by Will Schreiber

The High-Frequency-Trading Of News

If Bush had given his famous bullhorn speech in 2020, I’m not sure I’d have seen it. I’d have likely seen a little clip of the end, when he puts his arm around the fireman and says, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” But I doubt I’d have seen it in its entirety.1

I’ve yet to listen to an entire Trump speech. He gave a 10 minute national address from the Oval Office back in March. I saw maybe 2-3 minutes of it.

It’s hard to tell if this is unique to Trump, or an indictment of our times.

The last time I can remember watching an entire speech was on May 1, 2011, when Obama walked down a long hall in the White House up to a podium and announced that Seals had killed Osama Bin Laden.2

The news had leaked a little before his address. I had been studying for a test in the library. I walked back to my dorm to watch with everyone else. As he spoke, people started streaming into the streets with American flags and Roman candles.

Before the “Captured And Killed” address, I remember watching both Obama and McCain give their convention speeches. I watched Obama’s infamous ’04 DNC speech. And I remember seeing Bush that day at Ground Zero.

But in the last 8 years, I haven’t watched a single speech start to finish.3

Instead, I see shorter clips uploaded to Twitter. If I’m curious, I’ll Google the quotes to try to find the original video. This often takes me to YouTube, where I’ll search for “Trump Speech Rosegarden”, only to be met with a wall of MSNBC and Fox and CNN and TwoGuysNamedDan videos showing the same 10 second clip of Trump followed by 9 minutes of discussion.

Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, and the Twitter Industrial Complex behave like high-frequency traders, front-running news stories with speed and opinion. We the citizenry are retail investors, our leaders are institutional investors, and the news is the black box in the middle. They’re taking advantage of our information asymmetry to tell us, “You got a fair deal! You don’t need to see the whole market to know you got a really good price! We promise :)”

Years ago, I thought Twitter and Instagram meant I’d get to learn more about our leaders and current events. But I don’t see raw bullhorn speeches anymore. Everything is trimmed.

Where can I hear a Senator speak for longer than 15 seconds?

CSPAN, I know. But there’s some self-deception going on. We’re tricked into thinking we’re plugged in to what’s happening. Oh cool, AOC is showing us around her apartment!

The reality is much different. Imagine going to see the Mona Lisa. You get to the Louvre and walk up to the painting. When you get there, the painting is behind a curtain and instead you’re shown a photo of the Mona Lisa, with arrows and circles drawn over the top, directing your attention specifically to her left eye.

I’m finding it increasingly hard to just see the Mona Lisa.

  1. I watch lots of old speeches by Clinton, Reagan, Bush, Johnson, and others. But something feels different about these old-school speeches, I’m not sure what.