The world’s richest man has caused more controversy this week by attacking Senator Elizabeth Warren as she called for tax reform. Elon Musk struck back in his usual sarcastic tone; finishing with the punchline “Please don’t call the manager on me, Senator Karen”
Almost immediately, crypto trolls reappropriated this nomenclature to start SenatorKaren.com, a clap back at Senator Warren’s outspoken stance on DeFi. Just days earlier she had castigated DeFi as “the most dangerous part of the crypto world.” The project promises to immortalise the words of Warren as an NFT; immutably present on the Ethereum blockchain.
NFTs are Non-Fungible Tokens, unique pieces of code that cannot be removed from the blockchain. The project promises to create accountability in politics through immortalising the words and actions of senators such as Warren in attention-grabbing “artwork” featuring an aesthetic that can only be described as Andy Warhol meets Memelord. Promotional materials show Senator Warren paired with different cultural references and a variety of “Karen” haircuts. Some cards seem downright offensive and lowbrow.
The creators don’t plan on stopping with Warren. The website and the anarchic telegram group are full of swaggering rhetoric about keeping congress accountable;- “will do more drops about politicians that talk shit about defi” accusing the politicians of supporting entrenched institutions instead of working from a genuine concern for their constituents. Congress—in turn—is trying to regulate the space which allows anonymous trolls to monetise their keyboard-slamming with zero accountability.
DeFi, short for Decentralised Finance, is a completely unregulated space with billions of dollars worth of transactions every day. Some participants become millionaires overnight at a cost to others who lose everything. DeFi is also the birthplace of NFTs which—although quickly growing in popularity with well known brands such as Adidas—are rumoured to be used to avoid paying tax and launder money. Is it any surprise that the creators find an inspiration in Elon Musk whose taxes are a topic of controversy?
Indeed, NFTs regularly resell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Anonymous internet trolling is a hallmark of the divisive times we live in, and this project looks to rally the internet behind the tagline of “accountability to the unaccountable” while making a delicious profit for the early NFT buyers. This, paired with with money laundering concerns should surely inspire congress to examine NFTs as their own instruments. If accountability is so important, the creators should lead by example—instead of demanding something they are unwilling to do.
Meanwhile, Elon himself has come under fire for his offensive language over the use of the term “Karen” when referring to Senator Warren. Many tweets have called for Time’s Person of the Year to be more considerate of the influence he clearly possesses. Similarly, the senatorkaren.com project has also faced criticism for misogyny and racism through appropriating the derogation of “Karen”, especially when applied to Senator Elizabeth Warren. But while Elon’s tweets can be deleted, NFTs are forever. As we strive for a more empathetic and progressive America, immutability of bigotry is not something to ignore. We should be taking a hard look at this new, unregulated playground for extremism.