job to critically analyze the dramaturgy of late capitalism.

I salute my dear departed Dad, who was shouting ‘no to oil and gas complicity to the Whitehouse!’ trying to protect his beloved Alaska wilderness, and call a halt to the Oil Wars. He alerted me to my own complicity, the business professor who trains the MBAs and accountants who go to work for Enron and Arthur Andersen. Funny, with two cancer operations and multiple heart failures, still tough as an oak tree, he wanted to fly to see me present the oil-Whitehouse case at my university this summer; “I want to see you give a lecture, not one of those experiential discussions.”




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Appendix A: The Septet Grammar derived from Aristotle, Burke, Boal, Freire, Debord, Best & Kellner


1. Plots – (or Fable) - to “act” says Aristotle is “dran” (1448b: 35).[xlii][i] Plot is “the incidents of the story” (1450a: 15) and the “construction of a story” (1450a: 36); the “combination of the incidents, or things done in the story” (1450a: 4-4).  Plot is the way stories are framed (1449b: 5). In tragedy, included incidents arouse pity and fear in the spectators (1453b: 1), who then purge themselves of tragic flaws viewed in the play (e.g. seeing the suffering by some deed of horror or error of judgment). In comedy, the bitterest enemies walk off good friends at the end of their conflict. Episodic plots are not as tightly wound.

2. Characters – (or Agent) - “agents” says Aristotle, are “either good men or bad – the diversities of human character being nearly always derivative from this primary distinction, since the line between virtue and vice is one dividing the whole of mankind” (1448a: 1). Agents are the “personages” [that] act the story” (1448b: 30). Agents are the actors who “act the stories” (1449b: 31). “Character is what makes us ascribe certain moral qualities to the agents” (1450a: 5). “Character in a play is that which reveals the moral purpose of the agents, i.e. the sort of thing they seek or avoid…” (1450b: 8; also 1454a: 18).

3. Themes – (or Thought) – Like purpose for Burke, “Thought is shown in all they [agents] say when proving a particular point” (1450a: 6, bracketed additions mine). “Thought, i.e. the power of saying whatever can be said, or what is appropriate to the occasion” (1450b: 5). A tragic theme is a catharsis of the emotions of pity and fear in the spectators (1449b: 25). Thought (theme) says Aristotle is already developed elsewhere in “Art of Rhetoric” (1456a: 35). Freire (1970) develops thematic analyses of oppression.

4.  Dialogs – (or Diction) – Dialog is the “means of their [i.e. stories’] imitation” (1449b: 31, bracketed addition mine). Dialog (and Rhythm) for Burke are agency. Dialog means “merely this, the composition of the verses” (1449b: 34), the “expression of their [agent’s] thoughts in words” (1450b: 14, bracketed additions, mine). Dialog for Aristotle is the Rhetoric of persuasion.

5.  Rhythms – (or Melody) is “what is too completely understood to require explanation” (1449b: 35). Rhythm is the “means of their [i.e. stories’] imitation” (1449b: 31, bracketed addition mine); i.e. it is agency. It is the “greatest of pleasurable accessories of Tragedy” (1450b: 15). We know rhythm now as self-organizing, as chaotic perturbations, or repetitive cycles.

6.  Spectacles – “stage appearance of the actors” (1449b: 31). It is “an attraction, is the least artistic of all the parts, and has least to do with the art of poetry… the getting-up of the Spectacle is more a matter for the costumier than the poet” (1450b: 16-20). “The tragic fear and pity may be aroused by Spectacle…” (1453b: 1) but producing the effect by Spectacle rather than choice of acts in a plot, “is less artistic, and requires extraneous aid” (1453b: 6). Once the least important, it is now the most important. For Debord (1967) spectacle is the basis of capitalism. Types of spectacle include concentrated, diffuse, integrated and mega (Best & Kellner, 1997, 2001).

7. Frames - For Aristotle, the spectators have "frames of mind" that characters and plots seek to persuade through dialog and rhythm. For Burke (1937) Frame is a worldview, what we now call grand narratives. For Burke the Frames of Acceptance and Frames of Rejection are in dialectic interaction.

