If Memorial Day is anything, it is a day for telling and re-telling stories about Full Hearts. Let me tell and re-tell you the story of Milton Lee Olive III.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- They were terrified of getting canceled for maybe implying that refugee status was a relevant detail to the story.
- Clickbait. C’mon.
Join us in the forum which you think it is – or offer another explanation!
— Rusty Guinn | August 26, 2021|
An Australian Pack member living abroad published what I think is an outstanding review of the depths to which Australia’s Covid-zero policy has descended. Here’s the skinny:
We are a country that pulls things out of the ground, sells coffee to each other, and invests every dollar we don’t have in residential property. And that’s been fine until this point. Australia, more than any other country, has ridden a wave of prosperity over the last 30 years that resulted in a quality of life almost unsurpassed anywhere in the world. But it has bred complacency, and the country’s response to COVID has revealed this complacency and its worrying lack of urgency. We’ve convinced ourselves that we generated long-term prosperity because there’s something special about us; but a lot of it’s been due to luck.
Taking a step back, Australia’s approach to COVID implicitly includes the following: a comfort with severely curtailing its citizens’ liberties; the capacity to absorb and pay for economic calamities; a belief that its brand is strong enough to recover from the damage inflicted and to once again attract talent and capital; zero tolerance for risk or its citizens ability to manage it; and conviction that trust in authority will remain despite all the failures, hostility and dishonesty.Daniel Bookman
— Ben Hunt | August 25, 2021|
If Barbara Tuchman were alive she would be adding another chapter to her classic The March of Folly.
I am fascinated to see what narratives spring forth from this sad and tragic failure to accomplish anything other than leave behind a string of broken promises.Z.
‘‘Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that; for it is true that we may give advice, but we cannot give conduct.” said another BenT.C.
— Ben Hunt | August 18, 2021|
Trading is a lot like Poker
With the passing of Doyle Brunson, it’s a good day to compare poker to trading.
An AI in the City of God
The City of Man always wins.
The Visigoths always sack Rome. The Vandals always sack Hippo. Augustine always dies in the siege. Bad things always happen to good people … at scale.
Here’s how we use generative AI to flip the script.
Dedollarization is Not a Thing
People like to throw around the phrase “gradually, then suddenly” as a witty rejoinder to suggest a dedollarization of the world is a nonlinear process that will unfold any day now. That only sounds smart when Hemingway says it.
There is no structural dollar depreciation or dedollarization story. Global usage of the USD is stable and changes in the value of the USD are cyclical.
Dark Forest: The Brutal Game of Modern Banking
I think that the Big Banks’ collective deposit of $30 billion in uninsured accounts with First Republic is the first step in solving the Dark Forest problem of the American banking system.
AI R Us
The scariest thing about large language model AIs isn’t their fundamental human-ness.
It’s the fundamental AI-ness of human intelligence.
The half-life of just about every major news story is one week.
Barring major new developments, practically nothing captures our attention beyond six.
So how do we stay focused on things that matter for much longer than that?
They Fought the Gyre … and the Gyre Won
He Gets Us gets a lot right about our world today.
But there’s something important He Gets Us didn’t get.
Metaphysics, Consciousness, Nature of Reality: a Thread from the ET Forum
The craziest thing happens when there’s no audience, when you’re talking with other actual human beings for the right reasons … you not only have actual conversations, you not only move quickly past politics into subjects that are far more interesting and far more relevant to our actual lives than politics, but you make actual friends
“Yay, College!” Part 1: The Smiley-Face Super-Villainy of American Higher Education
The modern American system of higher education – especially its most prominent public and private universities – is less our Superman than our Homelander, a smiley-faced faux superhero who does The Man’s dirty work in exchange for wealth, privilege and … our cheers.
The Story of Adequate Liquidity doesn’t exist and shift on the margin. Instead, it exists in two states: it is normal, or it is broken. Once the threshold between these states is crossed, it is very hard to tell the old story. Sometimes impossible.
There is almost no price too high to keep that story from jumping over that threshold.
Epsilon Theory 2022 in Review – Foundation
2022 was our ninth year of publishing Epsilon Theory. It was also our best.
We’re changing the way the world sees the invisible water in which we swim – narratives.
And we’re just getting started.
Covid is China’s Vietnam War
Covid is China’s Vietnam War, and the current outbreak is their Tet Offensive.
This is how common knowledge changes, as now everyone knows that everyone knows that the CCP is not just a liar, but an incompetent, failed liar.
The MacGuffin, Part 2: The Story Arc of SBF and FTX
The MacGuffin is the object of desire.
It is the thing around which the plot of the story revolves.
Here is the story arc of SBF and FTX, and the MacGuffin that anchored it all – the Magical Money Machine.
Cursed Knowledge #15: Sir Edmund Hillary Thinks You’re An Ass
Mt Everest is a death trap. Everything about the mountain is designed to kill you. So why are so many people going up there? Why do we ignore the very real and very dangerous narratives that are right in our face.
UK Pensions Webinar Recording
This is the recording of our webinar on UK Pensions that took place on October 14th, 2022. If you want to continue the conversation, check out the ET Forum.
A Brief History of the Past 10,000 Years of Monetary Policy
What we saw happen in the UK last week is the first shock, not the last, and all the massive pension funds and asset owners who have turned themselves into shadow hedge funds, full of swaps and leverage through the sweet whispers of Wall Street Wormtongue, will be our undoing.
Cursed Knowledge #14: In Defense of Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette has a rather interesting historical footprint. For all that her image is iconic and her reputation infamous, it’s not all the truth. The real Marie Antoinette has been lost to the cartoon of Marie Antoinette™. So I want to show you a glimpse at the real person behind the cartoon and take a closer look at how her cartoon got started.
Monetary Policy is Non-Linear
The relationship between interest rates and inflation is non-linear and non-monotonic, and in exactly the same way that the Fed was unable to spur inflation by cutting rates to exceptionally low levels, so will they be unable to contain inflation by hiking rates off these exceptionally low levels.
The Fed first has to get interest rates to this monotonic tipping point before further interest rate hikes will have any appreciable effect in the real economy.
Recent major media stories that feel to us like they’re part of a larger narrative campaign.
Recent major media stories that feel to us like they’re part of a larger narrative campaign.