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Cryptomania Exemplifies How Much We Want To Believe Stupid Things

It's hard to stop stupidity when it pays off so handsomely. But political stupidity's glad-handing harms people who weren't dumb enough to invest in it themselves.

Value is a weird, inscrutable thing.

I wouldn’t pay $25 to hang a Picasso painting, genuine or imitation, in my living room, unless I could sell it. His work doesn’t move me and I don’t understand his alleged ‘genius’. I’m not sure why anyone would pay me millions for it.

Another value thing I don’t understand is paying $65 for a rusted metal helicopter missing a rubber nose because someone thinks it’s worth it to have an old toy he’s never going to play with again.

Why are such things valued? Why do some pay so much for Picassos and 1972 Christmas stocking schwag of arbitrary ‘value’, just because someone somewhere says it’s worth X?

I recently read the Zeke Faux book Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall. It’s a short, well-narrated journey through another value thing I don’t understand (and I’ll bet you don’t either). It doesn’t get too deep into the boring aspects of cryptocurrency, which are about as comprehensible as the dog’s breakfasts of bad investments that impelled the Great Financial Collapse of the late ‘00s.

Thingies called bitcoins (some more honestly called shitcoins) were said to possess X value: Customarily, $1 USD for no particular reason. Then they rose in value for some weird reasons, and they didn’t revolutionize the world the way the crypto bros promised. They weren’t easier to use than a credit card, normal retailers and services wanted cash/credit/debit, they was insecure as fuck, and marketing/huckstering blahblahblah. The investosuckers made money for awhile, sometimes lots, but didn’t realize it’s a house of cards; unless you know when to get out, and gamblers rarely do, it gonna go bye-bye.

I kept wondering why investors who weren’t crypto bros weren’t asking the obvious questions. About value. How much it was worth. About whether there was any there there.

Cryptocurrency, to be truly legit, requires all the ‘evils’ it promised to ‘liberate’ us from: Traditional currency, financial regulation, and (they don’t say this out loud), something actually backing it. Because here we are, a year after its collapse, its fuzzy-haired baby-faced crypto god Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years, and investors’ billions wiped out overnight.

And all over claimed/perceived value. Where people chose to place their faith about currencies and NFTs, which are those works of digital ‘art’ others claimed were valuable.

It’s all fake money, but so what? Bankman-Fried bought a real condo complex for hundreds of millions in the Bahamas.

I love to ask obvious questions others don’t, which the crypto crazies didn’t. Like, Should I be investing in something that’s not regulated? Why should I trust this? How are digital coins seemingly mined out of thin air valuable? Are they really worth a dollar? How do I know this company is honest with no financial reporting? If they claim it’s backed by some other currency or entity somewhere, how do I know? And, Why are these NFT cartoons of ugly apes worth more than an original Picasso? But mostly, Should I trust a guy selling blorps?

Faux quotes comedian John Oliver who described exactly how sheer crypto-bullshit worked for one crypto king: “One blorp is always worth one dollar. And the reason I can guarantee that is I’ll sell as many fleezels [to back it] as it takes to make that happen. Also, I make the fleezels.” Long story short, after a blorps cash-run and with fleezels as liquid as Monopoly money, apart from being non-existent, the price of each blorpcoin fell to $.00001834.

(Maybe Trump should have asked a Blorpcoiner for help in Georgia.)

Too bad investors in that crypto king’s scheme didn’t ask those glaringly obvious questions. We’ve seen this all before, with the dot-com craze, the subprime mortgage crisis and the Great Financial Collapse. Why didn’t those now-crypto-losers question all that value? Why didn’t they wonder what they were really getting into? And why do they get so mad when the rest of us point it out?

They’re embarrassed to be revealed as duplicitous in their self-con. They know it, deep down, but they can’t admit it, especially when others point it out, which is why they cling so relentlessly to their scam and blame everyone and everything but themselves. Their narcissistic self-image is off the charts, and there is nothing else so precious to any of us.

Humans have always been easily scammed and many will buy anything that boosts their egos, whether it’s to getrichquick or get the ‘beautiful girl’ in Singapore declaring her love for someone to whom she’s flogging the latest blorp who, if the marks were thinking critically, would wonder, What does she see in me? And, Is that actually a man pretending to be a gorgeous woman to scam me?

People who didn’t ask the hard questions about crypto’s true value mostly got royally screwed. That’s the gotcha when you believe too guilelessly.

I actually had zero interest in cryptocurrency before reading this book, and I still do. Why did I put it on my Christmas list? Part of it was the human schadenfreude, the feeling of superiority for not being as stupid as all those dumbass testosterone-fueled young people, but it was also a further attempt to understand why we humans are so relentlessly, single-mindedly stupid sometimes. Why we believe what we want to believe and ignore the risks and problems.

I’m reminded of it as I monitor the Matrix-style slow-mo karate kick to, for example, transgender ideology. The world is sleeping now, while the left-wing media surreptitiously cleans a shit-ton of egg off its face, privately debating in boardrooms how they’ll spin for their readers what we now know about the scientific bankruptcy and near-psychopathic adherence to Sacred Transactivist Dogma they’ve been uncritically pushing at the behest of their activist-driven kiddie reporters.

How could the New York Times be so stupid???

To persistently believe stupid things, you have to be committed to your inflated self-image—in this case, as Good Liberals being all inclusive and shit, but thou shalt swear fealty to the authoritarian mandrake that has rooted itself in the illiberal soul. The New York Times is discovering the perils of hiring woke social justice kiddies out of America’s most elite antisemitism factories as they struggle to tell the truth, as journalists are supposed to do, about the documented evidence for sexual violence committed by Hamas and Gazans on October 7th.

