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God Fucking Dammit, Why Didn't You Listen About Bitcoin
Seriously, not an "I Told You So" so much as a "Please, for the love of God, listen to those of us who might know a lot about this thing you suddenly decided to be into"
By joepeacock Posted in Blog on June 13, 2018 One Comment
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The world, for all its chaos and wonder, tends to fall for the same bullshit every 20 years. 

This is because the people who fell for it 20 years ago now have kids who inherited their genes, and are susceptible to the same crap, I guess. I’m making that up. I’m not entirely sure why. One thing I do know is that 20 years seems to be the magic number for people to forget the last time pretty much the exact same kind of crap happened, and then go do it again.

Case in point: It turns out that last year’s mega Bitcoin boom might have been artificially inflated* by a small cabal of high value owners to manipulate newcomers into buying and inflating the price so they could dump their coins at the inflated price, only to buy it back at the post-plummet price.

Ugh.

This is not a new scam. It’s called the pump and dump, and it’s been going on as long as there have been intangible assets people can invest cash into to somehow beat the odds and become millionaires in a legal lottery our entire financial system has decided to hinge itself on. And I saw it coming, because I’ve seen it before. Twice.

But please understand, this is not an “I told you so.” This is very much not that. It is a plea: to those of you who don’t intimately know technology to please, please, please, please, PLEASE start listening to those of us who have been around this little internet world for a while, lest you lose your assets, your identity, your privacy, or even your emotional stability (looking at you, Facebook friends who can’t stop yelling into the void about politics while helping Cambridge Analytica and several Chinese, Russian, and North Korean machine learning engines on how to manipulate you further).

For the past few years, I was active in a bunch of cigar trading groups (laugh all you want, we have fun and can’t see your giggling through our lovely plumes of smoke). I say was, partly because quitting your job at the biggest audit and financial firm in the world to write your Cyberpunk novel isn’t exactly going to make the cigar budget larger, and also because after last year’s Bitcoin bullshit, I had to take a break and I’ve not really come back.

In those groups, you see a few types of people:

  1. The OG (Original Gangster). The guy (almost always a guy) who has been smoking and dealing in cigars for decades or more, who knows all the lore, all the brands, all the legends, what to buy, what to smoke, what to trade… The Yodas of the group. These make up maybe 10% of the group’s population in the average forum, and they usually all have a secret group they hang out at to talk openly together without any interjection by the next few types.
  2. The Baller. These guys (sometimes a lady) know what they’re talking about, but aren’t afraid to ask more experienced guys for help and advice. They admit when they don’t know something, which is how they learn more. These are genuinely nice, genuinely cool dudes. They like talking. Not talking shit, not politics, not religion… Just a genuine fondness for the art of conversation. These are the guys for whom cigars are not just smoky treats or a dick measuring contest — they find a brotherhood in the hobby, because if you like something that I like, we have a commonality and that should bring us together despite what separates us. This makes up about 30% of the group populations. Occasionally, one will get invited to the OG forum and are told “keep your mouth shut for at least six months, no joke.”
  3. The “expert.” This guy (ALWAYS a guy, because women don’t have the ego need to be this fucking annoying) has been in cigars for six months to two years. He wheels and deals. He knows the difference between plume and mold, and is not at all shy about telling you even when you don’t ask. He thinks your favorite cigar sucks, especially compared to the one made thirty years ago that will cost you 10x the going price because of age, which somehow he smokes every weekend because he’s either made of money or recycles the same picture every week. These are about 60% of the average population of groups, except for the graybeards special secret group. I wish I wasn’t joking. It’s somewhat insufferable. You can pawn off every single hyped up terrible cigar in your collection to these people without blinking an eye, because the picture of them smoking that band (oftentimes literally!!! DON’T SMOKE THE BAND, It’s ink and paper, Jesus) is worth way more than the enjoyment of the cigar.
  4. The total noob. They got their first cuban cigar last weekend at a bachelor party and liked it, and their “expert” friend tipped them to groups and forums where they could get more like it. These guys often start down the road of “expert” within weeks, and kinda suck, but occasionally they’ll learn and be cool and end up a Baller.

And one thing I learned really quickly: there is a really weird correlation between this classification of cigar guys, and with Bitcoin people. And sometimes, they overlap. I also found it to be true in the animation cel collection community, the comic book community, the rare Designer’s Republic collecting community, and virtually any group I’ve ever belonged to where the privilege of having disposable income meets with a gaping void in one’s life for fulfillment, which can be filled with stuff.

The only thing better than stuff? Free money to buy more stuff with. And greed is universal.

There’s an old saying: “When your cab driver gives you advice on a stock, sell that stock.”

Yup.

So, last year, seemingly out of nowhere, I started seeing pieces of Bitcoin and Ethereum news appear in my cigar groups. I didn’t shake my head. I wasn’t mystified. Worlds didn’t collide. I knew exactly what was going on: a specific type of person who gets into a thing because it will make them a little side income suddenly find a new thing to be late to the party to, thinking they were the first to arrive, because the real party doesn’t start until after this group leaves.

At the time, I was mostly out of cryptocurrency. I say mostly because there’s a few Bitcoins and a little Ether left in my wallets, mainly to see what it’ll do. I got into Bitcoin in 2012, and subsequently lost a few thousand dollars when Mt. Gox was hacked. I didn’t bother to get back in, but some of my coins on another exchange weren’t touched, and blah blah blah, basically I forgot about Bitcoin, and the two I had left were suddenly worth thousands in 2017.

I traded one for equal value in Ethereum, and thus lays out the sum total of my super duper cryptocurrency wealth. But all the while, I have had a number of friends who have done VERY well in both Bitcoin and Ethereum. They are, in the classification system I listed above, between OG and Ballers, and they talk in private forums with other dudes of the same class.