 Appendix B: Four types of Spectacles that Interpenetrate


Appendix C: Septet Elements of the Enron Antenarrative examples





Part I

A. ‘Enteron’

C. ‘Near Death’ Greenmail

E. Cowboy Capitalism

G. Valhalla Rogue Traders

1. Plots

Comedic, cock-up

Tragic reversal of fortunes

Ironic: you can break any rule if you do not get caught


2. Characters

Lay, HNG & InterNorth boards, Lippincott & Margulies, helpers

Michael Milken, Irwin Jacobs, Leucadia, Drexel Burnham

Cowboys, Might Man force, Bush kids, Houston strippers, Storm troopers

Louis J. Borget,Thomas N. Mastroeni, David Woytek, Lay, Apple Bank, SEC, Arthur Andersen, Juliani

3. Themes

To reunite split board

Hostile takeover rebuffed with greenmail

Rank and yank performance reviews; Yes Sir corporate culture

Off-Off Broadway (Valhalla, NY), spin the wheel speculators and gamblers

4. Frames

Bureaucratic ideology

Bureaucratic ideology vulnerable to more predatory one

Texas capitalism

Entrepreneur (con) ideology meets ‘we don’t want to know’ bureaucracy

5. Dialog

Medical words: intestinal, enteric canal, Enteropneusta, tube from mouth to anus

Greenmail, takeover, poison pill

Mighty Man, Storm troopers, risk takers

Rogue oil traders, Valhalla

6. Rhythm

Name turns into embarrassment, fixed just in time with last minute name revision

Misfortune overcome by getting outside helpers to float bonds to buy off attackers

Harvard & Stanford MBAs in high roller Yippee Yi Oh Wild West

Greed, gamblers, con, deception, whistle blowing, cover up.

7. Socio-Economic Spectacle

Concentrated rehearsal to pre-bankruptcy (Dec 2001), damage control, & post-Enron (2002) name changes

Diffusing spectacle vulnerable to market predation

Integrated spectacle of high rollers spinning the Wheel of Fortune

This 1985-1987 mini megaspectacle pre-sages the 2001-2002 megaspectacle






Part II

B. Vader’s ‘Gas Bank’

D. ‘Mark the Shark’ builds Global Empire

F. Masters of the Universe

H. Greek Mega Scandal

1. Plots

Romantic conquest

Romantic global strategy of utility and pipeline massification

Romantic conquest using gift giving

Tragic fall from grace; reversal of fortune

2. Characters

Jeffrey Skilling (‘Vader’), Gerald Bennett, Lay, Kinder

Rebecca Mark (‘the Shark’), Harley boy friend; Gahagar Village, Sahhana Balokar, Pradyumna Kaul

Both Bush presidents, Clinton & Reagan; Gore, UK labor party

J. Clifford Baxter suicide, pension victims, employee victims, Fastow the villain, Watkins the hero, Arthur Andersen, White House, Congress, SEC, Justice Dept.

3. Themes

Conquer the old regime players

Uses femininity and Harvard B-school training to make her deals; bankrolls India & other nations’ politicians

Reciprocation is expected

Heroes turn out to be unheroic; Witch hunt, inquisition; Arthur Andersen takes pressure off Bush administration complicity with Enron

4. Frames

Transform Bureaucratic to post-bureaucratic ideology

Post-Fordist global enterprise


Collapse of Metatheatre façade

5. Dialog

Bank, gas swap, pooled deposits, depositors, consumers, commercial credit, risk management; Star Wars

Hard assets, global player, globe trotter, deal maker

Campaign contributions, appointments, deregulation

Hubris, greed; E-language (Enron-ed, Enronite, etc.); Chewbacca, Jedi, Raptor, Condor

6. Rhythm

Rejected idea of Gas Bank becomes reincarnation of Valhalla Rogue Traders, and basis for energy trading floor.

Dazzle, negotiate, make deal, hop to next deal; carnivalesque protests to the E-spectacle

Regulated markets open up after contributions, consulting contracts, and committee appointments

 Boon turns to misfortune, get distance from anything Enron, cultural Enron-mania; street carnival protests

7. Socio-Economic Spectacle

Concentrated spectacle emerges in battle to expunge Skilling’s’ rival.

