‘Line Goes Up’ – Exploring the fractured culture of NFTs

By Jackson Clyde


Since their emergence in 2021, the prevalence of so-called non-fungible tokens in popular discourse has been impossible to ignore. Companies and celebrities alike have wasted no time in jumping onboard, ranging from talk show host Jimmy Fallon to restaurant chain McDonald’s.


But despite all the hubbub being made about them, most people still have no clue what they actually are.


It can be difficult to explain how they work to those who aren’t invested in them – and as YouTuber Dan Olson sets out to explain, that’s kind of the point.


Olson runs the YouTube channel Folding Ideas, in which he discusses an ever-shifting array of subjects. Up until recently, his most popular video was a deep dive into Flat Earther communities, though he has also worked extensively in media criticism, critiquing the “Fifty Shades of Grey” novel trilogy and the popular MMO “World of Warcraft.”


This January, he took on the arduous task of explaining NFTs – and quickly found that they fit rather effortlessly into our exploitative economic systems.


Olson’s video doesn’t actually delve into NFTs until nearly 40 minutes in. He spends the first seven discussing the 2008 economic collapse, followed by a discussion of the anarcho-capitalist movements that spawned from it.


Said movements quickly adopted Bitcoin, the first major cryptocurrency, as a means to escape the regulation prevalent in banking and centralized currency.


He also makes sure to note the prevalent anti-Semitism in these spaces – some of the movement’s most prominent figures seem to use the terms “bankers” and “Jews” interchangeably.


It’s clear that Olson has done a lot of research for these first sections. Chronicling the history of cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin and Etherium, is made difficult largely due to the toxic positivity of the communities surrounding them, as well as the deliberate overcomplication of their systems to ensure only true evangelists can understand how they work.


This isn’t an anomaly – the systems were designed that way.


NFTs are built entirely off cryptocurrency, the two existing in tandem with each other. Both markets require a constant buy-in from aspiring investors to maintain liquidity – which determines their ability to profit from the whole thing.


It makes sense why NFTs and crypto as a whole have been pushed so heavily onto the wider public. The more average Joes that try their hand at the market, the more money is made by those at the top.


After sufficiently explaining the history of these markets, Olson moves on to the most illuminating part of his video – a hands-on look into the NFT community. To achieve this, he joined a litany of Discord servers for different NFT projects, lurking in each to gather information about how the people in them interact with both the market and each other.


The fact that most of the servers he joined disappeared after the project heads made their money, leaving those who bought-in high and dry, is important to mention up front.


The communities tended to insulate themselves from criticism as much as possible, while also creating a rather cringeworthy set of terminology for their own use. Raising any concerns about projects is often dismissed as FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Even the act of saying good morning or good night is codifed to community language – GM and GN.


The servers seem less like active community discussions, and more like outright cults.


All this and more is covered in half the video’s runtime. The rest deals with the implementation of NFTs and cryptocurrency into other spaces – such as gaming – and the poisonous effects they’ve had there.


Throughout Olson’s detailed and entertaining explanations, the point remains clear – NFTs and the cryptocurrency framework they’re built from are a bigger fool’s scam. The market is rife with exploitation and fraud, and the products it makes are completely immaterial.


All to make a line go up.


Also, props to the drum solos that punctuate the video. They’re fantastic.


[FINAL REVIEW: A+]


Essential viewing on a complex subject.

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