Why Am I Reading This NOW?

Hieronymus Bosch, “The Conjurer” (between 1496 – 1520)

On October 4, 2018, Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a story claiming that Chinese hackers were able to “infiltrate America’s top companies” by planting a spy microchip “not much bigger than a grain of rice” on the motherboards of Supermicro servers. The word “attack” is used 30 times in the article.

This report provides more evidence that China’s pattern of behavior is a serious threat to national security and supply chain risk management. 
 – Sen. Mark Warner (D – VA)

On December 30, 2016, the Washington Post published a story claiming that Russian hackers had “penetrated the U.S. electric grid” through an “attack” on Burlington Electric, a Vermont utility.

This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling. 
– Gov. Peter Shumlin (D – VT)

The Washington Post amended their original story the following day. Turns out that there was no “penetration of the U.S. electric grid.” Turns out that a Burlington Electric employee discovered that his notebook computer, which had never and would never be connected to the grid, had a virus on it. And that virus was probably written in Russia. It’s the same type of virus that lifted John Podesta’s emails. It’s the same type of virus that could lift my emails if I clicked on a “Free Gift From Amazon!!” link. That’s it. That was the “attack on our country and what it stands for.” A Burlington Electric employee clicked on a bad link inside a scam email and downloaded a virus.

So far, Bloomberg BusinessWeek has not amended their original story, despite categorical and adamant denials from Amazon and Apple that there is any truth to the story whatsoever. My fave denial … Bloomberg LP – the parent company of Blooomberg BusinessWeek – was also a big purchaser of the supposedly tainted Supermicro servers, and Bloomberg LP is also saying that they have no idea what BusinessWeek is talking about. And as something of an aficionado of the non-denial denial artform, I would say that these statements by Amazon and Apple and Bloomberg itself (!) are not that. These are full-throated rejections of the claims.

But Bloomberg BusinessWeek is doubling down on its claims, saying that they stand by their story, based entirely on “six current and former national security officials” and the information provided “in conversations that began during the Obama administration and continued under the Trump administration.”

Yes, this story is being sourced by the Trump administration.

Yes, these are events that supposedly occurred three years ago.

Look … do I think that Russia has maliciously poked around in the U.S. electric grid from time to time? Do I think that China has made some efforts to plant spying microchips in server motherboards from time to time?


Do I think that both China and Russia are bad actors through and through? Do I think their cadres and apparatchiks will stop at nothing to promote their state interests and undermine the state interests of the United States?


Do I ALSO think that Western governments and their cadres and apparatchiks – including their useful idiots in the media – will stop at nothing to promote their state interests?

Yes. Yes, I do.

The most important thing you can do to See the Narratives that subsume and drive our social worlds of markets and politics is NOT to read more. The most important thing you can do is to read differently. The most important thing you can do is to read critically

The secret to reading critically? Ask yourself this:

Why am I reading this article NOW?

Just do that. You’re not saying that the article is a lie. You’re not saying that the article isn’t important. You’re saying that there is a metagame at play here with the author and the sources of that article. You’re saying that you are aware of that metagame and you’re going to take that into account before deciding your behavior in reaction to that article.

Who are the Writers of the World-As-It-Is? They are Republicans. They are Democrats. They are central bankers. They are pundits. They are politicians. They are oligarchs. They are in every nation on Earth. They have ONE thing in common. They’re Writing for their own political and economic advantage. And they’re really, really good at shaping our behaviors with their words.

It’s never been more important to read critically and think critically. Not because you’re a nihilist or you believe in nothing. But because you believe in yourself. Because you’re smart enough and wise enough to make up your own damn mind.

For earlier Epsilon Theory notes on all this, both Fiat Money, Fiat News (January 2017) and Stalking Horse (September 2014) hold up really well.

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  1. Avatar for cbeirn cbeirn says:

    The reason you’re reading it now is because a number of players (some of whom probably work in a five-sided building) are very unhappy about the response to this debacle. Bloomberg Business Week appears to have tapped into a network of disgruntled insiders who have lost patience with their employers’ willingness/ability to mitigate the kind of threat that a hardware hack of this magnitude poses. As they see it, what is politically expedient today – denial – will turn out to be strategically disastrous tomorrow.

  2. Avatar for cbeirn cbeirn says:

    An interesting extrapolation of this story can be found in today’s Guardian:

    "Last week’s revelation, in a Bloomberg news report, that China might have embedded microchips in the hardware used by America’s leading tech firms, should be no surprise. Beijing, with its new cybersecurity law and its overall push towards global supremacy in artificial intelligence, might seem like a rogue actor on the international scene. However, it’s hardly alone in promoting its technological agenda.

    Russia has announced plans to require civil servants to use locally produced mobile phones running on locally produced software. To make that mission easier, Rostelecom, its state-controlled telecoms giant, bought the two companies behind Sailfish OS, a mobile operating system developed by Nokia."


  3. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I don’t think the “former and current national security officials” who are sourcing this story are disgruntled at all. On the contrary, I think they are doing this with the full support of the Trump Administration. I mean, you don’t see anyone howling about “leakers” here, do you?

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