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Could this be true?
February 11, 2003 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Could this be true? I've done all I know to do to see if it's a bogus claim, and I may be really naive, but... it is interesting. I'm curious to see if any of my fellow MeFi-ers can shed some light on it. It's supposedly an email from someone named Laurie who writes for Newsday and it expresses her impressions of the World Economic Forum quite candidly. Could it be real or am I a sucker?
posted by sparky (155 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
sparky - No specific insider knowledge (I wasn't at the WEF) but it sounds legit to me....the broad parameters of this description of the mood at Davos sound fairly accurate -- especially of widespread worries about an impending global economic depression which would probably be exacerbated (perhaps severely) by a US invasion of Iraq......
posted by troutfishing at 8:06 PM on February 11, 2003


i don't know. i got as far as the second sentence before i hit a potential red flag:

I was awarded a special pass which allowed me full access to not only the entire official meeting, but also private dinners with the likes the head of the Saudi Secret Police, presidents of various insundry countries, your Fortune 500 CEOS and the leaders of the most important NGOs in the world.

aside from the entire "i was awarded a special pass" tone just not sounding like a professional journalist, i would really hope that somebody who gets paid to write for a living would know that its various and sundry.

but i haven't read the rest of the message yet, so maybe "laurie" redeems her credibility somewhere in graf nine or ten.
posted by damn yankee at 8:06 PM on February 11, 2003


Laurie Garrett writes for Newsday, on AIDS and global issues it looks like, so if that's her, it could be true.

It sounds a lot like the Davos stories I've heard elsewhere, so I wouldn't say there's anything too earth shattering there in the first place.
posted by mathowie at 8:11 PM on February 11, 2003


Yeah, I'm not so sure about the various and sundry bit.... and the rest of it could have been written by anyone who pays attention to the news. If it is real, though, the last two paragraphs make some interesting points.
posted by charlesv at 8:11 PM on February 11, 2003


and seeing as how i get paid to write for a living, it would be nice if i knew that it was "it's various and sundry."

times fo bed.
posted by damn yankee at 8:19 PM on February 11, 2003


Laurie Garrett covered Davos for Newsday. It sounds legit.

One of the problems with being a reporter going on a trip to cover interesting issues is that you end up sending long emails to your friends with all the great stuff you couldn't get in the paper. And then they sometimes hit the forward button.

A guy I know was sending fascinating what-life-is-really-like-on-the-ground stuff from Afghanistan and some of his emails got forwarded and almost posted on the web, which could have cost him his job.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:20 PM on February 11, 2003


I left Laurie Garrett a post in her guest book, alerting her to the post. If she wants to take credit (and if she reads her guestbook) , I suppose she can either email me or put something on her site.
posted by condour75 at 8:20 PM on February 11, 2003


"A day spent with Bill Gates turned out to be fascinating and fun"
Sounds real to me.
posted by AstroGuy at 8:53 PM on February 11, 2003


Paging MidasMulligan...
posted by pitchblende at 8:55 PM on February 11, 2003


Truth or fiction, I wish I hadn't read this right before bedtime. Between potential dirty-nuke detonations in my neighborhood and the collapse of the world economy, I'm not sleeping too well these days.
posted by GriffX at 8:55 PM on February 11, 2003


It only increases my sense of impending doom. (sigh)
posted by jmccorm at 9:22 PM on February 11, 2003


Mine's maxed out.
posted by Optamystic at 9:31 PM on February 11, 2003


Paging MidasMulligan...

You're probably being facitious, but what the hell. I wasn't at this one, but I've been to a few previous ones. Don't know who Laurie Garrett is, but most of what she writes sounds quite plausible (... though the "wow, they're just like normal people" tone struck me as a bit naive).

She was quite good about pointing out what gatherings of people with money and power are usually like: Strong people with very different opinions about all sorts of things. (It's the real foolishness that is evident whenever you hear people talking about secret cabals of the powerful that "rule" the world ... most of the people that do have money and power got them largely through reaching the top of some fiercely competitive pyramid - whether in some business, or some country - and they do not simply drop that entire spirit the moment reach the top, and start agreeing with each other on some cooperative vision of the world. Past WEF events have resulted in scenes like Bill Gates, Scott McNealy, and Larry Ellison all being seated within a couple of tables of each other. They did not run over and start giving each other hugs.)

Or, more succinctly put, it's easier to get consensus about a global vision & action plan in an Earth First! meeting than a WEF meeting. (And, weirdly enough, one is likely to find a far greater diversity of opinion at a WEF gathering than at a NOW conference, or a Rainbow Coalition convention. Go figure.) I thought she brought that out quite well.
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:42 PM on February 11, 2003


I learned from American security and military speakers that, "We need to attack Iraq not to punish it for what it might have, but preemptively, as part of a global war. Iraq is just one piece of a campaign that will last years, taking out states, cleansing the planet."
She needed a special pass to know that? Mmm...global cleansing.
posted by Dick Paris at 9:47 PM on February 11, 2003


Note that Ms. Garrett is also a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist.
posted by LimePi at 10:27 PM on February 11, 2003


It's not just the "insundry" bit. The writing sounds like a breathless teenager with a fact sheet on hand who is trying to sound like a "real writer." The fact that someone by that name writes on the beat means nothing -- if you were going to spend much time on a hoax, wouldn't you pick a real person's name?
posted by blissbat at 10:34 PM on February 11, 2003


Note that Ms. Garrett is also a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist.

That's actually the only part of this that doesn't really make sense. The actual Ms. Garrett has the CV of someone who has been around, and is certainly no stranger to the social circle at Davos. It would be a bit strange for someone that well travelled - both socially and geographically - to write something like:

"Finally, who are these guys? I actually enjoyed a lot of my conversations, and found many of the leaders and rich quite charming and remarkably candid. Some dressed elegantly, no matter how bitter cold and snowy it was, but most seemed quite happy in ski clothes or casual attire. Women wearing pants was perfectly acceptable, and the elite is sufficiently Multicultural that even the suit and tie lacks a sense of dominance."
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:41 PM on February 11, 2003


Maybe she has a really good editor.
posted by Optamystic at 10:47 PM on February 11, 2003


Turn on MSNBCNNFOX for five minutes and you could write the exact same thing. No mindbombs there.
posted by owillis at 10:50 PM on February 11, 2003


The Opus Dark Authenticator (Beta) reveals that the email in question was actually written by either Laurie Garrett or Norman Mailer. (Still a few bugs to work out.)
posted by Opus Dark at 12:18 AM on February 12, 2003


Is the Pulitzer Prize for journalism awarded to recognize excellence in a particular story as opposed, to say, a lifetime achievement?
posted by Dick Paris at 1:51 AM on February 12, 2003


Dick Paris: Yes.
There are many categories of Pulitzer Prizes in journalism. They recognize achievement in a particular story or photo, or a particular series of stories or photos, or coverage of a beat in a particular year.
posted by Holden at 3:43 AM on February 12, 2003


I'm not sure I believe this forwarded email is from someone who attended the Davos forum. I write journalism about economic matters, and the economists, bankers and investors I talk to aren't so gloomy about the economy. Neither is Alan Greenspan, who testified before the Senate yesterday and testifies to the House today.

It is entirely possible that the Davos people talk an entirely different game from the Americans whom I interview.
posted by Holden at 3:55 AM on February 12, 2003


I would hope that a journalist would also know that "truly" is not spelled "truely", but I suppose little things like spelling and grammar don't matter when you can get South Africans potentates to dance with you, and the chairman of the NBA finds you huggable. Or whatever.

Feh.
posted by vraxoin at 4:26 AM on February 12, 2003


The email is just weird. It's almost as though someone that was at the WEF had a conversation with someone that wasn't, and that person wrote it up (and both claimed the experience as her own, and embellished it quite a bit).
posted by MidasMulligan at 4:31 AM on February 12, 2003


The mood in Davos, even according to Anatole Kaletsky (who is a professional optimist) did seem very down. I does seem that these two were at the same event.
posted by grahamwell at 4:32 AM on February 12, 2003


Holden, Midas, what do you make of stuff like this: "...the Fed pushing interest rates down towards zero with resulting increase in national debt..." Huh?

Or: "...the US economy is the primary drag on the global economy..." The US economy grew about 2.5 percent in 2002, about the same as the combined EU.

Am I missing something, or do the writer's economic statements not make any sense?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:02 AM on February 12, 2003


I don't know if it's real or faux, but it was very interesting reading. Reminded me of a Ludlum novel. I wouldn't go by typos and misspellings, though, to determine its legitimacy, it's just an email, not a filed story. he among us whos without sin yada yada...
posted by vito90 at 6:00 AM on February 12, 2003


This is a classic con job. The con artist establishes trust by borrowing a genuine persona, throwing in enough irrelevant details about the Davos environment, that are plausible enough or picked up somewhere else, and as soon as you're eating it up, starts applying the con.

It is a fake. I would not be surprised if the use of Adam Davis's name (he is for real, just like Laurie Garrett) is part of the con, and apparently Lloyd deMause, a guy with a bit of an agenda, was taken in as well.
posted by beagle at 6:26 AM on February 12, 2003


I’m fairly confident that this is not a professional journalist. Typos aside - and most journos’ copy is heavily sub-edited, meaning precision is not always their first virtue - it’s the gushing schoolboy tone which makes me suspicious. That and the following errata in the copy:

""deflation", "long-term stagnation""
Typically referred to as ‘stagflation’

"Rising spot market oil prices"
One refers to a spot (i.e. right now) price in the oil market. Sounds like someone’s not entirely familiar with the terms being tossed about.

"Fed pushing interest rates down towards zero with resulting increase in national debt"
The writer may be trying to express the argument that a higher-rate environment erodes sums owed more quickly than low interest rate scenarios, but I’m not convinced because it doesn’t increase debt in real terms.

"the US economy is the primary drag on the global economy"
Balls. Economist poll forecasts for GDP growth in 2003 for the US and the Euro area are 2.5% and 1.3% respectively. Year on year GDP growth has been 2.8% against 0.8% respectively. Again, one could argue that the writer is shooting for the argument that the US’ historical powerhouse performance has carried along the rest of the world but the statement quoted above is simply factually incorrect. (Data from The Economist 8 February, 2003. Page 114, UK edition)
posted by dmt at 6:45 AM on February 12, 2003


I wouldn't go by typos and misspellings, though, to determine its legitimacy

Typos, perhaps. But "truely" and "insundry" are not the telltale signs of a harried journalist typing quickly. They are the mistakes made by someone who is not a professional writer. A pro would have had those mistakes slammed by a copyeditor long before said pro was sent to cover a major economic conference.
posted by vraxoin at 6:48 AM on February 12, 2003


Slithy - Here's my guess as to what she means:

[Midas, Holden, anyone else - please correct flaws in my reasoning. I'm not an economist, and like to be made aware of my areas of ignorance which grow, strangely, year to year, as I learn more and more...]

