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When Narrative Takes Flight

By Rusty Guinn | October 14, 2021 | 20 Comments

We find ourselves together now at the stage of the Widening Gyre in which your political identity now determines the reality you wish to accept about three days of moderate operational difficulties at the ninth largest global airline, as measured by passenger-miles.

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3 Strikes They’re Out

From the ET Forum ...

If you hadn’t heard about the potential IATSE strike allow me to catch you up to speed. IATSE is the much needed abbreviation for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. They’re the thousands of people who make movies and television. All those names in the credits, that’s them.

And they’ve had enough. The crew works horrible hours with no breaks. Imagine your call time to work was 6am. But you have to wake up at 4am to get there in time and set up. Then work continues non stop until 9pm. Go home, get some sleep, and do it all again the next day. That’s not counting overtime. And the pay is not worth it.

Now the IATSE is ready to strike. They’re looking for a few things. One is better pay that accurately reflects the work done for streaming services. Technically shows produced for streaming services like Hulu and Netflix don’t count as a series and workers don’t get the higher pay that entails. So Stranger Things and The Handmaiden’s Tale are TV enough to win Emmys, but not to pay their crew.

IATSE is in the sixth day of talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers right now. They hope to come to a resolution, but they also have picket signs ready. And if the strike does happen, Hollywood is in trouble.

Remember how all the movies and shows from 2008 were super delayed, short, and just really bad? That’s because of the writers strike. Now imagine if it’s not just the writers. It’s the lighting tech. The cinematographer. The grip. The boom mic guy. If they go on strike Hollywood is shut down.

The IATSE expects to reach an agreement within days. But just in case, don’t hold your breath for Season 2 of Emily in Paris.

— Harper Hunt | October 12, 2021|

Coming Soon to CBS

From the ET Forum ...

The Activist is an upcoming reality show that really shouldn’t have made it past the “there are no bad ideas” stage of development. It’s the most tone deaf, disconnected concept I’ve ever seen.

The basic idea is that the show will feature six activists from around the world and follow them as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events”. Think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice. Contestants will be judged on how much social media engagement they receive, and the grand prize is an opportunity to attend the G20 Summit in Rome.

Yeah.

Contestants will be judged not by quality of their work but by the quality of their Instagram captions.

The show and its marketing campaign present this very shallow idea of supporting activism and getting them mainstream attention. But the show isn’t prepared to follow through on helping create change. The prize isn’t money or manpower. It’s a chance to beg powerful people to pretend to care.

At its core, this show is not about activism and social change. It’s about social media attention. Just look at the judges! Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough have no experience in activism aside from Instagram posts and speaking at charity events. They’re not leaders of change. They’re mid-level celebrities who wouldn’t be out of place judging The Masked Singer.

The show has been justly lambasted on social media as literally everyone has a problem with the premise. It’s been called “performance activism personified” and it is. It’s encouraging participants and viewers to see activism not as something meant to enact change, but a way to get attention. It sets a standard that successful activism isn’t making change, it’s getting likes and views. It ignores the small, boring, and thankless work that is done on a grassroots level. The work we need to see more of.

We don’t need more beautiful people talking about how they use metal straws to save the sea turtles. We need more people who are willing to do the work. This show isn’t doing anything to help anyone and I, for one, will not be watching.

— Harper Hunt | September 16, 2021|

The Widened Gyre

From the ET Forum …

Yesterday, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I read and heard several mainstream references to “the Widening Gyre”. It makes sense that yesterday would spur that sort of narrative connection, as the juxtaposition of the political images and texts from then and now is breathtaking. It’s amazing (and obvious), how polarized we’ve become over the past two decades.

But at this point – where the Widening Gyre is not happening but has already occurred – I think what we’re seeing is the Widened Gyre, where everything is autotuned to the poles of the gyre, including references to the Widening Gyre itself!

Case in point, on Twitter I am now routinely criticized for “contributing” to the Widening Gyre if I don’t engage in perfunctory political whataboutism on any topic that has a political dimension … which is to say ALL topics.

What is the Widened Gyre?

Yesterday, the most recent former president of the United States gave a paid speech to Moonies and then made a paid appearance at a sham boxing match where 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was knocked out in 90 seconds.

On 9/11.

And it will change no one’s politically polarized views. Not his supporters. Not his detractors. No one.

The Widened Gyre is a VERY stable equilibrium.

