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Tag Archives: Mark Mitchell

They say you can’t keep a good man down, and apparently that also holds true for Mark Mitchell.  A post today on Silicon Investor reveals that our favorite desultory journalist is now saying that Deep Capture was “only half the story” and that a new piece of, er, journalism is being formed in his very-imitable-but-who-would-want-to style.

The featured thesis, at least for now, is that the Bernie Madoff scandal is, despite what you may have heard, actually a story about naked shorting.  And no, I’m not kidding.  And scarily enough, I suspect, neither is Mitchell.

Time will tell if I decide to journey through this new wilderness of verbage currently under construction.  I may seek out Bear Grylls for some advice in the meantime.

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This week’s section is rather short (oops, sorry), but contains within it some of the most implausible narrative yet.

We pick up the action from last week with the immediate aftermath of Byrne’s January 2004 Kudlow & Cramer interview.  And Byrne is on the phone to a Wall Street broker (unnamed of course).  I guess in Utah it must be customary, after a stressful experience, to dial up a stockbroker for some commiseration.  At any rate, Mitchell portrays Byrne as being entirely unaware of vile underbelly of Wall Street and its ongoing conspiracy with the financial media, and this anonymous broker is basically giving him the run down.  So basically, the wellspring of all of Byrne’s subsequent paranoia?  This guy.

Then, “just recently” (as of the time of Mitchell’s writing?  as of the interview?), two hedge fund managers, yes, those embodiments of all that is evil about Wall Street, just up and call Byrne to tell him they were naked shorting Overstock.  No, really, Mitchell actually writes that.  The narrative even implies the hedgie guys went out of their way to carefully explain to Byrne what they were doing to his company’s stock.  Mitchell goes on to say that that the broker executing the naked short sale was also spreading some kind of false rumor about Overstock (and, again, apparently telling Byrne all about it!) to further depress the share price.  And then he went home to beat up his wife and children, one supposes.  Honestly, I’ve seen villains in kids’ movies written deeper than this.

And then, just to throw a touch of nausea into the proceedings, Mitchell goes back and contrasts this with Byrne, who is portrayed as somehow still unaffected by all this and blissfully unaware of the dark conspiracy forming to take him and his company down.

At this point I have to wonder: Is Mitchell having us on here?  Are we going to go another ten sections in and he’ll say, “Just kidding!  Now here’s my real exposé piece”?  Because we’re really at the point where this isn’t even good fiction, much less something to be taken seriously as investigative journalism.

Next week: Another journalist in the spotlight, and this one isn’t even a thestreet.com alum!

Even as the journey begins there is much trepidation.  Mitchell continues to write at a rate that far outstrips the ground we’ll ever be able to cover.  What will things be like, if and when we emerge from the other end?  Will it even be the same story?  Or will it have retroactively updated itself as other aspects of this story have?

Having previously viewed our author through the eyes of the man who is now his boss, let’s move on to what he has to say for himself.

For all the buildup that Byrne gave to the prestige of the Columbia Journalism Review, it’s not long at all before Mitchell starts running counter to that by casting aspersions at his former employer.  Actually, the timeline he lays out is a moderately confusing one.  Apparently it goes like this:

  • January 2006: Mitchell begins work on first version of Deep Capture.
  • November 2006: A hedge fund (unnamed) who happened to be one of the (many) subjects of Mitchell’s work offers CJR a sizable donation.
  • Later that month (reported on November 25, 2006): Mitchell resigns from his post at CJR, for reasons unstated.
  • Shortly thereafter: CJR accepts the donation from the hedge fund.

The only apparent report of Mitchell’s resignation at the time appeared on a blog at UNC, which noted Mitchell’s very perfunctory comment at the time, and went on to note that Mitchell had been previously criticized for sloppy journalism and being part of a culture of recalcitrance in defense of the review’s own reports.

At any rate, Mitchell seems to want to leave the impression, without actually directly stating as such, that the hedge fund in question “bought” his resignation from CJR with their donation to the cash-strapped publication.  And so Mitchell’s story might have gone untold had it not been for the intervention of — surprise! — Patrick Byrne.

At this point Mitchell goes into what he seems to consider the centerpiece claim of his work, that the 1929 Crash — and subsequent Great Depression — was an event deliberately triggered by hedge funds or whatever their equivalents of the day were, and that the same tactics are once again in use today, with the same goal.

After plugging the “team” that helped him with the report (including, interestingly enough, some “gonzo computer hackers” and a “one-time foreign intelligence agent”) while conspicuously not naming any names, he goes on to predict the outcry from the mainstream media that his “vigilante journalism” will provoke.

But then again, given the effort being put into getting Mitchell’s work any publicity at all, I’m guessing the “outcry” is rather not up to the author’s expectations.  Again, at a little under 40,000 words I tend to think part of the problem is a lack of digestibility, even with the helpfully marked-off sections.  Indeed, it is one of this blog’s hopes to be able to break the whole thing down into more approachable chunks and in so doing derive something more amenable to a thorough evaluation.

So much for introductions.  Next, onto the prologue, where things start going loopy in earnest…

Greetings, reader. I suppose I should say “readers” but no point in being overly optimistic about such things.

The name’s Bond.  Underbond.  A trite joke, yes, but one that was going to be made sooner or later, so I might as well get it out of the way immediately.

The inspiration for this blog was an article in the UK publication The Register, wherein Overstock Inc. CEO Patrick Byrne publicly offered a total of $75,000 for promotion of Mark Mitchell’s treatise on stock market conspiracies entitled “Deep Capture”.

Simply stated, I want a piece of that money.

Now, that said, I do not promise to be glowing in my commentary about Mitchell’s work. In fact, from the few sections that I have scanned I find it to contain some quite atrocious writing for someone who has held a prominent editorial position.

Indeed, I do not even promise to be fair in my assessment of the piece. As the Patrick Byrne himself has illustrated, what can be deemed “fair and balanced” one day can be ripped as “crap” the next. That said, Mr. Byrne seems to be firm in the belief that all publicity is good publicity, and therefore fully expect that any possible bias on my part will be set aside when judging its promotional value to Mitchell’s work.

This journey into the Heart of Deepness will not be a swift one. The piece in question is broken up into no fewer than 82 sections, not counting the introduction from Byrne himself, and I have no intention of proceeding at a pace greater than one a week, a pace that would bring me to the end of the work sometime in early 2010.

Truth be told, this is a journey I do not expect to complete. Not because of the intervention of some Russian mobster or, for that matter, the wrath of the state of Utah coming down on my head for questioning their favorite son. No, in that length of time I fully expect the situation to have changed in some way — exactly what way I cannot be certain — that will render this effort moot.

But I have been wrong before on matters of that sort. So let’s go and see what’s out there.