The former US president, Bill Clinton, did not have to say much when he delivered the keynote speech at the Ripple & # 39; s Swell Conference in San Francisco. And indeed, he just said something relevant to the blockchain industry.
The 42nd commander-in-chief was long recognized for his rhetorical ability, but there was little pressure on him to arouse or inspire the public at the Ripple event. He was sending a message on behalf of Ripple simply appearing on the stage.
Specifically, the company was saying: Ripple is the kind of company that can book Clinton to talk.
While Clinton and his wife – the former US Senator, Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – held speeches at any number of locations during their decades of public service, the "Speech by Paid Clinton "has become something of a meme in 2016.
During the campaign, the left and right critics opposed the $ 22 million they earned by making speeches to the employees of the big banks and other factory bogeys. The content of these speeches – he refused to release the transcripts – has become something of a national obsession. For some, they embodied what was perceived as overly intimate relationships between DC and Wall Street.
For a company like Ripple, then, there is a strong subtext in booking a Clinton to talk. To understand why, consider the ambiguity of the company's position.
Schrodinger & # 39; s Ripple
Ripple is Schrodinger's cat.
In a result, we open the box and emerge a thriving fintech company, which provides a long-term efficiency boost to the financial services industry by introducing new disruptive technologies: blockchain and digital resources.
In the other result, we open the box and Ripple is just another cryptocurrency company looking for a use case: the company sells tens of millions of dollars of XRP cryptocurrency each quarter through a branch, but to date only three relatively obscure companies are making commercial use of the Ripple product that exploits the XRP.
Meanwhile, Ripple has been brought to court by small investors who claim that its XRP sales constitute a supply of unrecorded securities. Perhaps not coincidentally, Ripple began to claim that he did not create XRP – indeed, his ownership of most existing XRP tokens is a "gift" from his creators.
Ripple is playing a high-stakes game, in other words, and has clearly undertaken a campaign to cultivate the right relationships, project the right image and distance himself from the wrong encryption companies.
Make the right friends
The push is evident on several fronts.
Just a few days ago, it was reported that Ripple and others had created the Internet of Value Coalition of Securing America (SAIV), a defense group that will pay its DC lobbying company partly in XRP.
Ripple & # 39; s board, meanwhile, includes a former co-chairman of Morgan Stanley; a former superintendent of financial services for the state of New York, who created the state regulation on cryptocurrency; a former State Department official, who now runs a D.C.-Silicon Valley consulting firm with two former cabinet members and a former White House counselor; and an official who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke inaugurated last year's Swell conference, and on the first day of this year's conference included four current or former central bank officials, one of whom, Dilip Rao, is now the head of Ripple's infrastructure innovation.
All these associations with the rare establishment of Wall Street and K Street are good and good. They reinforce what Ripple's CEO Brad Garlinghouse said on Swell's stage: for Ripple, "it was not about replacing banks … it's an opportunity to be a builder and a partner of the ;industry".
Ripple's choice to book Bill Clinton to talk is entirely consistent with his lobbying efforts, his taste in board members and all the other ways he aims to project an image of respectability.
Not that kind of crypto
However, Clinton's speech stands out as a particularly powerful gesture.
Not only does it seem to belong to Ripple in a small circle of companies that organize Clintons: Goldman Sachs, Moran Stanley and Deutsche Bank. Simultaneously distance Ripple even more emphatically from the world of ICO fly-by-night, obscure web markets, Ponzi schemes, tokens, sectarian forks and just meat diets – the "crypto" scene that Ripple clearly does not want to have anything to do with .
Part of the 2016 saga, after all, was Wikileaks, an organization that started accepting bitcoins in 2011 and was generally popular among the most ideological devotees of cryptocurrency due to its extreme anti-establishment and anti-censorship position.
The site has published harmful excerpts from Hillary Clinton's speeches to banks in October 2016, just a month before the election.
In this context, the symbolism of a payment for a Clinton speech is clear: this organization has nothing to do with the types of cypherpunk and anarchocapitalists who donate bitcoins to Wikileaks.
As for the content of Clinton's speech itself, this was not related to the true message.
As to bring home that point, Clinton muttered: migrant children separated from their parents, the ban on assault weapons, the positive and negative sides of identity politics, the Rwandan genocide, the film "Black Panther" ", the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its new novel played as much as blockchain technology.
When Clinton touched on the theme of the conference, it was just to say that money laundering was a risk, but that excessive regulation threatened to stifle innovation. He also warned that the toxic identity policy was a risk to somehow block – as a last minute, semi-coherent follow-up from the Hutu-Tutsi reconciliation project after the horrible violence of 1994.
Ten years after the financial crisis and the publication of the bitcoin white paper, much of the bitcoin-blockchain-cryptocurrency world is moving away from its anti-establishment roots.
But nobody does it with a brio as Ripple.
Image by David Floyd for CoinDesk