— Ben Hunt | September 12, 2021|

Oh, a Rhinoceros

A video made the rounds on various social media platforms last night and this morning. By now you have probably seen it. A young man presents his case for a mask policy to the school board in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He recalls the death of his grandmother by COVID and begins to express fear that this could happen to other people he cares about.

And that’s where most cuts of the video end. You see, the young man’s speech was interrupted by the shouting and snickering of adults behind him. Adults holding ‘Let our kids smile’ signs.

Source: Rutherford County (TN) Board of Education

Elsewhere on the internet, there is a very similar – and very different – trend emerging. It is a simple meme. You find someone who dies of COVID or asks for prayer or good thoughts after having downplayed the virus, the vaccine or masks only weeks or days before. Then you juxtapose their statements for internet points. If you’re in a particularly virulent version of this community, maybe you even post something vile on their family’s announcement of the person’s passing on Facebook. This is NOT cherry-picking. There are entire social media sub-communities and hashtags devoted to these memes.

We have written several times about the imagery of Ionesco’s landmark play Rhinoceros. I’m abridging rather thoroughly here, but the main conceit of the play is that the humans gradually change into rhinoceroses. But the shock of the story isn’t the devastation the beasts cause, rampaging about town. The shock is that, at some point, we are no longer shocked. We see the family, friend, neighbor or colleague we once knew and and say simply, “Oh, a rhinoceros.”

Many of us today will shrug and say, “Oh, a rhinocerous” to adults laughing and jeering at a child discussing his grandmother’s death. The Real Issue, you see, is that the child made a statement about the role of masks with inadequate information to justify his claim, and that might unduly influence local policy.

Many of us today will shrug and say, “Oh, a rhinoceros” to those who barge in on a family grieving the loss of someone they shared their entire lives and dreams with. The Real Issue, you see, is the good we can do by making an example of how wrong they were about COVID.

Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves that it isn’t normal for humans to transform into rhinoceroses.

Maybe it’s time to wrap up a little bit less of our individual and collective identity in Being Right About COVID.

Burying the Lede

For news junkies and the Very Online, one of the most well-traveled news stories over the past couple days has been the story of the “American students who are stranded in Afghanistan.”

The first version I read of the story came from this piece published by The Hill, although it borrows heavily from a piece published in the LA Times and San Diego Union-Tribune the same day.

Dozens of California students, parents stranded in Afghanistan after summer trip abroad [The Hill]

The key excerpt if you don’t feel like clicking over is here:

Dozens of California students and parents are stranded in Afghanistan after taking a summer trip to the country.

More than 20 students and 16 parents from the Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon, Calif., visited Afghanistan on summer vacation. Now they are among thousands of people who are waiting to leave the country amid the chaotic U.S. withdrawal that has caused political unrest across the nation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cajon Valley Superintendent David Miyashiro alerted school board members on Tuesday that he would be meeting with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to discuss the situation, the Times noted.

Source: The Hill

However much of the headline or article you read, you will still arrive at the same two questions that roughly half of America has since yesterday: (1) What the devil were a group of students doing taking a summer trip abroad in Afghanistan, and (2) Why is one of the students’ parents talking about worries that they are missing class?

It’s the funny thing about news. We more or less define it based on the assumption that it tells the truth, and this article does. These students from California absolutely went to Afghanistan over the summer. They are absolutely stranded there. These are facts.

But at some point here, you have to feel like a writer without an axe to grind might have felt inclined to mention that the California students are LITERALLY REFUGEES FROM AFGHANISTAN WHO WENT TO THEIR OLD HOME TO VISIT FRIENDS AND FAMILY. And look, that doesn’t change that they are people just as deserving of our efforts to extract safely as anyone else. It just takes away the single reason the article went viral, that is, that a bunch of kids going to Afghanistan for summer vacation seemed pretty wacky.

The ability to influence our behaviors as information consumers isn’t confined to whether we are explicitly being told how to think about something. Narrative is just as easily communicated through the selective absence of information, through its placement on a page, and through editorial decisions regarding the volume and emphasis of its coverage.

So which explanation for this preposterous framing do you think is true? And remember, you can always pick more than one:

  1. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. They just didn’t think about the very obvious omission, or they didn’t do the basic research to inform it.
  2. They were terrified of getting canceled for maybe implying that refugee status was a relevant detail to the story.
  3. Clickbait. C’mon.

Join us in the forum which you think it is – or offer another explanation!

— Rusty Guinn | August 26, 2021|

Proof of Plant: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt 1

By Ben Hunt | June 23, 2021 | 39 Comments

I want to change the language of crypto from mining to growing. I do not mean this in a metaphorical sense. I mean a proof-of-plant method for literally growing cryptocurrency tokens as a representation of the value stored in the human cultivation of plants.

