The Hollywoodization of crypto is a moral disaster

Every time you turn around, it seems another celebrity is hawking cryptocurrency or NFTs. Influencer Kim Kardashian, boxer Floyd Mayweather, and former NBA athlete Paul Pierce have all promoted Ethereum Max; Matt Damon has starred in commercials for, where he exclaims, "fortune favors the brave;" Gwyneth Paltrow, Mindy Kaling, and Lilly Singh have invested in TeraWulf, a cryptocurrency mining company; and Paltrow's website goop has published 'guides' on crypto, such as the one entitled "The Basics of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency — and How to Invest." Additionally, Reese Witherspoon has tweeted her support of the Metaverse, crypto, and NFTs, stating, "In the (near) future, every person will have a parallel digital identity. Avatars, crypto wallets, digital goods will be the norm. Are you planning for this?" Other celebrity endorsers of crypto include DJ Khaled, Atlanta-based rapper T.I., and Elon Musk, as well as Tom Brady, Larry David, Charli D'Amelio, Jamie Foxx, Paris Hilton, LeBron James, and Ashton Kutcher. 

So, we've got celebrities jumping on the latest bandwagon and shilling for companies. What else is new? Business of Business points out why celebrity endorsements of crypto are particularly dangerous: 

So, what's the problem? Endorsing a potentially volatile financial product isn't exactly the same thing as hawking sneakers or breakfast cereal. Famous faces can risk unwittingly becoming associated with a scam or even just becoming a target for the ire of those who consider crypto a bubble at best and a Ponzi scheme at worst.   

There are, thankfully, a group of anti-crypto-bros that some have called "no coiners," who are vocal critics of cryptocurrency —i ts volatility, its speculative nature, and its awful environmental consequences. The New York Times recently published an article highlighting one of the more famous critics, actor Ben McKenzie, who is most famous for his role as Ryan Atwood on the early 2000s hit show "The O.C."

After a negative experience with crypto during the pandemic, Ben began learning all he could about crypto and determined that "the crypto market seemed tailor-made for fraud." Last October, he co-wrote a piece with Jacob Silverman (they are currently writing a book about crypto and fraud, as well) for Slate, where they declared:

The Hollywoodization of crypto is a moral disaster. And for celebrities' fans, who likely have far less money to lose, it's potentially a financial one, too. These rich and famous entertainers might as well be pushing payday loans or seating their audience at a rigged blackjack table. While the wild swings of crypto might be exciting for some, the rewards for many are illusory, especially once one gets beyond the top few cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum (which is a separate entity from Ethereum Max).

Kudos to McKenzie for swimming against this Hollywood crypto-hawking tide — his is a much-needed voice, and I hope it continues to be amplified.