Behind the Book: FinTer
Part of the difficulty of writing a thriller is deducing something that scares people enough – but also isn’t so absurd that it’s unbelievable. While I highly doubt a Financial terrorist attack will bring the country to its knees – it very well could, unfortunately the tools are there and built into the capitalist system. That’s not to say that the prospects of financial security involves doom – the security measures in place are enough to best most attacks – but with enough force it is certainly a soft spot in generally strong set of armour. There is something to be said in regards to chilling realism in events – and with fragmented responsibilities of the Federal Government in regards to electronic warfare on the markets, it would be difficult to coordinate an effective defense let alone response.
In an interesting reflection of how sensitive, and perhaps how vulnerable U.S. fiscal infrastructures are, the Dow took a one percent hit in a matter of moments when a twitter account was hacked. The account, run by the associated press cited that explosions had occurred in the White House and the President had been injured. Of course, this isn’t a reflection of the overreaction of Wall Streeters, but rather the electronic computers that maintain ninety-percent of the trades that occur. When buzz words begin to occur online, the algorithms set into place to follow trends go into overdrive and compensate. In minutes, one simple hacking evaporated hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Of course this allows the mind to wander, and will inevitably lead into a much larger danger of electronic attacks on infrastructure critical to the U.S. economy. It’s also no secret that the U.S. is immensely vulnerable to such attack, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense stated in 2010 that such an attack would be “another Pearl Harbour“. Despite efforts from the Federal government to curve any would be attackers, such an attack would cause a national emergency – and its clear to see why. In a paper written for the Pentagon Irregular Warfare Support Program in 2009, officials became aware of irregular trades that occurred prior to the 2008 collapse that in some way attributed to [perhaps even accelerated] bank failures. The trades - notably short selling, were in immense numbers – in some cases higher volumes than the largest banks in the United States – all from small firms throughout the country. SEC regulators were keen to clamp down on the adverse effect which in some shape or form affected the markets negatively.
The motivations may be as redundant as other banks looking to make a killing by causing an artificial slide in the markets – or may be as malicious as a terrorist attack. The methods of market manipulation is all rather complex, unless an understanding of the markets exists. That is to say, it’s not something only people working on Wall street could understand – and even if it were, 2008 has left dozens without a job and desperate for work.
Whilst writing Of Cloaked Margins, the news and rhetoric stemming from the U.S. defense department was largely related to electronic attacks – in fact much of it still is. Such a prospect – of money evaporating into thin air because of market manipulation is both extremely scary, and exciting. Scary because it’s possible, exciting for the same reason – it’s possible. The ability to destabilize both the U.S. economy and its infrastructure sets the stage for a riveting political thriller – something I attempted to do.