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Brian Kelly: CNBC Hypocrisy Expert?

4 mins
Updated by Valdrin Tahiri
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Peter Schiff is known for his support of abolishing a minimum wage, his bullish views on gold, and his oddly skeptical stance (for a libertarian) on Bitcoin. It is unsurprising that he jumped on a revelation from CNBC’s Bitcoin superfan Brian Kelly, who recently stated — for the first time ever — that he is actually shorting BTC.
Schiff does not mince words when he calls Kelly out for failing to reveal this clear conflict to his news audience on CNBC, and for waiting to reveal it in a Zerohedge podcast, well into yet another BTC freefall. In the tweet, Schiff is pretty upset, calling for a CNBC “apology to its audience and fire Kelly from their network!” Describing Brian Kelly as a Bitcoin Superfan is no exaggeration. If he were a follower of music or pop culture, he just might have “I love Bitcoin” tattooed across his heart. The finance world prefers to refer to him as CNBC’s “uber” Bitcoin bull, but the sentiment is the same.


Kelly’s Twitter bio, in addition to reminding his adoring public that he is an Ironman competitor, also lets them know that he is a self-described Bitcoin Televangelist. That sounds like a pretty serious role in Bitcoin; at least the future potential for private jet ownership is high. In addition to his role as a prolific Bitcoin supporter of CNBC, Kelly also happens to be the CEO of BKCM, an investment firm specializing in digital assets. At various times over the past few years, Kelly has made a series of outrageous statements regarding cryptocurrency. His 25+ years in macrofinance have done nothing to dissuade his decidedly unconventional belief that Bitcoin is the way of the future. With zeal characteristic of a flat-earther, Kelly has chimed in on announcements such as Boston-based Fidelity Investment’s venture into cryptocurrency, stating that crypto custody is the most important service the financial giant now provides. At other times in the recent past, he has claimed to have converted 90 percent of his wealth into digital currency like Bitcoin and Ethereum. This type of behavior makes his nonchalant mention of being “net short” on Bitcoin all the more suspect. Kelly enthusiastically jumped on the Bitcoin train in 2014. Since then, Bitcoin saw gains the likes of which were hardly even imagined, nearly touching a peak price of $20,000 in December 2017. Over the past year, it has lost over 80 percent of that value. CNBC

Widespread accusation, but widespread influence?

The net short statement was made on Christopher Iron’s financial podcast “Quoth the Raven.” The podcast accuses Kelly of using his tremendous media influence, particularly via CNBC, to pump BTC — thus getting the attention of many potential investors whose interest and subsequent investment in Bitcoin could raise the price. While the validity of this theory is high at face value, there are a couple of questions worth asking before condemning Kelly to a place of irrelevance. The first, and perhaps most important, item to take note of is Kelly’s audience, particularly at CNBC. A historically financially conservative platform with a broad audience spanning traditional finance methodologies, CNBC is neither the go-to for investing advice nor is it an expected source of pro-bitcoin investment strategies. In other words, the typical CNBC audience has no plans to follow Brian Kelly’s lead and dump 90 percent of their hard-earned income into cryptocurrency. For many, this hard-earned income includes that of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, and to do such a thing would not only go against every financial premise their Ivy League education taught them, it would also earn them a place of permanent shunning and ridicule at family gatherings over the holidays. It just won’t happen. Kelly believes in what he preaches, but unlike a true preacher, there is zero intrinsic value to his platform. Yes, humans are motivated by wealth. But for the CNBC audience, whose financial doctrine carries a strength of history and generational clout not unlike that of institutions such as the Catholic church, the likelihood of running off with the latest cult leader is slim. Secondly, crypto investors are a stereotypically younger crowd, with many investors are straight out of the tech industry themselves. The average crypto investor possesses an inherent faith in blockchain technology. They did not put their life savings in BTC and ETH because a specialist told them to; they earned a life savings as early adopters simply because they fortuitously were really, really into cryptocurrency and digital ledger technologies. Also, the crypto community simply does not exist on CNBC. It is predominantly on Twitter, Medium, Steemit, Telegram, and even YouTube. It is listening to podcasts like Quoth the Raven. While it would not be unlikely for crypto enthusiasts to jump on CNBC and the like for information on more traditional financial topics, it will never be their go-to for investment advice. Bitcoin At heart, and despite its well-deserved reputation as a progressive technology, crypto is a grassroots movement. Driven by ordinary engineers and developers, who would otherwise be perfectly happy sitting behind their desks writing code, crypto proponents were thrust into their roles out of a firm belief in what they were building and a dedication to seeing it change the world. At a minimum, they are looking for widespread financial transformation. Kelly certainly does have a wide audience. He definitely is working hard to bring cryptocurrency into the attention of a wider investing group than it currently holds. However, the notion that he is capable of influencing the market to the degree that he could save himself from a total Bitcoin apocalypse is a little silly. Nobody likes to be wrong, especially when it involves the loss of life savings, and worse, the loss of credibility over a life’s work. For the rest of cryptocurrency and for all its investors, here is to hoping that Kelly and his quiet admission of Bitcoin status follow his norm and do the little to nothing they are expected to do in the crypto world. But whether the admission causes others to short Bitcoin or not, Kelly’s admission stinks of hypocrisy. Think Brian Kelly should be fired from CNBC for his duplicitous statements? Let us know in the comments below! 


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With a background in science and writing, Jon's cryptophile days started in 2011 when he first heard about Bitcoin. Since then he's been learning, investing, and writing about...