This is not a political essay. I wish it were—it would be more fun. As a right-leaning guy myself, I could probably have a cup of coffee with Matt Drudge and not have it end in a shouting match. But his news aggregation website is (unintentionally) probably the best money-making tool in the popular press.
I was first introduced to the Drudge Report back in 1998 or so. There were some real wingnuts I used to work with in the Coast Guard who spent all their time on the site, hitting the refresh button, looking for updates.
This was when the Clinton/Lewinsky affair was going on and it was widely recognized that “alternative media” was to be taken seriously, since the mainstream media were all in possession of information that the president was having an affair but refused to report it.
More information is almost always better. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. There is an essay in here, about openness.
So I’ve read the Drudge Report on and off for the last 17 years, up until the last year or two, when I quit. I will explain why in a second.
I always felt that Matt Drudge was linking to things I found important—things I wanted to read, particularly about surveillance/privacy, which is a hobby horse of his, and mine. And then there were the “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar” headlines that always made their way into the mix.
As I write this, it’s Sunday, December 27. Let’s see what’s going on over at theDrudge Report.
- Headline, in all caps: ANTI-TECH MOVEMENT GROWS. Literally, an article about Luddism, people rejecting technology. Kaczynski must be proud to see his manifesto reworked in the Washington Post.
You can short technology if you want. You first.
- Another anti-technology headline: “Man distracted by cell phone walks off cliff.” You might recall the Drudge Report articles from 5-10 years ago about cell phones causing brain cancer. Never happened.
- “Gang-style killings raise worries about MS-13 resurgence.” Fear gets clicks.
- “Cloning giant promises: ‘We won’t make Frankensteins.’” More anti-technology, biotech this time.
- “Paper: Elites and media really hate Trump voters.” Drudge appears to be a big Trump fan.
- “ISIS leader threatens West in audio message.” Fear.
- “TX Panhandle faces 15 inches of snow, ‘historic’ blizzard.” Drudge will report on instances of cold weather anywhere as counterexamples to global warming.
- “SURVEILLANCE POWERS WILL HELP UNMASK ONLINE ‘BULLIES.’” The surveillance hobby horse.
But my all-time, absolute favorite headline out of this randomly selected bunch on a slow weekend news day, the gold medal winner, is:
“POLL: ‘15 worse than ‘14”
That just about sums it up. The point of this exercise is to keep you afraid—afraid of change, technological change in particular, with the idea that things are getting relentlessly worse.
Jimmy Carter’s brain cancer miraculously disappears. Actually, it isn’t miraculous. It’s biotech. Jimmy Carter gave credit where credit is due—to the drugs that saved his life and the people who developed them. We have the ability to cure cancer—maybe.
But as the Drudge Report says,
“POLL: ‘15 worse than ‘14”
This is not to say that progress won’t sometimes go in reverse. Human advancement has been all about three steps forward, two steps back.
Elon Musk recently talked about this in his GQ interview, where he worries that he has a narrow window where we have the technology to colonize Mars. We could have a third world war, this time with nuclear weapons, global communism, who knows? These things can happen fast. So he is in a big hurry.
But that’s not what’s happening now. Things are getting better. The best way to bet on things getting better is to be long.
Sure, there are parts of the world, countries that have reached a generational top, or bad companies that are obvious short candidates (action-camera manufacturer GoPro (GPRO) in 2014 comes to mind), but I spend less and less time thinking about being short anything and more time thinking about how I can get exposed to things getting better.
But really, you see the best Drudge headlines when the markets turn a little kinky. In the recent 1,000-point Dow flash crash on China concerns, the Drudge Report posted a headline about people stocking up on canned food. Whenever the canned food headlines come out on Drudge, that is the bottom.
But fear gets clicks. And sells canned food (and other stuff).
I started to tune out Drudge (and similar news sources) in 2013, because it was interfering with my thought process. Incidentally, 2013 was my best year in a long time, where I got balls-long Tesla (TSLA) and Solar City (SCTY) and Zillow (Z) and a bunch of stuff like that. I also haven’t wasted a bunch of money on S&P 500 puts in a while. I still pull up the Drudge Report from time to time, but only to see what fear he is peddling today (and if there are any canned food headlines).
I think your New Year’s investing resolution for 2016 should be to be very judicious about where you get your news. Try to get it from a range of sources, and not just one side of the political aisle.
I think it’s also important to get a lot of news from “mainstream” news sources, like the nightly news on television. They, too, have bias, but it is usually pretty easy to spot—and this is the closest approximation to what passes for the center these days. It’s also pretty entertaining.
The cable news networks add no value. They just tell you what you want to hear.
What you see and what you read becomes what you are. Not many people get rich being afraid. That’s a fact.