The universe has a funny way of leading you to things. This book began it’s conception last year in June. I was sitting on a friend’s balcony in Utrecht, Holland, witnessing the epicentre of three colliding thunderstorms. It was the culmination of weeks of muggy air, you could feel the clouds begging for release. Every breath you took was hot with energy. Thunder deafened the city as the sky was lit with blue and white forms of lightning from every angle. Sat on that balcony, I had just finished reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, and months of reading and thinking about the pandemic all began to fall into place in my mind. I had been quite pessimistic about how governments and institutions were handling the pandemic, but in that moment I realised that this need not be so.
When she wrote that book, Naomi Klein had spent over a decade writing about the impact of chaos and crisis upon nations and societies. Namely, she had been writing about a concept called The Shock Doctrine – it’s one I wrote about towards the end of my first book. The general thesis is that over the past 40-50 years, one particular school of economic thought has come to infiltrate and dominate almost all global institutions, from the halls of Congress, to the World Bank and the IMF. That is the Chicago School of Economics and the ideas of Milton Friedman and free-market neo-liberalism/aka globalisation.
This generally involves a triad of policies, privatisation and cuts to state spending, deregulation and corporate and top rate tax cuts, and the sale of state assets. It’s an ideology that has grown up alongside our bloated and corrupt financial system. It’s this mob who run the financial system who are lining the pockets of Congress, funding think tanks to produce reports and write policies designed to enrich themselves. The same firms then do everything in their power to avoid paying any tax on the obscene wealth they are generating, hiding it offshore in the web of tax havens enabled by governments of the world. These policies are obviously not particularly popular with people, they can only be enacted in the midst of a crisis. That could be a civil or international war, a financial crash, or maybe a natural disaster.
In the book No Is Not Enough, Klein condemns Friedman’s ideology as an assault on the public interest:
The goal is all out war on the public sphere and the public interest, whether in the form of antipollution regulations or programs for the hungry. In their place will be unfettered power and freedom for corporations. It’s a program so defiantly unjust and so manifestly corrupt that it can only be pulled off with the assistance of divide-and-conquer racial and sexual politics, as well as a nonstop spectacle of media distractions.
The ultimate goal was to create a blank slate upon which the free-market could be introduced. In Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Indonesia, right-wing coups paired free market economists pushing economic ‘shock therapy’ with terror dished out by militaries and police forces. Many of the economists were students of Friedman himself. The Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation sponsored Chilean students to attend the Chicago School of Economics as a way of growing the academic influence of their ideas in Latin America.
Klein repeatedly compares the shocks experienced by these societies to the trauma experienced by victims of electroshock torture in countries like Chile and Iraq (and to victims of this kind of experimentation in the US governments MK Ultra program), ‘The shock doctrine mimics this process precisely, attempting to achieve on a mass scale what torture does one on one in an interrogation cell.’ The goal of the brutal electroshock techniques was to produce a blank slate upon which a new person could be built. The shocks were designed to soften up the victim, to ‘depattern’ them. There is a breaking point at which a victim of torture or electroshock therapy is much more susceptible to suggestion and willing to do or say things they would not normally. Similarly, the economic remedies prescribed by the ‘shock doctors’ are so unpalatable to the general public that they cannot be implemented without shock and chaos, manufactured or natural.
The Plague Arrives
We’ve seen this happen across the world, from Latin America and Asia, to Ireland, Greece, and the former Soviet States. I argued in my book, Brexit: The Establishment Civil War that this ideology has also succeeded in three waves in Britain over the past 40 years, and that some form of shock, such as a hard Brexit or a financial crash, was going to be used by the current government to unleash a fourth wave of neo-liberalism upon Britain. It is the ideology that dominates both of the main parties on both sides of the Atlantic, unsurprisingly because it has been wildly profitable for their donors. That means we’re going to see (and we already have seen) attempts to further outsource and privatise public services, including the NHS, and cuts to more regulations and corporation taxes to “kickstart the economy”. Covid exposed the unbridled level of corruption imherent in our syste;, the outsourcing nightmare of the Test and Trace scheme cost over £37 billion for nothing, and the number of government friends and donors who were gifted multi-million pound contracts is obscene. Our leadership and media class have utterly failed us, lied to us, and used the crisis of covid to abdicate themselves from responsibility.
