One Day in the Life of Ivan Awfuldenialitch
The markets are in limbo for the time being because America is taking a day off to remember Martin Luther King…a man J Edgar Hoover tried to smear throughout his life, and who was eventually shot dead by a white supremacist deemed safe to carry a gun by that same FBI. Also taking a seven-week Christmas vacation is the French company Orange, who at the start of December took my order for the relocation of an landline/internet connection by all of eighty metres here, but have since disobeyed it.
The result is that in the gite I occupy for most of the winter now, there is no internet….but there is satellite telly. This has forced – or perhaps empowered – me to see more of the business news channels available for keen students of Bourse globalism, such that they might observe its factory-fitted mania in extreme close-up. Bloomberg TV is by far the biggest and most authoritative, so they’re the lucky people in the spotlight.
From the moment you tune in, Bloomberg TV offers up the strong probability that something somewhere is very urgent. There are periods when it insists that everything everywhere is so urgent, failure to deal with it will result in personal penury alongside planetary disaster.
This feeling is partly achieved by the voice patterns of everyone involved, in that from newscaster to programme anchor via invited talking head, they all sound like auctioneers with attention deficit disorder.
“Lookingfirstatcommodidees wegot4thatreallymatter couldbeweretalkin25 wow20dollaroil, it’sboundtoroil, that’sanono4Canadahibuyyoubuydon’tbuygoldupto1030 look to the technicals forsurebutwowit’sdown25whoknowswhere’sgoin13pointsIseeit’sfallen yupvalativeddeezuniversal theresaselloffinShanghai thePBOChadtobuyagain wegoddaplungethereincopperfutures whaddayouthinkmebbe40NikKawalski?”
Consider: we admen have problems getting just one idea into a thirty second commercial, but going to the break on Bloomberg is like walking into a Chiang Tsu meditation class after being strapped to a talking drill.
In turn, the onscreen titles leave you convinced at last that at birth somebody ran off with seven of your eyes. Bloomberg shoots in Screensurround: there are baselines, columns, indices and tickertapes in red, green, white and blue, and they all have tertiary St Vitus Dance. They show past trends, moving averages, multiple futures and spiking bond spreads – all just a gnat’s too fast for you work out the number. This means you missed something and as everything’s urgent it’s obvious you have to stay with the slot because sorry, too long on that thought, onto the next one.
To keep up the sense of thinly-disguised panic, there are more titles – ‘The Chase’, ‘Bloomberg Go’ and maybe even ‘Yer ass is on fire’ – and in the background rumbling music that says acceleration, swerve, leap, dive, keep moving or we die, there’s half of Mont fuckin Blanc behind us bang diddy bang DIDDY BANG DIDDY BANG DIDDY then jump-cut to an anchor with pupils so big you just know he hoovered up a line before going on air and he says “Stay with us people, we’re just three minutes from the opening”.
Wow! Three minutes from the opening. What’s on – the Michael Jackson Comeback Tour? Alan Greenspan in panty-hose? We cut to a skyscraper, a helicopter, a limo, a President, a monarch, a bank logo, another bank logo, a very rich person, a plane taking off, people with bits of paper yelling at each other, any other visual we didn’t use yet….anything to stop you from thinking because, it’s Show Time!
Without pause, we’re live and lopped-off camera on a woman called Stephanie Drool with unfeasibly erotic cheekbones who stays on screen for just long enough to say over to Todd Zipp at the newsdesk and Todd is thanking Steph even before he’s appeared because he knows from tongue-twisting experience he has only has 23.5 seconds to cover the top story including reminding us that Bloomberg has two thousand one hunnerd journalists based in one hunnerd thirty locations across the woild before handing back to Steph.
If you want to lose weight without all the tedious gym thing, then watching Bloomberg TV is as good a diet as any, if only because there’s no time to stop for food. It’s frenetic, the players get splenetic, and the impression is genetic – in that it seems what you suspected throughout the years is spot on: there may be a problem with American culture, but there’s a much bigger one with some members of Homo sapiens.
With some of the characters in this action – especially the invited talking heads – one does get the very strong feeling that everything in the world beyond the markets is merely a nuisance getting in the way of what they’re doing: far too many of them have Basil Fawlty syndrome – “I’m trying to run a hotel here and you guests keep getting in the way”. If there’s a economic and human disaster in Greece which by the way is being sold off limb by limb, well it’s a pisser but we’ll just have to go back and rewrite the olive oil futures client note, you weren’t doing anything this weekend Jeff, were you?
While this is darkly funny, it is also dysfunctional if this sort of attitude is typical. Last weekend, following the Iran Nuclear deal, the off-piste reaction in relation its effect on the oil price over the weekend was not only manic, it was also obviously based on a complete lack of preparation. Bizarrely, nobody seemed to have considered the effect of a glut landing on top of a surfeit. It’s not that they got the outcome wrong: it was just that they didn’t care about Iran or bombs or anything you can’t derivativize.
Why would I want to pay a wealth manager whose expectations of people behaviour were on a par with an educationally sub-normal zebra? Why would I follow an ideology that suggests the markets must decide if the markets’ movers don’t get anything beyond the adrenalin rush of graphs, numbers, technicals, buy signals and every other symptom of mathematical mass hysteria?
I’m not really being destructive about Boombust TV: it has a job to do and an audience to reach, and it does it very well in a way that, quite often, is extremely informative and – God help me – at times entertaining. Because Bloomberg is just a symptom of something much bigger.
At the start of today’s GO sequence, for example, the lady doing the opening chart board (sort of the business channel equivalent of the weather presenter) pointed out that as of 2015, Oxfam data shows 1% of humanity now owns more than the other 99% put together.
Fifty-five years ago, the figure was 11%. Fifteen years ago it first got below 5%. Now it’s 1%.
This isn’t conspiracy theory, it’s consequential fact. I don’t do moralistic hand-wringing about the iniquity of that: if everyone is fulfilled and at ease with what they’ve got, who cares if one jerk in a hundred doesn’t recognise the certainty of death?
But it isn’t like that, and under this wickedly perverted form of capitalism it never will be. From my pov as (variously) trained historian, political scientist, market researcher, strategic business planner and commonsense social animal, the system with which we persevere – from a combination of apathy and sociopathy – is intinsically flawed, unstable, an unnatural order of things, driven by disordered minds, and has as its foundations a Himalyan mountain range of three parts worthless paper mixed with two parts debt.
Concrete is isn’t. It is a non-representational art form produced by process-drones of no talent, defended by the surreal notions of media money, and dismissive of everything before impressionism.
Just as art cannot allow itself to be defined by the pyrotechnics of fashion, so too our species must not let itself be remembered as a bunch of passive fatties who allowed themselves to become slaves building pyramids for false Pharaohs.