Programming Note: Darts and Letters is off and retooling to relaunch in a new format early 2024.

EP11: Gaming the Stock Market (w/ Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House)

For a moment, all the eyes of the world were on GameStop. It’s unexpected, meteoric rise. It’s inevitable fall. The saga became a rorschach test for our politics. Was it a revolutionary moment, the many pushing back against the few? Was it an old school pump and dump, just folks out to make some money? And who was against whom, exactly? 

Well, it was…a spectacle. That’s for sure. We dive into the wild world of stocks, the bubbles of present and the past, and the spectacularized social media environment that is distorting our very understanding of true politics. Abandon all hope, ye who enter. 

  • First, (@8:28) Karim Hummos is a high school senior in Chicago, Illinois. While he waits for college application decisions, he spends his time on r/WallStreetBets—and making a pretty penny too. He takes us into the world of the stock (or stonk) trading subreddit, including “loss porn” and more. 
  • Then, (@27:42) the “Cushbomb” himself. Matt Christman, is the co-host of the podcast Chapo Trap House, and he offers up a real poster’s lament. He argues that the GameStop phenomenon is a perfect example of just how unreal our politics has become. We post and we post, but will it ever change anything? 
  • Finally, (@41:34) James K. Galbraith is a titan of left-wing economics and Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He co-signs the argument that the stock market is all about spectacle– it always has been But our political leaders have decided to embrace the show. They’ve made the stock market so integral, but it didn’t have to be this way. 



In an earlier version of this episode, Gordon says that Wall Street ‘put the squeeze on Robinhood, and Robinhood obliged.’ He was referring to widespread speculation about whether particular hedge funds influenced the company’s decisions. Robinhood was asked to testify before Congress about such questions. But they denied the accusations. Upon reflection, we really don’t have evidence to support our strong claim–so we retracted it, and re-uploaded a version of the podcast without that line.

Still, there are investigations about their revenue model, and a potential conflict of interest here between their funders and the retail investors they are supposedly serving. This deserves greater scrutiny.

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Darts and Letters’ lead producer is Jay Cockburn, and our chase producer is Marc Apollonio. With research and support from Addye Susnick and David Moscrop.

Our theme song was created by Mike Barber, and our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop.

This episode received support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research, which provided us a research grant to look at the concept of “public intellectualism.” Professor Allen Sens at the University of British Columbia is the lead academic advisor. 

Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. It is also produced in Vancouver, BC, which is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

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