This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 755 donors have already invested in our efforts to shed light on the dark and seamy corners of finance. Join us and participate via our Tip Jar or another credit card portal, WePay in the right column, or read about why we’re doing this fundraiser and other ways to donate, such as by check, as well as our current goal, on our kickoff post. And read about our current target here.
By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen
Before entering the political blogosphere, I spent my career in television post-production. I could tell you a lot about donut holes and fit-to-fill motion effects and light rays and keyframing and Frankenbites and Telecine and AniMatte and corner pinning and hundreds of other bits and pieces about the process. I probably wouldn’t have had much for you on a collateralized debt obligation or the overnight repo market.
When the financial crisis hit, I was largely concerned in my blogging with electoral politics and ideological hand-to-hand combat, sprinkled with a hint of policy. In preparing for this post I looked back at my personal blog for the first week of December 2007, the first week of the Great Recession, with the housing market meltdown in full swing. There were posts about FISA, torture, Iran intel, Iraq funding, an imminent Writer’s Guild strike, global warming, and the 2008 election. I did have one housing post – a George W. Bush hit about the fact that the “Hope Now” hotline for homeowners (the initial governmental response to rising foreclosures) was mistakenly routed to the “Freedom Christian Academy,” a faith-based education company. I noted in a postscript that the Hope Now program was only eligible to those who were current borrowers and not underwater – meaning virtually nobody in need. Call it a sign of things to come, both for the political establishment and my own writing.
Point being, when the economy collapsed, I was your garden-variety liberal blogger. I obviously recognized that the causes of the recession represented one of the central concerns of our time, and I wanted to learn more of the details. But I had to build an education on these issues largely from scratch. I’ve heard it said that a few years of blogging is worth a master’s degree in public policy. If that’s so, Naked Capitalism is the 3rd-year class everyone wants to take. It’s indispensable as a resource for anyone looking to get up to speed on the darker recesses of our financial machinery. It offers no-spin assessments of not just Wall Street, but the regulators and politicians who have thus far refused to break the oligarchy that has strangled our economy (probably because they’re members of it in good standing).
This is critically important. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without the presence of sites like Naked Capitalism to help guide the way. People don’t come to an opinion about banking fully formed. It requires not only a baseline of knowledge, but a skeptical perspective on the ever-present industry talking points, backed with specific examples and rigorous analysis. Sadly, while this should be readily available, you practically cannot get it in our current media landscape, where Bank of America sponsors policy breakfasts and reporters are often constrained by the demands of access and the editorial desires for happy advertisers and corporate solidarity. For someone operating from a position of relative ignorance, they had to turn to alternative sources of news and opinion. That’s especially true because finance is by its nature inscrutable, and those who seek to continue picking over what’s left of the middle class use that complexity to their advantage. Ultimately, what’s going to change the public consciousness and create a critical mass on these issues is a well-considered argument, well-told. That describes Naked Capitalism well.
As we’ve seen, the blogosphere isn’t in such good shape these days. Google has undercut the online advertising funding model, and writers are struggling to combine financial security with editorial independence. I can say with experience that the freelance market is, to put it mildly, hazardous. Websites are experimenting with new funding models that actually aren’t all that new; it’s mainly a distributed, populist version of the old concept of patronage. By giving a donation, you announce that this project has value, that it’s worth something to you. The alternative is akin to the patronage archetype of the Middle Ages, considering the billionaire purchases of news outlets, mergers and acquisitions, and the hollowing out of what made the new publishing tools of the Internet, for a brief period, something special. By donating, you consent to opening up the range of debate, to keeping the flickering spirit of alternative media alive, for the worthwhile cause of chipping away at the blackened heart of the banking industry, and rediscovering an economy that works for everyone.
When Yves asked me to contribute to the site from time to time, my first thought was “And what would you have me do?” I had been slotting in behind her on banking, securitization and housing issues for many years. Hopefully I’ve managed to produce something worth your time this year. To be honest, after (believe it or not) over 20,000 blog posts since 2004, I was looking forward to focusing my energies in a different fashion. There was really only one opportunity that could have changed my mind, and you’re reading the fruits of that right now.
It’s been a pleasure becoming part of this community. Naked Capitalism has become a place where thousands of us come together, some experts in finance, some experts in politics, some just having problems with foreclosures or other types of debt. We share information, scrutinize the accuracy of what the media is feeding us, and work to formulate a more accurate reading and use that to explore better approaches to public policy problems. So join the rest of us in throwing in $50, or whatever you can afford. Thank you.