Can you cheat an honest man?
This week has seen the crash of a crypto trading business run by a man called Sam Bankman-Fried, who apparently was using his investors money as a piggy bank and pulling the old-school Ponzi scheme. (An extra layer being that crypto itself is more opaque to a lot of investors). But in other ways, this is a pretty traditional story, although the scale of it is perhaps bigger than might have been expected. Some suggested the scale of the crime is actually larger than Enron.
Bankman-Fried is also a booster for the concept of Effective Altruism, which is another way for these tech bros to think they've reinvented charity and are somehow going to be improving the world. He was a major donor to Democratic Party causes and other things that those in media would see as the right things to support. (It’s hard to imagine the New York Times running such a softball piece on a finance guru who made his major donations to the Cato Foundation or the NRA).
But this is how things have shifted in terms of cultural power: it's quite amusing that comedians who cast themselves as rebels “speaking truth to power” never seem to really want to aim their fire at the performatively lefty 1%.
Another big shift when it comes to power is that Bankman-Fried looks like a doofus. He looks like the pizza delivery guy who shows up smelling of weed. He is the opposite of what we've come to think of as the con man. No slick Armani suit, glistening veneers and firm handshake. Rather, he represents the topsy turvy world of tech success, which has led venture capitalists to throw money at any young man who seems vaguely autistic and wears a hoodie, since that has been presented as the model of success.
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