Peter Thiel is many things – a Republican mega donora self-confessed fan of monopolies, and the guy responsible for the former parent company of this website, Gawker Media, go bankrupt a few years ago. And if his recent public appearance is any indication, he’s ready for war.
Specifically, war on the powerful old folks in established financial institutions. At the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami on Thursday, 54-year-old Thiel delivered his keynote speech — which you can watch for yourself here– with a clip in 1999 in which he ponders the future of mobile phones, banks and digital infrastructure. Then the real Thiel took the stage and said he would start his talk the same way he would start investor talks in PayPal’s early days: tearing off several hundred dollars and dismissing viewers for their naively shocked reactions to the guy who was right now cost several hundred dollars.
“Would the gentleman in the front row like the money?” he asked, crumpled up the bills and threw the bundle into the front row. “I thought you guys were supposed to be bitcoin maximalists!”
You see, a few hundred bucks is small change for Peter Thiel. He’s a multi-billionaire, which means $100 is 0.00001% of his wealth at a conservative estimate. But if this example of absolute fiscal alpha masculinity wasn’t enough for you, don’t worry because things only got more combative from there.
After a short and boring interlude in which he commented on Bitcoin and Ethereum, Thiel offered his thoughts on why crypto hasn’t found mainstream acceptance. If you were to ask someone else the same question, they would likely be taking opinions backed by hard evidence: that of the world bends already technological infrastructure cannot support one energy-guzzling bitcoin wallet in every pocket, or that this one currencies are too volatile be useful for everyday transactions. But if you ask Peter Thiel, the lack of mainstream recognition is the result of the utter failure, willful ignorance and desperate maneuvering of the world’s banks.
“Bitcoin is the most honest market in the world. It’s the most efficient market,” Thiel said. “It tells us that the central banks are bankrupt, that we are at the end of the fiat money regime.”
According to Thiel, bitcoin’s slow adoption is also because Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is too ungrateful to the gods of digital finance to see the opportunities it presents.
“I think central bankers – Mr. Powell, people like that should be very thankful to bitcoin,” Thiel continued, “because it’s the last warning they’re going to get. They chose to ignore it and they will face the consequences of that for years to come.”
Thiel himself is not known as a particular bitcoin bull. He said at the same Miami address that he wishes he had bought into the cryptocurrency sooner. Likewise, Powell Bitcoin has not made any particular enemy. The regulator has expressed this no plans to ban cryptocurrencies and even agrees that they could very good make electronic payments cheaper and faster.
As for why Thiel is now after Powell, it could have something to do with the PayPal founder’s preferred presidential nominee. After secretly bank roll In a lawsuit against Gizmodo’s former owner Gawker Media that led to the company’s bankruptcy, the tech investor was one of the few prominent members of Silicon Valley to publicly support Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign. Trump nominated Powell for his post but would continue to maintain a bitter feud with him. Trump card scolded against Powell as “a failure” with “no guts, no brains, no vision” that people were “VERY disappointed in” at every turn. The day before the keynote The New York Times reports that Thiel has allied himself with Republican mega donors alt-right funders Rebekah Mercer to fund political candidates more radical right than the incumbent Republican Party.
Instead of breaking it all down, Thiel threw Bitcoin into do-or-die, us-vs-them terms.
Bitcoin, he said, “is a movement, and it’s a political question whether this movement will succeed or whether the enemies of the movement will succeed in stopping us.” The last five minutes of his presentation, of course, was devoted to immersing himself in those enemies dedicated to what he called the “gerontocracy”. The Old Men of Finance are on Thiel’s shitlist in order:
- Warren Buffett, who Thiel says is “enemy number one” and “kind of a sociopathic grandpa from Omaha.”
- JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and the rest of the “New York Banker Boys”
- BlackRock CEO Larry Fink
Judging by the tweets from sympathetic attendees, few seemed concerned about portraying crypto’s growth as a cultural and political war. In fact, they welcomed it. Maybe they knew what was coming. Eric Weinstein, managing director of Thiel Capital, wrote of the address: “Peter Thiel makes a clear statement in Miami: The financial gerontocracy, as a revolutionary youth movement, has declared war on Bitcoin with good reason. It is time, therefore, for revolutionary youth to understand their enemies and return fire.”