Blain’s Morning Porridge, September 22nd 2022: Changing the narrative, one lie at a time
“Tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”
This morning– The biggest crisis the West faces may not be the challenges of energy, confidence, inflation and growth, but restoring trust in the narrative by cutting out the disinformation planted by our enemies. Time for some leadership.
Cheer up, it’s not all bad news. Cornered Mad-dog Putin is threating Nuclear Armageddon, the Fed is telling us it will continue to aggressively hike rates, the Bank of England is about to follow, stock markets and bonds are in trouble, the yield curve is inverted…. but…. a Judge explained to Donald Trump the difference between the Art of the Deal, and the Art of the Steal. I loved it. Donald, not so much. Naturally, he is livid: it’s not a fair trial, she is politically motivated, etc, etc… and millions of Americans believe him.
I really don’t understand why so many otherwise charming ‘Mericans love Trump… but that is the world we live in. Folk are prepared to believe in all sorts of flabulations – like Cathie Wood, like Tesla, like Brexit and whatever, like Putin is winning his war. And folk also tend to believe things are so bad they can only get worse…. Leading me back to my favourite market mantra: “Things are never as bad as your fear, but never as good as you think…”
If only it was so simple…. Yet, there is a simple route out the current multi-crisis environment. It boils down to solving three critical aspects:
- Address and Restore Energy Security
- Build Confidence and Trust in Government
- Stimulate economic growth and jobs
All these can be done. But it gets complex. Rationally, these goals would be achievable – but rational is not a concept in the economic lexicon. In a rational world – which many economists still believe in – a host of current political themes would simply not exist.
The more complex we make the problem, the less likely we are to solve it. Let’s take energy security as the first problem. To solve it we need to reverse our misplaced trust in Russian energy, bring new energy on-line, and ensure our future energy is not compromised again. That will be a long-term problem for Russia – its’ goal is to maximise the price it sells energy, which it won’t get from China. Ultimately it needs the West to become a buyer again.. but would we ever be so foolish again?
Part of the difficult in solving the overall crisis is our political process is vulnerable. Democracy is the worst form of government, except for any of the alternatives. By giving everyone a voice, we open it to assault. We underestimate the subtly with which Western economies are being undermined.
Yesterday I flicked on a lunchtime TV chat show whilst grabbing a sandwich. The audience were debating Liz Truss’ economic package. One lady jumped in to raise the £2.4 bln Truss has allocated to support Ukraine. She said she absolutely supported Ukraine, but added:“we have our own consumer cost of living crisis to solve, we can’t give money to Ukraine when we have problems of our own.”
Planting lines is the oldest political trick in the book.
The audience nodded in approval. There was no talk about the critical importance of the West being seen to stop Putin, there was no grasp of politics of energy markets. I am not accusing the lady of being a Russian Shill – but that idea we can’t afford to support Ukraine came from somewhere.
It was an interesting moment. Quite rightly there is not a single UK politician (of any stature) saying the UK should pull or diminish its support for Ukraine. There is not a single national newspaper advocating such a course of action. The mainstream TV channels are united in the condemnation of Putin’s war. The amount of money Truss is allocating for Military Support in Ukraine is a rounding error on the govt’s spending plan. In real terms its superb military value for money in terms of effect!
Yet, a single Woman in a TV studio suddenly spotted what every politician, newscaster and editor has missed about the mood of the country? Suddenly Military support for Ukraine became a continuous issue on a national TV chat show? How?
Someone sowed a seed of doubt, it was planted in the fertile soil of that lady’s perspective, and it germinated on the TV show. The result was the narrative around Ukraine momentarily swung and wavered. Her comments were absolutely nothing to with the state of the UK economy – the subject of the debate.
Throw enough doubt in the Ukraine narrative, then it doesn’t matter about President Zelenskyy talking direct to the UN assembly in NY y’day about the need to stop Putin. So much for President Biden’s comments about the crimes committed against Ukraine Putin’s war aim of “extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as state… that should make your blood run cold.”
