Ep.160: The 'Last $100 in Your Bank Account' Economy - How Media's Love Affair with Crypto, NFTs and Gambling Prey Upon Working People

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"NFTs May Seem Like Frivolous Fads. They Should Be the Future of Music," argues Rolling Stone magazine. "How to Buy Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies: A Guide for New Crypto Investors," advises TIME magazine. "'I had $10 in my bank account': This 36-year-old went from living paycheck to paycheck to making over $109,000 selling NFTs," proclaims CNBC. Over the past couple of years, U.S. media have been breathlessly hyping a new economy of digital "investment opportunities" and asset speculation. From cryptocurrency to NFTs, sports betting to online streaming casinos, business rags and legacy papers alike extol the virtues of a financial climate in which seemingly anyone with an internet connection, a smartphone, and a few bucks stands a chance of striking it rich.

It's what we're calling "The Last $100 In Your Bank Account Economy." Somewhere, somebody thinks there's too much idle money sitting in working and Middle Class people's bank accounts that isn't being properly exploited. This, to them, is a crime, and increasingly sleazy verticals are emerging to make sure it doesn't stay there for too long.

After all: Don’t you want to make your money work for you? Don’t let it sit there and collect dust. Get in on the action, fortune favors the brave, the next frontier, you can hit a 10 way parlay, don’t be an idle beta, get in on the action!!

Since the onset of the pandemic and the evaporation of government aid like unemployment and child tax credits, new gambling markets have exploded, filling the financial voids suffered by working people. Meanwhile, news outlets and sports networks have been at the ready, using the same old aspirational advertising tactics for lotteries, betting, and casinos. And it’s not just about paid ads, the media companies themselves––from Disney to Fox to Comcast are in the sportsbook business, and every outlet from Rolling Stone to the Associated Press are hawking NFTs, creating new frontiers of conflicts of interests.

On this episode, we detail the history of media's water-carrying for lotteries and other forms of gambling; how the press primes the public, especially the poor, to accept new forms of gambling and speculation tools like NFTs and cryptocurrency as normal, inevitable, and full of promise; and the ways in which they are cashing in on this cynical, infinitely regressive universe of extracting the last dollar out of your bank account.

Our guest is Motherboard's Edward Ongweso, Jr.

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