Privilege is a helluva drug. Apparently, it was the only thing you couldn’t buy on the Silk Road.
I listened to most of this book on audio. During one stretch of long driving, my wife was with me and only heard part of it. It was the part in which FBI agents who had just busted a Silk Road associate took his computer and transferred the associate’s bitcoins into private offshore accounts they could access. As my wife started laughing, I told her “Just about everyone in this book is stupid.”
Let’s start with the main character. Ross Ulbricht (cis-het white male) was (is?) a ride-or-die libertarian. So much so that he set up a drug supermarket on the dark web because he felt that all people should be able to purchase drugs. According to the writer, Ulbricht saw himself as a reformer, bringing change to the world. The millions of dollars worth of bitcoins he was making on the side was just supplemental income. When he is busted and pleading for leniency before sentencing, his legal team actually argues for the legalization of drugs as part of his defense. Never mind the fact that the man ordered at least five people dead (these hits were apparently never carried out) or that he broke the law with abandon. He’s a hero.
But if you think law enforcement the heroes, think again. While what Ulbricht did was hubristic, the FBI guys from Baltimore siphon off bitcoins like they’re not going to be caught. The rest of the feds fight various turf wars at the risk of letting Ulbricht’s massive drug empire go unchecked. There are few redeemable folks here.
The writer himself is prone to over-description in the style of Tom Wolfe. He wants to make this a wilder tale than it is so everything is exaggerated to almost comedic proportions (Ross’ ex-girlfriend Julia must have the longest eyelashes in the world). It’s a tale that could have been condensed to a longford piece instead of a 313 page book. Instead, it’s written with a movie in mind. Fortunately, it looks like the Coen brothers will be involved. Maybe they can make it sound more interesting than a tale of white privilege run amok.