Sam Bankman-Fried and the Media’s Love Affair with T-Shirt CEOs


Less than a month ago, under the adoring eyes of the establishment media, 30-year-old Sam Bankman-Fried was ‘the emperor of crypto’ (New York Times) and multi-billionaire with a monastic lifestyle who wanted nothing more than to “donate his fortune” to altruistic causes (Bloomberg Markets).

This was before it was revealed that Bankman-Fried cryptocurrency exchange FTX allegedly lent billions in client funds to a trading company he also co-founded, Alameda Research. In short, FTX allegedly funded Alameda’s risky bets in the volatile digital currency market using other people’s money, without their knowledge or anyone else’s knowledge. Bahamas-based FTX collapsed overnight in a liquidity crunch after a client run, and Bankman-Fried’s wealth plummeted from an estimated height of $26.5 billion in March to zero ( although it may have assets parked somewhere). As the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department’s Financial Crimes Unit launched investigations, Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO of FTX on Nov. 11 and the company filed a restructuring file.

Most damning of all was the report that John J. Ray III, an insolvency practitioner hired as a replacement CEO, filed in bankruptcy court Nov. 17.

“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of reliable financial reporting as has happened here,” Ray wrote.

He identified (pdf) these bizarre management practices as a lack of financial records for several FTX units; improper accounting for FTX digital assets; apparent use of corporate funds to purchase homes in the Bahamas tax haven for FTX employees; and a chaotic expense reimbursement system that operated through a chat site with disbursements approved via emojis.

The media has obviously been bamboozled — or, more accurately, willfully bamboozled itself — with one puff after another over the last year or so about Bankman-Fried’s supposed Midas touch on crypto. How else to account for the August/September 2022 issue of Fortune magazine, the cover of which is entirely devoted to an enlarged photo of Bankman-Fried’s famously shady face, with a headline inside speculating that he might be ” the next Warren Buffett”?

The answer is quite simple: T-shirts. Time and time again, the establishment media has proven itself CEO wannabes in t-shirts. Wear one, preferably loose and ruffled, instead of a coat and tie, to a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos (May 2022) – or to host a digital currency event in a exclusive Bahamas resort with former US President Bill Clinton and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as panelists (April 2022), or to appear paired with model Gisele Bundchen in a four-page ad from the New Yorker magazine (June 2022): “Because we share a passion for creating positive change” – and you’ll be adored in the media.

Journalists like to think of themselves as protagonists of social justice, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. In fact, most are celebrity-worshipping herd animals all chasing the same story, as Evelyn Waugh noted as early as 1938 in her satirical novel “Scoop.” Comforting the comfortable is their business. So the idea of ​​flouting conventional corporate dress codes tugs at their rebellious heart. Mark Zuckerberg’s gray T-shirt uniform is iconic, so much so that the media faithfully follows whether he’s gone from short sleeves to long sleeves or back. His sartorial predecessor was Steve Jobs of the eternal informal black turtleneck, then Twitter’s Jack Dorsey with his Rasputin beard. Before them all came Albert Einstein with his flying hair and penchant for cable knit sweaters instead of jackets. Einstein was a true mathematical genius who could get away with this stuff, but that didn’t stop intellects of lesser exaltation from taking him up as a role model.

Bankman-Fried was an ultimate distillation of the sartorial-rebellious-genius philosophy. He wasn’t just wearing a T-shirt, but a T-shirt that he looked like he slept in. And sometimes he literally did. A favorite photo circulating before his fall shows him closing his eyes in his t-shirt as he lies on a beanbag on the floor of his office while his FTX minions take care of their screens. And it wasn’t just a t-shirt, but shorts, trainers and crinkle socks – the outfit of a toddler who had outgrown his stroller – coupled with a scruffy tuft of hair that looked like he’d last washed when George Washington crossed the Delaware.

The media couldn’t get enough. “A Crypto Emperor’s Vision: No Pants, His Rules,” read a New York Times headline in May 2022. The article praised Bankman-Fried for living “modestly” — even though his current home was a penthouse. of 12,000 square feet at Nassau’s most exclusive neighborhood that has been listed for sale for nearly $40 million. It was roughly the same amount Bankman-Fried gave to Democratic Party causes in the 2021-2022 election cycle, making him the party’s largest donor after George Soros. He was also a promoter of “effective altruism,” a utilitarian philanthropy craze among progressives that argues that it is morally superior to donate to a “long-term” focused climate change foundation than at a children’s hospital trying to treat people with cancer. young at the moment. Vox called him a “strangely quick-witted selfless billionaire”.

All of that is ancient history right now. Although maybe not. Bankman-Fried is still technically on the speakers list for a New York Times-sponsored “summit” on “change” scheduled for Nov. 30 that will also feature fellow T-shirt CEOs Zuckerberg and chairman Volodymyr Zelensky. from Ukraine and another media darling. Participation fee: $2,499. Bankman-Fried may have met his Waterloo, but the media’s love affair with sartorial convention flouts shows no signs of cooling.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

Charlotte Allen


Charlotte Allen is the editor of Catholic Arts Today and a frequent contributor to Quillette. She holds a doctorate in medieval studies from the Catholic University of America.

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