By: Victor Davis Hanson
The FTX Bitcoin empire of 30-year-old CEO Sam Bankman-Fried is in shambles. Or more specifically, his “dumb game” cryptocurrency exchange has destroyed thousands of lives. Electronically, he may have robbed perhaps a million investors, and along with them hundreds of large institutional investors.
Mysteriously, only after the conclusion of the midterm elections, did we suddenly learn that this left-wing “philanthropist” and benefactor of Democratic politics, this megadonor to the quid pro quo puff-piece media, this con artist protected from federal securities regulators, had drained off, lost, hidden, or spent billions of dollars of other people’s money.
As a result, the Bahamas-basking, tax-avoiding, polyamorous sybarite, and heartthrob of progressive moralists, now claims he has no wherewithal to honor his financial commitments to his own investors. Preliminary postmortem auditors sigh that they have never encountered a greater financial mess than what Bankman-Fried has left in his wake.
How does the most sophisticated financial system in the history of civilization allow a virtue-signaling nerd to nearly wreck it? Where were the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the IRS, and all the other alphabet soup agencies that supposedly exist so that someone like Bankman-Fried does not? Where is Merrick Garland and his special prosecutors, the FBI with its televised SWAT swoops and leg irons?
For all the performance-art boasts of simply doing good for others by doing far better for himself, Bankman-Fried may soon be revealed to be one of the great, dissolute con artists in American history. Like the infamous Charles Ponzi, “Bankman” may become our eponymous word in the 21st century for electronically driven, pyramid-scheme theft.
His Stanford-Silicon Valley moral veneer was shiny but otherwise razor thin. Yet Bankman-Fried told at least one truth when he explained to obsequious media what his ilk easily does to fool purported suckers who send him cash, while he avoided federal and media oversight: “This dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.”
Well, not everyone. Instead, he might qualify his “everyone” as the like-minded, cynical, left-wing politicos, the kindred media hacks at the Washington Post and New York Times, and brethren investor toadies who helped him render Bernie Madoff a small-potato sinner in comparison.
Bankman-Fried had showered Joe Biden in 2020 with millions of dollars in campaign donations and did so again with larger sums to congressional candidates in 2022. His public relations arm of FTX exuded the usual virtue speak—including promised impending multibillion-dollar gifting—for utopian, Democratic, and progressive causes. And the media on spec gushed about their pet grunger as he sought to buy protection from Democratic fixers.
“Effective Altruism,” Ponzi-Style
Yet Bankman-Fried is merely one in a long line of Bay Area social-justice hypocrites and frauds. They share in common loud but cynical left-wing politics. They choreograph their personas to win exemption from left-wing government regulators, to guarantee puff pieces from a toady media, and to romance the rich, left-wing elite. Consider how the Washington Post gushed of the scam artist:
Harnessing the enormous wealth created by FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange that Sam Bankman-Fried had founded, they undertook a project to spend potentially billions of dollars on pandemic prevention, a long-neglected priority on Capitol Hill even amid the coronavirus crisis. The plan, drawn from the brothers’ adherence to a philosophy called effective altruism, sought to maximize philanthropic giving in ways that can have the most impact.
Bankman-Fried surely has had “the most impact.” If he had worn a suit, and said the wrong “shibboleths,” he would now be behind bars.
What were the moral seeds of FTX? Bankman-Fried grew up on the progressive, moralistic Stanford campus, the son of two crusading Stanford law professors who often wrote about morality and the dispossessed.
SBF, as he is known, was groomed and prepped at an exclusive nearby Hillsborough private academy before being packed off to MIT. Progressive souls like Bankman-Fried distrust capitalism so much that, in his case, he retreated to the Bahamas to maximize its rewards. There he embraced a hedonistic lifestyle, tax breaks and lack of regulations, all in order to better short taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars in income tax revenue.
Such vulture capitalism is predicated on the presumption that young, loudly left-wing Bay Area hipsters in ratty clothes are the cool “good guys” if they have deep Democratic pockets and talk of “equity” and “fairness.” And so, they use the system to defeat the system—defined in their view as toxic traditional mores and values.
Indeed, Bankman-Fried’s mother, Stanford Professor Elizabeth Fried was a “utilitarian,” perhaps best defined as advocating any means necessary to achieve what she felt were the best ends for everyone. She moonlighted from her supposedly full-time job by running “Mind the Gap,” a central collection agency for Silicon Valley dark money to be funneled secretly to the “right causes.” The means of getting the millions was always excused by the ends of how it was used.
Apparently, some of her fund’s wherewithal was dripped in by some in her son’s stash circle—or rather his investors’ cash. Mind the Gap’s specialty was funding “to get out the vote.” To understand these dark-money operations in 2020, simply reread Molly Ball’s obnoxious Time magazine story of February 2021—a long boast of how stealth left-wing money, a toady progressive media, an army of lawyers, and social media combined to change voting laws, modulate the Black Lives Matter/Antifa street protests, and warp dissemination of news to craft a good utilitarian “conspiracy” that saved us from Donald Trump.
Will the Bankman-Fried family now atone, and try to give back to the robbed and deluded any of the real money that was funneled into Democratic candidates from the massive fraud? Does the water flow uphill?
So how can the progressive embryos of Silicon Valley, Stanford University, Bay Area prep schools, and progressive humanitarian politics birth such an utter fraud who destroyed so many? Rather the question might be reversed, how could all that not?
Performance Art Grifting
In the context of Bankman-Fried, we recall another kindred Bay-Area erstwhile momentary billionaire charlatan. Do we remember the now felonious and prison-bound young prodigy and Hillary-Clinton aficionado Elizabeth Holmes? She, too, was birthed and swam in similar Stanford-Silicon Valley waters.
Her scheme was Theranos. That was the pretentiously named fake-blood testing corporation that duped some of the most powerful investors in the United States to fork over billions of dollars to a twentysomething con artist. Holmes, like Bankman-Fried, was sired in the orbit of Stanford. She eschewed the slob props of Bankman-Fried, and instead preferred copy-catting Steve Jobs’ slicker all-black outfits.
Holmes assembled on her fake corporate board some of the biggest names associated with Stanford University and Silicon Valley, whose brands masked what was likely the greatest corporate medical fraud in American history.
(To Be Continued Next Week)
(This article originally appeared on the American Greatness web site – amgreatness.com)