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Zero Hedge: The Daily Kos of Financial Blogs

I'm only an imtermittent visitor to the financial blog Zero Hedge. But between my occasional perusals, and Joe Hagan's interesting profile of the blog (and its proprietor Dan Ivandjiiski) in last week's New York magazine, I can't help thinking it has a lot in common with the political blog Daily Kos. Both have an aggressively anti-establishment, semi-conspiratorial worldview and are constantly fulminating against the powers that be (big Wall Street firms in the first instance, sellout Washington Democrats and their corporate overseers in the second). Both are especially fond of trashing the mainstream media, which they deride as lazy, self-regarding, and corrupt. (In fact, both took off by giving voice to the frustrations of a large, alienated minority--aggrieved investors in the first instance, aggrieved liberals in the second--whose anger the mainstream media never sufficiently channeled.) And both have somewhat grandiose self-images.

Some revelant datapoints from Hagan's piece:

It’s fair to say that Zero Hedge’s success has given Ivandjiiski a newly minted sense of his own importance. In conversations with reporters, he regularly touts his influence with political figures like Schumer and Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, whose aides, he says, call him all the time. ...

Zero Hedge’s reputation has grown so much that last month, CNBC personalities Charlie Gasparino and Dennis Kneale felt moved to attack the site on-air. Kneale was particularly aggrieved by Zero Hedge’s ridicule of his declaration that the recession was over and delighted in describing anonymous bloggers as "dickweeds." (Gasparino used the more prosaic "morons.") Zero Hedge struck back with an "Open Letter to the Financial Media," characterizing criticism as the dying gasps of the old media. "Ladies and Gentlemen," it reads, "one-line zingers and contrived time limits designed to impale your hapless guests do not constitute 'constructive conflict' worthy of your interest in the Fourth Estate, which, incidentally, you do not own, but rather hold in trust on behalf of the citizenry. ...

It was around this time that Ivandjiiski, in his e-mails to me, began referring to himself in the third person. And one day after declaring our conversation over, he e-mailed again to flag yet another example of Zero Hedge’s influence: a scathing analysis he wrote last March about the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (NRUC), which prompted an angry press release from the company before the rating agency Fitch downgraded NRUC. In his final post on the subject, Zero Hedge predicted the move would leave the Virginia-based utility "in [a] smoldering heap of electric and telephone poles." ...

"A lot of the readers are people who felt like they’ve lost money to machinations on Wall Street in some way," reasons Carney. "They see Zero Hedge as standing up for them, so any critique of Zero Hedge is taken as something that really needs to be fought back against. All hands on deck."

It's hardly surprising that, as Hagan reports, Ivandjiiski was a big source for Matt Taibbi's conspiratorial assault on Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone this July. Over the last several years, of course, Taibbi has been a regulator exponent of the Kos-ian view of politics. (It's also not surprising that Taibbi's piece, and therefore Ivandjiiski's view of Goldman, were carefully dissected on Kos's site.)

Now obviously a literal reading of blogs like Kos and Zero Zedge can get you in trouble. And the number of sacred cows they claim credit for slaughtering probably exceeds the entire cattle population of United States. But, as with Kos, I actually think there's something to admire about Zero Hedge once you get beyond the bravado and the conspiracy theories. If Ivandjiiski's blog ends up doing for the financial world what Kos did for the political world--shining light on the establishment's excesses, causing fat-cats and insiders to think twice before they go about their daily routine--then that's probably a useful service.