Despite the failure of our system and institutions, I believed, as Klein does too, that these moments of shock and chaos can provide chances for renewal and rebirth. Not Build Back Better or The Great Reset, or some other New World Order rubbish, but the kind of renewal that would see our faith in the system restored. Some kind of constitutional convention or review of our entire system, one run for and by the people, to root out the corruption and make it work to the benefit of the many, not the few. We need to, as Bret Weinstein often says, not throw the baby out with the bath water. We’ve got a pretty good system, we’ve just allowed it to become corrupted by a wealthy class of people who dominate most of the positions of power and influence. It’s lost its ability to self-regulate because of institutional capture.
The authors of the Fourth Turning believe that this kind of degradation and renewal is a part of the seasons of history, not an accident, but an inevitability of the evolution of civilisations. We begin with solid belief and trust in the institutions of society that we have built and bought into, but slowly as those institutions decay, public trust is lost and entropy sets in until a flash of chaos – war or revolution erupt. In the aftermath the children of the crisis rebuild and the cycle begins once more. They predicted over 30 years ago that we would reach the flash point of chaos around 2025 – look at the world right now and tell me they were entirely wrong…
Economist and author Mark E. Thomas believes that since 1980, our economy has shifted from being geared towards the wealth and prosperity of everyone in society, as it was during the golden age of capitalism, towards catering to the very richest in society. Since 1980, wealth inequality has sky-rocketed, Millennials and Zoomers are no longer destined to become better off than their forefathers, and the amount of money and power accumulating in the hands of a shrinking class of people has led to the corruption of our system. That was before the pandemic and lockdowns, which led to the greatest upward wealth transfer in the history of the world – touching $8 trillion. Lockdowns hit the poorest in society the hardest, the wealthy have not suffered in the same way.
When I began to imagine where this ever-worsening situation might lead us, what hopes we might have to renew our faith in institutions and rebuild our system, purge it of the inherent corruption and block the revolving doors, I would never have imagined that the shining light in the darkness would be the store where I used to buy second hand games and CDs. GameStop. Even the name seemed to fit too perfectly – “Your rigged game stops here” – the party is over, welcome to the new world. Sometimes I think the simulation writers need to stop dropping such obvious hints.
We Like The Stock
I’ll happily admit to how much of a noob I was in the investing world, I was a filthy casual of finance in January. As I was first welcomed into the Ape encampment, I saw many veterans of finance and a lot of charts I didn’t understand covered in crayon scribbled lines. These looked intriguing, but it was the memes that drew me in. I had no idea what short selling meant, all I saw were funny pictures telling me to buy and hold this stock, because if we did this, it would ruin some hedge funds. This was to be revenge upon the crooks who crashed the economy in 2008 as Millenials were setting foot into the world (and creating the economic conditions for the world we live in today) – they gambled away the savings and homes of tens of millions, got bailed out by the taxpayer and then paid themselves obscene bonuses with the money and walked away scott free. All we had to do was hold the stock, for maybe a week or two, and we would make the criminals pay.
Fast forward a few months and I’ve tumbled so far down the rabbit hole I can no longer see the surface. Communication about what I’m seeing with the outside would is difficult, it’s like another planet down here. I’ve become one of the Apes. From the moment that Robinhood and a host of other trading apps halted buying on GameStop and a number of other so called “meme stocks” such as AMC, the war was on. A digital war; an information war.
The media tried everything in the book to discourage and distract the Apes; Rocket Company, Cryptos, Silver, and Weed Stocks, but nothing would work. They were quite clearly leaning on contacts in politics and media to slander Reddit and the online world as dangerous. The entire ruling class clapped back at an emergent revolution set to hit them where it hurt the most – their wallets. For me, this was proof that the internet and ordinary people could not only challenge powerful institutions, but they might even be able to beat them at their own game. There is no doubt in my mind that there have been multiple attempts by bad actors to infiltrate and manipulate conversations and discussion on a number of subreddits and other forums. Paranoia amongst the Apes was rife, bots and paid posters were reported in every forum – everything was questioned. At times the Apes seemed to turn on themselves, but the mantra always won in the end, Apes don’t fight Apes. Apes stronk together. The community split and divided as each forum was considered compromised, first from r/wallstreetbets, to r/wallstreetbetsnew, and beyond to r/DFV, r/GME, and the most remarkable online community of them all, r/superstonk.
