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“The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism” by David Golumbia


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PoliticsBitcoinWe have explored Bitcoin in a number of programs–FTR #’s 760, 764, 770 and 785.

An important new book by David Golumbia sets forth the technocratic fascist politics underlying Bitcoin. Known to veteran listeners/readers as the author of an oft-quoted article dealing with technocratic fascism, Golumbia has published a short, important book about the right-wing extremism underlying Bitcoin. (Programs on technocratic fascism include: FTR #’s 851, 859, 866, 867.)

In the excerpt below, we see disturbing elements of resonance with the views of Stephen Bannon and some of the philosophical influences on him. Julius Evola, “Mencius Moldbug” and Bannon himself see our civilization as in decline, at a critical “turning point,” and in need of being “blown up” (as Evola put it) or needing a “shock to the system.”

The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism by David Golumbia; University of Minnesota Press [SC]; pp. 73-75.

. . . . As objects of discourse, Bitcoin and the blockchain do a remarkable job of reinforcing the view that the entire global history of political thought and action needs to be jettisoned, or, even worse, that it has already been jettisoned through the introduction of any number of technologies. Thus, in the introduction to a bizarrely earnest and destructive volume called From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond (Clippinger and Bollier 2014), the editors, one of whom is a research scientist at MIT, write, “Enlightenment ideals of democratic rule seem to have run their course. A continuous flow of scientific findings are undermining many foundational claims about human rationality and perfectibility while exponential technological changes and exploding global demographics overwhelm the capacity of democratic institutions to rule effectively, and ultimately, their very legitimacy.” Such abrupt dismissals of hundreds of years of thought, work, and lives follows directly from cyberlibertarian thought and extremist reinterpretations of political institutions:” What once required the authority of a central bank or a sovereign authority can now be achieved through open, distributed crypto-algorithms. National borders, traditional legal regimes, and human intervention are increasingly moot.” Like most ideological formations, these sentiments are highly resistant to being proven false by facts. . . .

. . . . Few attitudes typify the paradoxical cyberlibertarian mind-set of Bitcoin promoters (and many others) more than do those of “Sanjuro,” the alias of the person who created a Bitcoin “assassination market” (Greenberg 2013). Sanjuro believes that by incentivizing people to kill politicians, he will destroy “all governments, everywhere.” This anarchic apocalypse “will change the world for the better,” producing “a world without wars, dragnet Panopticon-style surveillance, nuclear weapons, armies, repression, money manipulation, and limits to trade.” Only someone so blinkered by their ideological tunnel vision could look at world history and imagine that murdering the representatives of democratically elected governments and thus putting the governments themselves out of existence would do anything but make every one of these problems immeasurably worse than they already are. Yet this, in the end, is the extreme rightist–anarcho-capitalist, winner-take-all, even neo-feudalist–political vision too many of those in the Bitcoin (along with other cryptocurrency) and blockchain communities, whatever they believe their political orientation to be, are working actively to bring about. . . .

 

Discussion

One comment for ““The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism” by David Golumbia”

  1. Check out one of the big winners from the ongoing surge in the value of Bitcoin: neo-Nazis. And especially Andrew “weev” Auernheimer:

    Mic

    Neo-Nazi wealth is rapidly growing. Why? Bitcoin.

    by Jack Smith IV
    Published Dec. 1, 2017

    In many ways, white nationalists were the big losers after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August. First, they lost web hosting for neo-Nazi hives like Stormfront. Some far-right attendees lost access to Uber or their social media accounts. Others lost meeting venues and were driven out of subsequent public spaces during follow-up rallies. And of course, some attendees, such as those who were exposed in photos taken at the infamous torch-lit march the night before the rally, lost their jobs.

    In that time, they were also essentially forced to invest in bitcoin, and after the cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise throughout 2017, that financial move has broadened their wealth significantly.

