Will Crypto Ever Be Rid of Influencers Like BitBoy?

Ben Armstrong may lose access to the brand he helped build, but crypto's hype men will always have a place.

AccessTimeIconAug 29, 2023 at 2:14 p.m. UTC
Updated Aug 29, 2023 at 2:22 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconAug 29, 2023 at 2:14 p.m. UTCUpdated Aug 29, 2023 at 2:22 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconAug 29, 2023 at 2:14 p.m. UTCUpdated Aug 29, 2023 at 2:22 p.m. UTC

Did anyone else know that Ben Armstrong was not BitBoy? On Monday, news broke that Armstrong, host of one of the industry’s most successful cryptocurrency trading shows, BitBoy Crypto, has been unceremoniously dumped. And in the divorce, it appears that Arrmstrong will lose the moniker and brand he created.

Boy, this is a bit like finding out that there never was a Pee-wee Herman, just a middle aged man who became known for the playhouse he hung around a lot — only a lot less endearing. ​​BitBoy, I mean, Armstrong, was one of the most influential trading gurus in the game, and likely the most loathed.

Many are now asking who will replace BitBoy, if that's even possible, and why it took so long for someone with so much baggage to be booted. When coming across Armstrong on social media, many saw crypto's enfants terribles — a clear representation of how hype can pollute markets and tech.

No stranger to controversy, it appears the Battle over BitBoy is only beginning. Armstong, apparently locked out of the official BitBoy profile on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter suggested something was awry with his firing when posting from an account linked to his personal token $BEN. He’s gone from manning an account with 1 million followers to posting under an apparently unaffiliated altcoin with a ticker that shares his name.

“This is Ben,” Ben wrote. “Just confirming what is going around. It’s true. There has been a mutiny at BitBoy Crypto & Hit Network.” The chairs have turned on Pee-wee? I mean Herman. I mean…Paul? It certainly seems. Other cryptorati and known BitBoy associates seemed to endorse the statement and offer condolences, including Wendy O, a crypto educator on YouTube and co-host of daily CoinDesk TV talk show “The Hash.”

Only Armstrong’s response, which promised to tell of a “mutiny” and backstabbing, seems like yet another extremely misjudged media stunt by the day trading crypto influencer who made a habit out of turning huge swaths of the industry against him. From his ill fated libel suit of YouTuber Atozy to accusations of plagiarism and intellectual property theft, BitBoy seems to have mastered the art of negative attention.

Fellow YouTuber Wendy seemed to back the idea the putsch to remove Armstrong isn’t a settled story in her initial reaction video — titled as it were “⛔INSANE drama BITBOY leaves crypto? Bitcoin WARNING.” Oh, the intrigue. And given that gossip is up when markets are down on Crypto Twitter (it’s a type of speculation, innit), I’m sure there will be a dozen different versions of the story in time.

More than one person, for instance, raised the specter of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It is not too far-fetched that Armstrong may have violated one of those laws the SEC seems focused on like always “disclosing when you’re a paid promoter” that got Kim Kardashian.

There’s no over/under bet running on a possible securities violation lawsuit on Polymarket yet, though there are certainly a number of projects that BitBoy has promoted or advertised or that set off alarm bells.

For instance, in early 2022, crypto sleuth ZachXBT compiled a list of dozens of altcoins BitBoy mentioned in videos. Instead of trading up 100x, as Armstong hinted would happen, these coins almost without exception ran into the dirt well before the bottom fell out of the entire crypto market. Curiously, many of Armstrong’s uploads about these flash-in-the-pan, get in while the getting is good coins have been deleted from YouTube.

Worse, at least in my mind, is that this wasn’t even a game restricted to the bull market where it seemed like everyone and their mother had a token to sell you. A few months ago Armstrong began promoting the aforementioned $BEN token, a real old-fashioned, ICO-like token that wants to fix crypto literacy somehow. It’s down 40% at time of writing, proof enough its value prop is an affinity with Armstrong (not a vague plan to publish even more introductory blockchain content).

