Is Bitcoin Racist?

Left unchallenged, we run the risk that this book could eventually attain a simulcrum of academic credibility, from which it could be used as a basis for future fallacious criticisms of the crypto-space. Think “Bitcoin is racist, everybody knows that. (Golumbia, 2016). The end.”

Golumbia himself is somewhat active, publishing articles for Vice and others in which his bio always features a reference to this book among his credentials. He also has another paper entitled “Code is not Speech”:

“Advocates understand the idea that “code is speech” to create an impenetrable legal shield around anything built of programming code. When they do this they misunderstand, or misrepresent, free speech law…The idea that government cannot regulate things because they are made of code cannot be right.”

His core thesis in “Politics of Bitcoin” is that:

in the name of this new technology, extremist ideas were gaining far more traction than they previously had outside of the extremist literature to which they had largely been confined. Dogma propagated almost exclusively by far-right groups like the Liberty League, the John Birch Society, the militia movement, and the Tea Party, conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and David Icke, and to a lesser extent rightist outlets like the Fox media group and some right-wing politicians, was now being repeated by many who seemed not to know the origin of the ideas, or the functions of those ideas in contemporary politics. These ideas are not simply heterodox or contrarian: they are pieces of a holistic worldview that has been deliberately developed and promulgated by right-wing ideologues.

This passage sets the tone for the rest of the book, the premise follows this basic line of reasoning:

  • Bitcoin was created out of a reaction to current monetary policy (The Fed / Central Banking / fiat money)

  • Previous critics of The Fed were racist, far-right extremists such as John Birch Society and Eustace Mullens

Therefore… and this may sound like I’m exaggerating to make my point, but I’m not:

  • any criticism of Central banking, the current monetary structure or “conventional mainstream economics” is right-wing extremism. And…

  • This extreme right-wing ideology is “very literally coded into the software itself”.

There isn’t a lot to unpack in this, but for a short book there certainly an abundance of problematic material to address.

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