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VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Two antithetical billionaires

Before the midterm November elections, Sam Bankman-Fried was a left-wing billionaire heartthrob. He properly grew up on the Stanford campus, where his parents were well-known left-wing activist law professors. He went to a tony prep school and on to MIT.

Bankman-Fried mocked society’s bourgeois capitalist conventions by dressing and looking like a slob in cutoffs and T-shirts. Indeed, he bested the nose-ring, Charles Manson-esque appearance of former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. He outdid the all-black, Steve Jobs copycat get-up of another fallen leftist icon, the felon Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos infamy.

The left canonized Bankman-Fried for the hundreds of millions of dollars he created out of thin air and channeled to left-wing congressional and state candidates, President Joe Biden and a host of “progressive” causes under the cool slogan “effective altruism.”

For decades hence — or so Bankman-Fried promised — his cryptocurrency company FTX would churn out billions. Its politically correct gifting won exemptions from the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Democratic-controlled congressional oversight committees.

The loud-talking slob promised billions of dollars more in gifts to come. He was knighted as the successor to the kindred financial market manipulator and progressive “philanthropist” George Soros.

SBF may have been a sloppy, immature fool, but he was no dummy. He had learned early on that loud leftist talk, big promises of philanthropy and huge cash infusions to the media and leftist candidates — all under the veneer of “effective altruism” — ensured de facto immunity for his Ponzi schemes from both bad press and government investigation.

Then, suddenly, the midterms were over. Powerful financial interests were screaming their millions had vanished at the hands of SBF.

The Republicans took the House. They promised embarrassing hearings, with Bankman-Fried the loose-talking star villain. And so — presto! — he was finally indicted by the Biden Department of Justice.

Bankman-Fried, in desperation one last time, had turned to his old props of raggedy dress, nerd talk and contrived naiveté. But his schtick no longer worked. Too many leftists were embarrassed that they got too much money from him. Too many exposed “regulators” had known what this wannabe Madoff character was up to before the midterms.

The now albatross Bankman-Fried was loud and everywhere, then suddenly not — and won’t be again.

In contrast, consider how the left now despises Elon Musk as much as it once worshipped Sam Bankman-Fried.

Musk once mixed vaguely liberal politics with a David-versus-Goliath self-confidence, as he took on Big Auto and Big Space — and won.

But then he turned to Twitter and Big Tech. Or, rather, Musk realized Silicon Valley was no longer the irreverent embryo of boy geniuses he remembers from his youth, which outsmarted and preempted the global technology establishment.

Instead, it had become a dreary, constipated place of hard-core, uncompromising leftists in need of a shake-up. Tech moguls used their billions, their monopolies and their exemptions from oversight to warp the way Americans searched the internet, communicated with each other, voted and accessed the news — all in service to left-wing causes.

Musk’s mortal sin was not just buying the money-losing Twitter and reinventing it as a free-speech platform. It was not even exposing the company’s rot of a lazy, overstaffed, woke and pampered workforce and its giddiness in censoring free expression and wounding the public careers of any who challenged the status quo.

Musk’s crime was far worse.

First, was the sin of betrayal. A month ago, all those Teslas on the streets of Palo Alto, Austin and Cambridge were virtue-signaling proof of green moral superiority. Then suddenly, these still-wonderful cars are seen as fuel for the prince of darkness.

Musk, of all people, now the progressive apostate, would dare to end Twitter as a left-wing bulwark. And he promised to flip this time-tried Pravda to host anyone to say what he pleased.

Second, Musk doesn’t much care that the left hates him. No doubt he regrets the billions he paid for the overpriced, money-losing company. No doubt he frets that Tesla may lose sales once yuppies and greens trade in their Tesla amulets as if they were now some godforsaken gas-guzzling SUVs.

But otherwise, Musk has the resources, youth, genius and energy to do to social media what he did to the space and automobile industries: revolutionize it, open it up to keener competition and reject stifling orthodoxy.

How sad that the left despises a man who built real things against the odds and took risks to champion free speech. And how predictable it worshipped a leftist fraud who bilked a million investors and ruined the lives of thousands.

The hatred of the accomplished Musk and the worship of the hollow man Bankman-Fried are sad commentaries on how liberalism has descended into progressivism and ultimately into Stalinism.

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a classicist and historian at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Contact him at authorvdh@gmail.com.

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