Rolling Stone began a recent article with this provocative lede: "The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." [emphasis mine]
This metaphor, and all its implications, have provoked plenty of discussion amongst economists, politicians, journalists, and the general public. But you know why it provokes me? Vampire squid are tiny, like six inches long, and while they have several anatomical oddities, they possess nothing as ridiculous (though creative) as a "blood funnel"!
It's true, there is such a thing as a vampire squid, though I'm not sure how many Rolling Stone readers realize that. In fact, the literal translation of the scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, is "vampire squid from hell." We can imagine that this unfeeling epithet has delivered considerable emotional trauma to the poor animal--
--but it is a pretty cool name, and it gets people jazzed about the deep sea. Unfortunately, it's misleading. Vampire squid were named only for their freaky looks, not because they have any propensity for drinking blood. As far as we know, their diet is about what one would expect from a small gelatinous deep-sea cephalopod: shrimp and other little crustaceans.
Sure, I understand that the Rolling Stone writer was reaching for a literary device, not a biology lesson, but there are so many honest-to-God freaky parasites that could have been chosen for such a metaphor! Why malign the poor vampire squid?
Vampire Squid Aren't Really Vampires