And every single one of them told me last year to stay the fuck out. So I did. And boy, was I glad. I didn’t feel any FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and I certainly didn’t begrudge my one little Bitcoin not feeding me for the rest of my life. I’ve lived through similar situations before. I was one of the original Dotcom kids, who (wisely then, stupidly now) traded a decent salary for stock options. My pseudo-millions went up in a plume of black smoke when two airplanes hit two towers in New York and suddenly, the bottom fell out of the mythological economy we’d all been convinced was so real.

The same kind of thing happened to me again in 2008, when suddenly my house that was supposed to quadruple in value… didn’t. It actually lost value. Half of that was because the area we lived in went downhill, the other half is because all the poison vehicles that banks sold us in real estate were exposed and suddenly nothing was worth anything anymore.

So, by the time 2017 rolled around and Bitcoin seemed to be emulating literally every single stock market bullshit trick from 1997-2001, I barely willed the energy to roll my eyes.

Except, my cigar buddies were now asking me, “Hey, you ever hear of Bitcoin?”

My advice to them was the same as anyone going to Vegas: spend only what you can afford to lose. It is NOT an investment strategy. It’s gambling, pure and simple.

Some put Bitcoin on credit cards. Some mortgaged their houses. Some liquidated thousands of dollars of cigars to invest.

Then, the prices started skyrocketing out of nowhere. And my friends in the Bitcoin world were whispering that it was a collusive effort by some very high-stakes holders to push the price up, and then dump it at peak. I shared these warnings with some of my cigar buddies, partly because I trust my Bitcoin buddies, and partly because THIS IS AN OLD SCAM AND IS VERY OBVIOUS WHEN YOU BOTHER TO INVESTIGATE EVEN BARELY.

But as the other saying goes, “If they weren’t greedy in the first place, they’d never have been scammed.”

My OG cigar buddies picked up on this kind of quickly. They’ve been around. They have seen financial crises and most were deeply affected by them, because those kinds of guys tend to be rich, and thus aware of any kind of trading market at least tangentially.

My Baller buddies… Some fell in, some stayed away, but most were ok after the dip because they didn’t bet with money they couldn’t afford to lose — just like in their cigar trading.

The “experts” however… Holy shit. I cannot possibly tell you how many people in cigar groups (and others I belong to) were posting CryptoBro memes every single day, bragging how they can’t believe people work “real” jobs when they could just invest in bitcoin, and how rich they were going to be… And then suddenly stopped. Like, dead silence. Not a word. Except in some smaller groups and private chats, where some guys were asking me how the hell they were going to get out of it, or when it would bounce back so they don’t lose their damn houses.

No, really.

Yeeeeep.

So, like I said, this isn’t “I told you so.” I take no pleasure at all in saying those four words anymore, because I’m officially old now, and when you become officially old, you don’t really delight in the misery of others. You also have a VERY long track record of both giving advice that goes unheeded, and not heeding advice by the official old people in your life.

My point here is simple: Some of us know a thing about stuff you’re just now getting interested in. We all know you won’t listen, and honestly that’s a fine thing when it results in learning stuff you can’t learn any other way. But, when it comes to made-up vapor currency that doesn’t actually exist, controlled by a cabal of VERY high stakes owners, all of whom are using you to make themselves richer by enticing you with dreams of Lambos and HODLing while the noobs pump your stake… Well, maybe listen to us then.

And whatever you do, for the rest of your life, do not ever, EVER, put any kind of investment on a credit card, or mortgage your house for it. Leveraging debt is a skill, and if you don’t have it, don’t fuck with it (and here’s a hint to know if you have it or not: are you thinking of buying cryptocurrency on a credit card, or put up your house for it? Yes? Then sadly, you do not.)

And if you do do this… Well, at least you know I’m not going to say “I told you so.”

* I write “might” here because in journalism school (which I didn’t attend), and then when you forget it later when you actually do journalism (which is how I learned there is even a thing such as journalism school), whomever is editing your piece (who probably graduated from Journalism school) will strike through anything that sounds like an accusation or matter-of-fact when it is not proven in a court of law, because you can be sued to shit for it. It’s called libel, which is a form of defamation — not to be confused with slander, which is spoken, while libel is written. There, you learned something about both journalism and the law in some dude’s blog post where he goes way the fuck out of his way to say “I told you so” without saying it. And let the record show, very definitively, that I did not in fact say “I told you so” because that’d be dickish, and I’m not trying to be a dick here, I’m just trying to get young folks to learn from us old folks’ mistakes, I swear. 



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  1. I am apparently one of the few people unaware of this whole Bitcoin world until this past week. We had a case in court where one kid (abt 20ish) recruited several others from various states that were connected via gaming sites to come and do “whatever was necessary” to get his Bitcoin back from another kid here in North Georgia. He said the kid stole his Bitcoin & was also bragging on sites about how much Bitcoin he had (apparently a lot, the partners in crime believed their shares would be well upwards of $100,000). Their plane tickets to Atlanta were paid for with stolen credit card numbers and their hotel stays in various hotels were financed the same way.

    The ones that came to GA from other states plead guilty & that’s what I was there for, but what a crazy story!! The family of the kid here in GA spoke of how scared they were after this came to light. The out-of-state gang had zip ties & various other stuff. The kid lived with his parents, so whatever the gang had to do, they would do.

    So then I started Googling “Bitcoin” trying to find out what in the heck it was. Maybe my mind cannot wrap itself around the idea of cryptocurrency beyond just paying for stuff online using PayPal. I’m rather glad sometimes to be in the “no-nothing” group, the one who is at the end of the information line. I’m happier here I think.

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