The truth used to be the truth. Today it whatever one finds it convenient to sell as the truth. The truth is no longer fact, but what one wants to believe. Say something often enough and it becomes a truth.
Over the past few years, trust in factual news has evaporated. News manipulation exploded as a result of the innovation of internet tools and social media. There are whole new ways to “scope the narrative” – new ways to plant seeds of doubt, including the destabilisation of the West by weakening trust in its political system. The fractured political foundations of the West is one of primary reasons our politics are now so broken – and populists find such ready platforms.
To counter destabilisation we need strong and coherent leadership… I rest my case..
I am staggered by the ever-increasing amount of hate-mail I receive. I am repeatedly called an idiot, a liar, a shill of the West, whatever. I find 99% of it ridiculous. I have started removing any obvious fake-news derived comments from the Porridge Website. As a result I am accused of being close-minded, a Western Shill and a Davos minion for doing so. Occasionally I get more worrying threats – like a guy who knows what train I get to London and suggested it might have an accident. (Seriously.. what more could you do to a SW Train to make it worse??)
What really concerns me is just how blind some of these people can be. To anyone with a couple of braincells, the fact the War In Ukraine is not necessarily going the way Putin expected is downright obvious. You can read all about it in the Western Media, but that doesn’t count, because Western Media is controlled by the left and the Davos elites, apparently. Or you can read about it in AlJazeera – which is pretty neutral until they say something suggesting a Russian reverse, at which point its also part of the Left/Davos elite conspiracy.
Let me drop in some lines from recent mails refuting my comments on Ukraine.
- “You are reading propaganda. Russia is winning on the battlefield.”
- “You are an idiot fed MSM NATO Globalism Yenta Milk.”
- “The West is responsible for the proxy war in Ukraine – we in the west ae to blame.”
- “Putin just wants to sell oil. Brussel’s, which is full of unelected bureaucrats, wants to micro-manage every aspect of our lives.”
- “This is the only chance to destroy the central planning Overlords of Brussels. Russia is the only hope of freedom in the world is the biggest conundrum I have ever seen.”
I e-mailed them back. Surprisingly, these all turned out to be real people rather than Russian Troll bots. They genuinely believe what they believe. They’ve put all the parts of the picture together – and reached utterly different conclusions. Its like dealing with some kind of alternative reality: at some point in the recent past their reality diverged from our reality and is now going in a completely different direction.
How did it happen? Who knows.
But should we let them distract us? Time for forthright leadership.
On the back of Putin’s threat’s yesterday Ukraine has turned darker and more threatening to the World. Nato and the West will be forced to respond. Putin says he is not bluffing – but he is. He is desperately looking for a win he can sell to the Russian people. That may be an offer to allow him to annex the current frontlines. This is no time for appeasement. Putin must not get peace till every Russian is back on their side of the original border..
Next few weeks are going to get… interesting.
Five Things To Read This Morning
FT From Fed pivot to Fed pause
BBerg Danny Blanchford Criticises Truss and Says Short the Pound
BBerg A Decision Tree for Biden if Putin Goes Nuclear
WSJ Donald Trump Sued by NY Attorney General on Fraud
Thunderer Liz Truss tax-cut plans will leave £100 mm hole for years
Out of time, and back to the day job. No porridge tomorrow. Have a great weekend.
Strategist – Shard Capital
I couldn’t agree more with your take on the situation Bill. Appeasing Putin is not possible, he will always want more. Same goes for Trump…I’m amazed how many of my educated friends are Trump supporters. Would be nice if charismatic leaders surface on both sides of the pond who are not afraid of saying what the real deal is…sacrifices are needed now which will more than pay off within a few years. Sacrifices that need to be made by those rich enough to carry them.
You replied to the cheap seats?
Great article today Bill. Couldn’t agree more with your analysis.
By the way I love your writing style …..two standout lines today from you.
1. “The more complex we make the problem, the less likely we are to solve it. ” – helps me with a report I am writing – thanks for that.
2. “(Seriously.. what more could you do to a SW Train to make it worse??)” – a cracking line given the context.
