How The Legacy Media Tried To Vilify Reddit’s ‘Wall Street Bets’ During The GameStop Fiasco

By now, most are familiar with the astronomical rise of GameStop (GME) shares in recent weeks, spurred on primarily by retail investors on Reddit’s sub-forum, r/WallStreetBets. A calamitous drop in price followed shortly after the historic run as various brokerages seemingly caved to the demands of hedge funds that stood to lose billions after heavily shorting GME.

The real story, however, may just be how many in the legacy media chose to vilify this grassroots movement of individual investors who had banded together to rally behind a stock they believed in. The likes of Time, CNBC, and The New York Times all seemed to give brazen support to Wall Street and hedge funds while actively maligning these retail investors by casting their financial gains as some abhorrent or immoral venture. 

Time tried to frame it as an “alt-right movement”

Time decided to heed the insights of James Cohen, an apparent specialist in memes, who cast the surge in GameStop shares as some anarchical movement. Cohen insisted that it had “nothing to do with actual money” and was — instead — “a nihilistic approach to disenfranchisement” akin to “the Joker.” 

Taking it a step further toward the absurd, Time sought out the progressive wisdom of Ryan Broderick — a former writer for BuzzFeed — to reduce Wall Street Bets into some vicious, regressive horde. Though Broderick cautioned that he didn’t “want to go so far as to say that there’s like a fascist or authoritarian bent here,” he did state that the subreddit employed “the memes of the far right.”

From these so-called experts, Time deduced that the GameStop rally was really just a manifestation of the “alt-right”:

“No matter where you divine the source of WallStreetBets’ anger, it’s difficult not to see remnants of other, often far right, meme movements. The reveling in chaos, the delight in upsetting a system, the pride in being inscrutable to mainstream media, it all reflects many of the alt-right meme campaigns that were used in 2016 to tout Donald Trump’s candidacy.”

Frankly, what’s most outlandish is the subtext behind Time’s farfetched summary and analysis. Never mind their erroneous conclusion, apparently any association with Trump and conservatism automatically precludes some kind of arcane and malevolent intent that must be thwarted.

CNBC also echoed the “alt-right” narrative while inadvertently validating the GameStop movement

While attempting to explain the surge in GME shares, Eamon Javers of CNBC offered some positive insight on the situation almost by way of irony or accident.  He argued that a variety of factors were involved, including a “healthy dose of skepticism of the media, and a belief in fake news.” 

Javers continued: “There are scores of similarities between former President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ movement and the GameStop surge. There is a sense of fighting back against disrespect of the elites, belief that systemic rules have been written to benefit insiders at the expense of regular people, and new internet technologies that widely distribute power that was once held exclusively by a small group.”

If such a comparison is warranted, it actually validates r/WallStreetBets and the GameStop movement. Americans are fed up with elitism and rightly so, especially when championed to exhaustion by so many in the legacy media. That the same media would attempt to paint the movement as the comeuppance of the ignorant rabble and defend the hedge funds all but proves Javer’s point even further, though he clearly intended otherwise in the piece.

The New York Times had the audacity to claim “greed and boredom” was behind the movement

At the peak of the GME’s share price, The New York Times ran a piece written with an odd mix of condescension and conceit toward mainly average, hard-working Americans by the authors’ very own admission. 

The piece even opened with a detailed description of the retail investors who were taking part in the GME surge:  

“A real estate salesman in Valparaiso, Ind. A former line cook from the Bronx. An evangelical pastor and his wife in Huntington Beach, Calif. A high school student in the Milwaukee suburbs.”

The nexus of the movement — r/WallStreetBets — was written off as a “juvenile, foul-mouthed Reddit page” and emphasized that the bigwigs on Wall Street referred to such individual investors as “dumb money.”

The authors then argued that such individuals were simply “propelled by a mix of greed and boredom” and not a sincere desire to better their lives through a meaningful attempt at financial gain. 

It should also come as no surprise that this particular piece against r/WallStreetBets was co-authored by none other than Taylor Lorenz, who has been described as an expert at smear campaigns and cancel culture. Glenn Greenwald refers to the work of Lorenz and the cabal of “NYT’s tech reporters” as “mainstream corporate journalism” who abuse their influence to “demand censorship of spaces they cannot control.” It seems that r/WallStreetBets is such a space.

The Washington Post accused r/WallStreetBets of sexism in a bizarre piece

In an odd but entirely expected attempt to twist the story into something about gender and race, The Lily — a product of The Washington Post — published a piece denouncing r/WallStreetBets as a “boy’s club” that dared to have an “avatar of a white man in a suit, with slicked-back hair and sunglasses.”