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In Praise of Bitcoin

By Ben Hunt | April 28, 2021 | 57 Comments

What made Bitcoin special is nearly lost, and what remains is a false and constructed narrative that exists in service to Wall Street and Washington rather than in resistance.

The Bitcoin narrative must be renewed. And that will change everything.

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Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

By Ben Hunt | May 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

More on Information Theory.

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Recent Notes

When Narrative Takes Flight

By Rusty Guinn | October 14, 2021

We find ourselves together now at the stage of the Widening Gyre in which your political identity now determines the reality you wish to accept about three days of moderate operational difficulties at the ninth largest global airline, as measured by passenger-miles.

Read more

No Time to Die: China Banks Edition

By Marc Rubinstein | October 7, 2021

With $300+ billion of assets, Evergrande is big, but if you want REALLY big, take a look at the balance sheets of Chinese banks.

ET contributor Marc Rubinstein was there at the beginning when Chinese banks went public, and he’s here now to review the sector.

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How Lucky You Are To Be Alive Right Now

By David Salem | October 7, 2021

ET friend and contributor David Salem is back!

Here with his Constitution Day address at Middlebury College, David makes the rich tradition of academic speeches richer still, with nods to the Founders and Vitalik Buterin alike.

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The Uncontained Spark

By Ben Hunt | October 1, 2021

There is an uncontained spark in the financial world today, a spark that emerged from the unlikeliest of places, a federal courthouse in Florida.

It’s a spark with the potential to light a searing bonfire under Robinhood and Citadel.

#BITFD

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Zeroism and the Allocator Status Quo

By Matthew Edwards | September 21, 2021

ET contributor Matthew Edwards pushes back on seven rules that allocators often apply to new managers.

1) We don’t do crypto.
2) We only invest in what we know.
3) We never pay full fees.
4) We prefer fundamental investment strategies.
5) We seek strong alignment of interests.
6) We cannot be greater than x% of a fund’s total assets under management.
7) We require a minimum track record of X years.

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Unanchored

By Brent Donnelly | September 15, 2021

ET contributor Brent Donnelly starts up where he left off, with a new launch of AM/FX and a new riff on the classic ET note, “Snip!”.

In the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!

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Whitestone Bridge

By Ben Hunt | September 11, 2021

Our true enemies on 9/11 – the Deep State of Saudi Arabia and the Deep State of Pakistan – are our true enemies still.

And we won’t defeat them until we bridge our petty divides.

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The Green Protocol: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt 2

By Ben Hunt | September 8, 2021

The Green Protocol is a set of rules for the tokenization of symbolic betting markets in positive social good.

I think this is how crypto saves the world.

Our first step on this new path? Let’s plant one billion new trees in North America over the next ten years.

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Cursed Knowledge #5: Hot Coffee

By Harper Hunt | September 2, 2021

The Epsilon Theory podcast is free for everyone to access. You can grab the mp3 file below, or you can subscribe at: Cursed Knowledge is…

Notes from Camp Kotok 2021

By Brent Donnelly | August 27, 2021

ET contributor Brent Donnelly with an end-of-summer compilation of the top–of-mind topics at Camp Kotok!

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Prophet of the Pandemic

By Luke Burgis | August 26, 2021

Sophocles knew it. Dostoevsky knew it.

Disruption to the biological order and disruption to the social order are one and the same.

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Afghanistan and the Common Knowledge Game

By Ben Hunt | August 23, 2021

When the State Department announced on August 12th that it was removing all remaining non-essential personnel from Kabul within 3 days and was considering a relocation of the US embassy to the more defensible airport, the fall of the Afghani government became common knowledge.

And that’s when everything fell apart.

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The Afghanistan Narratives

By Rusty Guinn | August 17, 2021

We are in the very early innings of the narrative formation around responsibility for the outcome in Afghanistan. Steel yourselves for weeks of gaslighting from every angle. Hooray.

Read more

ET Podcast #13 – Wanting

By Ben Hunt | August 17, 2021

It’s the only question that really matters here in the Age of Nudge: why do we want what we want?

A conversation with Luke Burgis, author of “Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life”.

Read more

Cursed Knowledge #4: The Olympics

By Harper Hunt | August 16, 2021

The Epsilon Theory podcast is free for everyone to access. You can grab the mp3 file below, or you can subscribe at: Cursed Knowledge is…

How a Narrative Goes Viral

By Rusty Guinn | August 10, 2021

It is a fact that migrants here illegally have spread, are spreading, and will spread Covid-19.

