Whose Fault Is This, Anyway?

Whose Fault Is This, Anyway?

An unchanged landscape provided for nothing in the way of resolution Tuesday, as investors and traders continued to ponder a set of unanswerable questions.

Donald Trump didn’t appear any closer to resigning, nor was Mike Pence inclined to remove him. The two met for the first time since the Capitol melee which, at least according to the slogans some participants were shouting, put the vice president at personal risk. That’s hardly surprising. After all, just minutes earlier, Trump told the crowd that if Pence didn’t unilaterally throw out Joe Biden’s electors, he would be “very disappointed” in him.

“Mike Pence, I hope you’re gonna stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country,” Trump told his supporters, just before they marched on the Capitol. Later, before he was banned from Twitter, Trump chided Pence for a lack of “courage.”

In their meeting on Monday evening, the two pledged to “work together” through the end of Trump’s term, which means Pence won’t invoke the 25th Amendment. That, in turn, means Nancy Pelosi will move to impeach Trump a second time, likely on Wednesday or Thursday.

It is, frankly, unfortunate how many nominally intelligent people are still making excuses or otherwise dancing around the obvious when it comes to this situation. This is prevalent in market circles, and I interrupted my normal coverage to pen this short lament given multiple reader emails which suggested folks are alarmed at how many of the traders, commentators, and fund managers they follow in one capacity or another seem to be living in an alternative reality.

Yes, the feigned incredulity over Parler’s ban serves as endless fodder for sites that rely, for their very existence, on transforming the anger of the undereducated masses into profitable clicks, assuming they haven’t been demonetized by advertisers for promoting, implicitly or otherwise, the same kinds of rhetoric themselves.

But the refusal to engage with reality extends well beyond the seedier corners of the financial blogosphere. The world of ostensibly serious financial commentary, whether emanating from analysts whose compliance leash is longer than it is for employees of bulge bracket banks, whether from independent analysts working at their own firms or for boutiques, or from the buy-side folk who populate “Financial Twitter,” is full of allusions to election fraud and tacit support for the sentiment that ultimately culminated in last Wednesday’s events in the US capital.

To put it in the simplest terms possible: There is a large contingent of the investment community which has lost touch with reality, spurred on by the usual suspects whose livelihoods depend on spreading misinformation interspersed with financial commentary the only purpose of which is to suggest that the platform’s raison d’être isn’t the dissemination of political misinformation.

There is no place in a stable democracy for this. And the folks in finance who continue to push misinformation tacitly and who retweet the accounts of people who push it explicitly, are not welcome here. Not as contributors, not as subscribers, not as readers.

I’m not sure whether this has occurred to many of these folks or not, but here it is: Clients don’t want to hear that kind of stuff, even if they might be sympathetic to it. Nobody wants to think that the person in charge of their money (or involved in the management of other people’s money more generally) is spending their days pondering the merits of conspiracy theories and armed revolutions. Why do I have to say this? Why does anyone have to say this? Is this not obvious?

I am blessed with a subscriber base that includes asset managers, PMs, and analysts of various sorts, hailing from more countries than I’ve been to. None of them would stick around if I were trafficking in insanity in these pages. If I were operating in a professional capacity, or as a fiduciary, it would be a career killer to involve myself in these kinds of overtly bizarre and objectively dangerous narratives. And yet, that’s what I’m seeing people do. And that’s what some readers have emailed me to say that other folks are engaged in.

Late Monday, Twitter permanently suspended some 70,000 accounts which spread QAnon conspiracy theories, and big tech appears poised to continue its crackdown. I say good. I also say they are fully within their rights to do so.

Big tech is private enterprise. They are publicly traded companies, but they are not government. It is their decision and their decision alone who is allowed on their platforms. That financial professionals and Republicans — purported guardians of business rights — would rather a handful of lawmakers who don’t represent anything close to a majority of Congress, dictate to private enterprise how to run their businesses in the interest of preserving and facilitating the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and incitements to violence, is an example of ludicrous hypocrisy.

