2022: The Year of the Implosion

Is anyone else feeling like they’re breathing in some kind of noxious dust here and there and everywhere? Like there’s a sort of teetering afoot, as if we’re on the edge of something or something is on an edge directly above us? It’s that 21st-century feeling, maybe—that special sense that it’s all…imploding around us. That particular kind of dread can’t be unique to this century, or even this year, but I’m still going to deal with this feeling as we as a culture have chosen to deal with our various shared pathologies in the last couple decades: by making a list. The best implosions of the year. There were a few of them!

Real quick, though, let’s define our terms. An implosion can occur because the middle is hollow. There is no there there, and nothing can’t support something, so it’s all done in. Collapsed. It’s categorically different from an explosion—those take out everything around them. With an implosion, if anything was relying on the imploded thing for support, it too would topple. With enough of them, it adds up to a general atmosphere—a vibe even!—of broader social flimsiness. A tension that barely holds. Entropy. Every year there’s a few big frauds—Enron, Bernie Madoff, Mr. Fyre Festival, etc. What happened this year was that the frauds and other kinds of topplings seemed to stack up one after another at the end of the year, as if someone demo-ed an old Vegas casino and accidentally took out the rest of the block. Below find the best ones from the year. Well, you know. “Best” ones.

The Spectacular Failure of FTX

In November, FTX, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, collapsed. Its founder and CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, resigned. The company filed for bankruptcy. Lawsuits rained down, including a class-action suit that named celebrities who endorsed the exchange, Larry David, and the Golden State Warriors. SBF has now been arrested and saddled with criminal charges. His mom and dad are “under scrutiny” from the press and the new CEO of FTX for their own involvement.

Bankman-Fried doesn’t appear to see it as an implosion. “Look, I’ve had a bad month,” he said, speaking at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit, against his attorneys’ advice.

“I think I have a duty to talk to people,” he added. “I have a duty to explain what happened.”

He was arrested on wire- and securities-fraud charges two weeks later. What exactly happened is, as SBF’s current situation indicates, under federal investigation, but some things are clear: The company was allegedly trading with customer money. It created an enormous hollow cavity right at the center of his business. Then when his users asked for their money back, he had none to give. $1 billion to $2 billion in customer funds is reportedly gone, possibly forever. Funds promised are of course gone as well.

And perhaps that’s standard fare for alleged fraud, but Bankman-Fried also practiced effective altruism, a philosophy that essentially holds that those who make money must spend money on those who need it. He pledged gobs of money to philanthropic organizations that are now hurting for the once-expected cash. Massive fraud schemes are not new, but crypto is, and we’re still trying to figure out if there’s any there there, just generally. This did not help the fledgling currency’s case.

The FTX implosion has a tangential relationship to the next one. Bankman-Fried, reportedly a fan of Taylor Swift, got fairly far in negotiations to sponsor her Eras Tour, per a Financial Times report. So without further ado:

Ticketmaster’s Big “Taylor Swift Eras Tour” Whoopsy

Okay this wasn’t an implosion per se, unless you count the implosion of countless Swift fans’ workdays spent in an online waiting room. And I am counting it. Days wasted. And for her biggest fans? A year ruined.

Live Nation’s Ticketmaster really bungled this one. The demand was high for Swift’s Eras Tour, which still kicks off March 17 and will take Swift to stadiums around the US for 52 concerts over five months. In an attempt to limit bot-buying, fans were made to prove themselves as “verified fans.” Come November 15, when tickets were first available, many of those verified fans sat waiting in hours-long queues only to never successfully acquire tickets. The sale was canceled. Ticketmaster apologized to Swift and her fans, and Swift contributed her own apology. She said in a statement at the time, “It goes without saying that I’m extremely protective of my fans. It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.”

Ticketmaster said that the “extraordinarily high demand,” plus “staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes” were behind “unprecedented traffic,” which broke the site.

This is not an explanation that has so far satisfied the Senate antitrust panel, House Energy and Commerce Committee, or this class-action group. With any luck, this will result in the implosion of one big American monopoly, but that is a case for 2023.

Donald Trump’s Second Career as Kingmaker

Donald Trump had a plan. He backed a number of Republicans for the midterms, from Herschel Walker in Georgia to Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and more. It did not work! Most of them lost. The man made some bad calls, backed some bad horses, repeatedly over-leveraged himself. But who’s surprised? It’s kind of his thing.

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