Don’t Buy the ‘Bitcoin Is for Nazis’ Narrative – It Hurts the Truly Oppressed
There are quite a few mainstream opinion pieces in circulation, using alt-right and white nationalist personalities who use bitcoin to make tenuous links between Bitcoin and far right sectarian groups. This narrative is dangerous and irresponsible, and could end up hurting vulnerable demographics if it is allowed to propagate.
Hating Bitcoin for the Wrong Reasons
There’s been a lot of work to de-anonymize payments made to white nationalists via the Bitcoin network, and (mostly due to the efforts of John Bambenek) most funds sent to and from white nationalist personalities are clearly traceable.
This in itself is not a bad thing — the Bitcoin ledger has never been anonymous, and tracking extremist activity isn’t even possible with cash. The problem comes with people running with the narrative that bitcoin is “nazi money.”
Yes: the Bitcoin ledger can be used by anyone, including extreme sectarian ideologues. Its utility as a store of value that’s difficult to freeze or devalue makes it perfect for political and criminal activity.
However, the same things that make it useful to political extremists also make it useful to other under-served people exposed to extreme risk.
Bitcoin Is as Diverse as a Technology Can Be
Sex workers, legal and otherwise, have found bitcoin useful when other payment processors discontinue their service due to moral objections.
People living under regimes that issue hyperinflationary currencies, or that need to send remittances to relatives living under oppressive regimes, have been using bitcoin for quite a while.
Zimbabwean farmers have found bitcoin instrumental in conducting commerce without the overhead associated with trading in non-native currencies they were subjected to in the past.
The truth of the matter is that bitcoin isn’t “nazi money” at all, it’s (at least to date) unstoppable, uncensorable, and impartial money. White nationalists might be using it, but bitcoin is also empowering the demographics that those same white nationalists hate, in ways no other single technology could.
That’s the key thing to remember here: Bitcoin is just a technology. It allows people to exchange and store value without relying on any third parties that might want to stop that from happening, or that want play with inflation.
For every neo-nazi that uses it because PayPal and visa refuse to serve their vile rhetoric, so are hundreds of African farmers, cam girls, Venezuelans, Indians, escorts, whistleblowers, and other high risk, oppressed demographics. By using bitcoin they may rise out of poverty, lower the inherent risk of their professions, and otherwise keep and use their wealth as they see fit.
What’s ironic here is that the alt-right should hate bitcoin — it does more than any other single technology to help undocumented immigrants, minorities, and people working in vice markets. Losing sight of bitcoin’s usefulness because bad people use it is a lot like boycotting shoes or cars because bad people use them, too. It’s utterly nonsensical.
Bitcoin Is (Just) a Tool
The question remains, though: who profits from the “Bitcoin is for nazis” narrative?
Well, the alt-right would love to see a crash hurt all the people they want to exclude from their rhetorical ethno-state for one, and the fact we’re seeing a lot of the propagation of this narrative from those in traditional finance probably isn’t a coincidence, either.
Who loses out when capital outflow controls, currency manipulation and civil asset forfeiture become easier to circumvent? The state and the legacy financial system.
The fact that Bitcoin’s public ledger allows people like John Bambenek to track extremists should be lauded — good luck doing that with cash.
Bitcoin is nothing more than a tool. Occasionally bad actors will use it, but the vast majority of the time, it will be used by those it serves best to effect a positive outcome. Bitcoin serves the underserved and disenfranchised best. Railing against it because a few vile people are using it at the same time is absurd.
images courtesy Backpage, Bitmari, Xotika