The Michael Lewis Podcast

Can Michael Lewis change the world?

We’re addicted to narrative. If you can tell a good story, there’s a market for you. There’s a dearth of good storytellers, despite the plethora of television shows and books, but if you nail it, we’re interested.

Michael Lewis is an incredible storyteller in print.

He’s not quite as good in the audio format.

But that doesn’t matter here, because the points he is making, the examples he’s using, kick you in the stomach, make your head spin and cry out HALLELUJAH, SOMEONE’S ON MY SIDE!

And which side is Michael Lewis on?

I don’t think the average person considers him a lefty. And after you hear his story of Cambridge Analytica, you certainly won’t think he’s on the Democratic team. But one thing’s for sure, Michael’s against the inequities of the financial system, and only a few people support that rip-off world.

So the first episode is about basketball. Like I said, Lewis is not the best podcaster. You’re not quite sure where he’s going and his voice is neither soothing nor addictive. It’s like some guy who you’re not sure if you like telling you a story you’re interested in, and boy are you interested. But you’ve got to listen a while to get hooked.

The episode details refereeing in the NBA. Talks all about this center in New Jersey where plays are reviewed, on the fly. And that’s interesting, but not as interesting as the final segment, the heart of the matter.

The people who complain most are the superstars. They feel they’re entitled to have things go their way. Then it’s expanded to people in expensive cars, they don’t obey the rules. And suddenly you realize the ultra-successful don’t see the world the same way you do, you react to it, they frame it. In other words, superstars of sport and commerce believe the game should yield to them, as opposed to vice versa. And we love and hate them for it at the same time. You can read their books, take their advice, but it never works, because they’re different at the core, they’re ENTITLED! This is when you realize the rich get richer and really, no one’s on your side, as my father used to say, “shnooks get screwed.”

The second episode is all about the financial system, how it’s built on screwing the rank and file. The narrative concerns a schoolteacher, who owes a ton in student loans, but the company which manages them for the government is built on obfuscation. It doesn’t tell her about loan relief, doesn’t inform her of the essence of forbearance. Each rep is only given seven minutes per call, and their paycheck is more important than your obligation so they throw you off. Meanwhile, the head of the company makes millions. Why?

But even better is the segment on Elizabeth Warren. It’s segments like these that could get her elected. It tells her history, how she was a bankruptcy law professor who felt there should be a government agency to protect the public. No one cares until she writes an obscure journal article, which suddenly gains traction. This is years ago, in the aughts. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau becomes a reality after the economic crash. Its mission is to stand up for the people. But then Trump gets elected and it’s neutered. Hell, they spend millions trying to rebrand it to try to diminish its impact. This is where corporate power comes in. The Bureau was not beholden to Congress. Which meant that the lobbyists, the people who own the elected officials, couldn’t meddle. And the financial institutions didn’t like this, so they had it stripped of power. There’s not a Trump acolyte alive, at least not one that’s not a zillionaire, who wouldn’t listen to this and ponder their allegiance. Who is sticking up for them? Never forget, it’s all about obfuscation in politics, it’s about personality and social mores rather than the real issues. Hell, that’s one of the reasons Warren is castigated, she’s a wonk. Who cares whether she has Native American blood or not, can she help the little guy? The truth is the powers-that-be don’t want the little guy helped.

The third episode is about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook throws the researcher under the bus, and his career is ruined, he can’t get a job and he owes a ton of money in legal fees. The bottom line…it didn’t work. That’s right, Cambridge Analytica’s data was worthless. The professor said he could predict personal characteristics at best with 1% accuracy. But that’s not the story online, in most of the news media. In other words the crowd got it wrong, there was no wisdom in the mass. Kinda like that guy who blew the whistle on Theranos and attorneys attacked him and his parents had to mortgage their house for his legal fees and the end result was…HE WAS RIGHT!

Gets even worse. Margaret Sullivan was the Public Editor of the “New York Times.” But that job no longer exists, news outlets believe the crowd online will keep them in line.

And this is where Lewis posits we need a referee, to get the story straight, to get the facts straight.

That’s what we’re missing…everybody’s making up their own facts, to their own advantage. Good luck spreading truth, people don’t want to hear it. Corporations don’t want exposes and penalties and they want to keep people voting against their interests.

But think of that… What if we had an online referee?

As for Facebook, it sacrificed the professor to save itself. It couldn’t be their problem, but it is! Because they’re wealthier with a whole cadre of publicists and lobbyists.

That’s what ties all the episodes together. The issue of refereeing. And the fact that no one is happy with what’s called, even if there is a referee. The NBA refs are light years more accurate than before, listen to the first episode for explanation, but the players aren’t happy, the fans aren’t happy…what chance do we have with corporations and politics??

Now the thing about podcasts is they’re a private experience. You can’t multitask, you miss the point.

And there are all kinds of podcasts, some no different from radio shows, but many go much deeper. In a so-called era of short attention spans, listeners can’t get enough.

And Lewis is working for Pushkin Industries, the new podcast company formed by Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg.

Now at this point, I’m skeptical of Gladwell, because he skews the facts to fit his narrative. But that’s not how Lewis works, he tells the facts and then analyzes them and makes a point. Gladwell’s a better storyteller, but not only his elocution and over-confidence start to bug you, but if you know anything about what he’s talking about, you sometimes find out he’s wrong. Is Los Angeles known for its luscious private golf courses? I’ve never heard anybody say that. Bowdoin doesn’t serve steak and lobster on a regular basis, but Gladwell neglected to contact the administration to find out the truth. And when confronted with his mistakes, Gladwell just doubled-down, isn’t that what’s wrong with America?

Then again, I give him credit for this elite podcast company. To extract the best prices for advertising.

But it’s still the wild west.

But the narrative hooks you. It’s the antidote to the in-your-face shenanigans of the influencers and entertainers. It’s more serious, the Lewis podcast makes you think, you remember thinking, don’t you?

Tune in, you’ll be stimulated. And you’ll be convinced the country can’t be fixed, but it can sure be a lot better. And fairer.

Against the Rules with Michael Lewis

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