To address the "...resulting increase in national debt..." statement, 'Garrett' (if the email is not bogus) puts it a little oddly, although I doubt she was intending this email as a finished piece for public consumption. She could mean two different things here (and probably both):

With lower interest rates, the US gov., and Americans overall, can borrow money more cheaply: As a society, Americans are borrowing to finance consumption on a massive scale Of course the lower interest rates do not cause the new borrowing. WE DO....(more on this below). So, Garrett might mean that lower interest rates will simply encourage more government and consumer borrowing (and this is surely true). BUT she may also be gesturing at this:

One of the chief determinants of the value of money is interest rates (the cost of borrowing money). Deflation (and drops in interest rates) generally penalizes debt holders. Although this can vary, in practice, due to the nature of the debt (pegged to interest rates or not), the US National debt is financed through fixed interest bonds. With deflation, money becomes more valuable relative to goods and services. So - in a deflationary period, a dollar paid to service debt accrued previous to the deflation is worth more, dollar per dollar, than the borrowed dollars of the debt it is paying off (or merely servicing). Conversely, inflationary cycles, which make money less valuble relative to goods and services, aid debt holders - who pay off debt with "cheaper" dollars. This is one reason why the World Bank has been so insistent in demanding "tight money", fiscal austerity policies on the part of debtor nations such as Argentina - if the debtor nations have significant inflation rates, they can pay off their debt with cheaper money - to the detriment the debt holders.

I assume that Laurie Garrett is speaking in this informed sense: as interest rates drop, pre-existing debt is paid back with "more expensive" dollars, hence (in a manner of speaking) a "larger" debt.

Meanwhile *cranks up stern, pedagogical tone* As a society, Americans are borrowing to finance consumption on a massive scale. [ which is surely beginning to worry the rest of the world (and especially our financiers). I presume that this is why the Euro has now passed the 1:1 ratio with the US dollar; European and Asian investors are beginning to become suspicious of the American habit of financing profligate consumption - consumer goods and flashy new weapons systems which with to enforce the Pax Americana through debt, and are beginning to invest elsewhere....]

I think the primary motivation for the Fed, in dropping interest rates to these current historic lows, is to try to kick start an economic recovery (which we are nominally in, but many economic indicators point down) but one is the byproducts of this "business as usual" tweaking of interest rates is to enable the US government, and Americans on the whole, to accumulate new debt more cheaply...and to increase the costs of servicing or repaying fixed interest debt.

It's a balancing act, this interest rate game. As interest rates approach zero percentage, they approach the "attractor" of deflation. The big boys at Davos are worried that the US -and the world- economy could enter into a deflationary spiral. Paul Krugman of the NYT, George Soros, and others have recently warned of this peril, which would be disastrous for the world economy...

The current holders of the paper on the US national debt would not suffer immediately (they would, in fact, benefit at first) but the long term danger - which gives nightmares to financiers the world over - would involve a severe period of deflation which could, as the US and world economy contracts, provoke a (currently inconceivable) collapse of that pillar of world economic stability which has been US payment on it's national debt. The US economic strategy of the past decade was to grow it's economy faster than it's debt. But at last some of the "growth" of the 90's seems to have ocurred only on paper, while the debt is all too real (and growing, always growing)., and US refusal to honor it's national debt - a small but real possibility in a severe world economic meltdown - would be a world catastrophe with unimagineable implications...

But than again.....we could "renegotiate" our debt:

Are we are too big to default? Probably - I'm reminded off the movie "Rosalie goes shopping" (Marrianne Saegebrecht, from "Baghdad Cafe" stars, though "...shopping" is blacker and less entertaining): "Rosalie" learns that, while a moderately large personal debt is a problem for her, that if she can contrive schemes to build up a truly huge debt .... than it's no longer her problem! - it's the bank's problem... The movie concludes as the bank - realizing that it can't call in the debt (Rosalie can't pay) joins her in the scam.

This has become the new American pathology - compulsive spending, debt, and the denial of debt:

Many aspects of the American economy -- from the ponzi schemes of Enron, Worldcom and Global Crossing*, to the current, historic low rates of personal saving of American consumers and their financing of consumption through home equity loans (! - a recent, ugly trend, and practice which correlates with a higher incidence of personal bankruptcy), to the huge (and growing, always growing...) US national debt -- seem to be drifting off into a netherworld of unreality...

But there are real implications:

....Every year the Federal gov. must allocate a greater and greater percentage of the federal budget to merely servicing this debt, which means less and less money for social program and military spending alike....this means that a larger an larger percentage of the US government budget goes every year to pay the wealthy financiers (and the growing global rentier class), who have lent the money. This, in turn, accelerates an upward trend in increasing income and wealth inequality...

Eventually, the underwriters of the US debt will, most likely, (and with not a little irony) impose fiscal austerity measures on the US.

Debt certainly has it's uses but one cannot, in the long run, base either one's personal finances or one's national economy on it.

Sooner (I hope) or later (I fear) the US must concentrate, rather than on mlitary adventurism - though this is good for boosting the US global arms trade, by testing out new weapons systems - on those things much of our current prosperity was based on: creating things, technologies, ideas. Product not hype.


*US corporate bankruptcies set a new record in 2001 - around $250 billion worth and then again in 2002 - around $500 billion worth. US personal bankruptcies set a record in 2002.
posted by troutfishing at 8:17 AM on February 12, 2003


dmt - About the "...the US economy is the primary drag on the global economy..." statement: Isn't it true that because the US - in both economic and political terms - has been historically so stable, US government debt has been a very attractive investment and so US goverment (and also personal, consumer) borrowing sucks up an awful lot of money, on a global scale, which would otherwise be invested elsewhere?

Couldn't this act as a drag on the world economy?
posted by troutfishing at 8:29 AM on February 12, 2003


Troutfishing, I'm no expert -- I majored in journalism and took only one economics course in college. So I'm skilled at asking questions and writing down the answers. The reasoning in your long post generally dovetails with what economists and bankers tell me.

I lost you, though, with this: "but one is the byproducts of this 'business as usual' tweaking of interest rates is to enable the US government, and Americans on the whole, to accumulate new debt more cheaply...and to increase the costs of servicing or repaying fixed interest debt."

I don't understand what you mean in the italicized matter. I'm not disputing the assertion; just saying that I don't understand.

Wait a sec. The lightbulb just went on over my head. Maybe you're saying this: Low interest rates encourage people and governments to borrow more. A by-product of increased borrowing is higher debt payments down the road. Consumers have to pay off their home equity loans and governments have to pay dividends on bonds.

If that's what you mean, then, yeah, that's what economic experts tell me. Alan Greenspan, though, doesn't worry that consumers have racked up too much debt. He thinks the United States is piling up deficits that are too big.
posted by Holden at 8:49 AM on February 12, 2003


Amazingly, I too was at Davos, and was awarded an even more special pass that allowed me to be in on secret meetings that even Laurie missed, and here's what I heard...

Really, this is utter tripe. I confidently await word from condour75 that the real Laurie Garrett had nothing to do with this.
posted by languagehat at 9:02 AM on February 12, 2003


They are the mistakes made by someone who is not a professional writer

I don't know about journalists, but I do know that when the co-author of one of my books sent me an email about the multiple typos in my draft, our editor cut in and told us not to worry AT ALL about spelling or typos - that being the responsibility of the editor/proofreaders/style readers, etc.

Of course, one strives to write correctly (both grammatically and mechanically), but with such an assurance, I do believe the number of typos went up, because I couldn't care less about them and had a lot of other stuff to keep me busy.

IOW, writing for money doesn't necessarily make the number of typos go down. Maybe they even go up.
posted by magullo at 9:05 AM on February 12, 2003


My own conspiracy theory is that the war is largely a ruse in order to draw attention away from the collapsing US economy and the onset of what will soon be the second great depression.
posted by muppetboy at 9:27 AM on February 12, 2003 [1 favorite]


Kaycee Nicole is alive and well and living in Switzerland.
posted by m@ at 9:30 AM on February 12, 2003


Is it possible there's more than one Laurie at Newsday?
posted by uosuaq at 9:38 AM on February 12, 2003


Holden - - That's good. I Glad I'm not clueless...about that weird sentence: you got my gist. I was churning out text too fast, and missed that in the proofread . Mostly, I was suggesting that one meaning of "Garrett's" (or whoever's) comment could have been, simply, that lower interest rates enrourage debt accumulation - and I substituted an "is" for an "of" ("one of the byproducts"...) but the tail end of my assertion - ("...and to increase the costs of servicing or repaying fixed interest debt.") - I'm on shaky ground there. I was assuming that the correlation of the "value" of money with interest rates was a linear one, and so as interest rates drop - even if they are still above the "zero point" - the drop translates into more expensive debt service due to the "more expensive" dollars then used to service or pay back the debt. If the correlation isn't linear, well...then I'm up a creek.

muppetboy - I generally agree but I think that one way of looking at it is that our Bush Adm. overlords have decided to outrun the collpasing ponzi scheme by creating a state of permanent real war where, after Iraq, the US knocks off Iran, then North Korea, then.........and in the process the spoils of war would be fed into the maw of the US system to keep one step ahead of economic disaster. They may think that this scheme will actually distract the world and forestall a collapse. Anyway, with the new "Pax Americana" suitably impressed on a cowed world, much will be up for renegotiation - like US debt.

I think this would be a dumb scheme. Dangerrrrrous too.
posted by troutfishing at 9:54 AM on February 12, 2003


not a word yet guys, though it's early yet. (and it's a guestbook so i have a feeling it's not checked often) Anyone know anyone at Newsday?
posted by condour75 at 10:57 AM on February 12, 2003


For a "second Great Depression", the 2.8% growth doesn't seem so bad, does it?

This is totally bogus. Dmt pointed out the egregious errors with relatively basic economic concepts.

And trout, while I agree with some of what you say, the debt has very little to do with the rising Euro. The reason is that Central Bank prime rates are over 1% higher in Europe than in the US, because Greenspan has been more proactive in cutting rates. This means a higher rate of return by holding money in Euros. As far as Europe is concerned, it's a strategy that plays with fire - European growth is already tremendously slow and needs a kickstart. The worry for the US is that such a disparity between currency values might trigger higher inflation (due to higher import prices), but the difference isn't so great at this stage that there is any major worry.

And, just to note, the Euro and the Dollar were at very similar rates only three years ago. It's not like the exchange rate in unprecedented.

Most economic analysts would say the US monetary policy is being used far more effectively than the Europeans. The price relation in prices between dollars and euros is relatively unimporant.
posted by Kevs at 11:25 AM on February 12, 2003


Amateur forensic profiling of email. This is an interesting thread.
posted by skimble at 11:40 AM on February 12, 2003


I have received the following message, upon inquiry (contacted via email, address deduced from EPRI website), from Adam Davis, who in the link is purportedly passing along the message from his friend at Newsday. However, he apparently does not know Garrett and has no idea whether the message is genuine:

I have no idea whether this is authenic. As with many pieces of correspondence on the internet, caveat emptor. That said, here is a bio for Garrett I found, and there is indeed a person by that name who writes for Newsday: http://www.georgetown.edu/sfs/programs/stia/events/garrettbio.htm

I don't know her personally, and the description of Davos was contained in an email sent to me, so that's all I can tell you at this point.

Adam Davis
Director, EPRIsolutions Environment Division

1299 4th Street, Suite 307
San Rafael, CA 94901
Main Office:415-454-8800
Direct:415-257-4631
Cell: 415-305-4786

posted by beagle at 1:47 PM on February 12, 2003


"For a "second Great Depression", the 2.8% growth doesn't seem so bad, does it?"