Bill, the truth has never been the truth, it has always been a interpretation of what we ‘know’. Everyone has bias and prejudice through which we see information. As we get more information, or find that previous information is wrong, we should change our truth but are reluctant to do so, we hang to old beliefs long after they are clearly wrong.
Reading history I am struck by the differences in interpretation, sometimes because new sources are available, but often because of bias (a French admiral invited to a Trafalgar dinner accepted the invitation to celebrate the death of Nelson). There is never only one story, never one passion, never an easy way to persuade someone he or she is wrong – maybe they are not!
Which of the many Trump legal issues are you referencing in the top section? The mention of “she” makes me think it is the civil suit filed by the New York Attorney General. Not a judge but rather a Prosecutor and elected official. The related criminal case has apparently been dropped by the Prosecutor in Manhattan.. Sooner or later one of these issues will get him but he has not been charged with any crimes at the Federal or State level yet..
Regarding the conspiracies theory nutcases, the world is full of them, just read the comments section in Zerohedge – no nuanced argument or informed opinions, just vitriol. If I were you I shut down your comment section on your website. Personally speaking for me, you are one of the sane, informed voices, I trust your judgment and value your opinion. Keep up the good work.
The comments on Zerohedge fascinate me. Its actually a very informative website, but why is its so many self-declared crypto billionaires seem to spend all their day critiquing everything on it? Hah!
The articles are often informative – but the comments display incredibly stupidity!
Unfortunately Bill a decade of austerity combined with two major wars, a financial crisis, scandals such as libor and Enron have led to this erosion of trust in institutions. At the same time, the average worker has seen their pay shrink whilst the rich have gotten much much richer. The result? As your friend Mark Blyth points out – anger and mistrust. I voted brexit. Why? Because as a teacher in my 30’s at the time I was living in rented, shared accommodation, much like a student, paying off student loans whilst seeing my pay decrease. I was one of those angry ones seeing public services battered by austerity. So when George Osborne said that if we dared vote leave there’d be a housing crash- my thoughts were, I’m going to call your bluff. Furthermore, the notion that voting to remain was a ‘positive ‘ thing when Italy and Europe were stagnating felt further reason to assert our confidence and embrace change. The fact it hasn’t exactly happened (yet?) I put at the door of incompetent career minded politicians. My point is that until inequality is addressed, the anger will persist and manifest itself into whatever issue happens to be a la carte. Look no further than what’s happening in Leicester? Race riot or just a load of angry young men pi**ed off due to any number of issues such as crappy jobs and crappy houses? Expectations (sold by career politicians) don’t match reality= dissonance = anger. See NHS. The world and society needs to rebalance. How, I don’t know. Not sure trickle down economics will help though
As my old man used to say Bill, “the whole world is mad lad ‘cept for thee and me………….. and recently I’ve bin a bit worried about thee!”
At the risk of sounding old and trite I submit the following:
“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in everything.”
The obvious of the truth of this statement abounds, in MAGA and in the commentary on Zero Hedge.
There is no leadership because each of us wants to be leader. There is power in the notion of “my view” [hell I’m doing it right now responding to your commentary]. Most of us [at least in the US] rarely see each other. We have been set up to drive -not walk. Our stores & shops have been killed off by Amazon et al. This combination of adriftness along with the floods of “pick and choose” information has led to the problem you speak of.
A good start to righting the collective ship would be:
a. Re-instating a “fairness doctrine” that would apply to not only broadcast but to cable internet sites advertisers – collectively establishing standards and practices – and on a global basis. Some will cry freedom of speech but a certain amount of responsibilty must be restored.
b. No more anonymity. Obvious fix to this one.
this is what I think, anyway.
IMHO, other than a benevolent Dictator (who stays benevolent), Democracy is the next best form of Government. However, for a Democracy to function, it must allow all voices to be heard. If not, who becomes the purveyor of truth? Remember, at one point in time, the consensus was the world was flat and the Sun revolved around the Earth.
completely agree with this, and am equally astounded how anyone can think Russian dominance means freedom for anyone – just staggeringly ignorant
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