Our Jerri-Lynn, who mainly lives overseas, was briefly in the US last month and dropped by our NYC meetup. She commented to me that she was very eager to leave because she could sense how high the general tension level was. She didn’t go on at great lengths why, but it was clear that at least some of it came from the success the press was having at whipping up outrage over Trump, and often not for the right reasons, such as over his mainly ineffective executive orders as opposed to his success in getting hard core conservative judges confirmed. It’s not hard to add to the list of topics that go beyond the usual media “If it bleeds, it leads” rule: the risk of nuclear war (even those those supposedly nutcase North Koreans appear to have to have diffused that with some Olympic diplomacy), Rooskies, #MeToo, more open hostility towards “out” groups ranging from immigrants to the white working class to Muslims. And that’s before we get to listing sources of stress: way too many people with student debt, older people with little to no likelihood of being able to afford retirement unless they leave the US, upper middle class parents spending and pulling strings to make sure their kids wind up in the right social stratum.
Because Lambert and I read so much of this sort of thing on a daily basis, we’re somewhat desensitized. But we’ve both noticed and regularly discussed in the last few weeks that the news flow has become, for lack of a more precise word, weird. The big stories somehow don’t seem that big, perhaps because they more and more seem like variants on shopworn themes. For instance, there is still news and jousting coming out of the Mueller investigations, but the media’s default posture of This Is Really Big and Will Finally Bring Trump Down has come to have a “Boy that cried ‘wolf'” flavor to it. Yet we both find the secondary stories, which ought to be more interesting and relevant in light of the “too much attention on Washington” orientation of the press, seem flatter than usual.
In other words, even though we’ve been cranking out articles, both Lambert and I have been struggling to find things that we deem to be interesting and postworthy. It may be that we’re overstimulated and our calibration is a bit off. For instance, I couldn’t get very worked up about the stock market tsuris of last week. Wake me up if it might endanger something that matters, like the financial system or the real economy.
With that as background, I have an odd confession to make. Even though I am a moody creature, I am able to trace precisely what has got me in the state I am in, whether good or bad. But all day, I’ve been very agitated, when absolutely nothing unusual happened, not even a dustup in the comments section. It is as if I were infected by someone else’s state of high anxiety. Maybe some among our readership are sufficiently sensitive that that happens to them upon occasion, but not me.
Questions to readers:
Are you sensing more angst in the air in recent weeks? If so, can you tie it back to particular triggers?
Do you sense, as Lambert and I do, that the news tide has receded? If so, to resort to Warren Buffett’s image, who do you think it has exposed as swimming naked? Or could it be that the waters seem to receding much further than usual, meaning a tsunami might be on its way?