Armstrong is not listed as an executive, advisor or “community ambassador” on the project website that shares his name — though the $BEN Coin Collective YouTube page redirects to BitBoy’s old channel. Curiously, too, part of BenCoin’s proposed solution to fix crypto media is stamping out what many believe is Armstrong’s bread and butter: Paid Promotions.

For its part, Ben’s former employer Hit Network said the rift was caused by Ben’s relapse into substance abuse, and his termination was a way to “reconcile the emotional, physical and financial damage he has done to the employees…and the Bitboy Crypto community.” This is not the first time BitBoy’s sobriety has been questioned, and if true is as sad as it is helpful in explaining some of his past behavior.

I wish him luck getting healthier.

And thus we arrive at the point of departure for the essay: There is almost nothing the world could learn about Armstrong or his old operation that would lower his estimation among much of the crypto industry. He is all that is cringe about crypto incarnate. He is a true believer in blockchain who undercuts the good it could do by allegedly running a “pay-to-play” operation.

Plus he appears to be a megalomaniac. Armstrong has been filmed screaming at people at conferences, is known to foster long grievances and cannot handle the slightest whiff of criticism. He claims to represent The Everyman against monied interests in crypto, and for a while got it into his head that he not only had something to do with bringing down FTX, but did it single-handedly by criticizing Sam Bankman-Fried.

For onlookers (and armchair psychologists like me), this last point is the type of psychic transference only possible by a person who willingly leads his fans into the lion’s den. It’s all the more psychologically rich in that despite his protestations, there’s documented evidence of him shilling FTT. (Though, to be fair, BitBoy did have a response to detractors: “Saying you like a coin is not promotion, that’s like saying Bitcoin pays me to promote it you low iq troglodyte.”)

This is behavior the kids nowadays call gaslighting. I’m not sure if there’s a term that also encompasses or explains why Armstrong thought it was a good idea to wage an alleged vendetta campaign against the lawyer suing him in a class action or skip court to go on a BitBoy-branded cruise. It takes a special type of person to have a personally branded cruise.

And yet! Despite the fact that the most dubious of “dubious investments” he’s lent his credibility have tanked, the guy clearly has his supporters. I don’t think this means anyone has actually made money listening to Armstrong, it often seems by the time BitBoy is letting you in the know of some “1,000x” altcoin by mentioning it on his old program, the money that flows in will soon become exit liquidity.

But this is exactly the point of the larger wave of digital transformation that crypto is caught up in. Now that anyone can “control their own distribution” by posting online, the floodgates have been thrown open as to what fame and infamy means. This is the 1,000 True Fans theory in action. And in a nutshell: Anyone can eke out a living or even riches doing just about anything online, so long as you have a few dedicated backers willing to buy your stuff or pay you attention to advertise against.

It makes no difference whether you or I like or respect BitBoy, because he’s a roving star on the internet. The only real question is assuming he’s lost the IP over BitBoy, which I don’t think is a settled matter, whether he could replicate his prior success. There’s nothing inherent in a name that denotes success (for instance, CoinDesk built a reputation as a trusted news and events business with a name like Coin…Desk — with the camelCase, please).

This is part of the reason BitBoy seems determined to mount a comeback, evening taunting his former colleagues by saying “Until they can clone me, I have nothing to worry about.” In the end I’m no closer to understanding who or what BitBoy is: a name, the man behind the name, a persona that could be passed down.

Blockchain, of course, helps to fill the gaps of the current digital age by offering actual ownership of social media profiles and the like, which are otherwise controlled by faceless corporations and all too familiar tech billionaires. Anyone, anywhere can use Bitcoin or Ethereum because their creators determined that no one should be able to definitively determine who is “good” or “bad” or what is in or what is off limits — let the market decide.

So for those that are saying good riddance to BitBoy or wishing him the worst: do you understand what crypto is?

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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Daniel Kuhn

Daniel Kuhn is a deputy managing editor for Consensus Magazine. He owns minor amounts of BTC and ETH.