This is not our usual posting style or content. There are no specific actionable stock ideas or company related news. But it says something we felt needed to be said, and we think there’s an investing lesson to be had as well. Hopefully, both of our readers will forgive the digression(thanks, Mom!).
It’s still only a few hours after the horrific attack on an Aurora, Colorado movie theater midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises killed 12 and injured 38. A group of people, young and old, looking for relaxed enjoyment on a summer night, cut down in their primes, or forever scarred. We have a name for the monster responsible: James Holmes, and reports that his apartment may have been booby-trapped with explosives. Unusually, he was captured alive.
In the coming hours and days, details will come out about Holmes. These details will inevitably be scrutinized, and pundits and readers will nod knowingly at the “warning signs” that were missed. This is a most dangerous activity. None of these armchair diagnosticians will then trace their results back the other way: how many thousands of others exhibited the same warning signs without massacring innocents? The blame and smug nods are worthless if they don’t yield specific and actionable solutions to prevent future tragedies.
Too often, they will merely produce TSA-like security theater with huge costs, both in money and in personal freedom, but without any measurable improvement in security or safety. It is a strange paradox, that the increasing rarity of violent events(see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels Of Our Nature), lead us to have an increasingly low tolerance for the inevitable residual violence. Violent acts can never be fully eliminated, but our response to them, to recognize this, to keep our heads, and to avoid extreme measures- this is the only rational and effective response.
As a postscript, we would add that this same hindsight bias is the biggest danger to investors. It’s always easy to see why something was an obvious short or long after the fact. But, since none of us have time machines, we need to learn to only focus on those ideas which work prospectively.
- 14 Dead, 50 Wounded, Suspect In Custody After Mass Shooting At Suburban Colorado Theater Showing ‘Dark Knight Rises’ (deadline.com)
- 14 Killed in Mass Shooting at New Batman Movie (voanews.com)
- 14 dead, 50 wounded in shooting at Colorado theater, police chief says – CNN (edition.cnn.com)
- Mass Shooting at Dark Knight Rises Premiere (kotaku.com)
- 14 Killed in Mass Shooting at Batman Premiere in Colorado (mashable.com)
- 14 Shot Dead, 50 Wounded During Dark Knight Rises Showing in Colorado [Shootings] (gawker.com)