As one reader observed on Monday evening, we’ve now once again found ourselves confronted with the uncomfortable reality that many of the people who we assumed were intelligent and otherwise “good” people, apparently support the flagrant subversion of democratic governance and are unable to discern the difference between, on one hand, hate speech, lies, and credible threats of violence, and, on the other, protected speech and “free speech.”

On the bright side, these folks are seemingly unable to help themselves. Against common sense (which dictates that if you harbor notions that are flagrantly abhorrent or are sympathetic to those who do, you should simply refrain from saying so publicly), they continue to make their positions known through their own writing or else through their own social media “likes” or “shares.”

And so, those folks and, in some cases, the people who know them, are now persona non grata here. That probably means nothing to them. Many will never even notice. But, their notes won’t disappear once Trump’s gone. Neither will the emails they sent to their followers’ inboxes. And while they can delete social media activity, that’s never really “gone,” in case you’re unaware.

So, if you’re one of those people — someone shouting about “free speech” when what you’re talking about is hate speech — someone who’s drawing false equivalences with other instances of disputed election results — someone who refuses to admit what’s right in front of your eyes — or someone who had a chance, at some point, to make a difference but didn’t — then you should be prepared to be ostracized going forward.

What’s happened to the world’s foremost democracy over the past three years (and accelerated over the past three months) is unequivocally bad. I won’t say “wrong,” because I’m not big on normative language.

But make no mistake: This isn’t a debate. It’s not big tech’s fault. It’s not Democrats’ fault. It’s not George Soros’ fault. It’s not Mitt Romney’s fault. It’s not “RINOS'” fault. It’s not the “deep state’s” fault. And it’s not the “swamp’s” fault.

If you’re one of the people I alluded to above, it’s your fault. Unlike Donald Trump and his enablers in Congress however, you can make amends, and everyone will happily (hell, gleefully) accept your apology.


29 thoughts on “Whose Fault Is This, Anyway?

    1. I’ll add my thanks as well for saying what needs to be said clearly, cleanly and in a manor that leaves no room for obfuscation. That is something hard to find these days. It gives me hope that rational thought and critical thinking can rise to the fore before we forget what that means. The internet brought a world of encyclopedic information to our fingertips, but also unleashed a torrent of propaganda that threatens to destroy us.

  1. A trader friend of mine for many years and I have been discussing for a long time that this type of undemocratic, nationalistic, xenophobic, racist cohort has existed for a long time. My thesis is that it is 20-25% of the public in the US, but also has equivalences in other major democracies as well. The difference now is that the occupier of the Oval Office is not a full throated member of this class. And it has become acceptable to both hold and espouse these ideas. It is incredibly sad to see this happen here. The one silver lining (which is not to say all that happened is good) is that this is now out in the open for all to see and out of the shadows. Looking in the mirror sometimes is painful but is always necessary for a society. This period is now going to go down as one of our country’s days of reckoning.

  2. When your paywall went up, I instantly subscribed. I saw the problem with ‘nohedge’ long ago, for example, as a propaganda site hosted in Russia or somewhere sympathetic to that agenda. as they note with glee the “failure” of the United States and democracy. Of course they mix in some useful things to keep the camo up. I believe many folks do not see through that site’s veneer and I am saddened by that. If I am wrong about that site, I don’t care. I get vastly better information here. I just bring them up as a readily available example. That said, I appreciate this note and your site, and hope that many can internalize facts and hopefully pull back from the edge.

    1. Your assessment of that ZH site is accurate. While reading your comment, I went to the “leading” article there and scanned it. Then went immediately to the comments for the article. Scanned down through the first few hundred of the 2,496 “comments.”

      That site provides camo content that is otherwise veneer for the disinformation spread in the comments. The whois on that site has not changed, still showing registration out of BG.

      It is in the category of sites that seek to undermine credibility in Western institutions.

