Friday, December 02, 2011

Crisis Style Guide

Different folk have distinctive emotional sine waves with different amplitudes, some dramatically so. One can go ecstatic at the thought of a nice pair of shoes on sale. Some will be whipped apoplectically up into a rage by something as hokey as a Glenn Beck diatribe. Some will cry over a slice of Burnt toast. Yet others shrug indifferently at the site of a cute watery-eyed puppy mauled by a pit-bull.  I am not a psychologist so I cannot say what is more normal though I reckon there is a reasonable normal distribution across the population. 

There is also, I put to you, a linguistic sine wave, also with highly differentiated amplitudes.  I have friends who describe everything they do, or buy as The Best. Others I have encountered describe the most pedestrian of experiences as "UNBELIEVEABLE". At the other end of the spectrum are those whose descriptions of momentous events employ emotion and adjectives reserved for cleaning coffee stains from the sink. And then, rarely one encounters the individual whose linguistic description of something approaching an objective reality bears a striking resemblance to it - whether it be the experience at a fine hotel or the virtues of a certain brand of hand-blender.

The economic and financial issues facing much of the world today ARE significant. So much so that one would be challenged to find anyone not harbouring an opinion on "What To Do About Greece", The US Budget Deficit, or Whether the ECB Should Monetize Some Debt to give the Euro users time to evolve more meaningful fiscal integration.   
Books, newspapers, radio television, comedy, politicians, clergy, charlatans all have something to say in various timbres. To my disappointment, possessing as I do a constricted sine-wave amplitude, even sober-minded sources of news and analysis like the BBC have seemingly lost the tether of linguistic sobriety. Panic, rather than tempered is seemingly amplified before being reflected and redirected. Adjectives, each more dramatic and apocalyptically-evocative than the last is wheeled out and attached to what would have been benign under other circumstances, when viewed in context most likely has Phlebastisized into a phrase that has granny throwing rocks at the bank, sharpening her knives, and stocking the cellar full of lentils.

While Auntie Beeb, by historical comparison is worked--up, and the staid FT also seems intent on stoking the fires of circulation, the worst offender is the eponymous blog Zero Hedge. Their style guide constructs phrases beginning with hyperbolic: 

unprecedented, dramatic, deep, deeper, deepest, crushing, urgent, unthinkable, unimaginable, unsustainable, breathtaking, startling, horrific, striking, dangerous, critical, fatal, malignant, serious, shaky, vulnerable, unstable, terrible, severe, cataclysmic, flagrantly, worse, worsening, worst, huge, steepest, insanely, huge, gonzo, grotesque

 combines it with something strongly emotive: 

Contraction, cuts, Greeks, Greece, PIGS, annhilation, austerity, bonuses, whithering. decimation, hardship, deteriorating, reductions, shriveling, degeneration, bankers, Greece, decay, decline, shatter, demolish, disintegration, gravity, busted, harshness, dragged-down, plunged, implode, diseased, death, unleash, misses, freezes, drops, denial, tumbling, weakness, disappointment, massacre, flogging, deluge

as a crown to something dramatically evocative:
Crisis, depression, downgrades, delinquency, hyperinflation, bail-out, give-aways, collapse, budget cuts, rollbacks, unemployment, losses, poverty, unemployment, upheaval, contagion, infection, doomsday, rapture, bankruptcy, insolvency, overhang, trauma, frenzy, apocalypse, meltdown, disaster, trouble, default

This phrasal-scaffolding is then punctuated with superiority and derision:
End-game, sanity-check, nonsense, spin, Hah!!, Sure!, Yeah right!, nonsense, "truth", insane, ridiculuous, Kool-Aid, spin, ramped, Merkozy

before a peppering of popular fantasy

Fraud, manipulation, the Fed, Obama, PPT, Banksters, Cabal, conspiracy, tipped-off, squeeze, scheme, suspicious, unexplainable, dubious, Ponzi, rumoured, complicit, Orwellian, colluded, secret, bamboozled

I am, by now, fatigued. Not as much by the crisis or the challenges that remain in front of us than by the wholesale linguistic thermonuclear carpet-bombing (ironic huh?) that seemingly are employed to gain entry past our now-desensitized bull-shit detectors. The shame of course is that there ARE many things that ZeroHedge has unequivocally nailed. And there is nothing wrong with skepticism as an editorial line, even where it judiciously crosses the threshold towards cynicism. For this is perhaps my own point of departure. However, without a throttle governing  nuance, it quickly becomes an unreliably-rogue and untrusted vector, a parody of what it seeks to out, with a diminished usefulness for those of us trying their best to use the available intersecting vectors of opinion to establish some best-approximation of truth.  


Anonymous said...

You forgot "ChairSatan"

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it's in the media and blogosphere's interest to embellish and exaggerate events and issues; CNBC's ratings and the VIX march step in step and even more so the higher the VIX goes. And unfortunately a not insignificant part of our job is to parse the material from the immaterial in these increasingly schizophrenic markets.

John said...

You have here all the raw materials needed to put together a Macroeconomic Predictions Generator, something along the lines of the Postmodernism Generator found here...