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Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche (breakermag.com)
131 points by petethomas 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments





"I, too, was a lonely intelligent child who knew the special horror, as most lonely intelligent children do, of thinking both very little and too much of themselves at the same time."

Article is worth it for that line. What an outstanding description of my childhood and likely the childhood of half this site's visitors.

Almost everything wrong with tech (at least socially) can be laid at the feet of what it's like to grow up as an overly smart over-educated nerd. If I were contracted by an evil genius to design a brainwashing program to turn kids into sociopaths, I'd just design something exactly like my experience in public school. There's a special kind of head fuckery that you get from being constantly told by adults you're superior while at the same time getting beaten, ignored, and humiliated by most of your peers. I spent most of my late teens and early 20s on a semi-deliberate quest to deprogram myself. I like to think I was somewhat successful.


This reminds me a lot of David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", where he goes on a Caribbean cruise full of retired people. (Highly recommended. The story, not the cruise.)

Don't read this looking for insights about Bitcoin, any more than you'd read DFW's article for insights about being retired. This is a fish-out-of-water story, and those kind of stories are best when they're about the fish itself, not about the water of lack of it.


Very well written and funny article documenting the shitcoin bros!

I thoroughly got exactly what I wanted: the exact same shilling I expected from these fake-intellectual, tax-evading bros.


I guess I'm in the minority but I thought it was excellently written and very funny.

I don't think you are. It is exceptionally well written and full of wit. Not all articles have to be like this, but in this case, this works and works wonderfully.

> I am not 10 feet tall and 22, but I am a tiny hyperactive white woman with weird hair and poor boundaries, so I revert to an old standby and start serving full manic pixie dream girl. It’s not exactly an act. I’m a terrible actor. It’s just about dialing up the parts of my personality that men tend to find most delightful, giggling a bit more, scratching my arse a bit less, and hoping nobody Googles me. It helps that I don’t have to fake ignorance of the crypto-scene drama. I only have to pretend to care.

Integrity and professionalism bordering on zero.


There's something positive to be said for intellectual honesty--if not on the cruise ship, in the writeup.

> Integrity and professionalism bordering on zero.

Absolutely not. You are considering she's there as a journalist to produce and informative piece of news. She's there as a writer to produce a feature about how does it feel to be in one of these cruises.

By your standards, all gonzo journalism or, for that matter, any piece of new journalism is unprofessional. That is just plain absurd. The reader knows she is writing from a personal point of view and should be capable to understand what that means in the context of the experience.


I'm going to flag all "gonzo journalism" submissions in the future. HN isn't a cheap tabloid aggregator.

Just the fact that she mentioned Extras bring criminally underrated goes a long way in my credibility checklist :)

“John McAfee has never been convicted of rape and murder, but—crucially—not in the same way that you or I have never been convicted of rape or murder.”

That’s a well crafted line right there.


Yes, I laughed out loud with this line!

This, unfortunately, is how most business'y events are, unless very corporate or govt-related. Just slightly less blatant. I really envy people who have this ability to filter it all out and still feel at ease.

This provides a condensation of what I’ve experienced visiting Silicon Valley as an outsider.

As a Silicon Valley resident, it doesn't come close to what I've ever experienced in my day to day life: one of your typical suburban grunt worker at a big corporation how goes to work in the morning and goes home in the evening for family dinner and invites friends over on the weekend for BBQ.

I really enjoyed this article. It really captures the weirdness of this kind of event, and rings true to the bandwagon-crypto people I've met, with a bit of good-natured caricature added. She also writes very well about the role of women during the event.

> In 2017, Salman says, it was relatively easy to raise funds for a nine-figure ICO.

There weren't many ICO's that raised nine figures. In fact most of them had a cap far below nine figures.


> I knew about bitcoin only as an investment vehicle favored by several essentially sweet nerds close to my heart—and I knew, too, that cryptocurrencies are the pet untraceable funding model of the far-right.

The author really hasn't been paying attention if she failed to realize it is the pet funding model of drug dealers, ransomers, scammers, and money launderers, and only instead opted to use it to mock the political spectrum she doesn't agree with. This article is poor journalism at best.

I can't believe someone paid the author to go on this cruise and to write such shoddy work. I'm not a fan of the cryptocurrency space, but I had to stop reading this -- it was a Im-better-than-you hit piece to justify the paid trip.


The sentence that you quote is one in which she professes her ignorance about the subject. That should be sufficient to lower ones expectations about this being an academic paper.

> This article is poor journalism at best.

Not all articles need to be ProPublica investigative journalism. There's no shame creating well written, entertaining, lighthearted content, even if it's not 100% accurate.


Alt/far-right has become the ultimate boogieman for subjective "journalism". Mythical, faceless people who are simultaneously hacker geniuses and inbred neanderthals. Anything and everything that is not clearly within the approved Overton window must be part of this vast, conspiratorial underbelly.

