The Sam Bankman-Fried Trial and The Sickness Unto Death (of the Sam Bankman-Fried Trial)
Part A of Ω .
For the same reason every human being’s eyes will inexorably be drawn towards the nearest car crash my own eyes (and eventually my corporeal form, once I secured a spare bedroom to sleep in) were drawn towards the recent spectacle of The Crypto Nerd Super Bowl, which some call “the Sam Bankman-Fried trial”. As a result I have spent the last few weeks in and out of the halls of justice observing the very public defenestration of “the world’s first trillionaire” (in the words of Silicon Valley’s most highly regarded venture capital firm), collecting my musings about the day to day goings on in several typo-ridden threads over on The Privatized Public Square.
Should you be curious enough to read them you can find them here:
The testimony of Caroline Ellison, Sam Bankman-Fried’s on and off again girlfriend and CEO of his hedge fund Alameda Research.
Sam Bankman-Fried’s first day of testimony, including a half day’s worth of cross examination.
Sam Bankman-Fried’s second day of testimony that was in front of the jury but was not quite the absolute train wreck of the first day.
Now, sadly, the spectacle is over. Sam Bankman-Fried, a man who blew the minds of money grubbing sociopaths all over the bay area with his commitment to both leading a highly ethical life as well as his League of Legends score, has now been found guilty on all charges by a jury of New Yorkers who managed to digest 65 pages of technical jury instructions, eat a pizza dinner, and unanimously declare this motherfucker obviously guilty in roughly three hours.
Having observed a lot of the most dramatic moments of the trial first hand let’s just say I was not surprised by this outcome.
But I was also not surprised for reasons above and beyond my first hand observation of the trial itself. Because, you see, my disgust at Sam Bankman-Fried and his ilk was the entire reason I started sharing my thoughts on The Privatized Public Square1 and writing this blog in the first place. Back in June of 2022 in my first and still most widely read essay “Cryptocurrency Is A Hideous Monstrosity Made Out Of Computers And Greed That Must Be Destroyed Before It Devours The World” I, against the advice of every lawyer and journalist in my social circle intent on warning me about libel suits from malefactors of great wealth, had this to say about Mr. Bankman-Fried:
“Do you want to be rich or do you want to be right?” is an oft cited maxim of cryptocurrency “investors” (and most financial professionals, if we’re being honest). Personally I like being right2 and cryptocurrency gave me an excellent opportunity to timestamp words on the internet to prove it. But I don’t think until this unexpected life detour I had ever internalized the ways in which being right often comes at a very high cost.
Because you see it is difficult to gaze upon something so blindingly obvious as the fact that FTX, SBF, and the rest of the cryptocurrency “industry” were a monstrous evil (almost) from the jump at the same time you realize, to your horror, that the percentage of people walking the earth with even the incredibly minimal powers of observation needed to see this readily apparent fact is vanishingly small. Worse, it seems to be the case that fully zero of the people with these minimal powers of observation seem to be executives or editors at companies with names like The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, CNBC, Bloomberg, or MSNBC.
I mean look, I knew it was bad out there in the information ecosystem. The United States wouldn’t have elected a con artist as the leader of the free world and my own country would not have Brexited its economic head right off its easily sunburned shoulders if things were going well. But even still the depths of depravity on display as editors at every single one of the above publications (and, as far as I can tell, literally every English language publication in the free world except for London’s Financial Times) fell all over each other trying to show the world who could most effectively suck Satan’s teat was shocking.
Consider the case of The New Yorker, once thought by many (myself included) to be an august and venerable institution with actual fact checking capabilities. This century old magazine published a laudatory biopic on Samuel Bankman-Fried at the same time as they took millions of dollars of his ill-gotten gains to run this ad:
Needless to say they have not returned the money. They will not return the money because, as their follow up “reporting” made clear, no one could have seen this (incredibly obvious) outcome coming.
Now of course they have to say that. If the editors of the magazine recently renamed Pravda For The Privileged had told the world the truth - that these self-appointed keepers of journalism’s righteous flame had seen fit to run interference for not just one but two of the biggest scams in the last decade3 - they’d have to admit that they might not be that good at their job. And if they admitted that they’d probably have to engage in some kind of soul searching, maybe even possibly make adjustments to their approach to collecting and disseminating information.
Making adjustments is hard. Denying reality is easy, especially when your social set imposes zero costs on facilitating the rise to power of a man whose sole claim to fame is that he built a rigged offshore casino to financially rape the underclass of countries less important than our own and used the money to bribe politicians.
In other words, it’s Trump all the way down.
Lo, another subscribe button!
There’s a lot - a whole lot - more to the story of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s fall from grace than has at this point been reported in any “mainstream” media outlet. While several important facts did come out during the trial about enormous nine figures bribes FTX executives paid to Chinese government officials I can assure you this is really just scratching the surface of what FTX was really about. Unfortunately the jury of New Yorkers was so quick to return its verdict4 that I am going to need a few more days to fully collect my thoughts and commit them to the digital page.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Once known as “Twitter”, now known as “The Hole Elon Musk Shovels Money Into”.
Though to be fair, as someone whose early retirement from the normal working world was driven in large part by the same exact forces that produced Sam Bankman-Fried, my perspective on this cannot be said to be pure as the driven snow.
Their profile of Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes was far more hagiographic than their at least occasionally ever so mildly skeptical profile of Sam Bankman-Fried.
New York City should probably be pretty low on your list of places to try to run the Chauncey Gardner “I am but a simple man who just cannot recall how all the money disappeared” routine. New Yorkers can smell bullshit a mile away and Sam Bankman-Fried barely showered.