In the first week of Wall Street trading in January of 2021, stock in the video game retail chain GameStop (NYSE: GME) hovered at a price of around $18 per share.
Less than three weeks later, on Wednesday morning those same shares were fluctuating wildly between $250 and nearly $400. This kind of growth is unheard of for an established, brick and mortar retail chain — especially when a pandemic is keeping people indoors.
So what did GameStop do to deserve this incredible rally? Absolutely nothing.
If anything, you could argue that the company's lackluster performance was what triggered this incredible rise, as it was the proliferation of "short" positions — bets against the company's future value — that brought the stock to the attention of the WallStreetBets subreddit.
A subsection of reddit with millions of subscribed users, WallStreetBets describes itself as, "Like 4chan found a Bloomberg Terminal." In other words, it's a place for Extremely Online and unserious hobbyists to overanalyze the absurdly complex data that professional traders use to make investment decisions in the stock market.
Generally speaking, this leads to some pretty reckless speculation that often does not pan out well for the users. They're like small-time gamblers boosting each other up to play with the high rollers, and it's not uncommon to see a post from a redditor explaining how they lost their life savings.
But in this case they managed to turn that dynamic around. Like those little dinosaurs from Jurassic Park 2, individually they are small and vulnerable, but if they work together, they can take down the big assh**es...or, medium-sized ass**les anyway. They won't be tackling T-Rex or J.P. Morgan any time soon.
But what actually happened? The answer is complex, but the basic version requires a brief explanation of the slightly sketchy practice of short selling. Also known as "shorting," short selling inverts the standard "buy low, sell high" model of trading.
When a trader identifies a stock that they think is overvalued — because of hype, fraud, or expected trends — they borrow someone else's shares and immediately sell them at the current rate, planning to buy back once the value goes down and return them to the lender with some profit left over from the original sale.
There is also the short-call option, where — for a small fee — you offer a window of time in which to buy shares at a set price above its current value. If the stock rises above that price within the time limit, you have to sell it at a loss. But if it goes down — as you expect — you can just pocket the fee, and never have to truly own the stock in the first place.
In both scenarios you're relying on the idea that the company's perceived value will go down. But the truly sinister aspect is that — when a lot of these bets are being made against a company — it's often taken as a bad sign, leading traders to sell off their stock, driving the value down.
It's a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that destroys businesses and small-time traders to the benefit of multi-billion-dollar hedge funds. It's the kind of trading that accelerated the financial crisis of 2009 while raking in billions for the scavengers. But if the stock's value just keeps going up — for whatever reason — the hedge fund can end up on the hook for some truly staggering losses.
Investor Chamath Palihapitiya: The GameStop story is pushback against Wall Street establishment www.youtube.com
So when WallStreetBets users noticed the overwhelming amount of betting against GameStop, they decided to intervene on the company's behalf — and to make some money for themselves while screwing over some big investors. Never mind that one of the subreddit's official rules prohibits market manipulation. It's for a good cause — kind of.
From there a strange and powerful feedback loop took hold. As more and more redditors bought shares in GameStop, driving the price above $60 over the course of a week, the incentive to treat the stock as overvalued increased — after all, there was nothing in the company's performance to justify the higher price.
Investors poured an additional $2.75 billion into Melvin Capital — one of the biggest short sellers — to cover the losses until the trend turned around. But the short sellers' dismissive attitude toward the early growth actually helped to inflate the price and spurred on the weirdos at WallStreetBets.
With some encouragement from Tesla CEO Elon Musk — who hates short sellers and generally holds a weird amount of petty grudges for a man whose 2020 earnings were literally higher than the GDPs of most countries on Earth — they drove GameStops share prices even higher. And as media coverage (hi there) spread news of this absurd battle — and the dire situation a bunch of weird hobbyists had created for Melvin Capital — the hype only grew, driving the price even higher.
Gamestonk!! https://t.co/RZtkDzAewJ— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1611695282.0
By Wednesday morning, Melvin Capital and Citron Capital — another major proponent of shorting GameStop — had both announced that they were abandoning their short selling positions and swallowing the losses...but WallStreetBets doesn't buy it. Suspecting the investment firms of attempting to let the air out of the story so they can finally profit as the inflated stock collapses back to a reasonable value, redditors have continued pumping up the stock.
But as crazy as all of this is, on some level it serves to expose the insanity that was already there. The stock market is all based on speculation and hype and speculation about the trends in hype — all operating at degrees of removal from the economic realities of the companies involved.
Is GameStop's share price artificially inflated? Absolutely.
But so are a thousand other companies that have spent tax cuts and government bailouts on stock buybacks, rather than paying their workers a fair wage or investing in new ventures. It may make for a more dramatic story — and will probably end up inspiring more regulatory pushback — but is the game they're playing worse than the short sellers themselves working to depress stock prices?
For so long we have been taught to treat the stock market as an index of our nation's whole economy. Perhaps that's why, in 2020, the one area where the government wasn't stingy with its support was in propping up the financial sector.
As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average quickly recovered from an early COVID crash and ended up increasing in value by 10% over the course of the year. At the same time we saw record-breaking unemployment, endless lines at food banks, and thousands upon thousands of businesses folding as a result of the protracted half-measures of our noncommittal COVID lockdown.
More than any flash crash or high-frequency middlemen, some weirdos working together on Reddit have helped to expose how unreal the whole system is. The stock market is not the economy. It's just a weird, artificial, predatory game our billionaire overlords play with the economy. And at the moment, some regular nerds are outplaying them — and potentially making millions in the process.
