Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Zero Hedge: Sociopaths, Manipulators Get Rich On Doom Porn, Trashing America

Anti-American website a matrix of propaganda, disinformation, bogus "financial advice"    

By Robert S. Finnegan

Navigating today's brave new world of mass-media disinformation is now more often than not analogous to running a gauntlet of mind-numbing, sensationalist headlines and pure fabrication passing for "news," leaving the casual reader confused, battered and dismayed at the dearth of anything even remotely resembling actual news reporting in today's baffling media minefield.

News junkies of today have now become actual researchers, forced to sift through an eye-watering overload of options across a media landscape spanning the social, political and cultural spectrum formerly accessible in the past through a relatively quick and easy perusal of reasonably credible daily newspapers and a handful of broadcast news stations. Those bygone days are now a footnote in history, an addendum to the protracted story documenting the decline and fall of what is now the DOA 4th Estate and it's slide into today's fake news minefield of mass-media oblivion.

With every passing day the fake news purveyors and manipulators become more and more sophisticated, metastasising across the lines of print, broadcast and internet platforms. Some are transparently easy to spot, isolate and quarantine while others mutate daily in order to confuse, disorient and bedevil consumers in their disorienting search for factual and credible news reporting.

One graphic example of this insidious malignancy is the internet website Zero Hedge, a portal for "doom porn" that has now become a huge moneymaker in the digital world, along with "financial advice" that has led to the monetary evisceration of many investors that mistakenly took their slick "reports" on finance and Wall Street as the real thing.

Zero Hedge is a classic representation of the sophistry and propagandist modus operandi combining sourced news with totally contrived refuse in order to mask it's origins and intent, which is ultimately to confound, befuddle and misinform the reader.

Posts on Zero Hedge are written under the pseudonym "Tyler Durdin," Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s character from “Fight Club.”

If nothing else the term "Buyer Beware" or "Caveat Emptor" applies in spades to Zero Hedge for both financial investors and news consumers alike.

Durden is actually two men: wealthy financial analysts Daniel Ivandjiiski and Tim Backshall. The Sydney Morning Herald provides background:

Ivandjiiski worked for a hedge fund before being barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in 2008 for insider trading. He didn't admit or deny wrongdoing, the agency said. Backshall is a familiar face on financial news networks who has been quoted by media outlets, including Bloomberg.

The schism between the men sheds light on a website popular among market professionals, one that mixes detailed financial analysis with sensational headlines such as 'The Coming War Will Solve Our Unemployment & Growth Problem' and 'Exposed-How Two Janet Yellen Phone Calls Saved The World'.

Often distrustful of the "establishment" and almost always bearish, it's known for a pessimistic world view. Posts entitled 'Stocks Are In a Far More Precarious State Than Was Ever Truly Believed Possible' and 'America's Entitled (And Doomed) Upper Middle Class' are not uncommon.

The site's ethos is perhaps best summed up by the tagline at the top of its homepage, also borrowed from Fight Club: "On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." 

A paean to populism, the 1999 film is filled with loathing for consumerism and the financial system. Brad Pitt portrays Tyler Durden as hell-bent on bringing down the corrupt system of the global elite-an attitude often reflected in Zero Hedge's content.

With that in mind, the website has argued that "pseudonymous speech" is necessary amid an atmosphere of stifled public dissent-hence the "Tyler Durden" alias was born.

"It reminds me of a successful information operation where you mix in the propaganda stories along with other legitimate stories," said Craig Pirrong, finance professor at the University of Houston. "There are some interesting things on it, and then there are the crazy things."

Profit Motive

Despite holding itself out as a town crier for market angst, transcripts from Zero Hedge internal chat sessions provided by Lokey reveal a focus on Web traffic by the Durdens. Headlines are debated and a relentless publishing schedule maintained to keep readers sated. 

Ivandjiiski has a multimillion-dollar mansion in New Jersey, and Backshall lives in a plush San Francisco suburb - not exactly reflections of Pitt's anticapitalist icon.

Zero Hedge founder Ivandjiiski defended the site, adding that it's designed to be a for-profit entity. "Ultimately, the website makes money, and it's profitable, which is also why we've never had to seek outside funding or any outside money-our only revenue is from advertising, always has been since day one," he said. "Obviously, every publisher's mission is to maximize revenue and page views, and we think that we do it in a way that is appropriate."
Outside the bubble

Any website's focus on traffic and revenue certainly isn't unusual. 

Ivandjiiski disagreed with the suggestion that personal worth or lifestyle precluded them from donning the mask of Durden (the character who quipped "the things you own end up owning you") to deride the prevailing order. "We've never said that we are pro-socialist," he said.

Excerpt From Wikipedia:

Zero Hedge was established in 2009. According to the Boston Business Journal, the website "publishes financial news and opinion, aggregated and original" from a number of writers "who purportedly hail from within the financial industry."[8] Posts on the website are signed "Tyler Durden," a character in the Chuck Palahniuk book and movie Fight Club.[8][9]

In 2009, shortly after the blog was founded, news reports identified Daniel Ivandjiiski, a Bulgarian-born former hedge-fund analyst who was barred from the industry for insider trading by FINRA in 2008, as the founder of the site, and reported that "Durden" was a pseudonym for Ivandjiiski. [9][10][11][5]

One contributor, who spoke to New York magazine after an interview was arranged by Ivandjiiski, said that "up to 40" people were permitted to post under the "Durden" name.[9] The website is registered in Bulgaria at the same address as that of Strogo Sekretno, a site run by Ivandjiiski's father, Krassimir Ivandjiiski.[12] Zero Hedge is registered under the name Georgi Georgiev, a business partner of Krassimir Ivandjiiski.[13]

In April 2016, the authors writing as "Durden" on the website were reported by Bloomberg News to be Ivandjiiski, Tim Backshall (a credit derivatives strategist), and Colin Lokey. Lokey, the newest member revealed himself and the other two when he left the site in April 2016. Ivandjiiski confirmed that the three men "had been the only Tyler Durdens on the payroll" since Lokey joined the site in 2015.[5]


5. Alloway, Tracy; Kawa, Luke (April 29, 2016). "Unmasking the Men Behind Zero Hedge, Wall Street's Renegade Blog", Bloomberg Markets. Archive: [1]

8. Moore, Galen (December 19, 2012). "Bank of America blocks employees from reading Zero Hedge blog". Boston Business Journal.

9. Hagan, Joe (September 27, 2009). "The Dow Zero Insurgency", New York. Retrieved May 12, 2011.

10. Fox, Justin (October 10, 2009). "Wall Streeters like conspiracy theories. Always have". Time.

11. Whitehouse, Kaja (September 2, 2009). "Blogger May Have a Past", New York Post. Retrieved May 12, 2011.

12. Mishev, Konstantin (26 June 2016). "Zero Hedge now for use in Bulgaria too". Bulgaria Analytica.

13. МАРИЯНСКА, Еми (6 September 2014). "Българин е най-скандалният блогър в Щатите". Blitz (in Bulgarian).

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