In late January, when you could grab some Dogecoin for the “bargain” price of $0.06, one analyst lamented the extent to which markets were “turning into [Elon Musk’s] newest toy.”
At the time, Musk had just catalyzed a ~600% surge in Dogecoin simply by tweeting a picture of a dog wearing a turtleneck. He also succeeded in pushing up Bitcoin by appending an emoji (and a hashtag) to his Twitter account.
Just days later, Tesla disclosed it had purchased $1.5 billion in Bitcoin for the company’s balance sheet. Tesla made $101 million in the first quarter on Bitcoin sales. Fast forward less than four months and Musk singlehandedly drove Dogecoin as high as $0.72, before letting down fans by calling it a “hustle” while hosting Saturday Night Live.
Read more: Gods On The Moon
Time and time again, I’ve insisted that, in Musk, we’re witnessing the earliest stages of centibillionaires evolving into gods — manipulating entire markets for fun and effectively making a mockery of the same institutions critics once hoped might rein him in (how is the SEC supposed to deal with a situation in which Musk can influence the size of Tesla’s “cash” pile simply be exercising his right to free speech?).
That’s the lens through which I viewed the abrupt announcement that Tesla would stop accepting Bitcoin for vehicle purchases. The decision, delivered via tweet, catalyzed a rapid drop (figure below).
Musk cited environmental concerns, an excuse critics were quick to decry as hypocritical. “If Bitcoin is bad for the environment, we should ask Elon about the carbon footprint of his SpaceX rocket,” one angry doctor told Bloomberg. “I don’t think Elon spent time studying Bitcoin,” the same thirtysomething said, before suggesting that Musk might be just “exploiting his power to control the market.”
Others, like Dave Portnoy, expressed similar dismay, accusing Elon of “playing with people’s futures [and] fortunes.”
Folks are beginning to wake up to the reality I described in “Gods.” I quote myself on this point habitually. Regular readers will forgive the repetitiveness. Last summer, I warned that a few fortunes were becoming “so large, so fast, that the people associated with them” were on the verge of “becoming gods, beholden to no one — not regulators, not presidents, not nations.”
Now, you’re seeing it.
Bitcoin adherents make grandiose claims about the coin’s imperviousness. No government can impede the token’s destiny, they’ll say.
They may be right about that. But on Wednesday evening, the crypto crowd (including some small-time billionaires like Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss along with Mark Cuban) learned that “larger than life” is no longer just a flattering description one uses to describe influential athletes, artists, politicians and cultural icons.
Musk, like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, can bend reality. What a Winklevoss says is just as irrelevant (if not more so) to Musk as what you or I might say is to Winklevoss. Cuban retweeted Musk, promising that the Mavs would still accept Bitcoin for tickets. As if Musk cares. Try to imagine how trivial that must seem to Elon. He’s petty, so he might respond, but Cuban is talking about a basketball game. Musk is flying to Mars.
If folks are as incredulous as they were Thursday over Musk’s crypto antics, just wait until some project of his (or of Bezos’s) that no one knew existed finds a cure for cancer or makes a significant advance down the road towards halting the aging process.