005. 19 Things About 2019 #5

#5 Follow the money


The skinny

The fundamental story to watch this year will be the unravelling of financial crimes around the world.


Why this matters

Whether it is cyber crime or money laundering or political corruption or geopolitical manoeuvering, huge wads of dirty money should be understood as simultaneously the means and the ends. The exposure of those connections in meticulous legal processes will reveal the deeper story of what happened before, during and after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/8. It will be a righteous and cleansing fire, I reckon.



The phrase “Follow the money” entered popular culture in the 1976 movie of All The President’s Men as Deep Throat’s advice to the journalists Woodward and Bernstein as they started to unravel the Watergate conspiracy.

But Deep Throat (much later revealed to be then FBI Associate Director Mark Felt) never said the words, and they never appeared in the journalists’ book.

“Follow the money” was the creation of the screenwriter William Goldman. It’s true to the context and relationship, but Goldman needed a shorthand way of summarising the conversations to move the story along. And he nailed it, because he was one of the greatest of the great screenwriters: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, and many many more.

Goldman’s memoir of screenwriting, Adventures In The Screen Trade, is a wonderful meander through the Hollywood ecosystem, and generated its own meme in his summary of why some movies are hits and some are bombs: “nobody knows anything”.

That’s pretty good advice when thinking about how to win the next Rugby World Cup, too, because there are so many contingencies to manage.  We think we know how to win the last World Cup because we can see how it all played out, but that’s very different to playing it forward in real time.

Goldman died in November 2018.


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