Life is all about ups and downs, but having them every few minutes can be tiring after a while. ‘US stocks rise on EU solution hopes’ headlined Reuters this afternoon GMT, but one click away was the Bloomberg site telling us ‘Bank warnings of EU unraveling intensify’. It must be hell living with a stocks trader. He goes into the kitchen and the headline is ‘Drink futures up on fridge sighting’. He opens the fridge door, and there’s a new headline: ‘Bears in play on negative can sighting’.
Investment banking ideas are mad, but 24/7 news makes them mad, bad and dangerous to read.
Would so much have gone wrong in the last four years if we didn’t have 24/7 news, and tickertape hadn’t been replaced by pc screens telling us the price of shrimps in Manila? Indeed, how much ‘news’ is actually just following events around – while completely failing to understand WTF is going on?
An example at the minute is Gary Speed’s tragic death. I say tragic, because he was a nice, talented and genuine man whose mind was troubled – but nobody noticed. That latter sentence is, on the big canvas, more central than his death – although of course, not for his family. Equally fulfilling would be a piece about why Gary felt he couldn’t discuss his depression with anyone. For the conspiracy theorists, an investigative piece about why such a jolly bloke couldn’t have killed himself might also illuminate things still more.
Talk to hacks about this these days, and they will often wax lyrical about the speed of events and the stark truth that sensational breaking events generate more hits than analyses. I would have two answers to that argument: it is far from true; and the existence of round-the-clock news is what helps generate the speed in the first place.
Speed as a market dictate not only reduces analysis, it also puts pressure on key decision-makers in public life. Speed in the context of media obsession becomes haste. My own view for years has been that most decisions taken in haste are bad ones. If you look at the eurocrisis for much of this year, while the general picture seems to be one of snail’s pace progress and empty spin, a great deal of the process has consisted of pointless attempts to keep the media quiet….from fear that they in turn will wind up the markets. Never in the field of human bollocks did so much haste cause so much anxiety to so many – to so little effect on on so few problems.
And there are – oh yes there are – far fewer problems than we imagine. The difficulties come when people suggest these problems are (a) many and (b) intractable. But they aren’t really. I can now exclusively reveal that that there are but three problems in the world:
2. Politicians in the pockets of bankers
3. 24/7 news
That’s it. Take out 1 & 3, and life suddenly becomes so much simpler. Because with far less wealth and the minimum of news, all we’re left with is a few fabulously rich politicians with a guilty sense of social responsibility – and the sense that they might have the best part of a century to sort society’s problems out.
From 1215 to 1965 in Britain – a period of 750 years, aka 37 generations – this produced a stable culture which (despite the minute size of our island) had a ridiculously massive effect on planetary affairs, and produced a stability here at home that we would die to have today. For 95% of that period, bankers were boring people called Mainwaring, and breaking news concerned the relief of Mullah strongholds several weeks earlier.
So we need only abolish television, satellites, computers and digital technology in order to reduce our problems as a species to just one: politicians.
That’s not too difficult to achieve, is it?
(Trolls please note: this bulletin contains flash irony)