“Crypto” is a word you’re probably very tired of hearing and reading. You might not be as bored of it as you are with the three letters that spell “NFT,” but it’s likely that you’re becoming sick to your back teeth of it. There are good reasons to feel that way. Outside of the people who truly understand how cryptocurrency, the blockchain, and all those other fabulous concepts work – and there are very few of them – they’ve become an irritation. Most of us understand the basic concept of cryptocurrency in that it’s a form of decentralised digital currency based on tokens, but the finer points elude us and the amount of learning required to understand those points seems insurmountable.
If you’ve been nodding along to everything we’ve written above, we fear we have bad news for you. We suspect that you’ll be hearing a lot more about cryptocurrency throughout the rest of the year, and not just because the price of Bitcoin or Ethereum is bouncing around as it seemingly always does. It’s because there’s a debate kicking up in the media and elsewhere online about whether cryptocurrencies have somehow become political. More specifically, there’s a growing consensus among some commentators – whether accurate or not – that cryptocurrency is a right-wing endeavour.
The idea of a decentralised, anonymous currency having political leanings of any kind might sound absurd, but it’s the honest opinion of Jackson Palmer. You might not know the name, but he’s the person responsible for creating Dogecoin, which is a cryptocurrency favoured by Elon Musk. According to him, cryptocurrencies (including the one he created) have become a funnel of profiteering run by right-wing entities and people looking to orchestrate financial scams. We understand the “financial scam” part, as we’ve seen plenty of evidence of crypto-based scams and rug-pulls during the past two years, but where does the “right-wing” part come from? Upon what does he base that assumption? Apparently, it has less to do with the people who brought cryptocurrency into the world and more to do with the people who control large amounts of cryptocurrency now.
Palmer took a long time to come forward with this opinion. He stepped away from social media in 2019 and seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth until he recently resurfaced to share his opinions with everybody on Twitter. He no longer has anything to do with crypto and does not intend to involve himself again in the future. He describes it as a “hyper capitalistic technology” that exists only to amplify the wealth of those who hold it via a system of tax avoidance, reduced regulatory oversight, and an artificially created scarcity of coins that serves to boost the value of existing holdings. Palmer is right about the tax avoidance and regulatory oversight aspects of that argument, but he’s wrong to associate those values with the right-wing. Those aren’t ring wing traits. Those are “bad people” traits, and bad people exist everywhere. His description of cryptocurrency as a money system that protects those at the top at the expense of those at the bottom is accurate, but that doesn’t make it a right-wing entity.
Jackson Palmer’s views could be seen as peculiar, but he’s not the only person who has this opinion. The New York Times recently ran an article about what it sees as a “strange alliance” between cryptocurrency enthusiasts and MAGA true-believers. It cited a recent Tweet from potential Republican Senate nominee for Ohio Josh Mandel, who remains a staunch Trump supporter and recently said that his vision for the future of Ohio is one of a “pro-family, pro-God, pro-Bitcoin” place to live. Somehow, the article takes that one quote and turns it into an argument that people who invest in Bitcoin do so because of an inherent fear that the government will one day come along and take away all of your money. People on the political right do indeed sometimes fear – often unreasonably – that the government is one day going to knock on their front door and take away their money, rights, guns, and Bibles, but to position this as the chief reason why people invest in Bitcoin is economically illiterate.
The New York Times article eventually concludes that right-wingers like cryptocurrency because it removes the need to trust a third party – be that a bank, PayPal, or anyone else who plays a role in holding and transferring your money. Cryptocurrency works on a peer-to-peer basis, so there’s no need to trust anybody other than the person you’re dealing with. Facetiously, the author of the piece links this lack of trust to Covid denial, climate change denial, perpetration of the election fraud hoax, and something to do with the Rothschild family and space lasers. The intention is to make people on the right sound insane, but it’s the author who sounds more than a little odd by the end of the piece.
Cryptocurrency is a lot of things, but it isn’t right-wing. If anything, it’s unknowable. Even those who profess to have a deep understanding of the blockchain are often caught off guard by sudden fluctuations in price. Bitcoin investment is about as reliable as gambling but doesn’t come with any of the reference guides that make gambling a little easier to understand. There’s no sistersite.co.uk for cryptocurrency investment. That’s a site that compares casino websites and tells players who can be trusted, who can’t, and what to expect from playing at a specific casino. If the casino doesn’t appear to be trustworthy, it won’t end up on their list of recommended casino sites. Cryptocurrency could use something like that – and perhaps it will get it in the future – but it doesn’t have it right now. As we inferred at the very start of this article, almost all of us are in the dark about cryptocurrency, and we share that darkness with people on the left, people on the right, and those in the middle. Cryptocurrency isn’t political. It would be impossible for it to be political, and the idea is absurd – but you’re going to see it reported on as if it is for much of the year ahead.