A quick Google search on crypto and The Washington Post paints a bleak picture.
“Crypto R.I.P.?” “Crypto prices are tumbling. The future is murky.” “U.S. issues criminal charges in first cryptocurrency sanctions case.” “Bitcoin market’s plunge is why crypto shouldn’t be in your 401(k).” “Crypto’s plummet tests the durability of a hype-driven industry.” “Six signs crypto investment is a classic Ponzi scheme.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg – an iceberg that tilts just one way. So, what is behind the mainstream media scare tactics against the emerging world of digital currency and blockchain technology?
“The world is currently in a global battle of capitalism and freedom versus communism and totalitarianism,” explains James Koutoulas, Managing Partner at Koutoulas Law. “Decentralized crypto is a tool of freedom that allows supply constraints in an age where 40 percent of all dollars ever printed were created in the last two years. Crypto can’t be de-platformed or deactivated, unlike what we saw in Canada where donations to the trucker convoy were stolen and given to B.L.M., and donors’ bank accounts were frozen as they were accused of being terrorists.”
“I like the fight to continue and build decentralized cryptos like Bitcoin. It’s imperative to keeping the world free in the face of what we’ve seen the World Economic Forum -led by leftists – do to control people over the last two years,” Koutoulas notes.
A 2021 media analysis examining the mainstream media’s crypto-related coverage noted that headlines peaked during tumultuous markets in 2017 and then saw a surge in mid-2019 surrounding volatility but that it failed to spark the same level of media interest. In other words, negative news about crypto markets generate clicks and grabs more eyeballs than news of surging markets or new implementations of blockchain technology across dozens of new industries each year.
Narratives about blockchain technology’s ability to empower ordinary individuals to store and accrue value of their assets outside centralized authorities is not looked upon kindly by big banks, governments, and the ultra-wealthy who dominate the power structures of many of those centralized institutions.
Some skeptics point out mainstream media interests tend to align with the interests of Washington. This is reflected in none other than the Washington Post, which routinely projects a special breed of antagonism toward blockchain and digital currency and fueled a long-held speculation as to whether the paper’s owner, and one of the world’s wealthiest men, Jeff Bezos has crypto in his portfolio.
The rumor mill has run rampant in recent years that the billionaire Amazon founder holds both Bitcoin and Ethereum. However, he has declined to confirm any equity in the space.
Moreover, Amazon has gone to great lengths to push back against crypto on its platforms. This contrasts sharply with fellow billionaires and business leaders like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Tim Cook, who have all confirmed (even touted) they have crypto investments.
Rob Nelson, a veteran media creator and expert, underscores that traditional media – often dubbed legacy media – is still typically rooted in an older corporate structure opting to back the conventional government fiat model.
“These structures have deep investments in maintaining monetary control. Information [giants] and governments are used to having control over their populations, so inherently they have legitimate worries over how this (blockchain technology) will affect consumers,” he explains. “If you are the U.S. government, your bias isn’t to favor this. International organizations loathe decentralized currencies that would weaken the control of the central dollar. If you are a bank, you are hesitant to give up control over what people do with their financial assets. The mainstream media revenue comes from the corporate world, which is connected to the traditional world of finance.”
From Nelson’s point of view, crypto is so disruptive it can seem scary – yet media moguls and business leaders still seem to possess an intrinsic fear of missing out, perhaps explaining why many still incorporate crypto in their portfolios even while publicly bashing it.
“You don’t fear missing out on something if you are convinced it won’t work,” he adds.
I was able to source at least one somewhat optimistic blockchain innovation connected to Bezos. In 2018, Amazon’s cloud computing A.R.M. Amazon Web Services (A.W.S.) announced a partnership with ConsenSys’ blockchain startup Kaleido, a business cloud to build and manage blockchain platforms from scratch, to offer “simplified blockchain cloud platforms for its clients.”
In keeping with leading papers like The Washington Post, central bankers routinely chastise the digital arena. For example, in March, European Central Bank President Christine Lagard claimed cryptos are “worth nothing.” In short, the animosity stems from banks inability to control crypto, triggering a fear-based reaction followed by positioning crypto as a hazard to their own digital currency rollouts.
“The day when we have the central bank digital currency, any digital euro, I will guarantee it,” Lagard stated. “So, the central bank will be behind it. I think that is vastly different from any of those things.”
Banks benefit from deposits made by customers, and working on a fractional reserve system, they lend and invest the money, keeping a small portion as a reserve. Since the funds are not physically in the accounts, if everyone took some funds out at once, the entire system would crash.
“The mainstream media’s criticism of cryptocurrency reflects the many difficulties accompanying creating an alternative for central bank currencies and money flow. Crypto suffers from a variety of opinion criticisms ranging from questioning the basis of its value, volatility, and security to perceptions that it’s a tool of criminal commerce and that, if ever successful, it will be replaced by a government-approved version, thus ending any speculative value in its private forms.
“The mainstream media would be remiss to ignore these criticisms,” asserts global risk and financial analyst Dennis Santiago. “But the technology has scaled up to the point that it’s not ignorable anymore, and this is naturally worrisome.”
Last year, Bitcoin’s price swelled more than ten percent in a single weekend as reports surfaced that Amazon, just weeks after Bezos stepped down as CEO, was preparing to propel a full-scale crypto effort. This would entail accepting crypto as a payment method by the end of 2021 and possibly launching an Amazon coin in 2022. Amazon’s recruiting site even posted advertisements seeking an individual who can “leverage domain expertise in blockchain, distributed ledger, central bank digital currencies and cryptocurrency to develop the case for the capabilities which should be developed, drive the overall vision and product strategy, and gain leadership buy-in and investment for new capabilities.”
Nonetheless, Amazon’s top brass squashed the reports and it remains unclear when – or if – Amazon will incorporate crypto into its retail wing. The giant’s reigning CEO, Andy Jassy, shed some light on NFTs earlier this year, indicating that Amazon selling the non-fungible tokens – namely digital art – on the platform is “possible down the road.”
It is no secret the mainstream media tends to skew left, which is counter to the decentralized libertarian roots of blockchain technology founded on a simple idea that no single entity should have control. Objectors caveat that by saying media analysts and lawmakers are “protecting” citizens from an untrusted financial alternative. Those who favor free markets, capitalism, and business tend to see the digital currency world as something that creates more opportunities for local economies, thereby elevating the quality of life for millions of people, many who otherwise face permanent barriers to economic opportunity under the current financial constructs.
After all, “crypto” comes from the Greek kryptós, meaning “hidden,” – and that can be either a good or bad thing, depending on the lens through which one views government and the world. But as with everything you read and hear in the never-ending news cycle, apply a healthy dose of skepticism, and do your research before making a judgment call.
Blockchain technology may still be in its infancy, but all signs point to continued growth and application. The trick is to not conflate the volatility of cryptocurrencies with the underlying technology.