With the rise of the internet in the 1990s we stumbled onto something new and democratic. No longer were public thoughts and opinions simply the purview of ivory tower intellectuals (or good looking talking heads), because now anyone, anywhere had access to online publishing . That could mean setting up a blog or simply weighing in on the comments section on a news article. That was good in a lot of ways as voices that never would have been heard could now. But the utopia didn’t last long. Because soon the world was introduced to something else new, internet trolls. Maybe they were always around but they didn’t have the proper forum to be scale-able. The rise of smart mobile devices in the 2000s got trolls off of their beds for a little exercise but online it wasn’t enough to get them out of the chat rooms and comment sections. The big change since then has been with social media. The results are mixed.
Anyone, from anywhere can now scream in the face of anyone else they disagree with. It used to be that when you disagreed with something someone said in print, radio or TV you merely chose a different publication to read. If you were really fired up you could maybe write a letter to the editor. But that was not likely to be read and most certainly not be answered. So in some ways this two way access is good, keeps people honest.
This was clearly evident last night watching the Presidential debates on my Twitter app (via Apple TV). That experience consisted of watching scrolling tweets on the broadcast while re-tweeting observations on my iPhone to my followers (and the world). In particular, the real time fact checking during the debate was pretty amazing and something you just will never see on a tv broadcast. There’s an army of people with knowledge and access to some pretty obscure stuff online that can be posted almost immediately in response to a candidate claiming something that is untrue. No broadcast or even a news desk has that sort of real time man-power. And that real time importance can not be under estimated. To paraphrase Mark Twain, a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. And although the democratization of publishing has increased the amount of lies available to the average reader (after all, we have a serial conspiracy theorist as a major party candidate) there’s an equally powerful push-back making sure those lies don’t go more than a few minutes without being challenged.
There are plenty of things to knock Twitter about, slowing growth, management focus, product ease, its stock… but one thing is for certain, they have changed the game when it comes to watching the “game”.
Can Twitter monetize this? I suspect so. Will it be able to do so fast enough for Wall Street analysts or investors who have rode the stock up from their IPO at $26 to its highs at $70 and back down to $14? I suspect not. And especially not if they remain independent in 2016. But one thing is true, millions of battles were fought on behalf of both candidates on Twitter last night. Obviously, a lot of it was garbage and trolling, but some of it (like fact checking in real time) is invaluable.
I have made my own personal views on this election fairly clear in a handful of posts (here, here, here, here, here) on my appearances on CNBC and on Twitter. I get plenty of email and tweets from those who agree and disagree with me. Like anyone, I am entitled to my opinion, and while I have very strong views regarding Trump that have nothing to do with markets, I do my best on the pages of Risk Reversal to restrain from political bias (this is impossible but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try), and keep it to my views on how each candidate might affect the markets, and your money. I will not back off the statement that I have made on many occasions that it is my belief the uncertainty of a Trump presidency at this stage of our economic recovery may well be the single largest destabilizing force for the global economy given his bombastic rhetoric on trade, immigration, foreign policy & taxes to name just a few. But that’s just my opinion! I have lots of opinions on these pages having to do with stocks, companies, CEO’s, products. You are allowed to have different ones. And feel free to let the world know.
I may from time to time offer my personal political views on Medium. My NeverTrump rants here on RR are more about markets. It’s nothing personal on that front and if you disagree, let’s agree to disagree respectfully, and I’ll see you on the other side of the war. For those who do, or want to have a civil dialogue, you now know where to find them (Medium & Twitter).