    After the Charlottesville protests, many white nationalists lost access to money-transfer services like Apple Pay and PayPal, and therefore turned to bitcoin, doubling down on their investment or creating wallets to experiment with the apolitical cryptocurrency.

    In the past few months, the price of bitcoin soared to record heights, reaching a trading price over $11,000 per coin on Wednesday. Throughout this boom, white nationalist wealth has grown, with some of the country’s most virulent celebrity racists often raking in thousands of dollars in a single day.

    Bitcoin can be used anonymously, but in order to accept donations, white nationalists had to de-anonymize themselves. So John Bambenek, a cybersecurity researcher and threat analyst, created a Twitter bot to follow and collect this information. It’s from that bot, @NeoNaziWallets, that Mic has collated and graphed this behavior. Even so, while anyone can watch the money move in and out of accounts, it’s uncertain where the money travels to, who is contributing and how many other digital wallets are involved in the network of white supremacist bitcoin users.

    The cryptocurrency is also pretty attractive to those who believe in anti-Semitic conspiracies about greedy, often assumed Jewish, overlords who engineer our society through control of central banks. In March, Richard Spencer declared bitcoin “the currency of the alt-right” — though that should be taken with a grain of salt. The alt-right will lay claim to anything from New Balance shoes to Papa John’s pizza if it suits them.

    Bitcoin is the currency of the alt right.— Richard ???? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) March 18, 2017

    Still, since Charlottesville, white nationalists who ramped up their investment in bitcoin have seen their virtual wealth grow.

    The clearest case of such growth is with Counter-Currents, a publishing house for books like Trevor Lynch’s White Nationalist Guide to the Movies and Toward the White Republic. From late August until Wednesday — our observation period for the data — the wallet for the far-right publisher held at about 7.7 bitcoin, including some tiny contributions (possibly donations) along the way. Its wealth more than doubled, netting them about $41,000 between Sept. 2 and Tuesday. And then by Wednesday it made $5,859 more.

    Bitcoin’s been particularly useful for Andrew Anglin, a neo-Nazi leader who’s been in and out of the public eye since the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a potentially debilitating lawsuit against him. Bambenek has estimated that Anglin has taken in about $250,000 in bitcoin since 2014.

    On Oct. 1, the Daily Stormer withdrew $64,353, reaping the early rewards of the bitcoin boom, shortly after making about $2,202 in just one day. Since then, the balance for the Daily Stormer has been fairly level, as whoever manages the wallet skims the occasional few hundred dollars off the account, with some withdrawals as high as $1,602.

    Other white nationalist experimentations in bitcoin are fairly meager. Spencer — president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank — had about $3 in bitcoin sitting in an account until Nov. 22, when roughly $1,000 in bitcoin was transferred to the wallet. As of Wednesday, he had about $1,317. Vanguard America, a militant white nationalist group with a large contingent in Charlottesville, grew a small balance from roughly $218 on Aug. 27 to about $533 on Wednesday with no new deposits.

    One neo-Nazi stands above the rest in his bitcoin usage: Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, who’s received over $1 million in bitcoin, according to one report. Even though Auernheimer has withdrawn roughly $118,620 from his bitcoin wallet between late August and Wednesday, his remaining bitcoin store has been replenishing his wealth throughout the recent bitcoin boom.

    While bitcoin is an effective, apolitical escape pod for moving money away from services that become inhospitable to hate groups, many mainstream wallet providers can still de-platform white supremacists. After the Charlottesville rally, Coinbase allegedly kicked users off of its wallet-providing service for donating to the Daily Stormer.

    In the meantime, all of the transactions moving in and out of the identified wallets are still in public.

    “The disadvantage [for neo-Nazis] is that I can see their transactions, I can see when they’re spending money, and given effort and investment of time, I could figure out who is donating to them also,” Bambenek told Mic.

