In the first battle of the US Civil War, eager spectators streamed out of Washington D.C., by foot, horse and carriage to watch from a hillside. Expecting an easy Union victory, many packed picnic baskets.
When the Confederates broke through Union lines, however, shocked onlookers fled back to the city in a disorderly panic.
It was an early indication that the war would be far longer and more gruesome than anticipated.
The unexpected length and cost of the conflict necessitated financial innovation: For the first time, the government printed “greenbacks” — paper money not backed by gold.
Financier Jay Gould effectively created a bond market to absorb sales of new government debt: $2.2 billion in bonds were issued during the war. That compares to a federal deficit of just $77 million at its start.
The war also popularized a new medium of information: photography.
Photos of battlefields strewn with dead soldiers brought the horrors of war into the homes of non-combatants far removed from the fighting.
People learned that war is — literally — no picnic.
Subsequent wars were similarly influenced by new forms and uses of both media and finance.
Early indications suggest the current war in Ukraine will be no different.
Making a Difference
World War II had its propaganda films (starring a young Ronald Reagan) and the ascendance of Keynesianism. Vietnam had burning villages on the nightly news and put an end to the gold standard. The Gulf War had General Schwarzkopf holding court on CNN like a talk show host and ushered in an era of activist economic sanctions.
New forms of media and finance shaped both the perception and the course of each of those wars.
With the current war in Ukraine, it is clear that Twitter is shaping both perception and reality.
The micro-blogging site also happens to be where much of the crypto community lives. So, the new medium of information in this war has gotten immediately entangled with the new medium of finance.
Crypto finance is, of course, smaller scale than the SWIFT and central bank sanctions that have rightly dominated headlines over the last few days: Far fewer dollars are at stake.
But because it’s intertwined with media perceptions, I expect crypto Twitter is already having an outsized impact on events.
When I checked yesterday, about $4 million had been sent in 41,000 transactions to the BTC and ETH addresses posted by the @Ukraine Twitter account.
That number shot higher this morning after the account went full crypto-native by announcing an upcoming airdrop.
Sending money to a crypto address posted on Twitter is usually a little informal for my taste. (Ukraine was given a seal of approval by Vitalik, however. And not the one who recently added me to his ETH giveaway list.)
A more structured effort is the @Ukraine_DAO, backed by Pussy Riot and PleasrDAO, which raised $6.7 million in four days by selling fractions of an NFT of the Ukrainian flag.
And the perhaps most reassuringly formal effort is the Aide for Ukraine DAO, which was spun up with amazing speed by Solana devs: It has so far raised $1.4 million to “go directly to aiding Ukrainians on the ground.”
Those crypto donations will be converted to fiat by FTX and deposited with NGO and government accounts.
In a podcast, Anatoly Yakovenko, the founder of Solana, said FTX was the only financial institution that immediately agreed to help — which demonstrates that the crypto industry has already changed the humanitarian response to war for the better.
$33M+ in crypto funds raised by Ukraine so far and anyone in the world who contributes by tomorrow will receive an airdrop from the Ukrainian government (Continues) (Thread) — Perceptive
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