Thursday, January 28, 2021

It's Not About Right vs. Left Anymore

Let’s make one thing abundantly clear right off the bat: When governments and corporations formally unite in their goals toward a common purpose, that is the literal definition of fascism. Fascism can overlap with racial supremacy, but the two are not synonymous. If we’re going to throw provocative words around, we ought to at least strive to use them correctly.

And now let’s turn to the case of the populist investors who are driving beaten-down stocks like GameStop through the roof. Wall Street pros are losing their minds that ordinary people are gaming the market the same way wealthy investors do every single day. Hedge-fund short-sellers essentially bet on the death of these companies and make money if the stocks tank. So a collection of everyday people from a Reddit subgroup called WallStreetBets started using investing tools like Robinhood — designed to let ordinary folks without a lot of money get started in the market with small investments — to scoop up these beleaguered stocks.

The result is that GameStop and other left-for-dead stocks have gone through the roof, trading at hundreds of percentage points above where they were just a few short days ago. And what it means for these hedge-fund managers who bet against the stocks is that they’re having to cover their short positions — because the more the stocks go up, the more money they lose. One fund, Melvin Capital, has had to take on a cash infusion of more than $2 billion just to close out its positions.

It’s been glorious to see these vultures and robber barons take it on the chin. Critics say that the stock prices of GameStop, AMC, and others targeted by these populist renegades are now completely unmoored from the value of their companies — but that’s the whole point. This is no different from seeing wealthy investors talk up a company to drive up a stock or talk down a company they’ve shorted. Putting your thumb on the scale disconnects a stock’s price from the company’s value, too.

This episode is also a good reminder of how the stock market was already disconnected from the economic reality of everyday Americans. The markets continued to hit record highs last year, during severe lockdowns that kept companies closed and saw countless small businesses shut their doors forever. In a normal world, the stock market would reflect that reality. The fact that it doesn’t exposes the ugly truth that the stock market is, for the most part, a rigged game that involves wealthy people buying from and selling to other wealthy people. It’s a casino where the house always wins, but they’ll throw enough chips into your 401(k) to keep you from complaining about it.

The growing trend of stock buybacks illustrates the problem. In times past, companies were generally far more willing to share their profits with all their stakeholders. They might direct money toward helping the people in the communities where their businesses are located. They might direct it toward infrastructure improvements. They might use it to create more jobs, or to give their existing workers better pay and benefits. Anyone who helped the company achieve its success would be rewarded in some way.

These days, what happens more often than not is that companies use their profits to buy back their own shares and retire them. That means there are fewer shares available to trade, which means that the company’s earnings become spread across fewer shares. And that artificially inflates earnings per share, which benefits shareholders but no other stakeholders in the company.

Just how bad is this problem? Buybacks on the S&P 500 reached $806 billion in 2018, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. That’s $806 billion that could have been shared with communities, workers, the everyday people who allow the companies to succeed. And that’s why Bernie Sanders, just a few years ago, was pushing to ban buybacks. They were considered market manipulation before the rules were changed to allow them in 1982. They still are market manipulation. All they do is make the rich richer, while everyone else gets frozen out.

Keep that in mind when these same companies have the gall to complain about policies like minimum-wage increases and then use those things as excuses to send American jobs overseas, where they can pay people in countries with sketchy labor rights and a poor record on civil liberties a fraction of what they’d pay an American worker.

When you think about what’s going on in that context, you realize how utterly pathetic it is for Wall Street insiders to complain about investors who are disconnecting stock prices from the underlying companies’ value. They do the same thing all the time.

It surely makes them even more upset that the WallStreetBets folks aren’t doing anything illegal. They’re just buying stocks on the open market.

And that’s precisely why those in power are determined to make it stop.

As of this writing, Robinhood — again, a company created to democratize investing — has outright banned trading in GameStop, AMC, and the other stocks the WallStreetBets gang are buying up. This comes after TD Ameritrade and other companies had already placed trading restrictions on the select stocks. Meanwhile, Robinhood and other trading outlets are jacking up margin requirements on those same stocks. All this, of course, is a nakedly obvious attempt to stop ordinary people from doing what happens on Wall Street every single day.

But not to be outdone, Discord decided to ban the WallStreetBets server on its platform on Wednesday. Why, you ask, when the traders are doing nothing illegal? Hate speech, of course:
The server has been on our Trust & Safety team’s radar for some time due to occasional content that violates our Community Guidelines, including hate speech, glorifying violence, and spreading misinformation. Over the past few months, we have issued multiple warnings to the server admin.
“To be clear,” Discord continued, “we did not ban this server due to financial fraud related to GameStop or other stocks.” No, of course you didn’t. The timing of the ban is just a wild coincidence — just like it was a wild coincidence that Facebook on Thursday banned a 157,000-strong Robinhood discussion group for a TOS violation that a Facebook spokesperson said was “unrelated to the ongoing stock frenzy.”