Diffuse spectacle of global diplomacy and conquest

Integrates Mark’s diffuse with Skilling’s concentrated trading floor spectacles

Megaspectacle becomes mass entertainment, E Bay frenzy & E-pop culture


[i] Enron contributed $323,460 to U.S. Senators who would not co-sponsor Senate Bill 411 (Sen. Lieberman (D-CT), which would permanently close the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton Company (the world’s largest oil service company--since 1995) has many Alaska ventures that would profit if the ANWR were opened to drilling. Five members of Bush’s Administration used to work for Enron (1. Bush Economic Adviser, Lawrence Lindsey was an Enron consultant; 2. U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick was an Enron Advisory Board Member; 3. Secretary of the Army, Thomas White was a former Enron executive (see Leopold, 2002); 4. James Baker, Chief of Staff to President Bush worked for Enron; and 5. Robert Mosbacher, Commerce Secretary, worked for Enron). Plus, Republican National Committee Chairman, Marc Racicot was an Enron lobbyist; and Lay had Bush replace Curtis Hebert Jr., chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with someone more pro-Enron (New York Times, May 25 2001).  In January 2002, Bush’s Interior Secretary Gail Norton announced that oil drilling wouldn't harm polar bears on ANWR's coastal plain, rejecting two studies showing that it would; she also imposed a gag order on all Fish and Wildlife Service employees preventing them from making public comments on the Refuge, and disparaged the agency's research showing oil drilling in the refuge to be incompatible with wildlife. There are also connections to the Clinton administration, which provided more than $1 billion in subsidized loans to Enron overseas projects, while Enron contributed nearly $2 million to Democratic causes. Currently, Senate Bill 388, the National Energy Security Act, introduced by Senator Murkowski (R-AK), if passed, would open ANWR to gas and oil drilling. Finally, Bush’s 2003 budget awards $34 billion in subsidies go oil, gas, coal & nuclear companies while cutting $1 billion from natural resources/environmental departments of the U.S. government See  or  or  and for gag order of Norton see 

[ii] In 1993, following Dessert Storm, James Baker, Robert Mosbacher and former operations director of the Joint Chiefs, Thomas Kelly, now/then on the Enron payroll, the three former Bush administration officials, along with George H.W., Neil and Marvin Bush pressured Kuwaiti officials to award Enron a contract to rebuild the Shuaiba power plant, which was destroyed during the war. The contract was awarded to Enron, even though Enron's price for supplying power was significantly higher than that of other bidders. Seymour Hersh laid out this storyline in The New Yorker Magazine, September 1993 (Also in 2001, "The Price of Oil," by Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, July 9, 2001). ExxonMobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, Shell and Enron invested billions in bribes to heads of state in Kazakhstan to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves in the Afghanistan region. See also  or 

[iii] My Dad’s concern was the conquest of Afghanistan was as prelude to the siphoning of Central Asian oil and gas reserves with a trans-Afghan pipeline.  What Enron wanted in Afghanistan was the CentGas (Central Asian Gas) pipeline; Enron did the feasibility study. The Enron-Governor's Mansion, then Whitehouse connections grew between 1993 and 2001; Enron contributed $736,800 directly to George W. Bush. Enron also donated $888,265 to the Republican National Committee during the 2000 election.

[iv] Ironically, when Vice President Cheney was Halliburton oil services corporation CEO, in Enron fashion, the Halliburton books may have been cooked in 1998 ($100 million in construction charges were reported as revenue). Halliburton is now under investigation by the S.E.C. for accounting fraud. Cheney received $33 million in severance pay from Halliburton, when he became Bush’s VP.  It is alleged Cheney “repaid the payoff with a variety of federal favors for Halliburton.” See Alex Berenson NY Times article  

[v] See Banerjee (2002); In another version it is only 75 employees: ‘To impress a group of visiting Wall Street stock analysts, Enron executives once ordered about 75 employees, including secretaries, throughout its headquarters to come down to the trading floor to man phones and pretend they were making deals. It was a scene right out of The Sting - and it worked. The analysts left believing Enron couldn't make deals fast enough” (Gaber, 2002); A third source says only dozens of employees took part in the masquerade – See Cron (2002).

[vi] Report: Enron designed fake trading floor (2002). Posted: 1:22 p.m. CST February 22, 2002

[vii] "Appearances were very important," said Jeff Gray, a former economist at Enron Energy Services. "It was important for employees to believe the hype just as it was important for analysts and investors to believe it."… Each division … put on a skit it had polished for weeks, often with the help of professional choreographers. The capper was when one executive in charge of Enron's big power project in India rode in on a horse and another entered on an elephant. It was the second year that an elephant made it to the gathering, former employees said (Banerjee, 2002: 1)

[viii] See Schreyogg (2001) and Schreyogg & Noss (2000) and Meisiek (2002) - who see theatre as a more or less ‘managerialist’ technology to be used by management. They focus on how corporations employ professional actors, directors, and stage hands to set up theatre events that dramatize object lessons for employees, followed by focus groups facilitated by consultants.

