The whole messy, ridiculous GameStop saga in one sentence

If you want it in a sentence, I guess it goes something like this: The GameStop saga is a ludicrous stock mania born of pandemic boredom and FOMO, piggybacking off of a clever Reddit revenge plot, which targeted hedge funds, who made a reckless bet on a struggling retailer—and it’s going to end with lots of people losing incredible amounts of money…

What’s new here is the presence of Reddit and Robinhood. The GameStop trade briefly conquered the world by taking advantage of two things the internet does very effectively. First, the internet is really good at manufacturing upstart sects, for good and for evil. You can despise the Capitol siege of January 6 (I do) and adore the GameStop surge of January 26 (I’m undecided), but still see something in common: two anti-institutional plots conceived in online message boards, amplified on broader platforms such as YouTube, and actualized, chaotically, in the real world. Tens of millions of people in this country who are soaked in the attention economy are, apparently, eager to throw their weight behind some 15-minute-famous cause, and it’s not always straightforward from the onset which ones are safe and virtuous and which ones are not.

Second, the internet democratizes access to information and communication—again, for good and for evil. “Retail investors with the help of technology acting as a union in attacking is a new phenomenon,” Jim Paulsen, an investment strategist, told CNBC. “You combine the power of technology, which allows you through Reddit postings to magnify your individual impact, with some use of leverage and very targeted bets, [and] they can have a significant influence.” That’s right, but the democratization of finance is, like the democratization of everything, a rose with thorns. GameStop’s stock has soared, not in response to its economic fundamentals, but in proportion to the number of people paying attention to it.