I think it's a mixed bag. Things weren't actually all that bad in 1929 from what I've read. Everyone expected a quick recession and then the economy would turn the corner. Sound familiar? I think Hoover said something in 1929 to the effect of "gentlemen, you've come too late. the depression is over". As we all know now, the really bad shit happened later.

Some points to consider:

- the economy only contracted for 3-4 years during the great depression. by 1933, it was growing again, but the suffering went on for a long time after.

- yes, the reported growth rate is better than 1929-33. i would not suggest otherwise... YET... but i would like to point out that the government is "cooking the books" and has had to "revise" "optimistic" numbers continuously for the past several years. it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that we're actually currently experiencing a mild contraction in GDP growth.

- the current stock market is STILL more overvalued than the market was before the '29 crash.

- the US is in far WORSE financial situation as well. we were a huge creditor nation then while we're the world's largest debtor nation now. a drop in the dollar and a flight from US debt instruments could trigger runaway inflation as bad as the 1970's or worse

- a credit collapse, which is already appearing could (i almost want to say WILL) take out the whole housing market bubble and financing of consumption through housing equity loans. in the end, this could cause huge *deflation* in prices for things that can't be bought without credit. it could also absolutely kill economic growth.

- the financial regulations that were set in place in the 30's have all been stripped away

- the market is more credit leveraged than ever before

- derivatives

the thing that scares me is this possibility:

i think we're going through a very eerie repeat of what happened in 1929-33 (with all the same sort of denial-of-anything-even-resembling-reality going on)... only the scale of the thing is so much larger that we're still only in 1929!!! after 3 years of "losses" the market hasn't actually declined yet in the sense that it needs to in order to restore normality. my estimate is that we're going to experience a longer and much slower decline because of the scale issue and the prevalence of short selling rallies.

over then next 2 years, i expect the markets to decline 20-30% per year, and then *continue* declining until the DOW stands somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000-4000 with the NASDAQ between 300-700. i tend to think it will be more towards the BOTTOM end of those ranges.

i don't see an economic recovery starting until after the accident has actually finished happening! if we're going to use the party metaphor for the "roaring 90's", i think everyone's still drunk and the hangover hasn't even begun to set in.

the economy will eventually turn the corner around the time that nobody talks about the first great depression anymore because the second one has turned out to be so much worse. i think that will be somewhere around 2006-9. from there, it will take another 10 years to "recover". of course, things will never be the same again, but something like "business as usual" will probably return around the 2015-17 timeframe.

i certainly hope i'm wrong, but if we don't have a crash of something like these proportions, given the speculative excesses of the 90's it will be a first in market history. you can validate that hypothesis clear back to the 1600's.
posted by muppetboy at 3:31 PM on February 12, 2003 [2 favorites]


muppetboy - A year ago I forecast (on far less knowledge than you posess) a DOW drop to 5000, and we're getting close.....

...that comment was a zinger. Why don't you work it up into a post....the link? - I don't have a clue. But I bet you can find a good one.
posted by troutfishing at 9:24 PM on February 12, 2003


Kevs - OK, so my US Dollar/Euro exchange rate connection doesn't hold up - what about the overall, global implications of rapidly growing US debt? Isn't this the point of my comment?
posted by troutfishing at 9:31 PM on February 12, 2003


wish i had a single good link or even a few...

what i'm getting out of all this is a firsthand lesson in human nature and human frailties. it's so very human to look at the history of markets and claim that we're just different. that we're unique. that we're better. we want to and do imply that people in the past just didn't get it somehow. this is the "logic" behind the "new economy" that starts each market crash in market history. pure, self-centered emotion. sad, sad, idiocy.

it's like the behaviour of teenagers. except that it comes from supposedly well-educated middle aged economists, who claim (much as teenagers do when they discover rebellion or sex or drugs and think they're the first to ever do it) that the whole game of investing has changed... that "investors are willing to accept higher risk premiums" (more risk for less return). think about that for a bit and i think you'll agree that any ADULT with a basic ability to think for themselves can see that this is absolutely, positively FLAT WRONG (and has been wrong each time people thought it was true throughout market history).

since people WON'T accept high risk for low return, stock valuations MUST AND WILL return to market averages (except that the ensuing panic always drives them well below that average... it is an AVERAGE after all!).

anyway, my key observation is this:

**the game has not changed, and neither have the players**

all market crashes in history are remarkably similar in their speculative initiation, progression, emotions and effects (even if they differ in their technical characteristics). the reason for this is that speculative bubbles and market crashes are caused by human emotion, not policy decisions.

anyway, if we stand up like a GROWN-UP and use the closest thing we have to the scientific method.... if we apply dispassionate *reasoning* based on what we know from history to today's situation... we will hit bottom with the DOW under 3000 (yes, that's right, if you're invested in stocks, you can and probably will (if history is any indicator) lose more than half of your portfolio's value AGAIN). in fact, if we don't end up with companies with healthy balance sheets and earnings yields well above 6.5% (corresponding to a price to earnings ratio of less than 13), it will be a first in all of market history. don't get me wrong... i'm open to learning something new and there are other theoretical possibilites for how this might unfold... it's just that we've never actually SEEN any such thing happen. and i just think we should start from what we know and not just make up stuff that makes us feel good... REMEMBER: THAT'S HOW WE GOT IN THIS MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE!
posted by muppetboy at 12:18 AM on February 13, 2003


Muppetboy, I'm going to dare to beard the lion in his lair, but be gentle with me - I'm not a specialist...

- the current stock market is STILL more overvalued than the market was before the '29 crash.
Don't disagree. What's the Dow's average p/e ratio these days? In the high thirties?

- the financial regulations that were set in place in the 30's have all been stripped away
Making allowance for productivity growth, technological advance and a host of other factors, couldn't one make the case that this regulatory easing has helped businesses to succeed over the past 70 years and encouraged wider access to capital?

- the market is more credit leveraged than ever before
Why is this necessarily a bad thing? When I was a kid, I saved up to buy my new walkman now, it's going on the never never (credit card). Providing that I'm responsible about mainitaing a serviceable dent burden, where's the problem? In market terms, borrowing can be a good thing, allowing businesses to respond to opportunity more quickly. After all, we wouldn't expect that nice Mr Buffet to save up to buy all those companies would we?

- derivatives
Again, why necessarily a bad thing. Agreed that speculative trading in them a la Nick Leason / Barings can be a dangerous game but when used responsibly, they're a hedge against risk. If I own a bar with loads of outside seating surely it's sensible of me to buy a bunch of weather derivatives in case we have a wet summer and my takings plummet. They're not by virtue of themselves, evil.

You'll note that I've not called you on the larger macroeconomic points. Although I think that your assessment is overly bearish, I simply don't have the facts to refute you. Thanks for a couple of thought provoking posts though...
posted by dmt at 5:09 AM on February 13, 2003


What a polite thread discussion.

Muppetboy - I'll be on the lookout for a reference link.
posted by troutfishing at 8:19 AM on February 13, 2003


i meant the banking regulations that were set in place to prevent bank failures, which was one of the major problems of the great depression. there is no longer a meaningful separation between investment and normal commercial banking. in other words, it's back to the future and banks have been gambling with our savings JUST LIKE LAST TIME. the reason is: just like in every crash in market history, we think it couldn't possibly happen again. my bet is we'll see some banks fold before this is all over. not little banks. BIG banks.

credit was one of the main causes of the great crash and the great depression. i guess the media has really got to everyone at this point because nobody seems to understand the most basic things about credit: first and foremost, you cannot borrow your way to prosperity!

maybe you're responsible with your new walkman, but then you're not the problem. BANKS (especially with the help of Alan Greenspan) are the problem, just like they were the last time. they HAVE NOT been responsible in handing out credit. and so we have seen a huge expansion in credit. but that, as you point out, is not necessarily a huge problem in itself. what IS a problem is this: MANY OF THE BORROWERS ARE BAD CREDIT RISKS (and getting worse with rising unemployment) and the rates these borrowers are paying DO NOT reflect that risk.

so what happens every time in this situation is this: the rates of delinquency and default go up, causing interest rates to rise as the spread between the treasury bond rate (the rate of federal borrowing) and the corporate/housing/private/etc rates begins to widen. this spread is an indication of the risk of private lending. and a wide credit spread is a sign of a very unhealthy lending environment and predicts: more defaults, more rising interest rates (which increases the cost of capital), a corresponding decline in credit-based markets (housing, cars, corporate expansion, etc), generally falling consumption and rising unemployment. we already have a very high and rising rate of mortgage delinquencies and defaults. and the leading indicators of the housing market (decreasing sales prices of houses > $1M, for example) show a drop coming soon.

to make matters worse, a lot of the borrowing that's going on right now is by people who are leveraging their homes to finance consumption that is beyond their means. when some of these people lose their jobs, they will be out on the street and the banks will be out a LOT of money. and we haven't even talked about the debt load of corporations (which is HUGE) and their ever-shrinking credit ratings... remember they have to service their debts and refinance on a regular basis. if interest rates go up, which they pretty much have to in the next few years... THAT ALL COMES OUT OF BOTTOM LINE PROFIT... which will drive the markets down. which is not even to mention the pension shortfalls and host of other problems corporations are experiencing and will continue to experience for some time.

like with credit, there's no problem with derivatives if they're used responsibly. unfortunately, we have a huge derivatives pyramid, mostly owned by a single company : JP Morgan. if one of their 20-something hotshots makes a couple of significant mistakes, we're may all wind up fucked.

the problem with derivatives is that they don't and can't factor in events that are outside the normal range. they protect people against risk in the cases where it only matters *some* (just like insurance). when risk goes wild at the ends of the bell curve and something truly staggering happens, the whole mess can come down and KILL THE ENTIRE FINANCIAL SYSTEM OF THE COUNTRY (and at this point in history, that means the world)... read up on the LTCM scandal for a case where this ALMOST happened (lots of very smart and very rich people were VERY worried when this happened). if the economy really does start to collapse and unpredictable events occur (risk that was not factored into the derivatives calculations because it's not considered "possible"), this could virtually destroy the entire US financial system... and it would DEFINITELY take out JP Morgan and any closely associated banks. i daresay, the collapse of JP Morgan's derivatives pyramid might be an entirely worse event than the banking collapses of the 30's!

the way i see it, there's only one option left: suffering. the only question we don't know is how badly and for how long.
so far, the supposed "experts" are doing exactly all the wrong things. especially one GW bush, who i expect will not get re-elected when the shit continues to hit the fan this year and next.
posted by muppetboy at 9:04 AM on February 13, 2003 [25 favorites]


one strange thing is this:

there is enough memory of the great crash that people are repeating one of its lessons:

"we know it's not over because we haven't reached 'capitulation', where investors give up and a whole generation swears never to own stocks again."

but the repetition by the masses is quite hollow because what they don't understand is THIS MEANS THEM!! everyone STILL thinks they're smarter than the next guy and that the bottom of the market - the buying opportunity of a lifetime - is just around the corner. what if that "buying opportunity" was at, say, DOW 895? how would they feel then about the future of corporate america?
posted by muppetboy at 9:17 AM on February 13, 2003


In case anyone is still tuned in, Ms. Garrett has confirmed (more or less) in an e-mail to me (her address at Newday is findable via Google), that she was at Davos and did send a private e-mail to friends. Quoth:

I cannot imagine that any of the close personal friends to whom I sent a
letter from Davos would visciously pas it on in such a manner.
Yes, I went to Davos.
No, I never wrote a note intended for public consumption.
As I trust my friends, I must asum, without going to these web sites, that
it is a hoax. I would rather not learn that my friends are scoundrels who
forward very personal mail to the entire world.


