Every morning, we run The Narrative Machine on the past 24 hours worth of financial media to find the most on-narrative (i.e. interconnected and central) stories. On the weekend, we leave finance to cover the last week or so in other shifting parts of the Zeitgeist – namely, politics and culture. It’s not a list of best articles or articles we think are most interesting … often far from it.
But these are articles that have struck a chord in narrative world.
May 4, 2019 Narrative Map – Non-Financial Articles
The folly of raising the gas tax [Washington Times]
I think the reason that infrastructure is such a fascinating recurring topic – beyond the fact that it is relatable on an everyday basis – is that it’s so surprisingly subject to cartoonification, or at the very least oversimplification. It’s also (relatedly) a reasonably strong litmus test for your political affiliation. I give you the Parkway Postulate:
As the length of an infrastructure editorial approaches 1000 words…
- The probability that a progressive author / board will use the word “crumbling”;
- The probability that a libertarian author / board will use the expression “private roads”; and
- The probability that a conservative author / board will refer to “bike lanes”
All approach one.
The ‘Valley Girls’ of the Rio Grande [New York Times]
Immigration narratives are complicated and perilous, mostly because they call upon powerful memes. Safety! Liberty! Rule of law! Humanity!
When public personalities express an opinion on immigration in the United States, it is usually a way to signal to others which of those legitimately valuable principles they most wish to attach themselves to. There is little room for nuance. No one cares what your actual view is, because they’re going to auto-tune you into a few pre-set classifications anyway. In the Widening Gyre, it is politically useful to be able to pigeon-hole Americans into being either an Open-Borders Freak or a Closed-Borders Nationalist. Why else do you think this story rose to the top of the Zeitgeist, as one of the most linguistically interconnected of the more than 428,000 news / feature / opinion articles in our query this past week?
Yes, like most feature journalism, this NYT presentation is transparently Fiat News. But The Valley, like most land borders, IS one of the most unusual places in the world. You will drive down one road and feel unfailing optimism, and down another and feel an unbearable, oppressive weight. It’s not a place that allows you to keep a pigeon-holed view of anything for very long. Spend time there. Meet the rough and beautiful people who are building lives and families there. Meet some of the people who are trying to ease those burdens.
If you are anything like me, you’ll come away with greater love for immigrants AND a desire to bring far more into our country AND greater love for the rule of law concerning borders.
You will also come away with even more disdain than you can imagine for the politically convenient false dichotomy between these ideas.
Get the dirt on living in the country [VillageSoup of Knox County, Maine – I think]
Surround yourself with the calmness of the forest [Murfreesboro Post]
Kit Carson: The True Pathfinder of the Frontier [Tahoe Quarterly]
Black Canyon | The Whispers of the Lower Colorado [Adventure Sports Network]
Uh…guess it’s been one of those weeks, America? Need a break?
Bian: The trouble with the ‘identity politics’ accusation [Daily Northwestern]
A second Weekend Zeitgeist theory: As t approaches one semester, the probability that at least one editorial or opinion submission to a college newspaper will include the literal transcription of the dictionary definition of a word also approaches one.
A 27% CAGR? Really? Someone find us whoever’s running the book on WeWork so that we can gin up something more interesting than that.
The Good and the Bad sides of the Fintech Industry [A Press Release? I honestly don’t know]
Yeah, OK, I have questions.
- What is this thing? Is it a press release? It looks like a press release.
- Why is this a thing? Who are we expecting to read this, and what is the action we are trying to provoke? To send them to a blog?
- Who are the experts being quoted here? I googled like five of the phrases in this and came up bone dry. Did the author of this press release really write his own definition for a term and then phrase it as a quote from “experts?”
- When did we decide that we were going to give fintech a definite article? I have archaic sensibilities, so I’m still on board with The Congo and The Crimea, even if we aren’t supposed to be, but The Fintech?
- How did this get to the top of the Zeitgeist? Let’s zoom in to see all of the articles that are adjacent to it by language. It’s that bigger green dot in the center.
Ah. Well, there’s a pitfall to similarity-based language analysis. To some extent, it is gameable. The gobbledygook grab-bag we have in this…this…whatever this article is, is just the broadly distributed content equivalent of SEO.
Yet another thing to be aware of in our consumption of news.