[ix] I began to articulate a Critical Postmodern approach in Boje, Fitzgibbon and Thatchenkery (1996); See Alvesson & Deetz (1996) who discuss advantages of integrating critical theory with postmodern theory; and See Best and Kellner (1997, 2001) who have always done critical postmodern theory.

[x] Firat & Dholakia (1998) are equally important. Their marketing studies of Theatre of Consumption are reviewed in Boje (2002a). In addition Saner (1999, 2000) uses theatre in a more postmodern way in his notion of Off-Off Broadway consulting.

[xi] See Bougen & Young (2000). Their analysis of bank fraud along rhizomatic lines is about movement, flow, and nonlinear patterns that apply well to Enron’s antenarrative Metatheatre. See also Meehan (1996) who looks at Bunkum, the use of irrelevant dialog as well as double-talk and façade to obscure and obfuscate investigations of bank fraud. Again this applies well to Enron.

[xiii] I looked up the word. Enteron is defined as ‘an alimentary canal;’ and has something to do with the embryo. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000. Another source, says “Enteron - n : the alimentary canal (especially of an embryo or a coelenterate).” I keep reading, the Enteron canal has single openings at one end, such as sea anemone, coral, or jellyfish. See

[xiv] See XREFER On line, A Dictionary of Science, Oxford University Press, © Market House Books Ltd 1999

[xv] “I confirmed this history of corporate nomenclature in a call to Mark Palmer, a spokesman for the bankrupt company.”… "Legend has it," he added, "that they told the naming firm that they had 24 hours to come up with something else or they wouldn't pay them a plug nickel -- and they came up with Enron" (Saffire, 2002).

[xvi] Brand Fidelity Web Site, The Seven Pitfalls of Naming and How to Avoid Them.

[xvii] Ironically, there is a company that has the name Enteron. In New York City on May 5, 1998, the Big Flower Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: BGF) announced that Laser Tech Color, Big Flower's digital premedia and image content management business, acquired the Enteron Group, Inc., a privately-held premedia company with annualized revenues of approximately $60 million (Source, TC News Release, May 5, 1998

[xviii] Source, quote from the Washington Post, in “Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections” Vol 7 (issue 6), March 21 2002

[xix] In Lexus-Nexus and Internet searches, the earliest ‘New Economy’ reference to Enron focused on its strategy of outsourcing employees (February 4 1996).

[xx] Enron Oil and Gas Company, a subsidiary of Enron Corporation, announced on October 16, 1986, that it had completed a well producing both oil and natural gas in Martin County, Texas… According to the company's announcement, 10 percent belonged to Spectrum 7. At that point, Spectrum 7 was still Bush's company. Harken's completion of the Spectrum 7 acquisition was announced in early November. See See David Corn (2002). W.'s First Enron Connection: Update on the Bush-Enron Oil Deal The nation 03/04/2002

[xxi] According to Barnes, Barnett, & Schmitt (2002), “Like that of the first Gas Bank plan, the origin of Cactus is controversial: New York businessman Bernard Glatzer, who sued Enron over the issue, claims Enron took the idea from him.”

[xxii] Lay’s deregulation rhetoric asserts, “I have a strong belief in markets. In fact, I think that an imperfect market is preferable to a perfect regulator.” The gas bank antenarrative was commensurate to Kenneth Lay’s “deregulation” antenarrative; they form the basis of Enron’s emerging concentrated spectacle: to transform the Enteron board of InterNorth and HNG into the virtual trading floor of the Gas Bank (and that into the Energy Bank). This is still an antenarrative bet; Enron’s cast of characters, its executives and employees, did not have the skills to handle the demands of the fast-paced Gas Bank trading or the shifting context of deregulated gas markets, nor the electricity and oil and other trading markets that would soon stretch the Gas Bank into the Energy Bank. Like Lay, Skilling was a showman, but a completely different character than Lay

[xxiii] See Kaminski & Martin, 2001: 44-45) “This [VaR] approach recognizes that price and interest rate curves change over time in more complicated ways than upward or downward parallel shifts. The next advance in Enron's corporate risk management program has been the implementation of VaR at the portfolio level. This approach takes into account relationships between different markets and measures the probability of a loss of a defined magnitude over a certain time period. Enron uses a combination of these tools in managing their risk exposure.”

