Wall Street has collectively boycotted the majority of the population since its inception in 1792. In response to the 228 years of Wall Street’s looting, on January 27, 2021, the world witnessed a group of rogue investors carry out an unprecedented $20 billion “buycott.” It was the largest one day buycott in history.
Buycotts, or counter-boycotts, are coordinated mass purchasing events made by a large contingent in order to offset a boycott. The intent of the January 2021 #WallStreetBuycott was three fold. (1) Expose the absurdity of the current financial system by running up a worthless stock, (2) throw a haymaker at the hedge funds who have been betting on the stock going down, and (3) make some money along the way by using the tricks of the trade that have always been reserved for the rich.
On May 17, 1792, the New York Stock Exchange was established on the southern tip of Manhattan on a street named after a wall that would go on to be the center of capitalism. A century and a half earlier, after signing a peace treaty with the indigenous people who lived there, the white Europeans murdered the entire population overnight and then forced the people who they had enslaved to build a giant wall to protect themselves from retaliation. That is where Wall Street got its name. Just down the block, on that same street of horrors, was New York’s first slave market, created in 1626 when white europeans used that site to trade in human life. What is more, the money being traded on the New York Stock Exchange was, in large part, coming from the forced labor of millions of abducted peoples in the United States.
That is the origin story of Wall Street; an institution built for the rich. (They will tell you it was created to raise capital for new ventures. But ask yourself: who gets access to this capital for these new ventures?) For many years, stocks and bonds were only available to those already in positions of financial security. The Internet, however, ushered in a new world of “retail investors,” or people who can buy and sell stocks in small quantities online through consumer brokerage accounts like Robinhood and TD Ameritrade.
Still, the market was truly made for and run by the people with enough disposable income to pay experts to study the market 24 hours a day, confer with other money managers, and invest in concert with other large investors to make the stock prices rise. Yet, unless you are extremely wealthy, or are working with a large institutional investor like Goldman Sachs, it is virtually impossible to get in on that type of insider trading because it is baked into the system.
After the financial collapse in 2008 and the Occupy Wall Street protests, people caught onto the game. Wall Street does not serve the people at large and was never meant to, but the stock exchange and the decisions made by traders affects everyone. And because companies are beholden to turning a profit, the market becomes the jury, the trial, and the executioner of our financial futures.
Enter r/WallStreetBets, a group on Reddit consisting of 7.6 million subscribers, initially created by Jamie Rogozinski in 2012 to discuss high risk, high return bets on Wall Street. In the wake of the siege on the Capitol, the group began to take on a more revolutionary tone. The subreddit (as groups on Reddit are called), who had removed Rogozinski from running the page by popular demand, is comprised of both expert and amateur traders. Shortly after watching the demonstration of power by the white supremacists who stormed Congress, a few members of r/WallStreetBets felt the time was right to coordinate their own show of force: a massive buycott.
For centuries, wealthy investors have profited off of insider trading by buying and selling stocks in concert with others. J. Pierpont Morgan, the grandfather of the Federal Reserve, was a notorious inside trader. So was Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., JFK’s father, who was appointed by FDR to be the first chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)–the very institution meant to police his collusion.
As regulations became more stringent, however, investors found new ways to manipulate the market. Some began using algorithms for grand arbitrage schemes while others began “shorting” stocks and betting on the failure of companies instead of their success. This practice, which is totally legal, incentivizes investors to work covertly to drive a business into bankruptcy so they can increase their returns as quickly as possible.
When members of r/WallStreetBets learned that several large hedge funds had enormous short positions in Game Stop (and other stocks such as AMC), they saw an opportunity. If they could get a large enough group to buy Game Stop stock at the same time, the stock price would rise and the hedge funds would be forced to purchase Game Stop stock to cover the fact that they had bet against it, which would drive the stock even higher. This would be extremely costly to the hedge funds and, if executed properly, could also make many of the retail investors a lot of money if they sold at the right time.
The collective purchasing of Game Stop stock, and a handful of other stocks, was coordinated on Reddit and through large group chats on platforms like GroupMe, Signal, and WhatsApp. The trades were then executed through platforms like Robinhood. There is no precedent to this massive buycott, so technically it appears that public insider trading is legal by the current laws. In addition, the influx of cash could potentially help save companies like Game Stop and AMC from bankruptcy, which may prevent thousands of future layoffs.
On January 6, 2021, the day of the attack on the Capitol, Game Stop was selling for only $18 a share. By 10 am on January 28th, after the planned mass buycott, the stock hit $469 per share.
And then suddenly, without warning, billions of dollars were frozen in an instant. It was that moment that the #WallStreetBuycott won symbolically. Not only had the buycott exposed the absurdity of the stock market, and made some of the agitators serious money, they also forced the government, by way of “independent” clearinghouses, to shut down the buying and selling of a public stock–an unprecedented move and a clear sign that Wall Street and D.C. are terrified by the power of the public insider trading that we are all witnessing.
Over the weekend, the discussion boards and private chat groups, shifted from video game distributors and movie theaters to commodities. The group is currently driving silver to an 8 year high, which if sustained can cause the price of gold to drop and drastically affect international currencies. That is why major media outlets are downplaying what is happening. The majority of the r/WallStreetBets members are undoubtedly opportunists who just want to make a few bucks, but many others are working on a bigger goal by showing people their power to take on major institutions when organized financially. When the people unite, oppressive institutions crumble.
The current storming of America’s economic capitol is a precursor of what is to come. The people are using the tools of power to tip the scales toward justice. And authorities will undoubtedly increase regulations in a desperate attempt to legitimize a failed institution that must evolve or die.
Companies used to go public to raise money, now they do so to pay back venture capitalists and banks. Wall Street is driving inequality and the current financial system is widening the wealth gap everyday, this we know.
In no way does Wall Street’s exchanges, hedge funds, private equity firms, venture capitalists, clearinghouses, or bankers, work for the people at large. Once public, the necessity for companies to increase quarterly profits every quarter in perpetuity is not sustainable for the planet and does not even promote the innovation that economists claim. That is why we must #AbolishWallStreet before Wall Street abolishes us.