For those who are not aware, New York Times (NYT) published an article yesterday titled "How Sam Bankman-Fried’s Crypto Empire Collapsed" following an in-depth interview with FTX founder and former billionaire CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF). CT has since been rife in criticisms over the tone and focus of the article. It's either a lack of journalism and editorial standards or something deeper/political could be at play. Let's review the highlights in the NYT article alongside what CT have to say.
Downplaying allegations of criminal activities, highlighting instead SBF's philanthropic activities
The article reported that SBF agreed with "the crypto community who said he had expanded his business interests too quickly across a wide swath of the industry. He said his other commitments had led him to miss signs that FTX was running into trouble", quoting SBF as saying "Had I been a bit more concentrated on what I was doing, I would have been able to be more thorough,” he said. “That would have allowed me to catch what was going on on the risk side.”
The article also went on to pay tribute to SBF's acts of philanthropy. "Mr. Bankman-Fried’s circle of colleagues was bound by a commitment to effective altruism, a charitable movement that urges adherents to give away their wealth in efficient and logical ways … Even as he kept hiring down, Mr. Bankman-Fried built an ambitious philanthropic operation"
Autism Capital, who describes themselves as the most based citizen journalism in crypto, tweeted that the article was "unquestionably soft". By far the harshest criticism has come from crypto analyst and trader Alex Krüger, who called the NYT's reporting "disgraceful", and omitting any mention of the criminal activities that SBF and his company has allegedly conducted.
Austen Allred, co-founder and CEO of Bloom Institute of Technology, an online tech education platform, compared the language used in a NYT article published in Aug 2022 on Coinbase layoffs to the recent article on SBF, adding that he "literally haven’t seen an article this positive in the NYT about tech in a decade. And it’s about the guy who unambiguously stole billions of dollars."
Wait, but why?
Given the shock and betrayal that the world had to endure the past week following FTX's implosion, one has to wonder why has the NYT taken such a soft tone in the article. Here's what CT have to say.
Jonah Bennett, founder emeritus of Palladium Magazine, a non-partisan publication exploring the future of governance and society, alluded to the "strategic donation" that SBF has made. Holland Cedar Capital Management shared a snippet of an interview with Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel Securities during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum. In the interview, Ken Griffin went further to highlight the fact that SBF was the second largest donor to Democratic candidates, a point that made the interviewer visibly uncomfortable in the video, prompting the interviewer to reply with "I will leave it to everybody else to draw their own conclusion" after a few moments of awkward silence.
Naturally, some of the conclusions drawn by CT were that that NYT could be whitewashing the alleged fraudulent activities of SBF/FTX and are calling for a boycott of the influential and prestigious publication along with its reporters.
Other noteworthy observations
The NYT article also reported, rather unnecessarily and insensitively, that SBF has "found other ways to occupy his time in recent days, playing the video game Storybook Brawl", stating that “it helps (SBF to) unwind a bit and "clears (his) mind”. As CT user 0xSisyphus pointed out, it is interesting to note that "Storybook Brawl" is actually a game that FTX owns, making this feels like a shameless plug for SBF to promote his own product.
The absurdity of the article even prompted 0xOutlaw to draw the parallels between SBF and Pablo Escobar. The comparison is somewhat apt because both men have committed serious crimes (allegedly for SBF), have donated huge sums of money to charity and also developed some sort of a cult following.
The past week has certainly not been easy for the crypto community, especially for those who have suffered losses due to their investments in FTX-associated products. However, the treatment of the FTX implosion in the NYT article has certainly not made it any easier for those affected. The lack of sensitivity and objectivity makes one wonder the relevance of the mainstream media, and how web3 or citizen journalism can potentially disrupt this industry and bring about more balanced views on controversial issues.
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