And note the typos here as well. I take back my "fake" declaration above.
posted by beagle at 7:13 AM on February 14, 2003


This is now officially the Best MetaFilter Thread Ever.
posted by Prospero at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2003


so... is that like a *wink wink* yes it's true denial, or what? Arghhh... frustrating.
posted by condour75 at 7:19 PM on February 14, 2003


I have received the following further communication from Laurie Garrett, via e-mail:

My name is Laurie Garrett.
I am astounded by what I’ve read here.

A few days ago I received an e-mail from a stranger, who asked if I was the author of a letter from Davos, regarding the World Economic Forum. The e-mailer implied that the letter was a hoax, and directed me to this URL.

Though I did, indeed, attend the WEF and wrote a personal letter afterwards to a handful of friends, I never typed a word that was meant for public consumption.
That is what I told the stranger. And then I went back to work, covering the latest sad news from the trenches of the war on HIV.

Yesterday, however, I opened this URL and—with considerable humiliation -- read the remarks, paranoid fantasies speculations, derisions, insults and Internet din herein.

Let me as clear as possible about this: The letter you are all clamoring over, parsing, deriding and fantasizing about was a personal note. It is a private letter that someone among my friends thoughtlessly, yet I am sure without any malice, forwarded to a couple of people who are strangers to me. And they, in turn, passed it on to more strangers, and so on. Now, to my deep embarrassment, and acute sense of invaded privacy, all of you— thousands of strangers—are dissecting my personal letter. I would never have written for public consumption in such a sloppy, candid, opinionated flip tone. This was never intended for your eyes.

I want you, please, to imagine something. It’s 1979. I penned, in longhand, a letter to a friend describing my rather individual, admittedly biased take on attending the SALT II talks between Carter and Brezhnev. I placed that letter in an enveloped, sealed it, stamped it and posted it to my pal. (So far, I am recounting an event that actually occurred when, in my post-adolescence, I covered the Vienna Summit.)

Now, imagine my recipient found the letter amusing or insightful and photocopied my handwritten note, posting it to ten friends. And so on. Snail mail hell? Doubtful. In those seemingly ancient days we all respected privacy, and the time and money required to photocopy and post missives prompted all of us to pause and question whether we had a right to forward a personal letter without the author’s permission.

But in 2003 few of us pen letters anymore, and the number of seconds it takes to forward an e-mail to a dozen people is too few for ethical reflection. We have erased privacy. And, remarkably, we have all come to believe that it is our right ? our privilege ? to read and analyze the personal musings of complete strangers. We don’t want the government reading our mail, but we se no problem with reading other citizens’ letters.

This saddens me deeply, and I have learned a sorry lesson. I shall no longer deliver such personal musings to friends and confidantes via the Internet. No one can be trusted in this CLICK-FORWARD electronic world.

But well outstripping the angst I feel over the loss of my personal privacy is my despair over your responses to the note. As I scanned the correspondence on this URL I found myself imagining tens of thousands of reasonably intelligent, energetic souls wasting precious moments of their lives n collective brainpower over n extraordinarily silly exercise. I saw an enormous web of cross-referencing and communication herein—of wasted “community”.

Ten years ago, before the Great Dot Com Crash, Silicon Valley pundits waxed eloquent about the great “community” of the internet, and the “new global democracy” it represented. But People, this is a fraud. Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF—whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM—waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this? Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

I beg of all of you—the Internet addicts of the world—to turn off your TVs and computers now and then and engage the world. Go have actual eye-to-eye conversations with your family, friends and neighbors. Read a great book. Argue politics over dinner with friends. Go to City Council meeting. Raise money for your local public library. Teach your 12-year-old algebra.

Climb a mountain.

Execute a dream.

Be a citizen of the real world.

As I read through the electronic conversation on this URL I was reminded of documentary I saw years ago about “Star Trek” fans. In it, William Shatner (AKA Captain Kirk) stood before hundreds of people dressed as Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans and assorted other imagined aliens. Somewhat bemused, Shatner looked at the sea of masked and oddly dressed humans and said, “People, I have only one thing to say to you: Get a life!”

Please.

Laurie Garrett (www.lauriegarrett.com)

posted by beagle at 9:57 AM on February 17, 2003 [3 favorites]


WOW! I'm glad I checked back. Thanks beagle.
posted by condour75 at 8:06 PM on February 17, 2003


WOW! I'm glad I checked back. Thanks beagle.

Man, me too.

Laurie Garrett needs to learn that you never write something you don't stand behind. And if you don't stand behind it, it was probably satire. Always make sure they know when you're serious and when you're not. Give them hints, here and there that you're toying with them. Berfore you fire off so haphazardly your one in a billion encounters with the most wealthy and powerful people on the planet.

Also. What business does she have admonishing anybody who frequents metafilter of needing to "get a life"? Why is it seemingly an immediate response of anyone who writes on that side of the tracks to call those who post on the internet shapeless, translucent blobs of wasted energy?

Ten years ago, before the Great Dot Com Crash, Silicon Valley pundits waxed eloquent about the great “community” of the internet, and the “new global democracy” it represented. But People, this is a fraud. Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF—whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM—waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this? Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

Oh what liberal elitist disingenuinity! We don't need you babe.

Miss Garrett. This frequenter of Metafilter just remarked to some friends of his marching through Seattle on February15:

"All this turnout, solely by word of mouth, email and web sources! And a similar turnout the world over as well!"

I'll never read a word you write to sell to me Laurie Garrett.
posted by crasspastor at 8:33 PM on February 17, 2003 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: paranoid fantasies, speculations, derisions, insults and Internet din.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:03 PM on February 17, 2003


Well said, CP. Well said. I guess she's afraid she'll never get thrown another bone from the Uber-jetset.
posted by condour75 at 9:23 PM on February 17, 2003


This is such a timely article. I'm going to have to front page it.

Deplorie Carrot your days are numbered.
posted by crasspastor at 2:25 AM on February 18, 2003


I beg of all of you—the Internet addicts of the world—to turn off your TVs and computers now and then and engage the world. Go have actual eye-to-eye conversations with your family, friends and neighbors. Read a great book. Argue politics over dinner with friends. Go to City Council meeting. Raise money for your local public library. Teach your 12-year-old algebra.

I'm confused. Where does it say that we don't already do these things? I wouldn't be so arrogant as to assume so much from the little I know of Laurie's life.

And some further clarification for Laurie: this is a discussion site about things found on the internet. Nobody here forwarded that email. Nobody here posted it on the internet. We found it, yes. Some of us talked some crap about it, probably. We talk crap about all sorts of things we find on the internet. The fact that the conversation here includes more participants than the ones you are used to is a valuable feature of the internet for many of us. We are open-minded, and like to test our ideas on opposing view points, as well as indulging in the usual round of ego-stroking with those we know closely enough to have comfortable, face-to-face conversations with.

But not being privy to your motivations, how are we to know why this was posted on the net? Perhaps it was posted without your permission. Perhaps you wanted it to be there, and "leaked" it. Ok, we know now that you didn't, but don't blame us for that lack of prescience, or for the fact that it made a fascinating read. Personally, I'm not sorry I read your email, but I'm sorry it was posted without your knowledge, and that some people said careless things about you. If you're looking for somewhere to shove the "blame" though, you may want to start closer to home.
posted by walrus at 4:08 AM on February 18, 2003


p.s.

Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

No more than if I was to argue politics over dinner with friends ...
posted by walrus at 4:54 AM on February 18, 2003


Metafilter: paranoid fantasies, speculations, derisions, insults and Internet din.

God help her if she ever discovers Usenet.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:37 AM on February 18, 2003 [2 favorites]


crasspastor: "Oh what liberal elitist disingenuinity! We don't need you babe."

Don't try to toss her over here. Her type of elitist disingenuity crosses the whole political spectrum.
posted by ?! at 5:40 AM on February 18, 2003


I beg of all of you—the Internet addicts of the world—to turn off your TVs and computers now and then and engage the world. Go have actual eye-to-eye conversations with your family, friends and neighbors. Read a great book. Argue politics over dinner with friends. Go to City Council meeting. Raise money for your local public library. Teach your 12-year-old algebra.

she displays her ignorance and preconceived bias in the above para, as well as the one in which she references shatner. it enforces my suspicion that in her minds eye we are all the comic-book guy on the simpsons. well, in my minds eye, she is the classic neo-journalist: good looking yet clumsy, untrained and uncomfortable in the language she works in ("various insundry"??? her first language no less!), fearful of technology she doesn't understand and unmotivated to undertake it's understanding, overly awed by money and underendowed with principles and completely missing the boat on freedom of the press and her role in a constitutional republic. that's just for starters. her own missive to pals exposes her as a barely mature, giggly little power and wealth groupie.
posted by quonsar at 6:59 AM on February 18, 2003


Good fucking grief.

What an egregious pile of crap Ms Garrett has dumped upon all ~17k of us.

I for one, think that this pitiable missive deserves responding to. (Athough it's taken so long to cogently vent my spleen, quonsar has said exactly what I'd like to say in at 10th the length...)

For a professional journalist, Ms Garrett has a pretty slip-shod approach to protecting her own privacy. Because email is as insecure as it is, responsibility falls to the end user to protect their own privacy. Using encryption are we Ms Garrett? If not, then you've got precious little comeback if your message was intercepted have you? But then, we all know that this isn't the issue here - she's been betrayed by a friend and has decided to take out her ire upon the community in which her letter resurfaced.

Let's spell this out for Ms Garrett in big fucking capital letters shall we? If your mate forwarded on a letter that you had failed to mark as privileged, read-only or with a similar disclaimer, then you've only got yourself and your friend to blame. The mail we discussed didn't have 'please don't forward on' written on it anywhere as far as I can see. Is your friend telepathic or are you making assumptions about your friends' attitude towards your privacy. Or, are your 'friends' of such quality that they'd strip such a line out of one of your emails prior to stitching you up like this?

For a community that you're so quite to deride, I couldn't see a fellow Metafilter contributor doing that to me - stranger or nay.

But let's get down to brass tacks shall we? What she's really pissed off about is having written a factually incorrect and groaningly embarrassing email, Ms Garrett thinks that the best form of defence is attack. Eliding round the fact that when she clicks on 'send', she relinquishes her right to control reproduction, alteration, etc, - our heroine invokes the ghosts of the Cold War and the hot air of the early internet gold rush days. Clumsy ad hominem attacks about the internet community being analogous to Star Trek fans follows, followed by a third-string eco-activist's exhortation to "engage the world. Go have actual eye-to-eye conversations"

Fuck you, you Laurie Garrett condescending prick. We don't participate here because we think that the great and the good - those that you note in the email that started this ruckus, are simply ordinary people; ordinary people who do ordinary things like contribute to web fora like this one - take note of what transpires here but rather for the opportunity to engage with minds as cultured as Migel's, as funny as ColdChef's, as polemic as Foldy's or as knowledgeable as Midas'. Don't presume that because I chose to read and reply to this web-site in my lunch hour that I'm not at least as virtuous, as politically active, as well read, as you. But then again, I'm not the only writer ever to have been awarded the 3 Ps am I? Therefore, it seems, I'm not entitled to make blanket judgements and condemnations about people I don't know and haven't met - so I don't.