[xxiv] Enron did $3 billion in business with Drexel Burnham Lambert in the late 1980s, issuing $179.5 million in debt.

[xxv]The Clinton administration provided three loans between 1994 and 1998 to the now-defunct Dabhol power project in India. Mr. Clinton's commerce secretary, Ron Brown, trumpeted the approval of the Dabhol loans on a trade mission to India in 1995, with Mr. Lay by his side.”

[xxvi] Human Rights Watch. Enron in India Jan 24 2002

[xxvii] “Just before dawn on June 3, 1997, police forcibly entered the home of several women in Veldur, a fishing village in western state of Maharashtra, India dragged the women into waiting police vans, beating them with sticks. The only "crime" committed by these women was to lead a peaceful protest against a massive new natural gas plant being built for a Houston-based company named Enron” - Amnesty International 1997. See SEEN, 2002. “One woman, Sugandha Vasudev Bhalekar [from the Veldur fishing village] -- a 24 year old housewife who was three months pregnant at the time of her arrest on 3 June -- testified to the Judicial Magistrate, on 9 June.”  [additions mine].

[xxviii] Other reports put the figure at $79.5 million from Mark’s sale of Enron stock. See Columbia Journalism Review article by Scott Sherman (2002)

[xxix] “… clever Enron employees managed to find ways to continue to enjoy the local culture at the company's expense. Rather than submitting their own strip club receipts, for example, they would have Enron consultants pay the tab and then include it in the bills they sent to the company” (Financial Times – London, 2002).

[xxx] Zahn, Paula (2002).Watkins, Skilling Face Off; Interview of Lowell Bergman. CNN. Aired February 26, 2002 - 09:19 ET. On web at 

[xxxi] From The Nation. April 8, 2002 Shocked, Shocked! Enronian Myths Exposed by Thomas Frank

[xxxii] Beatty, Jack (2002). The Enron Ponzi scheme. Atlantic Unbound. March 13. Accessed April 22, 2002 at  “For those who don't know the history here, Charles Ponzi was a legendary rogue who made a fortune selling international postal coupons promising higher rates of return than ordinarily available at the time. He paid off the original investors with money from those who invested later. Eventually, this house of cards went tumbling down when it became impossible to find new suckers to keep investing money to pay off those whose certificates were coming due. As a result, any scam in which later money is used to pay off early investors in an uneconomic investment has come to be called a ‘Ponzi scheme’” – Savage, Terry (2002). Fallout from Enron creates some ironies. Chicago-Sun Times on line. February 28.     Accessed April 22, 2002  

[xxxiii] See Chronology of Enron's Empire By Daphne Wysham and Jim Vallette
SEEN, 11 April 2002 See Boje's Chronology at

[xxxiv] Source Enron, Also see Steffy & Levy, 2002, p. 35

[xxxv] One director, John Urquhart, earned more than $ 490,000 in consulting fees from Enron. Another netted $ 72,000 for advice on its European business. Two others worked for non-profits on the receiving end of Enron generosity. Then there were the obscenely large salaries that board members earned -- $ 300,000-plus in cash and stocks, nearly three times the average for big firms (USA Today, 2002).

[xxxvi] HNG/InterNorth auditing firm, Arthur Andersen, had warned in 1984 that the oil trading needed more oversight (Barnes, Barnett,, & Schmitt, 2002).

[xxxvii] Interview with Steven Sonsino of London Business School on July 25th – According to Sonsino (who worked as a journalist), stories are not pursued until some major State institution is ready to pursue some executive or corporation.

[xxxviii] Watkins quote is from a 200 plus page transcript of the February 14th 2002 Congressional hearings.

[xxxix] Skilling’s quote is from a 203 page transcript of the February 7th 2002 Congressional hearing; it is widely circulated in the press.

[xl] This is a quote by Jeffrey Pfeffer in Pearlstein and Behr (2001: A01).

[xli] Burke proposes ratios such as act/scene and agent/scene. The Septet dramatist elements would have their own ratios that could be analyzed in future projects. Burkeans would call plot/spectacle an ‘act/scene’ ratio, but the meaning would be entirely different because one needs to be precise about what kind of spectacle it is (concentrated, diffuse, integrated, or mega).



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