  3. Thank you for this article.

    To any Canadian readers, protect what you have. The same messaging that became emboldened in the US can become similarly emboldened in Canada. Take the relevant actions within the scope of your cultural, political, legal, and economic system, to ensure that you avoid a collateral outcome to what has, and is, occurring within the US.

    1. ” we stand on guard for thee ” !

      Seriously, we have it here too but it is more pocketed and forced more underground, but we have not avoided it. I don’t think anyone has for that matter. Our real keeners (like the founder of Proud Boys) end up migrating to the U.S. where the soil is more fertile. The fact that we have more of a safety-net here and less extreme numbers of disparity of wealth helps assuage the rhetoric. That, and we also possess a much more sane attitude towards citizen self-weaponry (we are still scratching our heads at the notion of the American public needing to arm themselves as protection against their own government and being recognized as a patriot for doing so). We also have way fewer modern day veterans than in the U.S. – is it just me or does service, no doubt combined with other socio-economic influences (like what social strata of youth signs up for mass duty and deployment) not seem to mess with the heads of a good # of these folks when their service is done and they need to come back into normal society ? Some of the main collaborators in the mayhem last week are now being shown to be ex-military, and I’ve seen the same thing seemingly being fomented in the Canadian military too.

      So yes, the seeds of populism are here. Interestingly, we used to have reversed roles a mere half decade ago…you had Obama and we had Stephen Harper, espousing harder-core conservatism and fiscal rectitude and an anti-immigrant, anti-diversity lean.
      However it is more difficult for those roots to take hold here I think. To the extent it thrives, it is similar to the U.S. in that it is very much also a rural vs. urban fight, with the trending favouring (notice the Canuck spelling – eh ?) the urban side and squeezing the the shrinking rural side, just like the U.S. And of course, we can all get our news in silos here too, and social media knows no borders so there are plenty of examples of kool-aid drinkers at every turn.

      I guess my takeaway here is that this is not a U.S. only problem. The whole world is fighting this and it will take a global effort and global solutions to beat it down.

    2. Erin O’toole is giving interviews with Rebel media. Its already starting.

      At least Kenney in AB has really hurt his credibility with his handling of COVID (its tragic, but who would have thought that deep cuts to front line health care workers during a pandemic could result in worsening outcomes in patients with the virus…) Silver linings I guess.

      Doug Ford has handled things slightly better, but as time goes on his “repackage old restrictions as new ones” is going to wear thin, especially if their new models are remotely accurate.

      Anyways. Rant over. Thanks H for all your great insights and to my fellow Canadians hope you’re doing well!

    3. In Canada, the equivalent to trumpist (who were then called orangist, go figure) won a long time ago, burned the parliament and avoided democratic reform. Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it.

  4. This:

    As one reader observed on Monday evening, we’ve now once again found ourselves confronted with the uncomfortable reality that many of the people who we assumed were intelligent and otherwise “good” people, apparently support the flagrant subversion of democratic governance and are unable to discern the difference between, on one hand, hate speech, lies, and credible threats of violence, and, on the other, protected speech and “free speech.”

  5. Thank you Heisenberg for being a voice of reason. I too have gone to the site mentioned above and I stopped going once I realized that what they meant by free speech was hate speech. Last week I was shocked to learn a close friend who I have known for over 40 years that has a masters degree and is a vice president of one the biggest investment firms told me that he believed that the election was stolen. I tried to speak to him about it, to no avail. My mother in law is a retired a teacher , and was a volunteer for local democratic party events while she was in school, has been programmed by Fox. My wife found the Parlor app on her phone and promptly deleted it. We really have a big divide in this country caused by the proliferation of Facebook and like services that can amplify nonsense to millions of people with no checks on reality. I am glad that H has decided not to participate in the misinformation campaigns that have been going on since Trump became a canidate then elected official.

