With the Middle East back in the news for the umpty-umpth time in my life, I’m reminded of a couple of observations. In his 1986 career advice book Claw Your Way to the Top, Dave Barry notes that the explanations you hear on the news for why stock prices rose or fell today often lack prima facie persuasiveness:
Of course, the people on Wall Street don’t want to admit this, which why they’re alway making up preposterous explanations as to why stock prices rise and fall, such as “tension in the Middle East,” when of course there is always tension in the Middle East. When we finally have a nuclear war and there is no life left on Earth except cockroaches, the cockroaches in the Middle East will be tense.
Noam Chomsky books his globe-spanning lecture tours on current events months and even years in advance. Organizers often ask him for a title for the speech he’s going to give on whatever will be in the news in a year or two. He always suggests “The current crisis in the Middle East” and it hasn’t let him down yet.