It is also a narrative. A dangerous, seductive, rapidly spreading narrative that will cause many of us to shut off our minds to other facts, which is what narratives DO.

How do we parse the two?

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Sauron Remains Undefeated

By Ben Hunt | August 9, 2021

Here’s my take on this weekend’s Senate wrangling over the infrastructure bill, and the implications for crypto.

The US Treasury is the Eye of Sauron — a gigantic panopticon tower that sweeps the world with its unblinking gaze, seeking out the owners of power, i.e. money.

And Sauron remains undefeated.

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Nudging State, Noble Lies

By Ben Hunt | August 4, 2021

In the world of Nudge, everyone is an ad man, and the government is just the biggest, baddest ad man of them all.

I’m not so naive as to think this isn’t a good description of what modern government is.

But it’s a terrible prescription for what modern government should be.

Read more

Cursed Knowledge #3: The Molassacre

By Harper Hunt | July 26, 2021

The Boston Molassacre was one of the great tragedies of the early 20th century. So why isn’t it treated like one?

Read more

Ever Grande

By Marc Rubinstein | July 26, 2021

The Chinese real estate developer Evergrande is the epitome of Too Big To Fail. It is truly Ever Grande.

So what happens if it does, in fact, fail?

Read more

ZG-item-cap-black

3 Strikes They’re Out

From the ET Forum ...

If you hadn’t heard about the potential IATSE strike allow me to catch you up to speed. IATSE is the much needed abbreviation for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. They’re the thousands of people who make movies and television. All those names in the credits, that’s them.

And they’ve had enough. The crew works horrible hours with no breaks. Imagine your call time to work was 6am. But you have to wake up at 4am to get there in time and set up. Then work continues non stop until 9pm. Go home, get some sleep, and do it all again the next day. That’s not counting overtime. And the pay is not worth it.

Now the IATSE is ready to strike. They’re looking for a few things. One is better pay that accurately reflects the work done for streaming services. Technically shows produced for streaming services like Hulu and Netflix don’t count as a series and workers don’t get the higher pay that entails. So Stranger Things and The Handmaiden’s Tale are TV enough to win Emmys, but not to pay their crew.

IATSE is in the sixth day of talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers right now. They hope to come to a resolution, but they also have picket signs ready. And if the strike does happen, Hollywood is in trouble.

Remember how all the movies and shows from 2008 were super delayed, short, and just really bad? That’s because of the writers strike. Now imagine if it’s not just the writers. It’s the lighting tech. The cinematographer. The grip. The boom mic guy. If they go on strike Hollywood is shut down.

The IATSE expects to reach an agreement within days. But just in case, don’t hold your breath for Season 2 of Emily in Paris.

— Harper Hunt | October 12, 2021|

Coming Soon to CBS

From the ET Forum ...

The Activist is an upcoming reality show that really shouldn’t have made it past the “there are no bad ideas” stage of development. It’s the most tone deaf, disconnected concept I’ve ever seen.

The basic idea is that the show will feature six activists from around the world and follow them as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events”. Think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice. Contestants will be judged on how much social media engagement they receive, and the grand prize is an opportunity to attend the G20 Summit in Rome.

Yeah.

Contestants will be judged not by quality of their work but by the quality of their Instagram captions.

The show and its marketing campaign present this very shallow idea of supporting activism and getting them mainstream attention. But the show isn’t prepared to follow through on helping create change. The prize isn’t money or manpower. It’s a chance to beg powerful people to pretend to care.

At its core, this show is not about activism and social change. It’s about social media attention. Just look at the judges! Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough have no experience in activism aside from Instagram posts and speaking at charity events. They’re not leaders of change. They’re mid-level celebrities who wouldn’t be out of place judging The Masked Singer.

The show has been justly lambasted on social media as literally everyone has a problem with the premise. It’s been called “performance activism personified” and it is. It’s encouraging participants and viewers to see activism not as something meant to enact change, but a way to get attention. It sets a standard that successful activism isn’t making change, it’s getting likes and views. It ignores the small, boring, and thankless work that is done on a grassroots level. The work we need to see more of.

We don’t need more beautiful people talking about how they use metal straws to save the sea turtles. We need more people who are willing to do the work. This show isn’t doing anything to help anyone and I, for one, will not be watching.

— Harper Hunt | September 16, 2021|