In their latest episode of the VALUE: After Hours Podcast, Taylor, Brewster, and Carlisle discuss Misinformation And Why We Should Stop Reading The ‘News’. Here’s an excerpt from the episode:
Jake: Second book I read, which is called The Gray Lady Winked and this is by Ashley Rindsberg. This is basically, all the catalogue of a bunch of The New York Times articles and reports that have been either misreporting distortions or even just fabrications of reality, and how they actually have changed points in history. In the 1920s and 1930s, The New York Times had this German correspondent, who was like a celebrity correspondent. He was basically a pro-Hitler and pro-Nazis. Reporting on the Olympics about how amazing it was, and not talking about how they didn’t let Jewish athletes participate, [laughs] all kinds of stuff. It was basically he was reporting straight from the Gobbles press releases effectively.
Then they ignored 7 million-ish people in Russia, who were starved to death by Stalin. They knew it was happening but they reported about how amazing Russia’s transformation had been. Again, reporting basically facts from the Russian government straight to as New York Times articles had been researched. The New York Times effectively helped create Fidel Castro in Cuba to the point they had all these glowing vignettes of him, biographies about how he’s– He was so popular that they didn’t even need to run a democratic election. There’s no point of doing an election. He’s so popular. Then you have– [crosstalk]
Tobias: Saddam Hussein used to get 99.9% of the vote, too.
Jake: Amazing. How did he do that? He was so popular. Then, things in Vietnam that happened, they effectively ignored the Holocaust as it was happening, even though, they knew about it. It’s just one thing after another, they underreported about what they called the atomic plague, which is basically all the people dying after the bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. Just all these different things were, and they really radically altered the way, like the US average person and around the world too. Because the New York Times was the world’s number one newspaper, and they drove the narrative for a lot of things, and they really altered history in a lot of ways.
Of course, more recent history for us to remember, like, Jason Blair, who was just totally making up stories, and then weapons of mass destruction in the early 2000s, where they were basically saying they found them, but ended up not– How much money we spent on wars since then, it’s just one thing after another. It gets to today now a little bit more and recently, there’s been a lot of talk about misinformation. We have Joe Rogan’s podcast in the news right now, we have truckers in Canada who are being– There’s a lot of maybe questions about how come other media in the US isn’t covering this at all? If you weren’t looking in other places, you might not have even heard about it. So, I don’t know. It’s very interesting to me.
We can get into the investment context of this where I think we’ve all seen it, where I know I personally have. I’ve been at an annual shareholders meeting, and then read reports about it later where it does not match at all the tone or anything that I witnessed with my own eyes relative to– If you’re just reading reports and assuming that they’re true, boy, there’s just a lot of room. This has always been the case. Misinformation has always been a thing as we said at the beginning. I guess maybe they just take everything with a healthy dose of skepticism no matter what.
Tobias: You forgot to mention the Time Magazine had Hitler on the cover as Man of the Year and whatever vintage that was 36 or something like that.
Tobias: Good call there. Yeah. Then Michael Crichton’s great line about, “You turn to open the newspaper up or something that you know about, and they’ve just got the causation just inside out, and then you turn a page, and you just accept the face value.”
Jake: Yes. Right. The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia.
Tobias: Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia, yeah.
Tobias: Great line. Yeah, it’s one of the reasons I just stopped reading news a long time ago. I read that 2006 Taleb book. I always get confused. Not The Black Swan one, Fooled by Randomness one. Yeah, somebody mentioned that just then I think Fooled by Randomness, there we go. Just that same thing where Taleb said, you can open up the paper from a year ago, and you look at it, and it’s screaming at you, and none of it was even that important. Even it’s wrong and it’s not that important. I think that’s probably a pretty good approach. That’s why I tried to be a little bit more data driven and ignore a lot of the narrative about that stuff. It’s not helpful for the most part.
Jake: One of the things I’ve had a hard time squaring is Buffett and Munger read seven newspapers a day or something like that. How do they keep themselves from being misinformed? Is it a triangulation issue? How did they do that?
Tobias: There are people who are just hyperrational and they just don’t get particularly persuaded one way or the other for anything that they read. But if you have any of that, which most of us aren’t that way, most of us are more emotional than that. You just need to control a little bit better, I think.
Bill: Yeah. I suspect that they actually call who matters when they find something that’s interesting.
Jake: So, you think they dig deeper on everything that they would make a meaningful data point?
Bill: Yeah, I think they just look at it and they’re like, “Garbage, garbage, garbage, garbage.” Or, I’ll call this senator and then they call them. I think that’s how it works. If you study Buffett’s relationship with Kay Graham, he got access to a ton of people. Then as you get wealthier and more powerful, I think you get more access, and Munger’s clearly connected in the law realm. I think that’s what they do. That’s what I do. I’d get a crumb and then I’d call– If I’ve learned anything from this podcast stuff, it’s talk to people.
I went through it on OppFi and it sucks to be down on that stock but whatever. The CEO comes out and everybody is like, “Oh, the stocks down, CEO is fired. Oh, this is a fucking dumpster fire.” Okay. Well, I actually got on the phone with the guy. I’m pretty comfortable with the situation. I think there’s a way to invest and then I think there’s a way to get caught up in narratives. I try to find to the extent I can people that know what the hell is going on to actually ask.
If It Bleeds It Leads!
Tobias: What are the problems with the media as it is, is that it’s a full profit business and people stop to look at car crashes? They get the most attention-grabbing headline, if it bleeds, it leads. Then they’ve got to keep that story alive for as many days as possible. They’re just saying the same thing but it’s a slightly different twist on it. Here’s what somebody else says about that, here are consequences of it, and so on and so on. I think that’s one of big problems– [crosstalk]
Bill: Dude, I wouldn’t be shocked that Buffett reads something and gets private investigators to go investigate that stuff on his behalf. I think they’re looking for stuff that is like, “Why is this here right now?” Then, I think they dig into, “Why it’s here right now?” I don’t think they read the news like normal people read the news. I think the news is to half mind control the normal people.
Tobias: At least, half. Yeah.
Jake: What about the other half? [laughs]
Tobias: That’s selling the stuff.
Bill: Yeah, more or less.
Jake: What can us, mere peasants do then?
Jake: Fair enough. Well, actually, you guys said the same answer. Just slightly different.
Tobias: It’s amazing when– it comes on the Twitter on the sidebar, sometimes, some of that news and I’m as affected by it as anybody else, then I walk outside, “What [unintelligible [00:33:37].” [laughs] It’s not that bad.
Bill: I don’t know. I got two more years and then if I’m no good at this, I really am going to index and I’m just done.
Tobias: There’s a lot of steps between pure discretion and pure index you could, for example.
Bill: I’m good, man. People won’t hear from me again and I’ll be outside. I’m in Florida. We got masks off, shirts off, we’re ready to go although it’s a little cold now. It’s 60. But I’m okay. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, I’m not going to chase it.
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