Your humiliation is right and deserved. Stand by what you've written or don't write it - as writer you should know better than to commit falsehoods (i.e. factual inaccuracies) to paper, regardless of their recipient. Protect what's yours. If you can't trust your friends, then don't put temptation in their way. And when you're in the wrong, don't come out fighting unless you're sure you can win. Time to go back to your trenches now.

p.s. It's a nice touch that on your web-site's homepage, you've got your picture with a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, complete with a still standing World Trade Centre. I was under the impression that some Americans considered its depiction in a promotional context to be in questionable taste these days? But then what do I know, I'm a sad, reasonably intelligent (but not in the Pulitzer prize winning class, eh?) Star Trek fan who's [paraphrase] busy wasting his community...
posted by dmt at 7:27 AM on February 18, 2003


she's just embarrassed that people here called so many of her errors, and pointed out her general clumsiness with the language.
posted by mdn at 7:32 AM on February 18, 2003


If Ms. Garrett can't tell the difference between a SNL sketch and a documentary, then heaven help journalism.
posted by ed at 8:17 AM on February 18, 2003


That' an interesting story. I wonder why it hasn't made it to Google news or something. I'm sure it serves both as a humbling lesson for Ms. Garrett (whose less than polite email may be discounted to her embarrassment at being caught) and, for the rest of us, as evidence of the average skills of the average journalist.
posted by 111 at 8:53 AM on February 18, 2003


I'm continually surprised at the outrage MetaFilter receives as a result of things that happen on other websites. No one here got her original email. No one here forwarded to a public listserv. Someone here found it already online for the world to see and post a link to it is all.

Just be clear to Laurie if she's reading this MetaFilter discusses things found on the web at other places. Someone in her circle of friends forwarded it, and then it got forwarded onto a public list server. In her analogy, this is akin to her 1979 letter being photocopied 1,000,000 times by a friend of hers, then dropped from a NYC building like a tickertape parade. MetaFilter is a few people that picked up the letter found in public and feel like talking about it.

If I were laurie, I'd check into her circle of friends very carefully, as someone spread it out from there. I should also reiterate my first comment here, that I don't think there is anything overly shocking in the email, nor do I see people discussing the finer economic points as an indication they have no lives.
posted by mathowie at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2003


mathowie: I doubt she'd take you up on it, but have you considered offering Ms. Garrett a login so she could join this discussion? I seem to remember you mentioning doing this for individuals when their work or sites were being discussed in the past. I'd be fascinated to see how she conducts herself, if she would deign to join in.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:46 AM on February 18, 2003


I don't really care for the way some of you are representing MetaFilter in this discussion -- and when you post on MetaFilter, your behavior reflects on all of us. "Fuck you, you condescending prick?" "We don't need you, babe." C'mon, people.

I don't agree with Ms. Garrett's take on MetaFilter (although, having had similar "misplaced" email experiences, I can emphasize with her horror at these events), but let's not work to prove her right. I'd like her to see MetaFilter as I do: as a great resource for things on the web that I wouldn't ordinarily find, as a communal and vaguely respectful place for ideas, and as proof of the hypothesis of benign anarchy.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:06 AM on February 18, 2003


I assume that if we were some sort of political discussion society, meeting over cigars in the restaurants of Dupont Circle to discuss geopolitics and exchanging letters, Ms. Garrett would not only find us respectable but would want inside access to the fascinating opinions of this Very Powerful Group.

As it is, because our lengthy discussions are posted -- ugh -- publicly we instead respresent the Commercialist Fraud of the Internet.

What bollocks.
posted by argybarg at 11:15 AM on February 18, 2003


Execute a dream.

Okay. Up against the wall, dream. Fire! KABLAM! Happy now?
posted by Termite at 11:17 AM on February 18, 2003


From Ms. Garrett's web site:

"The September 11, 2002 attack on the World Trade Center changed all of our lives, often in ways we cannot now clearly see. From the moment the first jet hit Tower One I was deluged with E-mails and phone calls, asking, "Are you ok?". Time did not permit the luxury of individual replies, as I was covering the calamity for Newsday, so I created a single generic reply and sent it to all. With each passing day this exercise became more formal, and I learned that thousands of people worldwide were reading my off-the-cuff daily impressions. Some of them have even turned up in Australian newspapers, large listserves and government diasaster assessments. Since what began as a private, emotional exercise for friends has already, without my effort or intent, become a very public one I thought it best to post these daily missives, for the record, on my web site."

Good grief.
posted by xiffix at 11:42 AM on February 18, 2003


Interesting response, some people never learn do they? Ms. Garrett may be surprised to learn some Mefites live their lives more fully than she could ever dream.
posted by rotifer at 12:00 PM on February 18, 2003


Sounds like she's just surprised and being (unnecessarily) defensive.
posted by mattpfeff at 12:06 PM on February 18, 2003


Upcoming Lecture:

April 17, 2003: Boise, ID 7:00pm
Boise State University

I'll streak across the stage in nothing but an xs Metafilter t-shirt.

Don't worry Ms. Garrett, just a joke. I don't do such things - anymore.
posted by rotifer at 12:21 PM on February 18, 2003


Go have actual eye-to-eye conversations"

We did at eye level even, monitor-to-monitor.

Wonder what she would say to a blind or deaf person?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:34 PM on February 18, 2003


Garrett has been honored with two doctorates in humane letters honoris causa, from Weslayan Illinois University and the University of Massachussetts, Lowell. - from her website

No, wrong. There is no Weslayan Illinois University. There is an Illinois Wesleyan University, here in my town.

I'm nitpicking. But honestly, my boss would freak at simple editing errors like this.

And thanks for the advice Ms. Garrett, but as someone said above, how do you know we don't participate in democracy not only here but in other ways as well? How dare you judge us.

Bah.
posted by tr33hggr at 12:39 PM on February 18, 2003


I saw an enormous web of cross-referencing and communication herein—of wasted “community” .... Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

Yes, of course.

Maintaining a free society requires an informed populace. Information is available in more places than ever before, including on the Internet. To be honest, I would worry about a democracy that did not encourage the dissemination of information using the Internet as a medium.

My thoughts are not random and the time I spend in this community is not "wasted" Sorry you got burned there Ms. Garrett, but just like I'd be out of place covering the high-n-mighty in Davos, you seem to be out of place here.
posted by jessamyn at 12:54 PM on February 18, 2003


Oh for pete's sake, cut her some slack. She had a private email posted for all the world to see and dissect and snark on. She freaked out and then lashed out.

Show some goddamn compassion.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:59 PM on February 18, 2003


Interesting find, xiffix, from Garrett's own web site. This makes it even more perplexing that she excoriates us for discussing her note from Davos, when she herself posted no fewer than 123 "missives" following September 11 -- which at least early on were meant as private reactions for friends only. Presumably the same "friend" leaked her stuff then, but it did not seem to bother her then.
posted by beagle at 1:00 PM on February 18, 2003


... I learned that thousands of people worldwide were reading my off-the-cuff daily impressions. Some of them have even turned up in Australian newspapers, large listserves and government diasaster assessments.

"DISCLAIMER: The recipient of this e-mail is permitted to forward it to people who will say nice things about it and/or quote it in a positive context. Any other forwarding is not authorized and is, in fact, an outrageous violation of my privacy."
posted by davidfg at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2003


I respect Ms Garret's concerns about etiquette, privacy, and general thoughtfulness.

BUT I must wonder about her assertion that groups like MeFi are mere "chatrooms" to be equated with Trekkies who need to "get a life". It seems that this very incident proves the power of the internet and groups like MeFi, whether good or bad, to disseminate and discuss and dissect information.

She had a private email posted for all the world to see and dissect and snark on. She freaked out and then lashed out.

Exactly. I should excuse the bile beneath her somewhat well-written sentiments.
...and she makes some good points about snail mail and such...
"...this CLICK-FORWARD electronic world."
Nice. Almost rates a tagline, or a title for an essay or cartoon.

posted by Shane at 1:11 PM on February 18, 2003


DMT's worthless diatribe only makes it more pleasant to analyze his/her own claims with some scrutiny.

Criticisms:

""deflation", "long-term stagnation""
Typically referred to as ‘stagflation’


Wrong! Stagflation is the combination of stagnation and INflation. The term was coined in the 70s, when it was happening.

"Rising spot market oil prices"
One refers to a spot (i.e. right now) price in the oil market. Sounds like someone’s not entirely familiar with the terms being tossed about.


Unfamiliar? Hi, pot! Kettle? A spot market is just the term for a market where commodities are sold. It’s a pretty darn common referent, and people familiar with the terms use it all the time.

"Fed pushing interest rates down towards zero with resulting increase in national debt"
The writer may be trying to express the argument that a higher-rate environment erodes sums owed more quickly than low interest rate scenarios, but I’m not convinced because it doesn’t increase debt in real terms.


That doesn’t even make sense. Agreed, this isn’t terribly clear, but I think the argument goes much more to the point that low interest rates tempt the government to take on more debt, which increases rates, which slows the economy. I think Congressman Moore (Dennis, D-KS) is going toward the same argument when he states:

“Plus, rising deficits mean rising interest rates. Economists project an all-time record deficit of $350 billion next year. The national debt has already cleared $6 trillion and that number continues to increase. The record low interest rates we are currently experiencing will not survive the pressure of this mounting red ink. Rising interest rates make it costlier for businesses and consumers to borrow money, stifling the economy.”

"the US economy is the primary drag on the global economy"
Balls. Economist poll forecasts for GDP growth in 2003 for the US and the Euro area are 2.5% and 1.3% respectively. Year on year GDP growth has been 2.8% against 0.8% respectively. Again, one could argue that the writer is shooting for the argument that the US’ historical powerhouse performance has carried along the rest of the world but the statement quoted above is simply factually incorrect. (Data from The Economist 8 February, 2003. Page 114, UK edition)


Your conjecture is correct on what is attempted to be expressed by the hyperbole. The world is dependent on the U.S. as an engine of growth, and when it slips, the rest of the world has trouble. (See the hackneyed saw “when the U.S. sneezes, x catches cold.) I wouldn't say it's inaccurate though.

If you want to call someone out get your facts straight first.
posted by norm at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2003


what cunningliguist said.
posted by crunchland at 2:30 PM on February 18, 2003


I was reminded of documentary I saw years ago about “Star Trek” fans.[...] Shatner looked at the sea of masked and oddly dressed humans and said, “People, I have only one thing to say to you: Get a life!”

Wasn't that a Saturday Night Live, not a documentary? Not that it matters, but it seems a kinda funny error in context. Documentary, SNL, sources...anyhow.
posted by freebird at 4:04 PM on February 18, 2003


You guys all sound like a bunch of super-defensive, thin-skinned babies. Take it easy. You sound as dopey as she did. So what if she thinks you need to get a life? Your overreaction to her overreaction seems to confirm that you do. Are you actually upset because this really is your life? We've all seen how people spaz when MetaFilter goes down for a day...
posted by elvissinatra at 4:50 PM on February 18, 2003


Yes, it was SNL. I saw it myself. And it was hilarious. But I have seen documentaries, and Ms. Garrett, that was no documentary.
posted by konolia at 5:21 PM on February 18, 2003


Heh.
You would think a professional journalist could explain herself without all the "you nerds have no lives" rhetoric. I was with her until that ill-informed rambling about wasted community and participation in civilization.
That's where she lost me.
posted by Fabulon7 at 6:04 PM on February 18, 2003


So what if she thinks you need to get a life?

