Steve Bannon has been keeping a relatively low profile since he was excommunicated from the warm glow of Donald Trump's love. But that doesn't mean he hasn't been busy. He's reportedly been working to make cryptocurrencies great again and is even considering launching his own token: The "Deplorables Coin."
It's been 10 months since Bannon was kicked out of the White House and six months since he was formally booted from Breitbart News. The New York Times reports that he has been taking meetings with cryptocurrency investors and hedge funds in an effort to pivot to the blockchain with his investment outfit, Bannon & Company. In his first interview on the subject, the Times writes that Bannon was reluctant to go into too much detail about what he's planning out of fear that "his name could have a bad impact on projects just getting off the ground":
The work that Mr. Bannon is doing in the virtual currency realm is still in its early stages. But he has expressed an interest in helping entrepreneurs and even countries looking to create their own cryptocurrencies — generally outside the United States...
"It's disruptive populism," Mr. Bannon said in the interview, at his Capitol Hill townhouse in Washington. "It takes control back from central authorities. It's revolutionary."
There are generally three types of cryptocurrency enthusiasts: Those who see it as a route to buying Lambos, those who want to develop the blockchain as a technology, and those who have an ideological interest in disrupting the financial system. These categories tend to overlap, but Bannon seems focused on the ideological side. "It was pretty obvious to me that unless you got somehow control over your currency, all these political movements were going to be beholden to who controlled the currency," Bannon told the Times.
From the outset, bitcoin and its spinoffs have attracted people with libertarian and anti-government sentiments. Though Bannon is considered to be a prominent Republican these days, he's described himself as a "Leninist" and a "Nationalist" whose goal is the "deconstruction of the administrative state." In other words, he fits right in with the most extreme crypto enthusiasts.
Bannon was in fact on the ground floor of virtual currencies. In 2007, he was hired as the CEO of Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE), one of the first companies to get into the business of buying and selling video game items like gold in World of Warcraft. This was before Satoshi Nakamoto pioneered the blockchain with his decentralized currency bitcoin. When he's talked about what he learned from that experience, Bannon has mostly framed it as his awakening to the ways that armies of trolls could be used to harass his enemies and advance an agenda. A strategy he employed effectively at Breitbart and as chief strategist for the Trump campaign. But he told the Times that he does have a "good stake" in bitcoin and that IGE's founder, Brock Pierce, got him into cryptocurrencies.
Pierce is a prominent figure in the cryptocurrency world. He most recently made news when he was profiled in the Times for spearheading an effort to build a city of cryptocurrency enthusiasts in the hurricane-ravaged capital of Puerto Rico. He's had his hand in numerous successful blockchain initiatives, including the co-founding of the EOS token, which currently has a market cap of $US9 ($12) billion according to tracking service CoinMarketCap.
But like Bannon, Pierce is an odious presence. When he was elected as a board member at The Bitcoin Foundation in 2014, many employees resigned in protest. Their opposition to Pierce's appointment stemmed from allegations made against him and the two other co-founders of his now-defunct company Digital Entertainment Network. Three of the men's subordinates at the company filed lawsuits against them alleging that they were given drugs and pressured to have sex when they were minors. Pierce denied the charges, paid to settle one suit, and told Reuters the others were dropped without payment. He's also been heavily involved with Tether, a token that growing evidence suggests is the mechanism behind artificial inflation of bitcoin's price.
Bannon is focusing on the world of initial coin offerings (ICO), a fundraising strategy that is sometimes legitimate, other times not so much. A recent analysis found that that 59 per cent of ICOs launched in 2017 are already dead or are on the verge of collapse. But Bannon seems less focused on making money than he is on promoting a new financial system. He told the Times he's particularly interested in seeing countries launch cryptocurrencies backed by their resources, and gave the example of an Italian token backed by marble deposits.
That doesn't mean everything he's thinking about is so high-minded. This spring, he reportedly told a group of academics at Harvard University that he's considering a launch of new virtual currency called the "Deplorables Coin." There's no info on Bannon's vision for the cryptocoin, but it could clearly attract interest from alt-right figures who have been booted by traditional payment processors. If Bannon wants to sink his money into a memecoin, we fully endorse his wishes and hope it fails miserably.
I know what you're thinking: Media elites mocking a 64-year-old man who mysteriously may have filled his hot tub with acid and wants to offer his followers some MAGA space bucks is how Trump got elected. And you're not wrong. Bitcoin and the cryptosphere are in a major slump at the moment. Bannon joined Trump's campaign when it was considered dead and buried, so no one should count him out. And that's a troubling thought, because as he told the Times, "Control of the currency, is control of everything."