All the news that’s fit to print, indeed.

It’s the same question I asked over and over again, over forty years ago, as I watched an earlier iteration of another insane dogma unfold in the United States beginning with the ouster of Jimmy Carter as President, replaced with the kind, daddyish, Great Communicating Revelation-loving Ronald Reagan.

Like a sandworm in Dune, the Religious Reich erupted from the ground, spraying the same childish fundamentalist zeal we see in today’s equally self-infantilizing woke warriors. How could anyone believe in a Christianity this stupid? I wondered as a college student, raised on more liberal, mainstream Lutheranism. I interned at a Christian TV station which intersected with my major and for two summers I suffered induced cognitive dissonance in Christianity that eventually led to my apostasy.

It wasn’t that Christianity itself was stupid, it was that the fundies’ version was so goddamn brain-dead I was like, You have to have the intelligence of Christ’s donkey to believe this crap.

Fundamentalist Christians believe mindlessly in a clearly man-made religious ideology that appeals to their superiority complex, and promises them that anyone who criticizes or mocks their consummate moral and intellectual hypocrisy they will one day look down upon from Heaven and laugh at all those morons now shrieking eternally in agony.

Don’t ask the obvious questions like, Why would a loving God horrendously punish people for a lifetime He assigned them to and maybe gave them a really crappy starting point, and maybe a damaged brain, and how is their life entirely their fault? Why are you worshipping such a psychopath? Maybe Lucifer had the right idea?

Or just, If I’m this much of a sick fuck who laughs at people being tortured, what makes me so sure I’m worthy of Heaven?

Is there a Holy Mainframe on a cloud somewhere and God’s programmers run your life through it and assign value to the number and severity of sins you’ve committed and say, “You, Joe SixPack, got a score of 832 so we sentence you to 6,500 years of hellfire before you can come into heaven, and you, Adolf Hitler, get 8.5 million years because you were one seriously fucked-up puppy, but after that, if your sins have been properly expurgated, we’ll let you into Heaven”?

Cults: The open-license framework was laid down first by religions.

You can see the cultiness in the bitcoiners who believe in something to which has been assigned arbitrary, opaque value—something they don’t understand. Bitcoins, like Picassos and old toys, possess value because someone says they do, rather than actual value: You can’t eat bitcoins, paintings or toys but you can arguably sell them for more than they’re worth and feed your family. Until someone decides they’re no longer worth anything.

People believe in value that clearly isn’t there, if they want to believe, no matter how ludicrous. If there’s enough of potential payoff, like a community-supported self-image feeding you the powerful ego drug we’re right and they’re wrong, our guy is good and theirs is bad, they won’t ask the obvious questions. Crypto investors who tried to pull out too late lost everything; progressive parents are waking up to the fact that their naive belief in gender-affirming ‘experts’ may render their ‘trans’ offspring sterile and themselves without grandchildren. Because they didn’t ask the obvious questions. Trump’s Christian fan club almost certainly isn’t asking, But what about when dictators turn on their allies? Can you really trust a guy with ninety-one criminal charges? And has this guy ever even asked, ‘What would Jesus do’?

History recalls countless scams for which the gullible failed to ask the obvious questions about true value: Nigerian princes, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi schemes, 17th-century Tulipmania - now, TrumpCon, BidenCon, TransCon and the ongoing CryptoCon. Why, in the 17th century, should Dutch flowers suddenly be worth so much, why do people today give an alleged billionaire money, even before he started publicly begging like a TV evangelist, why do parents not question why they themselves never knew a single ‘trans kid’ growing up? Why can’t liberals see Biden doesn’t understand how transactivism has harmed so many women and children? Why doesn’t the mainstream press write more about whatever the fuck is clearly wrong with Trump’s incoherent mouth and brain?

The payoff for willful ignorance isn’t always money.

Partisan voters who remain as mindlessly loyal as a faithful doggo ignore mountains of pretty damning evidence because they want to believe their own absurdities as much as transkid parents and crypto investors to preserve their precious self-image of being smart and competent and most importantly not wrong.

Their houses of cards will fall, too.

Delusional investments—whether financial, political or personal—demonstrate how easy it is to get taken when you shut your eyes, when you guilelessly buy into the hype, when you suffer from FOMO, when everyone around you is doing or believing it so it must be cool.

Crypto investors believed themselves much smarter than the rest of us (and some were, although most weren’t). Transgender and MAGA True Believers can’t vote intelligently when they believe in pseudoscience, debunked narratives, and the evidence of their own lying eyes. When they shut their ears and yell la-la-la when someone asks those obvious questions.

As I read Number Go Up, I kept laughing, “This is so stupid! How could anyone ever buy into this crapola, much less with money? How can this ugly ape picture be worth millions? How can anyone believe fake money can properly back fake money? Why isn’t this regulated? How can anyone be this stupid???”

I say the same, with less laughter, when I listen to idiots uncritically accept the claims of transactivists, or Trump’s or Biden’s defenders, or DEI initiatives, or the next silly-ass investment dupe.

I mean, come on, seriously, folks? Where the hell are their brains??

Crypto culties hurt mostly themselves, but political culties hurt us all. I don’t know how we can evolve as a society if we can’t ask ourselves the glaringly obvious questions.

Especially when it could land us in jail.

Or on the business end of a malignant narcissist’s vengeance. Or a fuzzy old grandpa’s cluelessness.

Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a damn thing!




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