James Altucher
Bitcoin,  Uncategorized

James Altucher understands why you hate him

The relentless bitcoin promoter defends his ads; pleas for understanding in a long Facebook post

James Altucher would like you not to hate him because of his bitcoin ads. You know, like the one of his head with bitcoin (BTC) eyes on a background of fire. He’d also like you to take him seriously, despite a penchant for ads with the calm dignity of CNBC’s Jim Cramer (whose show Altucher once wrote for), and a hairdo with the restrained style of Phil Spector.

That is the gist of a 3,000-word screed the former hedge funder, venture capital investor, self-help author, and bitcoin promoter posted on Facebook this past week under the title, “WHY PEOPLE HATED ME SO MUCH BECAUSE OF MY BITCOIN ADS.”

It’s not a new theme for him, as blog posts like “HOW DO I HANDLE IT WHEN PEOPLE TRASH ME” and “THE ULTIMATE CHEAT SHEET FOR DEALING WITH HATERS” suggests. And it’s where he began on Facebook, saying that because of hate mail and accusations of being a scammer, he had “spiraled into a depression that was unbearable” in the past.

Altucher does have credentials, having written for the Financial Times as well as Cramer’s “Mad Money.” He also ran a hedge fund and had been the subject of an essentially positive (though pre-cryptocurrency phase) 2,300-word profile in the New York Times in 2016. A January 2018 profile in Inc.—published at the height of the crypto boom—was not as kind, taking aim at his get-rich-quick advice, both blogged and in his eight paid newsletters at Choose Yourself Financial.

Of course, he also went on CNBC in August 2017, with bitcoin trading at about $3,500, and predicted BTC would hit $1 million. And while it’s back in the five-figure range, that’s a long, long way from $1 million.

His Facebook post is a nine-point rebuttal to critics who he says call him “scammy” and a “fraud.”

He began by addressing that fact that he called Bitcoin a scam in 2013, but changed his mind after reading “1000s” of articles and looking at the Bitcoin code. He then segued into why he charges for his newsletters, claiming the vast majority of what he writes is free.

From there he defended himself against accusations of “pump-and-dumping ‘shitcoins,’” saying he only promoted about a dozen non-bitcoin cryptocurrencies, and called 95% of alt-coin scams on CNBC in 2017. 

Altucher said his main goal was to explain Bitcoin to mainstream Americans, as Silicon Valley cryptocurrency boosters tend to “go into ‘cryptography’ and ‘blockchain’ and ‘mining,’” which is like telling regular people “‘Amazon is a software application built on top of the TCP/IP protocol’ instead of saying ‘Amazon is a store.’”

After giving a long explanation of cryptocurrencies, Altucher then addressed his ads—which he claims to have spent about $60 million on [obviously including ads on Modern Consensus]—agreeing that they were outrageous, embarrassing, annoying, and deliberately Machiavellian. He justified it this way: “if there are 10 people trying to get attention, the nice guy (saying ‘please listen to me’) will get no attention and the scams will get the most attention. So the nice guy, if he truly believes in the integrity of what he or she is offering, must use the same tactics.”

What then follows is Altucher diving into the scammer’s toolbox, claiming the mantle of altruism—why should rich guys make all the money from this new industry?—before mining the get-rich-quick siren call of the huckster: trust me.

“I did guarantee huge returns. My math is explained above. I very much believe that math … [and] I am a firm believer that huge returns are coming. Bitcoin is up more than any other financial asset in 2019,” he said. “And when I first started this product (in August 2017 when I was on CNBC), Bitcoin was at $3,500. Now it’s almost 3x higher.”

In the end, Altucher admits that he doesn’t really understand the success of his huckster marketing.

“I do wonder why the ad with Bitcoins in my eyes and fire behind me and the ugliest picture of me ever was the most successful,” he said. “Why did people click on that one?”

Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus senior editor, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about meeting and incentive travel, as well as the consumer and employee loyalty business. He also covered the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, small businesses, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson owns no cryptocurrencies.

Subscribe to MODERN CONSENSUS Newsletter