Clowns to the left, jokers to the right…
Apparently, Elon Musk isn’t such a great guy. Such is the conclusion reached by hacking face-mask enthusiasts, Anonymous, who posted a threatening, anti-Musk diatribe on YouTube.
Or have they? A number of Anonymous-affiliated Twitter accounts quickly disassociated themselves from the video (see here, and here), while other sources appear to confirm it. I guess PR is a pretty tough when you don’t have a ‘blue check’ on your Twitter account. I think Banksy has the same issues.
Either way, it’s not hard to understand why a group of anti-establishment hackers might take umbrage at a long-standing member of the global billionaire elite.
My only question is: why did it take so long? I mean, I get why he’s so popular, Elon is surely the masturbatory-wish-fulfilment fantasy of many a geeky young man(no offence, Anonymous!) He’s about as close to a real-life Tony Stark as anyone is likely to get. I guess I just didn’t expect the ‘halo effect’ to be so strong for so long.
I’d argue it’s been obvious for a while that Elon Musk isn’t the level-headed genius advocate of Bitcoin many hold him up as. Far from it — surely he is the Billionaire Jester-King of Crypto.
Why are we not surprised?
The thrust of the Anonymous (possibly) video is that they don’t like how disrespectful Musk has been to the Bitcoin community.
Hmm. Sounds to me like a few people feel they’ve lost out in the recent Bitcoin crash, and they want someone to blame. Oh dear.
If this is the case — and I suspect it probably is — I’m a little sympathetic, but not wholly surprised. Musk has a long history of poor-to-borderline-illegal behaviour.
Some of it has been fairly petty. Remember when he called one of the divers who helped rescue 12 children, trapped in a flooded Thai cave, a ‘pedo guy’? Of course, he didn’t really mean ‘paedophile’, he argued in court. ‘Pedo’, on the internet, just means creepy. Got it? I mean, I’ve been on the web since the mid-nineties and I’ve never, ever come across that interpretation. But sure, if that’s what a lawyered up billionaire wants to argue in court, why not? Who am I to argue? Not a lawyered up billionaire, that’s for sure.
Then there’s the more serious, business related stuff.
In 2018 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Musk with securities fraud for posting “misleading tweets”. In essence, he was accused of lying on Twitter to manipulate the stock market price of Tesla shares.
“Corporate officers hold positions of trust in our markets and have important responsibilities to shareholders. An officer’s celebrity status or reputation as a technological innovator does not give license to take those responsibilities lightly.” — Steven Peikin, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division
Musk got out of trouble only by making a deal with the SEC that his Tweets about Tesla needed to be ‘pre-approved’ by Tesla’s lawyers.
Let that sink in.
Oh yeah, and in June 2021 the Wall Street Journal discovered that the SEC already thinks Musk breached the deal twice. It’s almost as if Musk feels that he should be able to do whatever he likes, regardless of the laws and regulations everyone else has to abide by.
What did you expect?
In 2018 Elon Musk didn’t own much crypto. Just 0.25 BTC given by a friend a few years earlier. Yet by early 2021 Musk appears to be the proud owner of around $1.5bn worth of Bitcoin. That’s a hell of a jump.
Yet, let’s not forget that this represents around 1% of his total $150bn estimated net worth.
With this in mind, and taking into account Musk’s behaviour and tweets regarding Tesla — the company he has tied his name and reputation to — how might we expect him act in relation to crypto?
It became apparent very quickly, that Musk was able to influence the value of cryptocurrencies. Vox.com produced an excellent summary of how Musk’s tweets impact the value of crypto over time.
Musk, it seems, is able to raise and lower the price of crypto at will. A tweet here, a response there — the markets shift at his command. Plus, the decentralized nature of blockchain means there are no regulatory powers to check his power; there’s no crypto SEC to slap his wrists.
“There’s little question after last weekend’s price action that a tweet from Elon Musk can move the price of bitcoin. In cryptocurrencies, it’s as important to understand memes and the social layer as it is to understand the technology and game theory that make bitcoin a secure network. It also raises uncomfortable questions about price manipulation.” — Galen Moore, emphasis author’s own.
Then there’s Dogecoin. Musk has almost single-handedly raised the ‘joke’ crypto to new heights with his support. He is the ‘Dogefather’, surely.
Is he being serious? It’s difficult to tell…
“I have to be careful what I say, it can affect the market… Occasionally I make jokes about dogecoin, but they are really meant to be jokes. Dogecoin was made as a joke to make fun of crypto, but fate loves irony.” — Elon Musk, 2021
Maybe this will clear things up. In March 2021 Tesla informed the SEC, via Form 8-K, that Musk’s official title had changed to ‘Technoking’, with CFO Zach Kirkhorn becoming ‘Master of Coin’.
Elon Musk is literally trolling the US government regulator that once tried to limit his behaviour and stop him influencing markets on a whim.
And this is the problem. Regulators like the SEC are boring but necessary. If Musk crashes the Bitcoin market with a tweet it affects a fraction of a percent of his wealth. It’s not the same for everyone else. Thousands of ordinary people have significant proportions of their wealth and assets in crypto, and they are all at risk when the market can be raised or crashed by one man and a twitter account.
Anyone who thinks Musk is taking crypto seriously at this point should really have a long, hard think. It could be argued the crypto markets are a place to exercise unfettered power. His run-in with the SEC in 2018 means he surely understands the risks and dangers of market manipulation. The idea that Musk is innocently tweeting and can’t be blamed for the market consequences just doesn’t fly. Musk is no debutante — he understands what he’s doing.
There’s little doubt that Musk is in fact the King of Crypto — his power to shift the value of multiple cryptocurrencies is impressive to say the least. But the jokes, the memes, the history of manipulation, the sense that crypto is little more than a hobby, make it difficult to see Musk as the level-headed Technoking he claims to be.
So Anonymous are tiring of Elon Musk. Maybe. The halo is slipping, it seems.
Is Elon likely to be worried? I doubt it. As noted above, I suspect the whole thing can be put down to a few people losing out on Bitcoin. I doubt very much will change overall. The cult of Musk will hold strong. After all, the Billionaire Jester-King of Crypto still reigns supreme.