Washington Post Attacks Bitcoin As Alt-Right Tool, Misses The Irony – Opinion

News, Opinion, Regulation | July 4, 2018 By:

EDITOR’S NOTE: For July 4, a day celebrating freedom, we are republishing an earlier commentary on the role of decentralized cryptocurrency in protecting free speech.

The Washington Post has targeted bitcoin as a fundraising vehicle for the alt-right, citing several organizations as adopting the digital currency after being banned from other payment services and communication tools like Twitter.

Conflating bitcoin with extremist and alt-right operations, the media outlet doesn’t directly call for action (although the need for it is implied). Instead, it laments and engages in handwringing over the fact that bitcoin has risen in value, thereby providing more funding for views the WaPo (and, to be fair, many others) deem unpopular.

“Extremist figures who invested in bitcoin as a bulwark against efforts to block their political activity now find themselves holding what amount to winning lottery tickets,” writes columnist Craig Timberg.

While boo-hooing that notion, the story notes, “The proceeds could be used to communicate political messages, organize events and keep websites online, even as most mainstream hosting services shun them, experts say.”

In other words, bitcoin helps free speech by decentralizing operations and taking away the power of government and the Washington Post to determine what is appropriate.

Perhaps more troubling than the extremist alarms sounded by the Washington Post are the reports in the story that organizations are monitoring bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions. Today, they are looking for donations to sites deemed by them to incite hate. Tomorrow – well, who knows. They are unregulated, after all.

“Such a system makes it difficult for regulators and law enforcement agencies to monitor assets or know the identities of particular account holders. It also allows fringe groups not only to collect money, but to spend it more easily — for example, on foreign online services if U.S. companies restrict their access,” writes the WaPo.

Grudging acknowledgement is given that such “fringe groups” include libertarians, professional investors and media outlets like WikiLeaks that benefit from decentralization. But the WaPo can’t help but notice that “drug traffickers, money launderers and others who regularly conduct transactions on the “dark Web” also can use it.” Conveniently forgotten is that we already have a sanctioned system of paper fiat currency that allows for the same situation to occur.

For now, the WaPo concludes, “It’s impossible to know how many on the far right are reaping bitcoin windfalls.”

As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange notes in a tweet referenced in the story, US political pressure on traditional payment processors such as credit card companies to stop handling transactions for his site happened. Such actions are an attempt to stifle voices of dissent.

The Washington Post, the newspaper that brought down President Nixon and is celebrated in the new movie The Post for its courage in publishing the Pentagon Papers and exposing government malfeasance, now apparently supports suppression of any tool that will aid unpopular viewpoints in being heard.

That is the reason why bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are necessary.