On Valentine’s Day, Martin Shkreli, a man unfamiliar with the human feeling like that we call love, took to twitter announcing that he had been scammed out of $15 million by a con man claiming to work for Kanye West. The con artist had offered to sell West’s new album to Shkrelli exclusively. It wasn’t entirely unbelievable. After all, the pharmaceutical mogul had purchased the only copy of Wu Tang clan’s latest album.
WHO THE FUCK HAS MY FIFTEEN MILLION DOLLARS ????????????????????????????????????? — Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) February 14, 2016
SOMEONE NAMED DAQUAN SAID HE WAS KANYES BOY AND I SIGND THE DEAL TO BUY PALBO AND SENT THE BITCOIN. CALL THE POLICE THIS IS BULSHIT — Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) February 14, 2016
The world lapped up. We loved seeing the most hated man in America getting his comeuppance. After all, this was the man who upped the price of the drug Daraprim last year from $13.50 to $750 overnight. And just look at that smug, oh-so-punchable face.
He’s not a Smeagal, not yet a Gollum.
The world’s media lost their collective minds, creating pages and pages of highly clickable, ultra shareable content, allowing us to crow over the downfall of this truly terrible man. This was justice, the final reel of the movie where the charismatic con man takes down the villain. Terry Benedict in Ocean’s 11 or Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting.
A global, mass media lynching of a man who few would argue didn’t deserve everything he had coming to him. He’d be a Bond villain if he had an ounce of charisma.
And now, the twist on the twist, with reports that Shkrrelli hoaxed us all, creating a fictional scam to beat up yet more media attention. As Chris Graham points out in the New Matilda, “that [bitcoin] transactions are publicly searchable (and none of that size occurred around that time)” and “Shkreli is rich, and outwardly calm, but it’s doubtful even he would get over losing $15 million that quickly.”
It was all too perfect. And like every scam warning ever “if it seems to good to be true, it probably it is.”
True or not, the whole story shows how ugly the public can be, how quick we want to blame the victim of scams and fraud. We want them to be stupid or deserving, for the con artist to be a quick witted hero dolling out some kind of natural justice.
No one deserves to be scammed. No one deserves to be the victim of any crime. Even, and it hurts me to my core to say it, a jackass like Martin Shhkerelli.
A huge portion of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme were ultra rich, others were simply well off. And quite few had very little money in the world. Which ‘deserved’ to lose their money?
I’m a member of an online support group for victims of romance fraud. Recently, a member of the US armed forces entered the group online after discovering his picture was being used to scam woman online. The man, whose comments have since been deleted was without mercy.
The man, a thick neck, shaved head American solider who was wearing American flag sunglasses in his profile picture could not understand “how you women could be so stupid” and started repeatedly that they “got what they deserved.” for “being dumb bitches.” A quick look at his profile showed a rabid Trump supporter who felt we should ‘bomb all Muslims.”
What is the difference between this flag-waving douche-nozzle and all of us who lapped up Shhkkreelllli’s (probably crocodile) tears?
We all felt like the victim(s) deserved it. We all felt self-righteous in our smug pride. And we all felt slightly disappointed when it was revealed that it was just a hoax.
Being unlikable doesn’t make you worthy of a crime. Nor does being gullible, greedy, stupid or naive.
It just makes you human.
Nicholas J. Johnson is a Melbourne author, entertainer and collector of scams