Please share this. There is currently $38 MILLION USD worth of shorts on $AMC When these short sellers don't hit… https://t.co/GLzA7Y2xVM— Reddit Trading 🚀 (@Reddit Trading 🚀)1611767995.0
There's no way of knowing quite how high GameStop's stock will rise, or what will happen to the company when it eventually crashes back to Earth — there's not really a precedent for this. But hopefully the whole ordeal will serve as a lesson for the hedge funds, investment banks, and other bloated parasites thriving in a hellish economy — that every now and then, the little guys can bite back.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the hype is still going, with the phrase "to the moon" trending on Twitter, and WallStreetBets continuing to inflate the share price of GameStop along with AMC and Blackberry — whose stocks were similarly targeted by short sellers.
Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.
In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.
In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.
But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.
Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.
In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.
Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.
Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:
1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan
2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.
3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.
4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.
5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.
Here are charities offering support in Haiti:
1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.
2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.
3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.
4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.
When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.
Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.
The aesthetics were undeniably luxe and historic. The campaign showcased the rarely-seen Basquiat painting Equals Pi (1982), which the brand acquired for the background's proximity to its distinctive Tiffany blue. Also notably historic is that Beyoncé was the first Black woman to wear the 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond.
Before Beyoncé, the only other stars to wear the yellow diamond were Mary Whitehouse, wife of American diplomat Edwin Sheldon Whitehouse, Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn, and singer Lady Gaga.
"Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the epitome of the modern love story …. Love is the diamond that the jewelry and art decorate," said the press release accompanying the campaign.
The campaign, titled "About Love," is stunning and has both classic and contemporary references. The image of the couple posing in front of high art recalled the iconic stills from their "APESHIT" music video, for which they famously rented out the Louvre and posed in front of the Mona Lisa.
THE CARTERS - APESHIT (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Their "APESHIT" photo made a giant cultural impact for its juxtaposition of Western beauty and Blackness. Tiffany's campaign seemed to have similar goals — showcasing Beyoncé and Jay Z as the peak of luxury, this time juxtaposing the Basquiat and the Tiffany diamond.
As a Black couple, their appearance in such a luxury campaign was a big move for representation, but in a post 2020 landscape, there was an outcry of criticism.
Despite the aesthetic beauty of the image, the high capitalist undertones didn't sit right with some on the internet — largely younger demographics. Though this campaign was an effort by Tiffany's to appeal to younger audiences and make the brand feel more relevant, Twitter's verdict was clear: a blood diamond wasn't the way to go.
The diamond, which was mined in South Africa in 1877, comes from origins laden in the implications of colonialism. The practice of mining in South Africa at the time was exploitative and destructive, eschewing the livelihoods and safety of African miners and their communities for... what? Money? So Tiffany could try to sell us some dream of affluence using Black celebrities as to "Blackwash" the history behind their treasured piece?
The Washington Post also had some choice words, saying: "Its campaign does not celebrate Black liberation — it elevates a painful symbol of colonialism. It presents an ostentatious display of wealth as a sign of progress in an age when Black Americans possess just 4 percent of the United States's total household wealth. If Black success is defined by being paid to wear White people's large colonial diamonds, then we are truly still in the sunken place."
Alongside the campaign, Tiffany & Co have promised to donate $2 million to HBCUs to fund scholarships and internships. But this measly amount (considering the multi-billion dollar net worth behind LVMH) is not enough to cover up that, despite their performative efforts to promote "diversity," Tiffany's is entrenched in a colonial history that neither beauty nor Beyonce can make us ignore.
While Black representation has been increasing over the past few years, the question of how we are represented is starting to be considered with more nuance. And as we examine the structures of wealth and hierarchical values, many people are starting to ask whether these should be the standards we aspire to anymore.
Jay Z and Beyoncé have come under fire before for their promotion of Black Capitalist values — which the kids don't seem to want. Jay Z especially seems invested in the trappings of traditional (read: white) success and wealth. His cannabis line recently unveiled a campaign based on the work Slim Aarons — which was famously focused on "attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places" — and its unashamed opulence raised some eyebrows.
Images like this aren't as revolutionary as they once might have been since they reinforce the status quo and tell marginalized people to reach for the same luxuries and lifestyles deemed aspirational by the people who have oppressed them.
Anti-capitalist theory has been around as long as capitalism has, but younger generations are more likely to question the status quo — even when it comes packed with Basquiat and Beyoncé.
The conversation about the Tiffany campaign is indicative of how Gen Z thinks differently about money and what it means to them. They are less likely to be seduced by the luster of the aspirational, and more receptive to relatability.
No more does financial literacy seem restricted to the pretentious or the elite — we get it, finance bros; you love capitalism. With Cleo, understanding your money is something that can align users with their values.
And those values don't look like blood diamonds or corporate pandering.
- Sorry, Beyoncé, but Tiffany's blood diamonds aren't a girl's best friend - Washington Post
- The Black-white wealth gap left Black households more vulnerable — Brookings
- The Unashamed Opulence of Jay Z's Luxury Cannabis-Themed Slim Aarons Photoshoot — Popdust
- ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE DOING ATTRACTIVE THINGS IN ATTRACTIVE PLACES WITH SLIM AARONS — Elle Decor
Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.
From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.
1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance
If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.
2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping
All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.
camping road tripConde Nast Traveler
If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).
3. Bring Food From Home
Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.
Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.
4. Avoid Tolls
Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).
You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.
Road TripThe Orange Backpack
5. Save on Gas
Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.
6. Get a National Park Pass
All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.