A suggestion for the SBF trial’s crypto journalism polycule

Crypto media’s obsession with this trial is another example of the industry’s love of scams, fraud and those that perpetrate them

OPINION
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The crypto journalists are in an industry publication polycule. 

In case we’ve forgotten what a polycule is: all of the people linked through their relationships, usually romantic and/or sexual, to one or more members of a polyamorous group.

I hate to say it — and some will side-eye me for being the one to say it, since I’ve written for nearly all the crypto trade pubs (here’s another one checked off) — but walking out of the court house where Sam Bankman-Fried was being tried, I couldn’t help feeling it all a bit incestuous. 

The only day I went to the courthouse was yesterday, during the prosecutor’s closing arguments. It was also the only day I’ve paid any attention to the trial. And the media aspect felt a bit too friendly — ex-colleagues, now competitors, giving each other hugs, asking each other when their respective pubs are going to go under and indulging in this weird spectacle that we’re pretending is…really that serious. 

Crypto media has taken a hit recently. Each bear market is harder than the last, because the previous bull enticed more people, including journalists, into the broader crypto ‘cule. In the bull, there’s nothing sweeter. You can’t possibly imagine being jealous about your primary partner’s secondary journalist, or your secondary partner’s primary journalist, or even that weird freelancer who is way too earnest for the orgy. 

But then, the floor drops out from under you. This time around, there’s more users getting completely rekt, more believers having to backtrack, more journalists laid off and, in turn, throwing themselves at any tragedy that will elicit the clicks we’re all addicted to. 

Don’t get me wrong. Walking into a New York City government building where they take your phone away and you’re having to frantically handwrite notes on hours of closing arguments, it certainly does make you feel important. And the comradery — I know it’s real in some cases — I’m not knocking that feel-good sensation, that need for a friendly outlet to vent. Plus, as New York Magazine wrote, “The trial has an ungainly audience, and it’s kind of great.” No doubt I would have been even more annoyed about my presence in the overflow room had it not been for the gasps, laughs and old friends. 

But. But. It does kinda seem that we journalists are all here just to prove that we’re all still here. From what I’ve heard — the views on our trial articles, you could count on your hands. 

Read more from our opinion section: I’m a crypto journalist, just please don’t tell anyone

The implosion of FTX is certainly important. People throughout the world collectively lost billions of dollars. Those dollars, as the prosecutor labeled them, were “investments, savings, nest eggs for the future.” True, but also, the people who lost money were largely not Americans. And yes, crypto media is global, but we all know where most of our readers are coming from. So who are we writing for? Why quick hits every time SBF twitches from Adderall withdrawal? And why such urgency? 

A friend called what I saw yesterday in the courthouse rubbernecking, like when people stare for too long at accidents (see here: scandal, misbehavior, criminality). There are journalists who have spent the last five weeks, Monday through Thursday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, in that courtroom (or the overflow rooms) listening to the tedious minutiae of how SBF lost billions of dollars of FTX customer funds. Customers, who again, were largely not the readership of your publications. I know journalists that got to the courthouse at midnight, in the cold, in the rain, just to make sure they got a spot in the actual courtroom. 

I respect your initiative. 

I’m not saying there should be no journalists there. There are certainly reporters who cover law, regulation, court cases who surely are prime candidates for covering this shitshow. But crypto media’s obsession with this trial is another example of the industry’s love of scams, fraud and — LOL — those that perpetrate them. Someone there had on a fucking Alameda T-shirt like a badge of honor. “Yeah, I went to the Bahamas.”  

Ooookay. Easy. 

Look, I get it. I have been in rooms with the most notorious crypto frauds. I’ve been groped by the kingpins of the industry. I was one of the first journalists to write about Bitcoin back in 2012. I have listened to the bullshit for a very long time. And it made me feel important. It made me feel like I was this close to being famous. It made me feel like a part of history, a history that not many people really grok. 

But don’t kid yourself. Stay humble, my friends. No one outside this small group of people gives a shit. 

About thirty minutes into the prosecutor’s closing statements, there was a problem with the screen share in the courtroom. The court devolved into chaos as people tried to figure out how to get exhibit whatever number to appear on all the screens. 

Two women behind me started chatting. 

“Honestly, I’m already sold.” 

“Yeah, say less.” 

“Should we just bounce?” 

“Yeah, let’s bounce.” 

At first, I judged them. Me, high and mighty, scribbling away in my notebook, scoffs, Isn’t the problem that we’re all so quick to judge? You all are certainly not invested in this. 

The irony is not lost on me and my small grift as a journalist in the courtroom.

The two women’s snap judgment isn’t the problem. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that Bankman-Fried is guilty. And especially for me, I needed to sit through no part of the trial at all to already know that someone the industry had elevated to god-like status was going to screw up the polyfidelity. History, repeating itself. 

I hope those women got a latte and a massage, had a nice chat about what fun dance class they’re taking this week or the epiphany they had in yoga. I hope they laughed, and told each other, “We should do this more often.” I hope they didn’t think about this trial once after they left. 

I thought about staying. I thought about staying because, even though I had decided those women were to be honored because of their quick astuteness, there was going to be a whole ‘nother round of closing arguments from the defense. 

And it hit me, one of these parties will have lied. Actually, both the parties have probably lied. Everyone is lying a little, and sometimes a lot. But we are certainly lying to pretend that crypto, thus far, has amounted to anything more than a distraction to the serious problems in society, anything more than a risky plaything, anything more than wishful thinking. 

But I’m staying because I think crypto could amount to something, someday, hopefully. For the other journalists out there, the ones who are also staying, who are back at the courthouse today, I have a question — could there be a way to manage this harem where the ups are inspiring and the downs are supportive and both don’t feel quite so exploitative?

But also, let’s not be so delusional to think that our hope for crypto’s future isn’t a bit self-indulgent — please, for the love of God, I just want to retire early. 



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