In an unwaveringly cringeworthy interview with Forbes, Reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian made the claim that due to the traumatic suffering his family endured during the Armenian Genocide, he’s decided to invest millions of dollars into NFTs.
“Even if all this experiment produces is a mechanism that enough people believe in to be able to take some notion of ownership or value… that feels like a win,” he said, vaguely. But let’s be real, Alex, you’re buying NFTs because you like them and want to make money, not to create any genocide-related safety mechanisms.
The article makes sure to consistently frame Ohanian as hyper-wealthy, hyper-successful, and absolutely ‘in it for the tech.’ He owns hundreds, if not thousands of NFTs, a company building its own metaverse, and has sold millions in Coinbase stock. However, when we get down to brass tacks, Ohanian’s expensive gestures have little-to-nothing to do with the traumatic history of the Armenian diaspora.
Custody, seizures, and bullshit
One of the most important points in the Forbes article is found near the end and is stated in such a way as to suggest that Ohanian isn’t completely full of shit.
“To comply with regulatory requirements, [Ohanian’s company] stores its digital assets at two… third-party custodians… Once assets are under control of third parties… the investments are no longer immune to seizure.” Bingo.
So, while Ohanian is happy to publicly discuss how NFTs are like the Armenian rugs that were stolen from his ancestors by the Turks but are non-seizable, he’s lying. In fact, most of the digital assets he controls are stored in such a way that they’re absolutely able to be seized — and this of course doesn’t even take into account the classic ‘$5 wrench attack’ that self-custody advocates constantly warn about (a violent attack where a mark is threatened with torture or death unless they give up their private keys).
Let’s not use genocides as a buying opportunity, thanks
I come from a line of Ashkenazi Jews who were forced to flee Russia because of persecution and can say matter-of-factly that the absurd collectibles I buy and the gold and silver I own and cherish have nothing to do with my familial history. I buy them because I like pretty, shiny things.
I’m not going to spend 500 words trying to convince you that I’ve bought gold coins of stoats and silver glow-in-the-dark UFO coins because I can self-custody them and ensure they aren’t seized. Why not? Because I’d be lying to you.
When Alex Ohanian suggests that he’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars on NFTs and the metaverse because of the Armenian Genocide, don’t take it with a grain of salt, take it with a mountain of salt. The combined net worth of Ohanian and his wife, tennis phenom Serena Williams, is roughly $300 million — they’re doing this and publicizing it to make that cash pie bigger, not to protect the generational wealth of families fleeing death and destruction.