Amongst the paranoia, 5th generational information warfare, and the media FUD campaign, something truly incredible began to happen. The community began to morph into a form of hive mind, reacting, teaching, and self-correcting in real time. The community was filled with highly educated traders and lengthy and indepth DD posts, helping to educate the new recruits, whilst the Knights of New patrolled the borders, downvoting shills and negative sentiment. Eventually, as the shills evolved, so too did the defences. The Apes learned how to spot shills and the moderators at Superstonk did something that none of us could have imagined. They built their own shill spotting algorithm to analyse users post history and determine whether they were a legitimate Ape or a paid shill.
The Apes And The Hive Mind
From February onward the Apes educated themselves and delved deeper and deeper into the world of finance, dark pools, and naked short selling. They recruited world leading experts like Dave Lauer, Wes Christian, Dr Susanne Trimbath, Carl Hagberg, and Lucy Komisar to help analyse and understand what was happening, hosting livestreams and getting the community to put forward questions and having them analyse their DD.
As the months trundled along and DDs like A House Of Cards, The Everything Short, and Citadel Has No Clothes were produced by u/attobit, u/Criand and other wrinkled brained apes, the community grew smarter and the horrors of the financial system were laid bare to them. They believed that the hedge funds had not covered their shorts, so they began to buy up the stock, vastly increasing their positions from the baby squeeze in January through the months until now. No-one, except perhaps for Ryan Cohen and GameStop knows how many shares are in circulation or if retail investors own the equivalent of the entire company (which I highly suspect they do) – no one knows how this ends. So as well researched and thought out the DD may be, the Apes still don’t really know what’s going to happen. This is a story that, much like our entire lives at the moment, has no precedent, no rule book, and no map to follow. That’s what makes it so fascinating to me. The retarded Apes of Superstonk and Reddit are going toe to toe with some of the most powerful institutions on the planet, the entire system might be about to come crashing down; but we’re ready to go. Buckled: Up and Tits: Jacked. We’ve got our tickets to the moon, but we cannot know how high she will fly. Has this community become the purest expression of Reddit and the internet hive mind that we’ve seen to date? Have they spotted the fatal flaws in the financial system and found a way to punish the recklessness and greed of Wall Street? Or are they just a bunch of idiots on the internet? I can’t wait to find out.
This is the story I am telling. Just as the air had been hot with anticipation in the weeks leading up to the thunderstorms I began this story at, so too is the anticipation within the community starting to boil. They very structures of our world seem to be shaking, the madness continues to escalate, and uncertainty is everywhere. There is rage, anger, and desperation bubbling just beneath the surface of our world and the financial system may be sitting on a bed of fireworks about to go off. Amidst the madness of 2021, the Apes have forged a beautiful, intelligent, tight-knit community, one that has renewed some of my faith in humankind in a way I had never imagined the internet would do. It’s been full of encouragement, curiosity and genuine care. Superstonk, and the other communities that have emerged are a hive mind the likes of which we’ve never seen before. It’s madness and brilliance, insanity and genius all rolled into one.
This book is an attempt to chronicle and explain the GameStop saga, the psychological games that were played, the extraordinary online community that rose to this historic occasion, and the financial warfare that has taken place on a new digital frontier. It is a journey through complex stock market jargon, memes, and in-jokes created by r/WallStreetBets (an online forum on reddit.com) and the other online communities that sprung up around it. It’s a story packed with wild gambling, bandwagon-jumping, digital guerilla warfare, and diamond hands.
I want your help in telling this story about the GameStop apes. How they evolved into a functioning hive mind, all in the pursuit of some tendies, and meme’d their way into the history books – just because they liked the stock.
You can help me tell this story by ordering my book on my crowd-funding campaign. It’s one I think the world needs to hear.