Cramer vs Stewart

Just watched the Jim Cramer interview on The Daily Show. It made me sooo fucking mad. What a dick. How full of oneself can one person be? And such a preachy loudmouth, too.

I’m talking of course of Jon Stewart, self-appointed mob leader, First Pitchfork. Of whom nothing ill may normally be said. At least 70% of the “interview” was him talking, for chrissakes. The rest of it was sandbagging, showing shady internet video from 2006 off theStreet.com where Cramer fesses up to, among other things, spreading vaguely dodgy rumours about Apple, and ramming the futures down pre-opening. Big fucking deal, and that never took a dime from the Great American Public. The whole point of his banging on about it in the video, I can only imagine, was to warn viewers that this sort of thing goes on, rather than, as was clearly implied by His Preachiness, to inform his viewers and the SEC that he is a semi-criminal financial mastermind. Whatever; this was less an interview, in no way a “showdown,” more a pre-planned evisceration in front of a hostile, servile audience. That audience is so sycophantic, it makes Jon Stewart uncomfortable, and rightly so. As a spectacle, it was disturbing. One of those Spanish festivals where they torture a donkey came to mind, or where they drop a goat out of the church steeple.

Of course, it’s definitely not fashionable to be nice to Jim Cramer. He certainly hasn’t made many people a lot of money lately. However, it’s certainly unbalanced to show his disastrous buy Bear Stearns call but not show his famous CNBC freak-out (“they have no idea, they have NO IDEA!”), back in August 2007

That was a warning call for me, marking a shift in the posts on this site from a normally sunny (embarrassingly sunny, in retrospect) disposition to a more gloomy one. I’ve noticed that commentators, and the blogosphere, tend to be much crosser with Cramer than my fellow practitioners, many of whom recognise someone who, while often ridiculous, takes on risk. Unlike others he makes public bets; he allows himself the possibility of being wrong, and often is. Some would say almost always is.

Asking CNBC to become some sort of “good citizen” financial journalist, exposing evil banking shenanigans, as Jon Stewart fantasises, would be like asking Paris Hilton to teach an Open University course in quantum physics. It is not a realistic proposition. In any case, which muckraking financial institution does he have in mind as a paragon? The FT? WSJ? The Economist? Boooorring. Bloomberg TV is probably the model he has in mind, or something on PBS. There’s no money in that, neither explicity predicted, as far as I know, our current difficulties, and no-one watches.

For most of us doing the investing, CNBC (and, most of the time, Cramer, for that matter) is absolutely irrelevant in investing, a backround hum on the trading floor, good only for finding out what the consensus is thinking at any one time and lusting after the female presenters (I like Erin Burnett). No-one I know takes any of  it seriously.

Jon Stewart is surfing on rage, and unloading on the public face of stockmarket investing. Like most members of the public he doesn’t quite understand what has happened, and is sure they have all been somehow “gotten”. And of course they have been, but are all complicit in it the same time. Even if they didn’t buy overpriced houses with too much debt, I bet a lot of Jon Stewart’s audience remortgaged and bought an LCD TV, new car and a great holiday, or at least invested their 401ks into stocks and mutual funds. Get the pitchforks out and let’s get the bankers, anyway, it’ll make some good TV. Well, frankly it didn’t.

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9 thoughts on “Cramer vs Stewart”

  1. “No-one I know takes any of it seriously.”

    That’s the problem. The people _you_ know, know better. But plenty of the credulous folk you don’t know, do take Cramer seriously, or did. Hey, he’s on TV and the network certainly takes him seriously (“In Cramer We Trust”).

    One of the women in our break room saw Cramer on the TV one time a few months back and mentioned how smart he seemed (I work in a non-financial firm). Unfortunately, there are plenty others where she came from — she’s by no means the dumbest at my firm, she just doesn’t know squat about the markets.

    Watch Jon Stewart, and about the worst that can happen to you is you’ve wasted half an hour. And Stewart will be the first to tell you that he’s just an entertainer.

    Watch Jim Cramer (and CNBC more generally), and if you don’t know that he’s just entertainment (and pretty much so is the network), and shouldn’t be taken seriously, you might do something very silly with your money that you’ll regret later.

    Some people are angry about CNBC for that, and it’s hard to see why not. CNBC and other shills pushed the cash-out mortgage/play the market/live it up culture for all it was worth during the last eight years — and many folks who didn’t know any better thought that was the way you were supposed to behave.

    Yes, they still bear personal responsibility for their actions — and so do the folks at CNBC, et al.

  2. I was disappointed — with both.

    With Stewart, since I think he actually cares and since it seems he feels this is his financial-crisis Crossfire moment. Remember them? Yeah, neither do I, because in that one his knife found the kidney and I hear they bled out. Here Stewart hit gristle at best.