I do need to get a life. I, uh, just don't stoop so low as to pick on other people who need to get lives. (I would have responded sooner but Buffy was on.)
posted by Shane at 9:03 PM on February 18, 2003


A letter I just sent to Laurie Garrett:

I'm one of the members of Metafilter (in other words, a family-neglecting, Internet-addicted shut in who needs to get a life and abandon my pretensions of affecting a world run by 3,000 of your new best friends).

As a former newspaper journalist, I find it amazing that someone with your considerable record of accomplishments believes an e-mail she wrote about a major news event and broadcast to a group of people is a sacrosanct private conversation.

Because you've written numerous e-mails since Sept. 11 that were republished around the Internet, it stretches credulity to think you are dumbfounded by the notion that your comments about Davos might have been forwarded to others.

Instead of insulting a bunch of people for doing what you recommend -- talking politics with friends -- you should spend a little more time catching up to what the rest of us realize:

The world doesn't need to wait around for professional journalists to carefully predigest the news for us any more. We're capable of collecting and analyzing information from a thousand different sources and directions, even an injudicious e-mail by a chatty Pulitzer Prize winner to at least one loose-lipped friend.

Welcome to the 21st century. If you stopped pining for a mythical 1979 in which privacy was universally respected and photocopiers didn't exist, perhaps you'd come to recognize that the grass-roots journalism being practiced at weblogs like Metafilter really is changing the world.

If you don't believe me, ask Trent Lott. I hear you two know some of the same people.
posted by rcade at 9:18 PM on February 18, 2003


I'm sure it serves both as a humbling lesson for Ms. Garrett (whose less than polite email may be discounted to her embarrassment at being caught) and, for the rest of us, as evidence of the average skills of the average journalist.

Except this isn't an "average" journalist -- this is a someone with a Pulitzer... who has published books and seemingly had a successful career in a competitive business.

I'm not as shocked about inaccuracies or spelling mistakes (although insundry??) since she's a journalist, not an expert, and this wasn't for publication. What I am surprised about is that she's just mass-emailing information like this around.

In my very limited experience as a "journalist" (and by this I mean writing for the daily student newspaper for a few years) I like to think I know better than to gush to my friends about whatever "inside" information I might happen to learn, especially in the form of a mass email... You don't share your notes or what isn't for publication casually... That's probably one of the first things I was taught -- and our "privilege of advance information" generally extends to such controversial topics as the latest meal plan options.
posted by cedly at 10:14 PM on February 18, 2003


Coming to this late, so not much to add, except this:

Laurie, I bought *The Coming Plague*, and in some ways I enjoyed it. I might well have bought another of your titles - until, that is, you unloaded all over me and a community of which I am a part, in one of the most mis-aimed outpourings of spleen I have ever seen.

MetaFilter is probably closer to being cognate, demographically and psychologically, to your readership than any site on the Web. And you've just tarred us all as Trekkies, and worse. And you do this all out of your inability to take responsibility for your own hasty words?

I shall be damned if I ever, ever buy another of your books, or a magazine on whose cover you are featured.

P.S. Your Web site is a bloated, egotistical and un-navigable atrocity. Lose the music, lose the Flash, and get a proofreader, if you have any pride left.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:57 PM on February 18, 2003


AdamG -

If nothing else, only an internet-addicted shut in with no friends could have designed such a hideous, bombastic site. I guarantee you that seeing a progress counter on a first page of a site is enough to put me right off.

I did find the "serious journalist laden with integrity making full eye contact with camera while maintaining a no-nonsense posture" photo amusing, during the less than ten seconds I took to disgust me and close my browser.

I will be most happy, though, engaging in a general boycott of her works, as I found her comments most offensive (as well as poorly written and over-generalized). I, for one, haven't worn Spock ears since I was eight...
posted by Samizdata at 11:24 PM on February 18, 2003


...and I can't possibly be the only one who remembers that the World Trade Center attacks occurred on September 11, 200*1*.

Really, the more I reread this thread, and especially Garrett's little "missive," the angrier I get. It might not be so galling, had I not just partipated the other day in a global antiwar protest that owed its unprecedented size and coordination (as crasspastor notes) to this Internet of shut-ins and social retardates.

How's that for real world, Ms. In With The In Crowd? Do you have your head stuck so far up your ass that you don't see cause and effect? (Excuse me, I forgot, I'm just a Big Gulp-chuggin', sweatpants'd compu-dork: "input" and "output.")

Shit, now I'm mad. Someone talk me down.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:39 AM on February 19, 2003


As crasspastor and rcade have pointed out adam, the world no longer "needs" people who don't "get" network effects. No need to be mad ... she's a self-confessed anachronism. Also, as people have pointed out above, the insults were probably a reaction to embarrassment, and can be discounted unless accidentally true. That doesn't make her any less of an assblanket, however.
posted by walrus at 2:29 AM on February 19, 2003


Google Bomb, anyone?
posted by planetkyoto at 7:11 AM on February 19, 2003


come on you guys, she gave us an amazing tagline:

MetaFilter -- Climb a mountain. Execute a dream. Be a citizen of the real world.
posted by matteo at 7:53 AM on February 19, 2003


THIS WOMAN WON A PULITZER?!

Oh. My. God. Beyond amazing.

I revise anything conciliatory I might have said. Her unprofessional behavior, childish retaliatory outbursts and writing style would suggest she might be a reporter for a college or small town rag.

My God.
posted by Shane at 8:35 AM on February 19, 2003


Look, you know, I think we've all been burned this way at least once in our lives (just as everyone has that ONE experience of getting so drunk that they vomit somewhere embarrassing)....and when the embarrassment is public enough that it could affect your career, I'm sure it opens up an even bigger pit in the bottom of your stomach than when it's just plain humiliating. (Mostly, it seems like the ridicule being levelled at Ms. Garrett comes out of our surprise that she hasn't yet learned this bitter lesson.)

I sympathise with Ms. Garrett, and am willing to bet that that email (the "get a life" email) would have read very differently if she had sat on it for 24 hrs. before hitting "Send."

Ms. Garrett, I'm sure you're NOT any longer reading this, because why would you want to revisit a site where most of what was said about you wasn't complimentary? But in case you are still reading, please know that we dissected and criticized your email as we would any public document. We are well able to sympathise with the betrayal you must feel at finding that a document intended to be "private" has become so very public. Many of us have also learned the hard way that NOTHING on email can ever be guaranteed "private"--and the more sensitive the content is, the more inevitable that it will at some point enter the public sphere. Some of us in this thread have responded to your email by becoming angry in our turn, and have posted some hurtful things. Some of us probably already regret those things, but we also understand that once we hit "Send" or "Post," our attitudes are committed to the public record, and we have learned to live with that. Unfortunately, as you have so accurately noted, the days of sending "private" correspondence about matters of public interest are over, unless one is willing to commit them exclusively to paper and "snail mail."

One of the great things about Metafilter is that everyone here is brutally honest, and sometimes that makes for great discussion. In fact, even the parts of this very discussion that dealt with the content (rather than the style and/or "hoaxiness") of your message were very thought-provoking and worthwhile. Sometimes, this honesty can degenerate into knee-jerk attacks and borderline flame wars, which isn't pretty. But overall, the community here provides a way for us all to keep abreast of interesting but out-of-the-mainstream things that are going on in the "real world," and to discuss them with a range of people that is geographically, professionally and politically broader than you would find offline. That's worth the risk of occasional ugliness. It's the First Amendment in all its messy glory.

Finally, I'm not sorry I read your email about Davos. It was interesting. Thanks.
posted by Raya at 8:44 AM on February 19, 2003


This is the first Metafilter thread I've read in two years that disgusted me with this community.

Maybe it's because I'm a reporter who has also sent home gushing private emails from overseas assignments, but I really feel for Garrett and I'm nauseated by the level of uninformed invective directed at her. rcade's letter, in particular, was embarassing (unless it was a subtle playacting of her stereotypical image of us, in which case, bravo.)

On preview: thanks for restoring some of my faith Raya.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:56 AM on February 19, 2003


Since no one else has, I'll stand up for the Trekkies. You know, "how dare you compare us to Trekkies!" Well, I was a Trekkie and am - well, "proud" might be too strong, but - not the least ashamed to say so. I thought the Shatner skit on SNL was hilarious. See, the *joke* of it was that it was Shatner himself telling us to get a life. If it had been some techno-clueless spelling-challenged old-media prima donna saying it, it wouldn't have been funny. On the other hand, calling that skit a documentary - now that's funny.

And on preview, CunningLinguist, you protest too much. If Laurie had written to sincerely convey her embarassment and directed her outrage at whoever "leaked" one of her many, many private-cum-public missives, instead of lashing out in such a laughably ill-informed way, the tone of our responses would have been decidedly different.
posted by soyjoy at 9:09 AM on February 19, 2003


the World Trade Center attacks occurred on September 11, 200*1*.

Whoa, sorry, had to transcribe that since the text is rendered as a jpeg. It's the correct date on her site.

*crawls back into parents' basement*
posted by xiffix at 9:18 AM on February 19, 2003


CunningLinguist: It's extremely cheesy to watch journalists like Garrett, and now yourself, invent a higher standard of personal privacy than you would ever grant a source.

How terrible that your e-mails broadcast to friends, family, and colleagues might be published by someone without your consent!

I can only imagine what new horror I might learn about from writers who majored in journalism and minored in crybaby -- long tirades on the unbearable injustice of being misquoted? Next on Meet the Press: They Spelled My Name Wrong: Helen's Public Agony.

Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a public figure who speaks at major conferences. No reporter worth her salt would decline to run quotes from that Davos letter on the grounds that it was meant to be private.

Which brings to mind a question: Would you?
posted by rcade at 9:46 AM on February 19, 2003


Of course her best response to this thread would have been to blink indignantly then move on. She didn't, so our best response her letter should have been no response. Some of the things said in this thread since then have a point sort of proved her point.

I'm not going to any of the comments directly, but I will ask -- do people like journalists who get paid to have an opinion automatically believe that opinion to be more important than amateurs, webloggers as an example. Can anyone offer any instances of anyone being signed up to write for a publication on the strength of what they wrote on their weblog?

BTW, her guestbook is worth a look ...
posted by feelinglistless at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2003


CunningLinguist: It's extremely cheesy to watch journalists like Garrett, and now yourself, invent a higher standard of personal privacy than you would ever grant a source.

Isn't this (along with every other comment here, it seems) reading a bit much into this whole thing?

Garrett's response was purely reactive (this is obvious, right?). It was wrong, but is it really worth defending against? Not really. It's just unsubstantiated invective; better just to ignore it. Hell, it doesn't even say anything about Garrett herself, other than that she got upset.

And that she should be a journalist herself, while it makes the whole thing ironic, doesn't make her indignance any more remarkable. It's kind of funny, sure, but still not all that noteworthy.

