The Australian co-creator of Dogecoin has described Elon Musk as a “grifter” who sells a vision that he pretends to understand while not even knowing how to run basic code.
Jackson Palmer is an Australian-born software developer who created Dogecoin, a meme-based cryptocurrency that soon became one of the world’s most valuable digital currencies. He stopped working on the cryptocurrency in 2015 and has since denounced the technology.
In a rare, wide-ranging interview with Crikey coinciding with the launch of his new podcasts about grifts, he spoke about Elon Musk, the cryptocurrency “winter” and the mainstreaming of rentier capitalism.
Palmer says he spoke with Musk over Twitter direct messages after he developed a script to automatically report cryptocurrency scams in a user’s replies: “Elon reached out to me to get hold of that script and it became apparent very quickly that he didn’t understand coding as well as he made out. He asked, “How do I run this Python script?”
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Elon Musk has repeatedly promoted Dogecoin as part of his freewheeling, shitposting schtick, and mentions of the memecoin as recently as this week has sent its value spiking. But Palmer is no fan of Musk or other billionaires.
“About a year ago when Musk was saying something about crypto, I said Elon Musk was and always will be a grifter but the world loves grifters,” Palmer says. “They love the idea that they may also be a billionaire one day, and that’s the dream he’s selling.”
Palmer thinks that Musk’s Twitter attempt is a ploy to either destroy the platform or at least drive its value down further. He points to the billionaire’s frequent criticism — including amplifying some of the platform’s most cynical critics — since the takeover bid was announced, as proof.
“His play is to either dismantle all trust, or maybe he’s delusional enough to think he can build an alternative. The other alternative is that he wants to drive it into the ground at a much lower price, and I think that’s what he’s doing,” he says.
Palmer also thinks that the current dip in cryptocurrency prices — a so-called “crypto winter” — hasn’t stopped a stream of major investment. He expects that there will be a bigger, longer bubble burst at some point in the future.
“It’s going to be a lot more painful and unfortunately it will probably affect minorities and those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum when it happens. So, when people who have been sucked in, people who’ve been sold on the [viral cryptocurrency-promoting] Matt Damon commercial and who put their [retirement fund] 401k in, those are unfortunately the people who are going to be hurt.”
One benefit of the current down period, Palmer says, is that more people are paying attention to the flaws of cryptocurrency and the community surrounding it: “There’s been an awakening. They’re realizing ‘well, this is actually bullshit’. They’re seeing the cracks in the paint.”
He’s even seeing more support for his cryptocurrency skepticism from people still involved in the community. But their newfound self-awareness isn’t necessarily leading them to leave the cryptocurrency scene.
“When I say it’s a Ponzi scheme, the response is ‘so what, the world’s a pyramid scheme’,” Palmer says.