The ultimate irony of labeling anyone ideologically different "*-ist" being itself a form of bigotry is lost on them.


I wasn't too offended by that bit. I checked out her source, and moved on. I think it's a pretty interesting piece - an interesting slice of life in a very strange time.

You weren't really paying attention if you failed to realize the author was a woman. Poor readership at best.

Well:

> I had to stop reading this -- it was a Im-better-than-you hit piece


Her name is shown next to the headline.

Laurie is a male name too

Since when has it been the case that the far-right are never drug dealers, ransomers, scammers, or money launderers?

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece precisely because she did describe the dystopian soup of all of the above that decentralisation and distribution has given us. If anything you should have walked away from this article with the realisation that, thanks to it all, we can no longer truly organize ourselves into such narrow little boxes of prejudice.

I'm guessing you didn't make it to the end of the article? I'll save you a tap on the back-button, and quote the part that I think you did yourself a disservice by missing:

"But it’s also the case that no amount of mathematics can delete human prejudice, and no ledger can logic away human cruelty. If the crypto community hasn’t realized that yet, it soon will."

This is probably the wisest thing I've ever heard anyone say, ever, who has had even the slightest contact with crypto-culture.


I'm not a fan of the far-right, but this begging the question/false equivalency doesn't sit well with me:

> Since when has it been the case that the far-right are never drug dealers, ransomers, scammers, or money launderers?

Since when has it been the case that the far-right are always drug dealers, ransomers, scammers, or money launderers?

The political inclinations of these people are a factor, but not the sole reason. 1 + X = 2, only if X = 1. There are many more reasons why such as trip would attract scumbags and political idealogies aren't the whole story.

Left/right is a different political spectrum to libertarianism, totalitarianism, communism, liberalism etc. Fascism is closer to totalitarianism (which is the polar opposite of libertarianism), but is far-right.


shshhdhs's post complaining about the author injecting their political views into this piece indicated that they (shshhdhs) felt that the author was singling out the far-right leaning people she met on the cruise, for targeting, and that her cynicism of the crypto- scene is derived, somehow, from the fact that she (the author) held political views incompatible with the people she met that she associated as being far-right. shshhdhs's response to this was to indicate that the crypto- scene is also the realm of drug dealers, ransomers, scammers, etc.

But these things are not incompatible. Far-right scammers, drug dealers, scammers, etc. exist. So do far-left versions of the same. So it really isn't relevant to their (shshhdhs) criticism, and thats the point I wish to make.

It seems to me that shshhdhs is only complaining about the authors political views with regards to this cruise, because they are incompatible with shshhdhs's views of the same, and that shshhdhs is making the statement that crypto- is more the domain of drug-dealers, etc. therefore "it can't be all far-right people in the scene". I merely wish to point out that if you're left-, or if you're right- wing, you can still be a bad person for other reasons: drugs, ransom, scams, etc.

Crypto- is an equaliser, and that is really the big point. Ones political ideology is irrelevant to the technology - its just as useful for people who wish do good, however they define 'good' as it is for those who do things others think are 'bad', for whatever that definition may be.

The authors own conclusion - the very last sentence of the article - demonstrates that she gets it: it doesn't matter what your political views, crypto- is going to let you continue to espouse them, whether they are good or bad. Maybe thats offensive to some, but it doesn't seem to me that it bothers the author that much. What seems to bother her, is the rampant sexism that she observed, and I concur with her statement that it seems technology is never going to solve this. Only humans will.


I'm not sure how you get "mock the political spectrum she doesn't agree with" from her accurately reporting here that it is used to fund a current political movement in the United States, using the name that movement chose for itself. This statement is purely factual. Now if she'd described it as "the favorite mechanism for American Nazi-wannabes incompetently laundering their Russian cash", that would have been mockery.

Found John McAfee

Yeah, she's literally, in that opening you quoted from, admitting to not having paid attention.

Does the later choice of focus on the connection between bitcoin and, to quote, 'libertarian-shading-to-far-right` thinking render the observations she makes, on a cruise catering apparently to many people of that mindset, invalid?


Aren’t journalists paid to pay attention? I’ve never seen much “far right” in crypto land (fascism we’re talking about right?), as much as I’ve seen libertarianism or crypto-anarchy... this kind of naive “let's get rid of governments and everyone will be happy and cooperate peacefully” that Roger Ver espouses really well.

As software developers are paid to write code. And yet I couldn't begin to tell you the difference between Node and Angular.

You haven't been paid to specifically research that difference.

If you think her editor was disappointed in how it came out, you don't know journalism very well. If they wanted someone to write knowledgeably about crypto, they would have hired someone else.

Instead, the point seems to have been to pay a writer who didn't know much about it to go on the cruise and write about what happened. The only real qualification needed for this sort of piece is being able to talk to people and write well.


