Friday, February 8, 2008

The fear of fear itself

INT, STUDIO -- "THE BOTTOM LINE" SET. ENRIGHT and FRUM are rocking back and forth and chanting compulsively.

ENRIGHT: No depression.

FRUM: No depression.

ENRIGHT: How long have we been doing this?

FRUM: I don’t remember, but keep doing it. No depression.

ENRIGHT: Why are we doing it?

FRUM: It’s a basic economic principle. No depression.

ENRIGHT: What principle?

FRUM: Don’t think the bad thought. Then the bad thought won’t happen.

ENRIGHT: But isn’t this magical thinking?

FRUM: Yes. But magical thinking is what we need right now. No depression. The stock market function in terms of herd behavior based on irrational impulses. They teach that at Harvard. Therefore it’s true.

ENRIGHT: But isn’t the economy strong?

FRUM: In what sense?

ENRIGHT: Actual wealth.

FRUM: Wealth? This is no time for technical jargon! Define your terms, sir.

ENRIGHT: Wealth. As in natural resources, human potential, technology…

FRUM: I’m not following you.

ENRIGHT: Things that are actually worth something.

FRUM: Oh that! Wealth. Yes, I see what you’re driving at. On that basis, yes, the economy is strong. In terms of mere facts, yes. If you’d gone to Harvard like I did, you’d understand such rational thinkling is irrational in terms of herd behavior. That’s like reasoning with cows. No, it’s only a boat horn. Don’t go over a cliff. Cows are stupid. You don’t spook the cows. You don’t stampede the herd. That’s all there is to it.

ENRIGHT: I’m not stampeding the herd.

FRUM: I’m not stampeding the herd.

ENRIGHT: Everything’s fine, folks. But, if there is a stampede.

FRUM: There won’t be. No depression.

ENRIGHT: But if there is …

FRUM: That’s impossible. Well, highly unlikely.

EXT, DAY. Antartica, the Ross ice Shelf. A line of penguins dances across the ice. The ice cracks. They fall into the sea. Polar bears devour them.
Vast sheets of ice fall into the ocean.
Revealing …
The flying saucer from “the Thing.”

THE THING emerges from the saucer. It stands on top, released, triumphant. A singing PENGUIN scuttles by. The THING shoots out a pseudood, snaps it up into its maw, and devours it. The THING grows.

ENRIGHT: All I’m saying. If ...

FRUM: It is all you're saying. You’re a broken record!

ENRIGHT: In the unlikely scenario there is a stampede …

FRUM: There won’t be! Stampede? No depression. That’s like saying the sub-prime loan share of the financial market could crash that entire sector of our economic system. You’re dealing in fairy tales!

ENRIGHT: Even so. What could cause a stampede.

FRUM: Nothing!

ENRIGHT: Nothing?

FRUM: Nothing. Unless, I don’t know, economists such as ourselves keep talking about the possibility.

ENRIGHT: Of a stampede?

FRUM: Of a new great depression. A mindless panic.

ENRIGHT: You're saying we start it?

FRUM: Yes. Hypothetically.

ENRIGHT: How do we start it? Hypothetically.

FRUM: In the mind, of course. You and I have planted the seed.


FRUM: Fear. Exactly. The seed of fear. Archetypal images of the Great Depression, breadlines, crazy old grandpa who always saved string. We keep talking about it. Before you know it, all those hard-working speculators out there who keep our imaginary economy growing think their lucky streak is over. Oh no! The woman in the black dress touched the green felt table the wrong way! It spooks them. The fear we’ve planted germinates. The fear grows.

ENRIGHT: Fear. The one thing we fear.

FRUM: No. that’s the fear of fear.

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