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A Look Behind the Industry Curtain into an Alternate Reality

Increasingly often we find ourselves either personally having a conversation with someone or scrolling past something on social media and wonder how someone can say something. It’s like they’re living in a different reality.

Usually this is a bad thing. We roll our eyes. We feel frustrated or even despair. Veterans Day is a nice reminder that it’s not always bad. When I hear from people who served, I’m always in awe at the foreign language of acronyms and base names that they are fluent in regardless of branch. This different reality is one I’m thankful for.

To a much lesser extent, Twitter is also an alternate community. Most of the discussion this week continued to heap criticism on Elon Musk as accounts that paid for verification as major corporations tweeted fake updates that caused those companies’ stock prices to nosedive. For example, a fake account for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly said insulin would be free.

Other fake tweets circulated such as photoshopped tweets from defense contractor Northrup Grumman saying that it would not sell arms to certain countries and, my personal favorite, a fake Coca-Cola challenging its followers to retweet to post a certain amount of times for the possible reward of returning cocaine to its drink formula.

These stories were knocked off my newsfeed by Friday night however. Cryptocurrency exchange FTX, whose 30-year-old founder Sam Bankman-Fried (known as SBF) had reassured users throughout the week that everything was fine, went bankrupt but that would soon be the least of its worries.

Before you stop reading because you’re wondering what this has to do with Citrus County, just know that these events will be a Netflix documentary you will watch three years from now and wonder how you missed this story.

FTX was the darling of Washington D.C., and was an industry leader in lobbying efforts to legitimize blockchain while staving off regulation. Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen (prior to their divorce) were among the celebrities featured in the ads. The Miami Heat play at the FTX Arena. And now it’s all gone.

The story is long and complicated but ends in the company filing for bankruptcy days after trying to complete a sale to a competitor, $400 million hacked from user accounts, SBF transferring $6 billion from the company to his personal hedge fund and then allegedly trying to escape from the Bahamas to Argentina via a private jet but the Bahamian equivalent of the FBI detained him.

I’m not involved in crypto in any way financially but have always enjoyed their community as a case study in public relations stakeholder academia. The communities that form around these intangible assets are valuing passion just as much as the digital currency itself and I think that’s fascinating.

The true believers feel the currencies are a way to upset the status quo, decentralize power and create greater individual empowerment. It’s an almost romantic form of financial revolution.

In the end, though, it was none of this.

SBF and FTX pulled back the curtain on an entire industry and behind it wasn’t a new movement but rather the same standard fraud-fueled greed.

This is what the now-concluded election season does to some of us too. We get into this business thinking we’re here to make a difference and do some good, and then you finally get a chance to take the stage only to realize the play is all politics.

Commissioners Ruthie Schlabach and Holly Davis are entering their first election cycle as potentially up for reelection. Commissioner Jeff Kinnard will be too but it will be his second after getting reelected unopposed in 2020. Both commissioners have lengthy records to run on.

Commissioner Schlabach has been instrumental in accelerating the new animal shelter that might start construction in 2023 and has voted against every individual tax and fee increase from stormwater to the EMS takeover. Commissioner Davis has championed a strategic plan and is the commission’s point person on ending generational, specifically childhood, poverty.

But both are likely keenly aware of how hard it is to communicate these accomplishments to a voting public, especially in the madness that will be the 2024 presidential election.

The 2022 election cycle did to campaigning what the FTX bankruptcy did to cryptocurrency.

There’s no time to treat running for office as something new or interject some idealism of the way things could be. No matter how good you are at the job, and these two have proven themselves to be just that, behind the curtain it’s still just politics.


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