Bad news travels fast. Good news, not at all

July 16, 2008, 1:51 PM UTC

This securities analyst, who himself works for a firm on the brink of ruin, took the opportunity the other day to bring down my entire sector. It wasn’t hard. He simply wrote up the absolutely worst, most pessimistic doomsday scenario for my industry, and then applied it to every company in it.

He was alone in his assessment of the situation, of course. There are dozens of others who don’t see things that way. But in the current climate, he hit publicity pay dirt. Put together depressed reporters on the verge of losing their jobs, nervous – hell, frightened – investors, and a banking industry that is taking the hose, and you have a scenario when any chicken little is immediately promoted to top rooster in the imploding henhouse of capital.

If you say things will be all right one day and here’s why, nobody is going to listen to you right now. If you say that Armageddon is at hand, everybody runs for the hills and tells the world what they just heard. It’s natural. We’re in that part of the cycle.

Dawn will break one day. It always does. But in the meantime, the red death holds sway over all.

In this interim between good cheer and sanity, I’d like to remind you of the following things that were certainly going to happen in my lifetime so far:

  • A nuclear war was going to sweep across the Earth, ending life on the planet as we know it;
  • The Russians were going to bury us;
  • Overpopulation was going to end life on Earth as we know it;
  • All of Southeast Asia was going to fall like a bunch of dominoes to the commies;
  • We’re on the Eve of Destruction;
  • Japan was going to take over the entire world economy and run everything;
  • Y2K was going to melt down every computer on the planet, leading to the end of life on Earth as we know it;
  • Microsoft (MSFT) was going to conquer everybody and end capitalism on earth as we know it;
  • There will be no more honeybees;
  • Global warming will end life on Earth as we know it.
  • Nostradamus predicted that life on Earth as we know it will end in about six minutes;
  • Life on Earth as we know it will end on 12/12/2012. I’m not sure why. Perhaps you can fill me in on that.
  • China is the awakening giant and will run the world very soon;
  • Robert Downey, Jr. is done in show business, can’t get insured and will never make another film.

And so forth. Why do we listen to this kind of stuff? Why do we always believe it? If we’re going to make stuff up to conform to our current view of the world, why do the lone, shrill voices of despair always grab the headlines?

And for the record, my business is not going away. We will live to see that security analyst thrust from the bosom of conventional wisdom, exiled to the job of writing and distributing his own newsletter.