Analysts and their bullshit

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Harry G. Frankfurt wrote a great essay on the concept of “bullshit,” explaining that it is the locus of truth and and falsehood, the “deliberate making of false claims about what is true.”

“In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all,” he writes. Well, the boys at BBG just picked up on a little pet peeve of mine: analysts and their various prognostications. To wit: Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray who has been predicting an Apple tablet “coming very soon” since 2007.

Gene Munster makes this prediction over and over again because it’s easy, and because he knows he will eventually be right. By the standards of his profession, his record is pretty good. More interesting is what the eruption of hype yesterday says about the quid-pro-quo relationship between analysts and reporters. Analysts are identified in print as experts, bolstering their credibility with private clients. And reporters use them to dress rumors as credible, multiple-sourced news stories.

Analysts are paid to sell advice to investors. They’re about as impartial as the investors themselves – by talking up or taking down a company they help their constituency make investment decisions. It’s lazy for journalists to ask analysts what they think on a topic even though they do it all the time. Why? Because the average business journalist can’t talk intelligently on every topic every day and by making a call to someone whose “job” it is to cover a particular company or sector they can get an intelligent – but decidedly impartial – comment without much work.

This is “bullshit” in its purest sense. It’s a riff on the truth that is potentially damaging but ignored by the general public as innocuous. It’s not innocuous.

And yes, I know our own Dear Leader posted on the tablet and there is some truth to the tablet rumor, but I assure you Gene Munster doesn’t have inside line to God who is feeding him info on this potential multi-touch monster. He’s as in the dark as the rest of us.

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