It doesn’t matter if you’re a fellow billionaire, in Peter Thiel’s book, you either see cryptocurrency as the future, or you’re an “enemy.” “Enemy number one: the sociopathic grandpa from Omaha,” Thiel, the billionaire PayPal cofounder and pro-Trump Republican mega-donor said in an address at a cryptocurrency conference in Miami this week, sneering at business magnate and Nebraska native Warren Buffett. Thiel, whose current firm amassed a substantial Bitcoin fortune, also condemned JPMorgan Chase chairman Jamie Dimon and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink as two other “enemies” of Bitcoin, dismissing Dimon, Fink, and Buffett as a trio of geriatric tyrants standing in the way of progress. Thiel’s comments were his latest attempt to turn crypto into a right-wing culture issue, hailing Bitcoin as a revolutionary conservative movement fighting against “woke” corporations and the financial establishment.
The conference speakers list was a who’s who of those trying to be at the power center of the crypto economy—an economy that notably rose to prominence for having no centralized or organizing body. It featured Super Bowl champion Odell Beckham Jr., tennis superstar Serena Williams, and football player and newly minted anti-vax icon Aaron Rodgers, all of whom are among the myriad celebrities who have embraced crypto—some being paid to hawk it to the masses. Journalist Glenn Greenwald and leading men’s rights figure Jordan Peterson made appearances at the convention for more ideological reasons. On a Thursday panel, Greenwald hailed Bitcoin for advancing “freedom of speech and anti-imperialism” around the world, adding that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton find crypto technology “so threatening to the prevailing order” that they are united in opposing it. Meanwhile, Peterson used his conference appearance to describe Bitcoin as the next frontier of capitalism, saying there are “two justifications for free markets and capitalism. It gives warlike people something to do that isn’t destructive.”
Thiel vowed “to expose” his fellow billionaires who are perhaps more crypto-skeptical—though even those on Thiel’s list of so-called enemies clearly also see there’s money to be made. “The finance gerontocracy that runs the country through whatever silly virtue-signaling-slash-hate-factory term like ESG [environmental, social, and governance] they have versus what I would call—what we have to think of as a revolutionary youth movement,” Thiel said. “When they choose not to allocate to Bitcoin, that is a deeply political choice, and we need to be pushing back against them.”
Buffett has drawn the ire of crypto heads by ridiculing Bitcoin as purely speculative “rat poison” that holds “no unique value at all.” But, in February, Buffett’s company invested $1 billion in a Brazilian digital bank that specializes in cryptocurrency. Dimon has called Bitcoin a fraudulent, “worthless” asset. Fink has said that Bitcoin is an “index of money laundering.” But like Buffett, Fink is slowly warming up to Bitcoin, writing in a March letter to shareholders that a “global digital payment system, thoughtfully designed, can enhance the settlement of international transactions while reducing the risk of money laundering and corruption.” Even Dimon, who refuses to call digital coins “currencies,” recently praised the blockchain technology used by Bitcoin in a letter to JPMorgan Chase shareholders. “There are many uses where a blockchain can replace or improve contracts, data ownership and other enhancements,” Dimon wrote in an annual shareholder letter published this week.
During his conference speech, Thiel advised investors to break away from government-backed financial systems and jump aboard the crypto bandwagon if they wish to survive the coming wave of global inflation. After acknowledging that the future of cryptocurrency is precarious and difficult to predict, Thiel insisted that Bitcoin is “always the most honest market in the world” and “the most efficient.”
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