TL;DR: RAGE CLICK is a deeper look at crypto media, inspired or industry. Journalists are tired, entitled, self-righteous. CoinSpice periodically documents supporting examples in an effort to encourage critical reading, better consumers, literate producers. That, and we’re pompous gasbags who love to vent. This RC installment examines the gleefully passed-around blog post your grandmother sent from The Tyee. Country Collapsing? Let Them Eat Bitcoin: Vancouver to Venezuela, the brave new ethics of crypto-charities is gross for a number of reasons, but it is our focus here due to perfectly illustrating badly needed standards for assigning competent writers and editors when attempting complex topics. Yikes, just yikes.
The Tyee Leisurely Strolls Through Crypto
Cryptocurrency includes scam artists, weirdos, profiteers, opportunists. A real case can be made for kidnapping the space, dragging it upstairs to the bathtub, and drowning it in what most would consider an act of mercy.
It does not then follow everyone is able to coherently make such charges stick, even if they design websites or advocate for broader “code education.” Few have enough experience and breadth of knowledge to take the industry apart, and as a result their attempts are never convincing to literate audiences. Journalists of this sort rely on reader ignorance, offering exactly zero light. This is quadruple true when lifestyle bloggers wander into technical topics involving economics, mathematics, history, international politics, monetary theory, and cryptographic currency.
Melody Ma, a Tyee contributing editor, is a culture and neighbourhood advocate and tech worker in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Tyee is an elongated labor union newsletter with about as much verve and creativity as anyone familiar with the genre would expect. Poor sourcing, all who disagree are dupes or evil, just-so stories, strange graphic imagery and sizing, and regional cultural chauvinism dominate its myopic coverage.
A Throw-Away Concept Worthy of Only Scorn
Search the word “crypto” within the site, for example, and as is easily predicted, stories about “crypto-fascists” win the day rather than anything to do with, well, crypto in the sense used popularly today. Bitcoin as a subject matter appeared slightly better than half a dozen times since 2013 on its pages, and The Tyee team missed crypto’s 2017 entirely.
Upon returning to the subject in early-ish 2018, it was dismissed in passing as a throw-away part of bug-bounty jag, and the other lone remaining mention last year read, “[…] Trump tweeted this month, sending stock markets into the kind of plunge that makes Bitcoin look safe.” You get the idea.
Ma herself has written four searchable features for The Tyee, and her introduction to the site began as a principal focus of a 2016 piece about code education in the region. She appears a few more times, and by late last year her first authored long read concerns a CouncilSoWhite hashtag. Finer points of Canadian politics are beyond the scope of our expertise, but the unintended irony of Ma’s solution-oriented drivel is worth pointing out, and serves to move the present discussion forward.
The Tyee is whiter than a Klan rally. From top to bottom, crackers dominate every aspect, with but a sprinkling of ethnics to keep up appearances. Check out their 2 minute masturbatory 10th anniversary congratulations to themselves. All that’s missing are hoods. The Tyee is downright translucent.
So what? Well, it speaks to Ma’s analytical acumen and The Tyee’s moral high ground, and both leave a lot to be desired. Understand critical eyes are to be cast only outward and upon the hoi polloi, and The Tyee worldview makes perfect sense. Others’ motives are perennially suspect, and unconventional proposed solutions are filtered through virtue signaling toward The Tyee assumptions.
A notoriously gated community (Canada won’t allow entrance into the country from folks with so much as a library fine), Vancouverites are insulated from competition in terms of labor and ideas. Debate poles in the region are similar to that of boutique European countries, ranging from X party wants 100% government intervention in Y aspect of society, while Z party pushes for the radical notion of 95% government intervention. It’s an intellectual Disneyland: a lot of bored people looking to invent problems and magical solutions usually involving gardening and drab clothing.
The Brave New Ethics of Crypto-Charities
For Ma’s Country Collapsing? Let Them Eat Bitcoin, The Tyee tweeted, “Venezuela’s meltdown has made its currency worthless. Hyperinflation last year topped a million per cent. A Vancouver-based investor sees a perfect chance to try charitable cryptocurrency experiments. But is this disaster capitalism 2.0?” Readers, we’re sure, were shaking in suspense at Ma’s eventual verdict. Genius literary device, that question mark.
