Black swans and ongoing stories

With Brett Kavanaugh confirmed despite the predictable (and still ongoing) protestations from the the left, the news cycle once again resumes its lull. Of course, there is ‘stuff’ going on–but it’s stuff that is ongoing. As discussed in the post Unknown unknowns, although there are a lot of unknowns, they are all known. Or when unknown (such as the Nikki Haley resignation yesterday), the stakes are not that high. A story begins as ‘breaking news’. In exceptional instances (such as 911), it’s a ‘black swan’ (an unknown unknown), but the majority of the time it isn’t (an unknown known). Some consider positive unforeseen developments to also be black swans, but I think that definition is too inclusive, because ‘positive unknowns’ tend to outnumber bad ones, and also whether something is positive or negative is highly subjective, whereas negatives are less so. The election of Trump could be considered a ‘positive’ for those who voted for him but a negative for those who didn’t. A black swan is sudden and unambiguously bad. A breaking story that is not a black swan can either be a totally new development (but the stakes are not that high) or a story that is added to the ‘ongoing’ pile. The ongoing pile are topics that have been in the news for a long time. When there are new developments in ongoing stories, these developments get added to the pile, sorta like a sedimentary rock.

Examples of ongoing stories:

Tariffs. These don’t count as a black swan because the stakes were never that high despite all the hype from the media. Trade with China in 2017 came to $800 billion ($600 for imports, $200 for exports), so a 10% tariff on $20-100 billion dollars of raw goods is inconsequential.

#MeToo This is still getting a lot of attention as people keep coming forward. In early 2017, no one on the left could have foreseen that the biggest scandal would be NOT from the Trump administration (which has been remarkably scandal-free), but from leftist-controlled Hollywood. The left attacked Trump in 2016 for supposedly being misogynistic, yet as metoo has shown it’s the very liberals themselves who are to blame and are the real predators.

Iran, Russia, and Syria. This has been ongoing since 2011-2016.

Iraq and Afghanistan

North Korea

Brett Kavanaugh

So with Kavanaugh confirmed, it’s added to the ongoing pile. There will be plenty more headlines about him for months, maybe even years, to come, but it will no longer be as much suspense.