"paying attention" and "researching the difference" imply distinctly different patterns of activity. I was objecting to the former, and am asserting that the article is an exploration of one facet of the latter.

libertarianism IS far-right to the author.

>> I can't believe someone paid the author to go on this cruise and to write such shoddy work.

This is how this level of journalism works: CyproCruise has a promotion budget. That budget includes "free" tickets for journalists. They offer these tickets to hip/cool outlets but, as this is a cruise, they need the name of the journalist before actually sending the ticket. So hip/cool outlet sends bio/headshot of the journalist they want to send.

She is admittedly short, petite, young and has cool hair. In her headshot she probably looks 22. Boxes ticked. Cryptocruise sees her both as another attractive female and, being misogynist pigs, thinks her incapable of doing any real damage. So she gets the ticket. Whether her bosses tell her they have paid for the ticket, or that it has been provided, we can never know.

Everyone got what they thought they wanted. Cryptocruise got another attractive female on their boat, and at a discount. News outlet got what they wanted: a colorful description of exactly how misogynist crypto has become. And we readers go our thing too: I actually read the entire article. It reinforced my understanding and assured me that cypto is not long for this world, at least in its current form. Everyone got their thing and made a few bucks doing so. That's how journalism works.

[Think of how awful the article might have been. Imagine if they had sent a 45yo hetero guy, someone who might have fallen in with a very different crowd on this boat.]


no-one looks at the Laurie Penny types and their "cool hair" and thinks they'll portray a positive (or even neutral/journalistic) image of libertarians.

Positive image of libertarians. OK.

It reinforced your understanding that crypto is not long for this world even though we never learned from the article how many people were on the cruise?

Plenty of thought leaders in crypto were not on this cruise. It's easy to cherry pick your opinions from one event where people behave poorly.


Except she's Laurie Penny who has been an extremely active anti-men writer for a long time. If they were expecting anything other than the worst hatchet job imaginable, then they didn't do even 5 minutes of research.

https://www.theguardian.com/profile/laurie-penny


You honestly think these people read her bio? The people promoting this cruise didn't get past her headshot. I'm interested to see which other journalists were invited.

I think she's perhaps more well known for this type of thing than you realize.

So they probably wanted her to write a piece like this to generate controversy?

Possibly, but I don't think it's an accident to put literally the most hostile journalist imaginable on board.

Nah, the most hostile journalist possible would have been the FT's Izabella Kaminska. Or possibly David Gerard.

Grouping the people she writes about under "men" is an insult to the rest of us.

I generally enjoy articles like this but this one was a hard read. Something about the way the author jumps back and forth from people, events, ideas, internal monologues, to random facts about chairs.

What a great writer!

"For instance, in October, artist Kelly Donnelly released the feminist anthem “I Am She” using Ethereum" - has anyone heard of this? It's the first mention I can find.

Hopeless juvenile article which is all about the writer and her naive opinions. Wondering why this made it onto HN? Is there some nugget here I missed?

Hopelessly juvenile article covering a hopelessly juvenile "conference" for a hopelessly juvenile technology.

So, it all lines up for me.


No. Just typical Laurie penny nonsense.

I don't know why anyone pays attention to her.


Because she is funny. And possibly the bastard offspring of Hunter S Thompson and PJ O'Rourke.

Authors nowadays have the tendency to (ab)use their own articles as vehicle to talk about themselves -- and it's ever too often either completely unrelated to the content or some superficial, forced connection. It's quite annoying.

I know. Like when Mark Twain visited Germany in 1878 and then used his report ("A Tramp Abroad") to talk about his own feelings rather than objectively describing the fascinating arts and crafts of Prussia.

Or how David Halberstam selfishly described his reaction to seeing a Buddhist monk burn in Vietnam: "I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think.... As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him."

What an amateur. No wonder he only won one Pulitzer.


Ah, yes – holding journalism to the same standard as works of semi-fiction is indeed called for these days. An excellent comparison on your part.

Other people, however, may hold journalism to higher standards than those of infotainment that falls terribly short of the "info" part of the portmanteau.


This phenomenon is called "journalism"

It's called narcissism.

It's to make them relatable

Its all Gonzo now.

Typical example of poor journalism. Written to be sensationalist and carry a narrative that was already all decided before setting a foot on that boat.

I tried to enjoy this, but as writing it kind of flaunts "show don't tell." The author could have written half of this without ever setting foot on the boat. Like, it feels like she came in with her burns prepared beforehand, and only paid cursory attention to the people.

It talks a lot about shame and misogyny and abuse of power, but doesn’t actually report on any instances of it other than “they hired pretty girls to party on the boat”, which I can assume were consensual transactions those women engaged in voluntarily.

Where is the big dirt she keeps alluding to? Are we just supposed to hate them by default for being rich and white and male and schlubby and tasteless?


We aren't supposed to hate them, we are supposed to laugh at them.



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