    Bambenek said his next project is to chart the web of transactions around the neo-Nazi bitcoin wallets to try to determine where the money is going and, potentially, the identity of the donors using cryptocurrency to lend thousands of dollars to the white nationalist cause.

    ———-

    “Neo-Nazi wealth is rapidly growing. Why? Bitcoin.” by Jack Smith IV; Mic; 12/01/2017

    “After the Charlottesville protests, many white nationalists lost access to money-transfer services like Apple Pay and PayPal, and therefore turned to bitcoin, doubling down on their investment or creating wallets to experiment with the apolitical cryptocurrency.”

    So following the backlash from the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, the ‘Alt Right’ neo-Nazis redouble their interest in Bitcoin, including for fundraising, allowing them to turn those donations into massive profits as a result of the recent Bitcoin surge.

    But in order to accept those donations, the neo-Nazis had to make their Bitcoin “wallets” publicly known, allowing people to track at least the publicly available Bitcoin neo-Nazi wealth. Which is exactly what cybersecurity researcher John Bambenek did:


    Bitcoin can be used anonymously, but in order to accept donations, white nationalists had to de-anonymize themselves. So John Bambenek, a cybersecurity researcher and threat analyst, created a Twitter bot to follow and collect this information. It’s from that bot, @NeoNaziWallets, that Mic has collated and graphed this behavior. Even so, while anyone can watch the money move in and out of accounts, it’s uncertain where the money travels to, who is contributing and how many other digital wallets are involved in the network of white supremacist bitcoin users.

    And what did Banenek find? Well, found that Stormfront founder Andrew Anglin has taken in an estimate $250,000 in bitcoins sinc 2014, but that’s dwarfed by Anglin’s associate, neo-Nazi hacker Andrew Anglin who as seen over $1 million in bitcoins flowing into his wallet:


    Bitcoin’s been particularly useful for Andrew Anglin, a neo-Nazi leader who’s been in and out of the public eye since the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a potentially debilitating lawsuit against him. Bambenek has estimated that Anglin has taken in about $250,000 in bitcoin since 2014.

    On Oct. 1, the Daily Stormer withdrew $64,353, reaping the early rewards of the bitcoin boom, shortly after making about $2,202 in just one day. Since then, the balance for the Daily Stormer has been fairly level, as whoever manages the wallet skims the occasional few hundred dollars off the account, with some withdrawals as high as $1,602.

    One neo-Nazi stands above the rest in his bitcoin usage: Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, who’s received over $1 million in bitcoin, according to one report. Even though Auernheimer has withdrawn roughly $118,620 from his bitcoin wallet between late August and Wednesday, his remaining bitcoin store has been replenishing his wealth throughout the recent bitcoin boom.

    Based on this performance, we should probably expect neo-Nazis to continue favoring Bitcoin when it comes to accepting donations. But there is one big catch to all this: Bitcoin is only quasi-anonymous and it’s often possible de-anonymize a Bitcoin wallet and figure out who is making all these neo-Nazi donations. And that, of course, is Bambenek’s next project:


    In the meantime, all of the transactions moving in and out of the identified wallets are still in public.

    “The disadvantage [for neo-Nazis] is that I can see their transactions, I can see when they’re spending money, and given effort and investment of time, I could figure out who is donating to them also,” Bambenek told Mic.

    Bambenek said his next project is to chart the web of transactions around the neo-Nazi bitcoin wallets to try to determine where the money is going and, potentially, the identity of the donors using cryptocurrency to lend thousands of dollars to the white nationalist cause.

    So it’s going to be interesting to see how many people end up getting identified as a neo-Nazi donor (at which point they will likely act very persecuted when people don’t think well of them for donating to/being neo-Nazis and ask for more donations themselves).

    And don’t forget that this study of neo-Nazi Bitcoin activity is based on the wallets that have identified as owned by a neo-Nazi. So Bambenek’s study is really just a subset of the total neo-Nazi Bitcoin wealth.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 5, 2017, 3:59 pm

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