No rational person is going to buy these excuses, of course, even as CNN and other news outlets fall in line blaming racists and Donald Trump for the whole thing. Forbes quotes one of the group’s moderators as calling out the Discord ban for what it was:
A moderator of the group acknowledged “if you gather 250k people in one spot someone is going to say something that makes you look bad,” but added that “Discord did us dirty and I am not impressed with them destroying our community instead of stepping in with the wrench we may have needed to fix things, especially after we got over 1,000 server boosts. That is pretty unethical.”
Draw a straight line from that comment to the coordinated takedown of Parler, and you can see exactly what’s happening here. Google, Apple, and Amazon all used similar excuses of “white supremacy” to remove Parler from the internet, even as they overlooked the abundance of hate, violence, doxxing, and trolling that occurs on places like Twitter and Facebook. Twitter was just sued for refusing to take down pornographic material of an underage victim of sex trafficking, on the basis that the company couldn’t find any TOS violations in the content. But, strangely, there are no howls from the establishment or the mainstream media to blast Twitter out of existence.

Google, meanwhile, isn’t even bothering to offer an excuse for why it has so far wiped out some 150,000 negative reviews of Robinhood that have poured in since the trading platform put its trading ban in place. The corporate behemoths are simply doing whatever they want and daring us to do something about it. No phony explanations are even necessary. They know they hold all the cards.

No, none of this is about “white supremacy.” It’s about power. It’s about the ruling elites taking back control of the nation and the narrative, and making sure that Trump supporters and populists of all stripes never think again about trying to exert control.

That is why you can’t question the COVID narrative. That is why you can’t question the election results. That is why the ruling class, with Joe Biden as its figurehead, re-established control behind razor wire and 25,000 soldiers. They are making it crystal clear that they are in control and you aren’t. And they’ll use the dog whistle of racism and white supremacy to get the public on their side and demonize anyone who strays from the narrative.

And what the government can’t do, being constrained by the First Amendment, they’ll simply coordinate with their multibillion-dollar unaccountable corporate cronies to do for them.

That is fascist totalitarianism. There is no other way to describe it.

“But wait,” you say. “Weren’t you just complaining a few days ago about the left’s Marxist sympathies?”

Yes, I was. The thing is, it’s possible for the system we live under to have characteristics of both Marxism and fascism. The Marxism expresses itself culturally, blending notions from the Frankfurt School of thought with a postmodern assertion that only narratives exist, not objective truth. The result is a society driven by identity politics instead of economic class, with the “privileged” class pitted in an eternal war against victimized identity groups, just as Marx imagined a never-ending binary battle in which you were either the proletariat or the bourgeoise, and those on the wrong side were to be shown no mercy.

Now, instead of proletariat vs. bourgeoise, we have “white supremacists” against everyone else. And not only are we using that false dichotomy as a basis for institutionalizing reverse discrimination — putting whites to the back of the bus rather than continuing to strive for equal protection under the law — but we’re also using it to silence voices that dissent from the postmodernist consensus narrative, whatever that happens to be at any given time.

The state is thus pressing the cultural aspect, while it hands off the censorship to its corporate allies. Hence, fascism.

Where is this all leading? Well, consider how we followed the lead of Communist China in taking a heavy-handed approach to a virus that far outweighed the danger it posed. And consider how much of our corporate output depends on Chinese labor — some literally enslaved, and all underpaid and exploited with no recourse. While China has adopted capitalistic reforms but still remains a one-party dictatorship, so America seems to be on course to become an authoritarian nation propelled by virtually unlimited corporate power. The two nations seem destined to meet somewhere in the middle, with the only real difference being that while the state sits at the top of the pyramid of power in China, giant global corporations occupy the top spot in America. The nightmarish results of this unholy alliance of communism and fascism will be similar, in terms of both economic and political freedom, for the ordinary citizens of both countries.

I don’t know if we have any hope of stopping our progression toward such a horrible future. But I do know that it would behoove us to stop thinking so much in terms of a battle of right and left, because the battle is really between the powerful ruling class and the increasingly disenfranchised everyday man and woman. While I use the term “left” here when I talk about the madness of the ruling class, which does indeed tilt hard to the left, the larger problem is that the cultural leftists’ goals are inextricably entwined with those of global capitalism, the very force that has been sending U.S. jobs overseas and wants to suppress national interests in favor of international ones that benefit global corporations, crushing individual liberty in the name of collective authoritarianism. That’s one of many reasons why an unrepentant nationalist like Donald Trump couldn’t be tolerated and had to be removed, by way of an election whose outcome — again, through a coordinated effort of state and corporate power — you’re not allowed to question.

