Saturday 20 January 2018

Money men victorious as truth dismissed as fiction

Having been fed lies for so long, we now distrust honest wise guys, says Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

TELEVISION

Alessio Rastani taught us something last week. Styling himself an "independent trader" -- because that is what he may well be -- the charismatic money man told the truth on the BBC News channel.

"Governments don't rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world," he said. And who would doubt it?

In fact, if some Wall Street wise guy were to appear on our screens to say the opposite, to declare that "the nation state has some power in all of this", we would assume that he was telling this obvious lie in order to gain some obscure "edge". Indeed, it is wise always to assume that these guys are lying.

Which is perhaps what made Rastani's spiel so unusual both in content and in style, this raw enthusiasm which he displayed for the truth, his eagerness to impart it to the BBC presenters who, by their flustered reactions, had apparently never heard such a thing before.

Speaking in fluent American business babble, Rastani would not be stopped. He maintained that he "dreams" of another recession, that he and people like him don't really give a monkey's about global economic meltdowns and the like, as long as they can make money out of it. And he offered some consolation to the viewer by insisting that anyone can profit from a financial meltdown with the right hedging strategies.

Again, we know all this, and we know it well. Like the wise guy trying to tell us that the nation state is a big player in this mess, we would be truly amazed if we heard one of these guys telling the BBC that market traders are deeply troubled by the misfortune visited on the multitudes by the delinquency of the City, and that they have no wish to profit personally from such a sad downturn in human affairs.

Yet as soon as Rastani had finished his outburst of conventional wisdom and widely known facts, he was being called a hoaxer.

And on reflection, in looks and demeanour he seemed almost too convincing in the role, like an actor who had been perfectly cast.

Calling himself an "independent" trader also raised suspicions about his provenance, with suggestions that he might belong to the Yes Men, a group of artists who pass themselves off as corporate evil-doers, revealing the embarrassing truths which you could never hear from actual corporate evil-doers.

But eventually it doesn't matter if Rastani is a real trader, what matters is that the money men in general have told us so many lies, for so long, that when we hear the truth it is somehow alien and unacceptable to us. Their victory is complete.

* * * * *

We are drawn further into their maw by the money channels such as Bloomberg, which can do nothing for us but frighten us even further. Though there is one thing to be said for US Squawk Box on CNBC -- watching it even for a short time, we gain an understanding of what it is like to be an immigrant in a land whose language is not yours, seizing on little snatches of talk that you vaguely understand, but ultimately knowing that most of it will get away from you. And anyway, you don't count.

To escape all that badness, I would recommend Boardwalk Empire on Sky Atlantic, the drama series about old-time gangsters in Atlantic City, just trying to make a decent living out of organised crime -- gambling, bootlegging, whoring and so forth, rather than the somewhat depressing modern equivalent which we call the financial-services sector.

And Sky Atlantic also has The Borgias, the lavishly costumed series about a most depraved institution, run by a small band of brilliant degenerates -- you'd have about 50 such characters on Bloomberg before breakfast.

But if you really wanted to turn your back on this wicked, wicked life, there was the World Sheepdog Trials.

Only there, with those good people, and good dogs, and good sheep, would you find peace.

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