There's nothing to take away from this, aside from the fact that someone flipped out after they learned something they thought was private had been put on public display. Noted. Move on now?
posted by mattpfeff at 11:31 AM on February 19, 2003


Personally, I think the story is a gift that keeps on giving.

News obsessives have some unguarded first-hand insight into current events.

Fans of grass-roots weblog journalism have an example of an important pro journalist who doesn't like the new world order.

Critics of journalism have a reporter with an overnight appreciation for privacy.

Metafilter haters have an example of our unpleasant tendency to stalk and eat our prey in a pack and gnaw it until there's absolutely no meat left on the bones.

Everyone has a funny anecdote about the unforgiving nature of the Send button.

Though we've all been guilty of doing something publicly we wish could be erased from the collective memory of the world, I don't see why that means Laurie Garrett deserved a free pass.

All this talk about remarks that shouldn't have been said is bizarre. When have we ever chosen discretion over discussion?
posted by rcade at 12:08 PM on February 19, 2003


Dear Laurie Garrett,

Great letter. Thanks for sharing. Even if you didn't mean to share with me, specifically.

Unlike some of my fellow MeFi members, I didn't take your lashings personally. I imagine you're really angry at your "friend," the one who first hit the "forward" button.

Liked your Ebola stuff a lot. Sorry if they don't let you back into Davos, but it seems like the best work you've done -- the most remarkable stuff -- hasn't depended on access to the powerful.

Keep up the good work. Yours in the Net, S_B.
posted by sacre_bleu at 1:02 PM on February 19, 2003


I was reminded of documentary I saw years ago about “Star Trek” fans. In it, William Shatner (AKA Captain Kirk) stood before hundreds of [fans] ... and said, “People, I have only one thing to say to you: Get a life!”

Wasn't this from a skit on Saturday Night Live? Or was the SNL skit based on a documentary? Or is she just confused?
posted by gluechunk at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2003


OK, we're getting repetitious here.
posted by beagle at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2003


Please Read Thread Before Posting.
posted by soyjoy at 2:37 PM on February 19, 2003


gluechunk, she's confused. It was a Saturday Night Live skit. Alternately, possibly she thinks SNL is a documentary, which it is not. Except for Christopher Walken.
posted by y2karl at 6:47 PM on February 19, 2003


I'm working my way up from the bottom, so pre-emptively: D'oh!
posted by y2karl at 6:49 PM on February 19, 2003


Here's my extended analysis of this little episode for LawMeme.

In brief, once you get past the name-calling and other unpleasantness, there's a tough problem about privacy and democracy here. Laurie Garrett wrote something that people on MetaFilter found to be worth talking about -- and yet events played out in such a way as to make a repeat performance quite unlikely. Her ideas about "public" and "private" received a rather nasty surprise, but unless someone comes up with some better definitions, we're all in for some nasty surprises.
posted by grimmelm at 7:10 PM on February 19, 2003


It is possible that the documentary she was refering to is Trekkies from 1997, it was carried at blockbuster so I guess it was at least fairly popular. I am not completely sure that it includes that line, but it does sound familiar.
posted by rhyax at 8:34 PM on February 19, 2003


This has been edifying, e-mail forensics, an especially fascinating economics discussion, hijack by a instablurt from the author, followed by rejoinder instablurts from members, polemics and really fascinating articulate responses to her e-mail. Everybody's interesting here. Reading the comments backwards taints me, no doubt, but her letter seemed plausible when I read it, which was before I crawled up this column. This thread has the best chance of being a news story as any I've seen. It has everything.

BTW, her guestbook is worth a look ...


Well I looked. Spam--Viagra and Drugs in Bulk from India, a polite but spirited defesne of here by a lurker or two, not members, fan mail and weird messages:

Name: mugu guysssssssssssss
Email: OGB25@YAHOO.COM
Date: Feb 14, 2003 7:06 p.m. PST
Comments:
keeeeep offfff guyssss

Name: OBINNA
Email: MUGU@MUGU.COM
Date: Feb 13, 2003 09:48 PST
Location: NIGER
Comments:
PLEASE FOR THOSE OF THERE I HAVE REACH THIS SIDE.MUGU

Name: IGBO
Email: IGBO@NIGERIA.COM
Date: Feb 10, 2003 06:35 PST
Comments:
NIGERIA NDI IGBO

Name: MUGUMAN JOHN
Email: GUYMAN@YAHOO.COM
Date: Nov 22, 2002 5:33 p.m. PST
Location: LOME TOGO
Comments:
KEEP OFFOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I DON WAKA HEREOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


This just keeps getting better than better.

Upon review--well, grimmelm, that's being offered a nine course meal after you've just finished Thanksgiving Dinner. I can't believe I ate the whole thing. I'll be back for the links. Nice site. My niece is second violin in your symphony orchestra.
posted by y2karl at 8:37 PM on February 19, 2003


Please Read Thread Before Posting.

Ok, yes, I should have read every previous post before posting. I admit that I messed up. However, before posting I did do a Find on the page for Shatner and Kirk and there were no matches besides her email. I thus thought it was uncovered ground. Sorry!
posted by gluechunk at 8:41 PM on February 19, 2003


grimmelm, great LawMeme piece.

I read almost of all of it, enjoyed its critique of the MeFite reaction as classic technolibertarian rhetoric, and disagreed only to the extent that my sympathy for Garrett-as-victim is overwhelmed by my contempt for Garrett-as-profoundly-arrogant-ignoramus.

I thank you for your focus on the larger and deeper implications.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:30 PM on February 19, 2003


I'm a bit late to this discussion, but this thread is going in a number of great directions. While I'm not alone, one point of Garrett's e-mail about this thread struck me as extraordinarily myopic, arrogant and patronizing:

Ten years ago, before the Great Dot Com Crash, Silicon Valley pundits waxed eloquent about the great “community” of the internet, and the “new global democracy” it represented. But People, this is a fraud. Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF—whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM—waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this? Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

The participants at the WEF are going to Davos so they can talk about ideas. Before the internet, distributed conversations were impossible, so to talk about big ideas, people needed to go to meetings and conferences. (Face to face communication is much more complete than online discussion, but one could argue that online allows for more thorough discussion of issues.) Aside from the net worth, geopolitical influence and homogeneity of the participants, how is MeFi any different than Davos?

The same criticism could be leveled at Trotsky and Lenin sitting in a coffee house in 1910 and simply talking. The internet is providing the modern day equivalent of the coffee houses, and it allows people to talk about ideas, without needing to take days off from normal life and go to a place like Davos. Instead, it allows us to work these conversations into the downtime of our everyday life.

Thought leaders in various industries do participate in influential online conversations-- often as a supplement to conferences and meetings. Email and the web allows these conversations to continue over time in depth with more supporting details.

Those who are "talking politics over dinner with friends" are participating less in democracy, cultural exchange and having less influence than many who discuss ideas over the net. As others have said, look at the protests that happened last Saturday. Imagine that happening without the net and forums like MeFi.
posted by andrewraff at 9:54 PM on February 19, 2003


*sighs* *shakes head*

Y'all really have no clue, do ya? I'm sure you spell-check each and every little note you send to your friends while you're on vacation. In fact, by the time I'm done typing this, there'll probably be spelling errors in it. Just to spite all of you, I'm not going to look at the message on preview and I refuse to spell-check it. I suck at the rules of grammar anyway, much to the shame of my english-teacher mother.

As for journalistic qualifications... disclaimer: hold not only a "Best in State" in news writing from my community college days, but a "General Excellence" ... Which is pretty lofty acclaim for a small suburban community college newspaper with an annual budget (including staff payroll) of less than $10,000. I attended city and state legislative events, had access to high levels through contacts of mine. I've 'hobnobbed' with the elite of my state in much the same way she's describing here... sans the technology and security, though. That was back in 1999, when we didn't have a care in the world. /sarcasm

You critique her spelling and grammar. Ok, fine -- go ahead, as yours is so perfect. There's reasons news writers have copy editors. News writers are concerned with getting the story down on paper -- they don't care about the grammar and spelling; that's someone else's responsibility and area of expertise. This is a hell of a story, and Laurie managed to marshall her thoughts and put them down in a concise form. If I was her editor, I wouldn't ask for anything more.
Most here don't have any access to (besides being avid readers of) the news industry... so just base it on my knowledge, having worked in that industry for several years, that this is The Way Things Are. News writers write and report news, copy editors polish it. It's a good system that lets everyone focus on their talents.

You critique her journalistic skills -- but one of the things that the letter that's the ORIGINAL topic of this post points out is that she used her access well. Instead of hanging around and hoping for a quote from Mr. Ashcroft, or hopping up and down in front of the podium while Bill Clinton was speaking like an elementary school kid that really has to go to the bathroom and shouting questions, she spent time with the ruler of a country (Mozambique) whose name most of you probably can't spell without help and the vast majority of you could not find on a map ... getting insight into the events and posture of our country from a point of view that's as different from hers as possible. She dined with and spent time with rulers and leaders from as many walks of life as she could fit into. Her candid observations about how much 'fun' each person was to be around aside, at the end of the letter she put words to the general feelings that most of our leaders have on a day to day basis, what drives them, who they are and how they think. That's art, people.
Let me ask this: How do you think she misused her access?

I think it's a good thing that we no longer have to wait for large conglomerates to pre-chew our news for us. That's part of the reason that I'm a member of MeFi and other similar news sites. But sometimes... Laurie's correct that (even though many of you are ridiculing her analogy) the era of 'instant' has reduced the amount of thought that goes into what we write and send to others. And that goes for all of us.

Laurie's point in her second email is "shut the fuck up and get a clue, y'all" ... and she's right. You people really do need to shut the fuck up and get a clue. Instead of an intelligent conversation about world events, which she covers fairly concisely and candidly in her original email, you launch into personal attacks on her style and commentary. For the love god gave little green apples, WHY? I don't understand any of the hostility and pushing that's going on in this thread... and that makes up most of the posts in here.
posted by SpecialK at 10:11 PM on February 19, 2003


SpecialK, the hostility is due neither to Garrett's "access" (conditional and granted only as long ashe she toes the party line, doubtless), nor her style, nor her POV.

It stems, rather, from her contemptful and contemptuous dismissal not merely of people she had never met, but of their values and the ways in which they choose to comport themselves in the world.

As it happens, I have had and do continue to have fairly routine access to the "news industry." I've written for national magazines, I count several widely-known journalists and (cough) "public intellectuals" among my friends, and for what it's worth, well, let's just say that their zip codes are not unknown to me. And though I am nobody's prize in the sweetness & light department, I would never, ever condescend to people the way Laurie Garrett has here.

It's vile, it's unprofessional, and it is deeply unbecoming.

I can't even tell you why this has affected me so deeply, gotten me so very ticked off. While I surely don't appreciate your suggestion to "shut the fuck up and get a clue," thinking myself rather adequately clueful already, I will stop talking now. I've posted four times in this thread, and that's enough.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:51 PM on February 19, 2003


"Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF—whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM—waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this?"

Jet fuel. Gasoline. Time. Money.

These are some of the resources that the participants in the WEF could have conserved had they discovered modern methods of communication.

These resource are wasted before a meeting even takes place.

During a meeting, two common casualties are freedom and patience.

Meetings are a prison. We can't kiss our wives. We can't send e-mail to our friends and family. We can't teach our children algebra.

It get worse.