  6. Great piece H, full of desperately needed perspective for those you are describing. We are on a dark path right now, with our Catalyst-in-Chief. Only a week to go left in this disorienting ride, when the hard power at least gets turned over to saner hands. One week. One week. But what was it that Lenin said:

    “There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.”

  7. H

    Thank you so much for your dispassionate statement of policy for your space here. It seemed to be an expansion from what I saw as a small epiphany in your reply to comments in your previous post, a comment I will be sharing with a former classmate who still sends me daily copies of a site called “trumpanations.” He is totally duped by the circulating sewerage that passes for journalism for the 20% and needs to be enlightened (tho I doubt that will be possible). Thanks again. You are the best.

  8. As if it wasn’t clear enough how toxic Trump is, all these people who still cling to the Republican party need to read what Rep. Peter Meijer, a freshman Republican house member, wrote about the capitol riot. He stated that another rep literally feared for his and his family’s lives if he voted to certify the results. Let that sink in. A member of the Republican party explicitly stating that he feels his life will be threatened if he votes to certify a legitimate election as has been done largely without incident for over 200 years. How can these people remain a member of that party? This cult has gone well past the boundary of sanity. All these folks who went along with these charades and enabled Trump are now seeing the real consequences of what they countenanced, but the rest of us also have to deal with it and it’s sickening.

  9. I think the handwriting for the last four years was on the wall the day it became obvious the Trumpies were intent on disassembling every accomplishment that Obama managed irregardless of the merits…

    I am hoping the Biden administration does not take an authoritarian approach because the flaw is in all of us and the burden of healing needs a shared approach. The people are pretty resilient but this is the time to talk sense not nonsense… There are structural issues that need honest answers and that is only possible with leadership of a caliber that only comes along very rarely.. We must find a way to limit the money in Politics and we have known this forever … Too many levels of indignation in all this ..Time for everyone to ‘cool their jets’…

    1. Sorry George but I think you will find that your time for healing is a pipe dream. It will be seen by hard line (these days most) Republican’s as an opportunity to delay, divert, sabotage where they can, whilst re-grouping ready to try again. I just don’t see any appetite for actual healing, merely biding their time. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect in two or four years and think how could Biden be so naive, particularly after witnessing what happened with Obama.

      1. exactly what I fear … this has been the Republican play book for the last two democratic administrations and until the dems in power take a different and more aggressive approach the r’s have no plans to change theirs…hopefully this time will be different but I’m not holding my breath, the overall senate and house underperformance by the dems does not inspire confidence in substantive and enlightened progress, that may have to wait till the next opportunity in the 2022 midterms.

  10. Thank you for this Dr. H. The past week has been profoundly disturbing. And indeed, to me, it is precisely the unapologetic and irresponsible reaction of regular people that is the most disturbing. The past several years of normalizing behavior have obscured perspective and relativized reality. Having read Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi and many others, one of the core lessons is how regular people can easily rationalize and go along with even the most objectively evil atrocities. Constant vigilance is the only answer. This also means history must be taken seriously. These lessons have already been forgotten, not even one lifetime later.

    The ‘banality of evil’ is worth highlighting here. But the current situation is not even happening at a mundane, banal level. There is both active and tacit collaboration happening in front of our eyes. But respected people.

    I have done enough research at this point to be more or less convinced that this was in fact a violent, attempted coup. However incompetent. And it involves multiple elected officials. That hypothesis can be further confirmed or denied as new evidence continues to accumulate, and I encourage everyone to do their own research and come to their own conclusions. But we need to use the ‘proper language’. Because not doing so is part of what has led to this point. Historical meanings of language must be defended or all is lost to a sea of relativity.

  11. As a person who put himself on the front line opposing our president for 4 years without an audience and experience the brutal torture of ostracization in a small town. I can say thank you walt for asking leaders to take responsibility.

    I know the process isn’t done and even once he’s gone it will not be done. Education is a never-ending process. As is the process of figuring out how to do good in this world. So easily we are led astray typically by our own emotions.

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