Slightly later in the day, “Venezuela’s economic meltdown has made its currency worthless. A few charities have stepped up with an answer: give the people cryptocurrency. Will this ‘free money’ help Venezuelans? Or is this a dark new experiment of disaster capitalism?” the social media account rephrased breathlessly.
Dark new experiment. Disaster capitalism. Free money. Good Lord! If only there was an enterprising moralist 4,000 miles (6,400km) and a continent away to warn those poor people. Thankfully, The Tyee and Ma have access to Wikipedia. Bravely, Ma admits, “I have been relentlessly skeptical of cryptocurrencies. To me, they’ve seemed like vapourware traded by two types of people: libertarians innately distrusting of financial institutions or speculators hoping to get rich quick.” A tidy bow preventing serious further examination. Done and done.
Noting her refusenik prudence back in 2013 regarding bitcoin, Ma reveals she has a friend from Venezuela with family there, and Ma imagines herself among the monetary ruin. CoinSpice readers are intimately familiar with Venezuela on-goings. Ma’s retelling of the situation is little more than cliché.
Crypto is presented in the article as a refuge, but a fool’s bargain pushed by hucksters. Along the way, Ethereum is misspelled, and the country’s relatively cheap electricity is cited as a lure for miners, etc. Some are using the likes of bitcoin as a store of value hedge under obvious government failure, she describes. Ma goes on to begrudgingly list what appears to be a lone bright spot among distress and human drek, a small crypto economy.
To Ma, bitcoin is “financial anonymity,” making it “attractive or dangerous,” and “allows users to avoid state surveillance, interference.” It’s also “an ideal medium for money launderers.” She quotes proponents out of nowhere, and characterizes their enthusiasm “as hyperbole given Venezuelans are being killed and detained for protesting and journalists are being grabbed and kicked out of the country. Millions of Venezuelans have fled their borders in search of real freedom.” Yep, she wrote crypto enthusiasts were the ones prone to gilding the verbal lily.
As any serious analyst knows, bitcoin is not anonymous. In fact, far from it. It’s pseudo anonymous, and is a perfect tool for governments to track citizens. And though Ma is unaware of that fact, she’s also incurious to the point of writing a few sentences later how “the crypto-blockchain technology is an efficient way to track and use the money,” causing no cognitive dissonance whatsoever on her part. Like, zero. Which is it?
If Ma’s technical knowledge matches that of your average Fox News viewer, her grasp of economics is many times worse. She cowardly chides a charity for handing over “a mere US$9,000, a drop in the bucket,” insisting “critics” refer to the amount as miserly. Is it possible for the number to be “mere” and a “drop” because the charity is navigating how best to apply whatever else is raised? Readers won’t know. Ma’s judgement was made before she typed the first word of her rant. For context, she digs up a computer dude from Argentina who confirms assisting Venezuelans simply will not help, or worse. That settles it, then, as Ma recalls “nodding in agreement.” Compelling.
The Tyee preference in these matters is for academicians paid by governments, groups funded by governments, to engage, of course, governments. Bureaucracy and middlemen forever! Tension between public and private sectors is only alluded to, and Ma rests squarely on the side readers already knew before another line of her ode to yet more insulated actors.
The best part of Ma’s nothing burger is when she introduces ethics dumping. Coined by, wait for it, another government, and buttressed by still-more government funded academics, she insists this is what crypto firms are doing by mixing with the people of Venezuela, taking advantage. Governments and their appointed experts, some guy in Argentina, and her friend are enough to wipe away all other approaches.
She’s keen to more than suggest crypto charities and related businesses are putting Venezuelans in danger, something everyone in the space has discussed at length but Ma presents as her special insight. Readers predisposed to trust government and loathe business are given their pound of flesh, and that’s a shame. There was a real chance to dig deep into what’s actually happening on the ground in Venezuela besides cherry-picking anecdotes.
Heroes who lack degrees, officialdom, credentials, and government license are resisting Venezuela’s horrible government. Politicians The Tyee and its academicians worship are complicit in overtly supporting Maduro and Chavez before him, and have mounds of blood on their collective hands (see, I can do it too). Right now, and readers of The Tyee and Ma would not know it, Venezuelans are earning a living through cryptocurrency, and a combination of charity and private business are making life there for far too few better. No one of substance believes bitcoin cash (BCH) or Dash, for all their wonders and financial solace, are the ultimate solutions to the Latin American nation’s plight, its well-worn ills. But they’re a start, and leagues more helpful than writing uninformed toadyism to delight government hacks.
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