That the culture of the subreddit eludes new users and has somewhat of a learning curve was seen as a sure sign of something insidious. 

A woman interviewed for the piece complained that the “jokes are often told with a ‘wink, wink, nod, nod’’ and that “[i]t’s never entirely clear whether commenters are serious.” Her frustration forced her to conclude that r/WallStreetBets is “not a fun place to be if you are not a white man.”

Of course, the article conveniently disregards the various subreddits centered around feminism, transgenderism, and a whole host of other progressive “isms” that are equally difficult to navigate for new users, if not more so, given that participation on such subreddits is wholly contingent upon being “one of them.” 

More importantly, the larger context seems to suggest that the goal of legacy media outlets like the Washington Post was to slander r/WallStreetBets and other retail investors in GameStop as sexist, privileged villains. 

The GME rally exposed much of the media as nothing more than corporate shills

The media’s apparent efforts to protect the hedge funds against r/WallStreetBets proved far more absurd than the voluminous rise in GME shares. Various commentators scrambled to explain what was occurring while simultaneously trying to salvage Wall Street by demonizing the many retail investors who had banded together. 

Alex Shepard of The New Republic insisted that “[n]etworks like CNBC and Fox Business are in league with the hedge funds they supposedly cover” and that the situation discloses “not just…how the stock market works, but also…how financial media works.”

Shepard detailed the ensuing media chaos in full: 

“This was an argument you heard again and again from the titans of financial media as this chaotic, Reddit-driven assault on Wall Street’s sense and sensibilities progressed over the course of the week: What was happening with GameStop was fundamentally wrong. The free market, after all, had decided that the value of the flailing video game retail empire was around $18 a share; now it had multiplied twentyfold because a bunch of bored gamers with stimulus checks and time on their hands were in it for the lols. CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla took to Twitter to question the merits of fiscal stimulus itself, writing, ‘How does [Federal Reserve Chair Jerome] Powell endorse trillions in fiscal stimulus on a day like this,’ with an image of the booming stock prices of GameStop, the currently shuttered movie theater chain AMC, and other companies being boosted by the subreddit r/WallStreetBets.”

Suddenly, free market advocates in the media were abandoning their philosophical positions in droves. Shepard noted that the likes of Joe Kernan of CNBC began arguing for more market regulation when they’d staunchly been against such measures in the past.

Writing for City Journal, Bruno Maçāes put forth a similar argument as Shepard, stating that many in the financial media “rushed to condemn a group of investors for the sin of not caring about the inherent value of a company — as if the world hadn’t long ago forgotten what those words mean.”

Maçāes also pointed out the many economic oddities occurring all across the financial and political world, particularly in light of the pandemic and the strain the collective response has put on so many Americans. That strain, in part, compelled the push behind GME, much to the dismay of the financial world: 

“[T]he U.S. stock market ended 2020 at all-time highs, even as the country entered a massive economic recession…Just as Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon had rushed to ban versions of the world they saw as dubious only a few weeks ago, financial institutions ranging from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the online trading platform Robinhood were now being called upon to restore order and truth. A trader at a large broker in New York, who amusingly requested anonymity, told the Financial Times that we used to live in a world where everyone watched Jim Cramer; now, he said, we live ‘in a world where it is coming from a lot of social media platforms. In many ways, it is a lot more democratized, but it is more difficult to understand how much of it is real.’”

It’s this very democratizing of the markets that so many in the financial media feel compelled to thwart. Sadly, in large part, they succeeded when brokerages halted the trading of GME and other stocks heavily touted by r/WallStreetBets and elsewhere. 

Dan Dixon of The Guardian offered a bit more of a neutral take, arguing that much of the mainstream media is clueless and “struggles to explain events like this because the events are arranged to be indescribable, irreducible, by those external to it.” 

Reddit and r/WallStreetBets remain largely foreign terrain to the likes of CNBC, Time, and other media outlets. Aside from what seems to be ulterior motives in support of the hedge funds, they can only ascribe chaos and malfeasance to the circumstances surrounding the surge in GME by virtue of their own willful ignorance.

***

The GameStop rally should have been hailed as a victory for many Americans, especially during the unprecedented financial hardships brought on by the pandemic and the restrictive policies surrounding it. Instead, much of the legacy media chose to castigate and condemn it while also giving shameless support to billion dollar hedge funds.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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