GameStop and Reddit’s crack in the stock market matrix

There are three words that most average Americans cannot care less about when it comes to the economy: the stock market. With the exception of 401ks and stock accounts for those who follow the market, many people do not feel connected in any way to it, pointing out the seemingly great disparity between the stock market and the economic reality in America. Since the 2008 recession, there has been a growing belief in most Americans that Wall Street elites are the only ones who benefit from the stock market, making profits off uneducated traders in a rigged system against the average American. Then, in mid-January, a movement started by a group of Internet trolls on Reddit on

r/WallStreetBets rallied the Gamestop stock by over 700% from the 21st to the 27th, strangling hedge funds into billions in losses. r/WallStreetBets has had a bit of a reputation before the manic rallying of stocks such as Gamestop. Known for its profane nature, a high dosage of political incorrectness, and an intense willingness to gamble on random stocks, the 9 year old subreddit has garnered a bit of a following among men and women with ordinary jobs who trade recreationally and feel like they are part of a large, fun community that never seems to take itself too seriously. It was a space where people could mock those who failed miserably and kick themselves when others gambled on stocks at the right time.

What was seen as a bit of a joke soon became serious as some members on the subreddit noticed something strange around the middle of last year.

“There were a few members of r/WallStreetBets who noticed, ‘Hey, we know that $GME [Gamestop’s stock] was shorted beyond 100%’, meaning that they’re going to have to buy in,” member of r/WallStreetBets and CHS junior Gavin Brown said. “With no shares available, the prices are going to have to go up. There’s no choice.”

Hedge funds had taken the massive shorting position, the practice of borrowing a stock and selling it instantly, later repaying that stock to the person you borrowed from, on GameStop due to the store’s decline. The company has seen sales fall for 10 of the last 11 fiscal quarters, in part due to the limited flow of customers during the pandemic and the growing shift of digital video game sales that destroy the need for a physical video game store. Seeing all these signs, investors saw the company’s stock as an easy way to make a profit.

Keith Gill, known by his Reddit username u/DeepFuckingValue, spread the news on the subreddit and the news continued to spread as more and more people hopped on the trend and bought GameStop stocks, most notably Tesla CEO Elon Musk. By buying up stocks, traders left less shares available for hedge funds to buy back. With little supply and huge demand, the price shot up in something known as a short squeeze

The GameStop stock took off around January 21st where its stocks were making 50%-100% daily increases in various days at the end of the month, reaching as high as $347.51 on the 27th. In comparison, the price of a stock just a week earlier was around $40.

This did not come without backlash from large corporations. On January 27th, Discord banned the WallStreetBets server on the basis of “hate speech.” The following day, stock brokerage app Robinhood made the controversial decision to halt purchases of the stock, which has seen widespread condemnation. Some, however, are a little more sympathetic to the decision.

“Restricting stocks is market manipulation. However, it was for a reason that was out of Robinhood’s control,” Brown said. “The trading floor asked for 100% equity for every single stock traded, but the huge volatility in the market and billions of dollars traded every single day, Robinhood and other companies like them simply didn’t have the equity on hand to be able to upfront 100% whereas normally they’d have to upfront about 5% to the trading floor for less volatile stocks.”

The stock has plummeted to the $50 mark as of February 10th, apparently losing all the steam that drove the prices so high. Many traders have moved on and are looking to do the same to other stocks, but Brown hasn’t. He still has his GameStop stock, which he sees as a symbol of retaliation to the hedge funds and brokers at Wall Street who have to buy back as many stocks as possible in order to sink the stock price and force traders into panic selling their stocks, allowing hedge funds to recover. He feels they have taken advantage of the American people for far too long.

Gill testified before the House Committee on Financial Services along with Robinhood CEO Vladimir Tenev on February 18th, which Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has stated is purely for informational purposes. Although he has been accused of breaking rules in his activity with the GameStop stock, he made it clear that did not do anything illegal and that he merely enjoyed trading the stock.

Although Wall Street has managed to bounce back and see the GameStop stock fall back to price levels at the beginning of the short squeeze, Brown believes there’s still something to learn from all this.

“This shows that the average person has more control over the stock market than they think they do,” Brown said. “It’s not just for the big players to gamble over your money. It’s your money. You can take control over it.”