Sometimes we are tortured by individuals who love the sound of their own voice but have nothing to contribute to the meeting. Other times we are told lies and have no way to immediately check the sources provided.

We can't skip these speakers. We can't search through the meeting for items of interest. We can't provide detailed references or check sources. We can't multitask.

Blogs, on the other hand, let us do all these things and much more.

If we admire what a person said or how they said it, we can quickly find out what they said about other issues. We can even find out what that person said about the same issue three years ago because blogs conveniently leave a permanent archive.

A blog is an efficient way for a group of intelligent people to discuss issues and solve problems in the real world.

"Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF—whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM—waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this?"

The current leaders may not.

Future leaders most certainly will.

Peace.
posted by cup at 3:50 AM on February 20, 2003


"Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?"

Ask Lisa Logsdon and the people who discovered this website through the MeFi community.

Peace.
posted by cup at 4:15 AM on February 20, 2003


a country (Mozambique) whose name most of you probably can't spell without help

the era of 'instant' has reduced the amount of thought that goes into what we write and send to others.


The first proves the latter.
posted by y2karl at 7:25 AM on February 20, 2003


Lawmeme has quite a bit to say about this discussion. It also went out on the Corante mailing list.
posted by anathema at 8:34 AM on February 20, 2003


oops.
posted by anathema at 9:02 AM on February 20, 2003


Since I was quoted in the LawMeme article, I've made a fairly long response on my own website, here.
posted by walrus at 10:38 AM on February 20, 2003


beagle, a UPI reporter is looking for confirmation of the email you were sent. I think he wants to get the full thing, headers and all, from you -- if you're interested in following up, email me and I can put the two of you in contact. Or if anyone spots beagle in another thread, please let him/her know?
posted by condour75 at 11:15 AM on February 20, 2003


Just dropping in a cross-link for reference purposes to anathema's MetaTalk thread about grimmelm's excellent article.
posted by rory at 3:31 PM on February 20, 2003


Well, Laurie just didn't like to be schooled on her "private" email like she did on MeFi.

On the other hand, Laurie shouldn't be half as miffed as the woman who found her medical records on the back of a real estate flyer.

the article

A hospital in Ottawa is trying to find out how some of its medical test results ended up on the back of a real estate flyer in Toronto this week.

The flyer shows pictures of houses for sale on one side, and the results of a mammogram done at the Ottawa Hospital on the other.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:33 PM on February 20, 2003


So once everyone's done having a hissy fit in response to a Luddite journalist having a hissy fit, why don't we finally have a discussion of the contents of the letter? We know it's not a hoax now. Ever since it was posted the focus of discussion has been, naturally, whether or not it was real, and nitpicking over grammar, but there's some important stuff buried in the letter, albeit also lots of "Oh wow I'm sooooo cool since I get to pretend I'm like these VIPs I'm covering."

I'm taking the Saudi and German and Afghani spin about "all but about 200 [Al-qaeda] are dead or in jail" as just that, spin--and also answered inside the letter with the comments on "unofficial franchises" of terror.

The most important part of the letter, in my opinion, is that it confirms the Krugman-style ultra-gloomy view of the economy which is so lambasted by much of the American conservative movement. "Fear was palpable -- fear of enormous fiscal hysteria" reads a lot scarier when I know the letter's authentic.

Oh, and if the world's economists all have additional apocalyptic predictions for a war in Iraq that lasts more than a month, why haven't we had a serious debate on that question domestically? That question's only partially rhetorical.

I'll end on some more doom from that note. Recall that we now know this was not, repeat, not, a hoax. "The watchwords were 'deflation', 'long term stagnation' and 'collapse of the dollar.'"
posted by jbrjake at 10:01 PM on February 20, 2003


The Violated Email of Laurie Garret

She was incomplete, flawed, but oddly compelling. She was casually bred for the local gentry, but was kidnapped, and paraded before the brutal masses. Grasping, hungry hands reached for her, and soon dragged her down. They stripped her and analyzed her, trying to discover her, and she felt herself being pulled apart. "Mother!", she cried, as they mercilessly ripped at her most delicate parts.

Faint, at first, but growing louder, a Xena scream shivered the night air; a large, yelling woman, carrying a sackful of impressive awards, approached from the Alps. "Daughter!" she cried in horrified despair, when she discovered that the hooligans had shredded her child, and were gnawing upon their favorite pieces, and crudely smacking their lips. She eyed the burping demons, and then she flew into hysterical rage. "Fie on thee, ye irrelevant denizens of this irrelevant bedlam! For ye hath, uninvited, rent my most private progeny limb from limb! Think ye that your madness hath consequence? Well, it most surely does not, except as it affects me, for I am well and truly miffed at ye!"

The guilty revelers dropped their grisly foodstuffs, and stared at the fearless woman.

Then, they ate her, and sold her awards on eBay.
posted by Opus Dark at 1:26 AM on February 21, 2003


It's quite amusing to see the non-pulitzer-prize-winners take potshots at the email when they were "proving" that it was fake, yet feel so horribly wounded when the author (rightly) tells them to get a life.

Perhaps if you hadn't been so pissy to her in advance, she'd have a higher opinion of your behaviour.
posted by websavvy at 12:41 PM on February 21, 2003


insundry?
posted by charlesv at 1:03 PM on February 21, 2003


"Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF—whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM—waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this?"

When I read this, I just had to laugh because I imagined a movie villain (to be specific, Ming the Merciless, played by Max von Sydow, in the 1980 movie "Flash Gordon") saying it. Villains such as Ming and Dr. No and Count Dooku are always taunting people by saying stuff like, "Do you imagine that your friends care about you? Who will rescue you now? Bwaaahahahaha!"

Laurie forgot to tack on the evil laugh.
posted by Holden at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2003


This thread is a tempest in a teapot. No more tea for me, thanks.

Two small notes:

One, ten years ago, in 1993, I don't remember Silicon Valley pundits waxing eloquent about the great “community” of the Internet. That's a little early, don't you think? The buzz was there, but the pundits hadn't caught on to it, because it was still mostly subculture. As shown on the "History of the Internet", in September of 1993 the World-Wide Web constitued only one percent of traffic on the National Science Foundation backbone. Netscape didn't really take off until the end of 1993.

Two, Get a Life was also the name of Shatner's book. This may account for the odd familiarity of the phrase, since the moment on Saturday Night Live, was, like most moments on the show, significant only to a tiny cadre of inward-looking individuals.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:30 AM on February 22, 2003


Wow - someone just wrote to tell me this thread had taken off and that when you shook the trees, Ms. Garrett actually fell out (and hurt herself on the way down, apparently). How scary that her original candid email was true... I love MetaFilter. Thanks for playing!

MetaFilter -- Climb a mountain. Execute a dream. Be a citizen of the real world. *I love it!*
posted by sparky at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2003


Incidentally, many of the "attacks" on her grammar and tone were not personal attacks so much as evidence to support the theory that the letter was a hoax. Just to be clear.
posted by blissbat at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2003


It looks like Topica has taken that post offline. Can we find another copy of it somewhere?
;)
posted by gen at 2:58 PM on February 22, 2003


Found it! (with Bruce Sterling's interspersed commentary :)
posted by gen at 3:21 PM on February 22, 2003


"As I trust my friends, I must asum, without going to these web sites, that it is a hoax. I would rather not learn that my friends are scoundrels who forward very personal mail to the entire world." - LG

Newsflash Ms. Investigative Journalist. Your friends are scoundrels. Don't bite the hands of the messengers you pathetic, whining hack.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:39 PM on February 23, 2003


Sample:

Watching Bill Clinton address the conference while sitting in the hotel room of the President of Mozambique – we were viewing it on closed circuit TV – I got juicy blow-by-blow analysis of US foreign policy from a remarkably candid head of state. A day spent with Bill Gates turned out to be fascinating and fun. I found the CEO of Heineken hilarious, and George Soros proved quite earnest about confronting AIDS. Vicente Fox – who I had breakfast with – proved sexy and smart like a – well, a fox. David Stern (Chair of the NBA) ran up and gave me a hug."

(((You'll want to keep these touching human-interest stories in mind if you see these gentle, accomplished people dangling from street lanterns.)))

"The world isn't run by a clever cabal.

(((Cabal yes, clever no.)))

"It's run by about 5,000 bickering, sometimes charming, usually arrogant, mostly male people who are accustomed to living in either phenomenal wealth, or great personal power. A few have both. Many of them turn out to be remarkably naive – especially about science and technology. All of them are financially wise, though their ranks have thinned due to unwise tech-stock investing.

(((The ultra-rich: an endangered species.)))

I apologize for any snotty thing I may have said about Bruce Sterling in the past.

Viridian's accompanying forum - Topic: The Mood at Davos has 1 comment.You'd think Bruce Sterling could do better than that.
posted by y2karl at 12:39 PM on February 23, 2003


I would have hated going to school with her.
posted by LexRockhard at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2003


I'm with you on that, Lex. Laurie would be the teacher's pet and the girl who would giggle when the quarterback torments a developmentally disabled kid.
posted by Holden at 4:04 PM on February 23, 2003


Power is almost always ugly, behind its mystifications.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:28 PM on February 23, 2003


Get a Life was also the name of Shatner's book. This may account for the odd familiarity of the phrase

Uh, yeah, it was the name of the (1999) book because the SNL skit had already made it a household-word catchphrase. If a clip of it was also in Trekkies the same year, that's peachy. But the fact remains that citing "a documentary" for this supposed "incident" - do I have to spell this out? something that didn't actually happen - is a world-class howler that any journalist ought to be embarrassed about, especially one who commits it in the midst of arrogant, hoity-toitier-than-thou taunting of her lessers.
posted by soyjoy at 11:08 AM on February 24, 2003


It's appalling that some people here believe that Ms. Garrett ought to be held to the same journalistic standards in her private communications that she is when she is writing for public consumption, with several going so far as to grouse about typographical errors and the like. I don't know who I'm more embarrassed for -- Ms. Garrett or Metafilter.
posted by waldo at 9:33 PM on February 24, 2003


Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization?

you show me a civilization , i'll join it .
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:20 PM on February 24, 2003


haha! I'm weeks late in responding here, but what a thread!

First of all, to those internet posers that say that they have read her book(s) yet insult her website, and claim to have oh so many important friends in their mist... please get a life ! One can smell the stink of jealousy all the way across the ocean..

Yes, Ms. Garrett has a good point: many of us also would have been embarrassed to have a personal and very biased letter dissected in front of thousands of people. Laurie did not portray journalistic integrity in that letter, because it was never meant to be read outside a small circle of friends thus the embarrassment...
Most prominent people have a public life and a private one. Some situations don't mix... but that is not a reason TO STOP writing gushy letters to close friends for fear of being portrayed on metafilter again. Perhaps the time has come when her friends, and everyone who forwarded that letter should pause to consider privacy or the lack thereof...
posted by ruelle at 8:05 AM on February 28, 2003


Oh, snap!
posted by Potsy at 4:33 PM on March 1, 2003


the geeks shall inherit the earth.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:52 AM on March 2, 2003


Recall that we now know this was not, repeat, not, a hoax. "The watchwords were 'deflation', 'long term stagnation' and 'collapse of the dollar.'"

Collapse of the dollar.
posted by alms at 6:48 PM on March 5, 2003


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