Consider, for example, that the U.S. Justice Department has arrested a man for making jokes about voting access in the 2016 election. Douglass Mackey put out posts on social media telling Hillary Clinton voters to skip the lines by texting their votes for president. Somehow, Joe Biden’s DOJ argues that this deprived people of their right to vote — as if the whopping 4,900 people who texted the number and apparently fell for the joke were somehow prevented from later actually going to a polling place. The man could go to prison for 10 years. For a joke.

This is the future of free speech. And this is our own government, arresting people on a charge of spreading “dangerous misinformation,” which will undoubtedly be used more and more as a weapon to shut down free expression, both online and otherwise. If truth doesn’t exist, only narratives, then any speech the ruling class doesn’t like can be shut down under the argument that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to spreading “dangerous misinformation” or “conspiracy theories,” whether what’s being spoken is really misinformation or not. (See again the crackdowns on any discussion of the 2020 election.)

It also allows unabashed propaganda to flourish. Just look at the past year, when we’ve all been told to cower in fear from other human beings and consent to crushing lockdowns over a virus that for healthy people under 70 has a survival rate of 99.5% to 99.997%. And now, miraculously, with Trump out of office, some of the most left-leaning mayors and governors in America, who kept telling us it was too dangerous to go to bars and restaurants, are now reopening bars and restaurants. Never mind how many small businesses had to go under in an apparent attempt to spite the former president.

On top of that, there are now signs that the establishment is changing its tune on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, the decades-old malaria drug that the media and leftist bureaucrats attacked as a dangerous quack treatment for COVID, even after many doctors themselves reported success in using it as part of their treatment regimen. The difference between now and then? Trump advocated for HCQ, so it had to be demonized.

Oh, and did you hear that you shouldn’t wear one mask but three? Actually, four would be even better. Why not 10? Why not 50?

If it feels like you’re being gaslighted, that’s because you are. This is all propaganda, but you’re expected to treat it as fact and never question it. If you do, you will be punished.

And remember, what the government can’t get away with punishing you for, it will simply do through its corporate allies. Which is ultimately even worse, since corporations don’t answer to anybody. And as long as useful idiots continue to make the argument that private companies can do whatever they want, even as they crush free expression in the virtual town square, the corporations have absolutely no incentive to stop what they’re doing. After all, they’re only fighting “white supremacy” and “dangerous misinformation.”

These attitudes then go on to affect public opinion, and in a time of McCarthyist hysteria such as the one we’re living in, individuals and organizations alike feel empowered, even compelled, to join in the witch hunt. Consider a few recent examples:
  • A former U.S. ambassador is suing Google and Apple to force them to take Telegram off their app stores — because, of course, Telegram is a haven for “hate speech.”

  • A literary agent lost her job for having accounts on Parler and Gab. Not for anything she posted; just for having accounts there.

  • College kids are being threatened with losing their internet access and having their ID cards blocked if they refuse to obey campus COVID directives, including getting regular tests, reporting symptoms, ignoring mask requirements, or leaving a specified area around campus. It doesn’t take a great imagination to see how these same kinds of punishments could easily be doled out to everyday people for failure to comply with future government orders, whether COVID-related or not.
I hate to think of where this is all going to lead us. It can’t possibly end well.

There is an aggressive attempt under way to stamp out any opinions that challenge the narrative, and it’s being driven by a government-corporate alliance that has almost unlimited power to do whatever it wants. Take the events at the Capitol. I don’t care what anyone thinks about what happened that day: The underlying cause was not Donald Trump, or racism, but a long-simmering resentment among those who have been victimized by globalization and cultural shifts, while all the ruling elites can do is sneer at them, dismissing them as bigots and deplorables, just as they’ve continued to do in the days since.

In many significant ways, their anger is not all that different from the anger driving the violence we saw last year in the BLM riots. (I don’t give the same pass to Antifa; they’re just troublemaking idiots.) People are angry at a system that exploits them, that doesn’t listen to them, that stomps on them over and over again and tells them that they’re the bad guys who need to shut up and fall in line.

The same impulse is driving the push-back against the WallStreetBets gang. The ruling elites can piss on you all day long, but when you dare to push back, they declare all-out war on you.

At some point, all these everyday people are going to stop fighting with each other and band together in common cause. As one, they’re going to point at the ruling elites, and they’re going to serve notice that they’re not going to be pushed around anymore.

I can only hope and pray that there will be a peaceful resolution when that day comes.

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