The collapse of capitalism is actually too damn overwhelming for most journalists — much less their readers — to grasp. So how to approach? With a tried-and-true socio-anthropological take on What It Really Means In America As Told To Some Narrow Niche Of Society. Let's start with strippers!
1. THE 'HOW THIS IS PLAYING OUT AT THE STRIP CLUB' ANGLE What's the best barometer of the real effects of an occasion that mostly concerns a bunch of overstressed obnoxious white guys reporters are scared to talk to? What's true at Republican conventions is true of Wall Street meltdowns: um, surely the strippers can explain it to us! Though shoe shiners will do too. But there seems to be an ongoing debate as to whether sex work is a "recession proof" industry. The New York Post reported today that strippers are suffering from something called a "lap deficit." But wait, no they're not, New York Magazine reports, Rick's Cabaret is full! Back in April, Page Six Magazine suggested strip club patrons were simply rotating their excess funds into the Asian massage sector.
2. THE 'DETESTABLE RICH PEOPLE PUT OFF PLASTIC SURGERY' ANGLE Yup, for guys who love to scoff at the whole concept of "trickle-down economics" the media has never met a trickle-down angle it couldn't turn into an evergreen trend piece! And how can you blame them? There is perhaps no more satisfying a story to report (or read) than the "clueless white people who put the 'despicable' in 'conspicuous consumption' forced to cut back on pointless grotesque spending patterns'"…because, even as this angle invariably gets tired and predictable, it also manages to get more ridiculous as the wealth controlled by the plutocracy has geometrically expanded. Witness the Journal's Saturday story about how yacht builders, jewelers, plastic surgeons and caviar purveyors are coping with the crisis:
A nose job in a hospital with a private nurse in attendance had been something of a rite of passage for Joan Asher's children. But when her fourth and last child was ready for her own rhinoplasty recently, Ms. Asher asked her to postpone it. The financial markets were simply more out of whack than her 16-year-old's proboscis. "The other noses were more prominent," the stay-at-home mother from a tony New York City suburb in Westchester County told her 16-year-old daughter. She could get hers done when things settled down.
3. THE HA HA HA, 'ASSETS FOR SALE ON EBAY' ANGLE When a firm collapses because no one will buy any of those fancy financial instruments whose underlying value has been wiped away by ninety seven layers of fees and discredited wishful thinking, well, that iswhen it is really fun to point out there is still a liquid market for the one palpable thing that firm was producing while it was collecting those fees: tote bags and associated other memorabilia! When Bear Stearns collapsed last winter its signature teddy bear became an instant collector's item. And 450 Lehman Brothers-related items showed up on eBay last week, including this handy emergency evacuation kit! The crap is probably mostly all made in China, but the "brand" lends "added value" because it so succinctly evokes the ultimate final collapse of the myth that shit like brands add value.
4. THE 'END OF GREED' ANGLE It's the end of investment banking, the end of greed, the end of Nobutini-addled banker sex following 90-hour workweeks, New York as you knew it, basically. Once there was a time you could be a smart, ambitious student at a top-tier university, pursue a field other than finance or consulting, and still live with yourself! That all changed some time after most journalists graduated from their Ivy League institutions. All the brightest minds wanted to do was i-bank! Because they were drawn in by the glamour and greed and fancy jargon they got to throw around like they were in some cool secret society. Well, that is over, say trend story writers. Thank god, says NYT columnist Roger Cohen, who praises the "death of a culture."
5. THE 'END OF AMERICA/CAPITALISM/END OF HISTORY' ANGLE America and/or capitalism is dead. Welcome to the Third World, America! Or as Niall Ferguson calls it, Chimerica. Yikes! Polish immigrants are going home. There's a crescendo of schadenfreude across continental Europe, where we have long mocked them for actually believing in stuff like "regulation" and "social safety nets." But no one could be more psyched than Hugo Chavez. Ha ha ha, too bad Chavez had $300 million invested in Lehman Brothers. Shit, whose currency do the North Koreans counterfeit now? And what would Lenin say? Wait, are we even joking anymore? No!
6. THE "WALL STREET: YES, IT REALLY DOES AFFECT MAIN STREET, SORT OF, WE CAN'T TOTALLY EXPLAIN WHY' ANGLE Well clearly, Christmas is going to suck! Possibly numerous percentage points more than it did last year! Retailers are already bracing for weak holiday sales, reports the Journal. People are second-guessing their purchases of everything — even prescription drugs (but I thought all prescription drugs were life necessities?!). Even Bratz dolls! What does it have to do with, say, the new restrictions on short-selling? Nothing! But hey, the government is a big hedge fund suddenly and these aren't rational times we're talking about.