    Cramer, he just couldn’t stand up for the things that are right, as well as wrong, with the markets. Criminy, I am a loony-left anticapitalist at heart, and I could have done better. Cramer’s show is basically worthless, but the man has a brain, and he didn’t use it. Sad.

    Me, I blame the GOP. They keep telling us what they do is ‘capitalism,’ and eventually we believe it.

  3. CNBC was implicated as a player in the 1990s bubble, destroyer of trillions of dollars, of lives and property. It’s still there. People LOVE its schtick. It’s about getting rich quick, which let’s face it, is the business of the USA itself. Presenters express disappointment when stocks fall. It’s the American Dream.

    Look at CNBC Europe. Much more neutral, slightly more intellectual. My wife fancies Geoff Cutmore, a very nice, unassuming man who I have met. You have guests like Hugh Hendry talking everything down, and embarrassingly bullish guests are, if not frowned on, viewed with a certain distance. It has much lower viewing numbers, and few stars.

    An interesting discussion is whether media infects or reflects a society. Does it tell us what it thinks we should know, or does it tell us what we want it to? I reckon the balance is much more on the reflection side; cultures and society (insofar as it exists at all) get the media they deserve, and the most successful tell them things they want to hear.

  4. “And of course they have been, but are all complicit in it the same time. Even if they didn’t buy overpriced houses with too much debt, I bet a lot of Jon Stewart’s audience remortgaged and bought an LCD TV, new car and a great holiday, or at least invested their 401ks into stocks and mutual funds.”

    I think it is pretty hard to say that the actions of banks/AIG and the actions of Jon Stewart’s audience are a moral equivalence.

    Now whether CNBC deserves most of the blame, I think that’s pretty clear – they don’t. But I think a certain amount of rage is perfectly acceptable.

    1. d, “morality” doesn’t come into it. AIG et al and the audience are totally equivalent. There’s a shared, mutually reinforcing pattern of behaviour. Consumers buy new houses they can’t afford, or remortgage their current ones, driving a massive bubble. Banks lend the money, other banks package the mortgages and sell them on, off balance-sheeting the risk and freeing up more capital to backstop lending, to feed the debt-hungry american consumer. One can’t do it without the other.

      Who’s most to blame for the drug problem? The pusher or the user?

  5. Baruch,

    I believe you are correct in asserting that the popular media is more reflection than infection, given the binary choice. But the reality of it being structured so neither makes it right, or desirable. Most OECD peers have credible alternatives that deliver more of the ideal, and less of the reflection. Many Americans have a desire to see the seem, the development of which yields positive feedback loops towards cultivating more independent criticism.

    With this in mind, I think you are unecessarily harsh upon Mr Stewart for desiring a more critical regime, that attempts rise above parochially-interested roles and partisan dogma. The Cramer encounter is consistent with the confrontation with Crossfire’s Bergala & Carlson (see Stewart vs. Crossfire clip). There is an earnestness (to both) for which one needs IMHO an excessive amount of cynicism to doubt, and believe the ratio of self-serving-ness to concerned-citizen-ness is higher than it ought to be.

    I agree that there is insufficient historical context (as discussed in some recent posts) and hence culpability of The People. But the swipe at CNBC seems more-than-fair, and long-overdue for precisely the reasons cited by your first commentor.

  6. Both are entertainers at best. Its silly few people recognize that.

    All this did was improve their publicity.

  7. “Who’s most to blame for the drug problem? The pusher or the user?”

    The government for not legalizing it. :)

    We’ll agree to disagree – I don’t see them as even remotely close to morally equivalent. The bankers are supposed to be the smart ones in the financial game. As the saying goes, I owe you $1,000, it’s my problem, if I owe you $1,000,000, it’s your problem. Are homeowner and other related parties party to the issues? Of course – but it’s not even close in my view to the smartest and the brightest on Wall Street. Or are you saying that the poor MBA bankers were helpless against the financially uneducated common people?

    Or, to ask the question another way – if the bankers hadn’t handed out these loans, would these people have gotten them from any other source? That’s where your drug dealer comparison breaks down – with proper checks on income these people just wouldn’t have bought houses. I didn’t see anyone in the government forcing these guys to give out no-doc/liar loans. And the government did nothing to regulate it.

    A drug dealer dies, and another springs into it’s place – not the case for ridiculous mortgage companies and the banks.

  8. couldn’t agree with you more. thank you for standing up in front of the mob. Compare the behavior of our current President, fanning the flames at a time we need statesmanship, versus the image of Ike sternly and publicly rebuking Joe McCarthy in the newsreel clip in “Good Night and Good Luck”. Stewart is kinda funny and this whole “comedy news is more real than real news” is an interesting social commentary (predicted by the movie Network in my opinion), but there’s no reality behind it. He understands as little about what’s really going on as the people he lampoons. But it’s about as much reality as a whole generation is capable of understanding. This ain’t gonna end well.

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