The debate surrounding cryptocurrency in the United States has become increasingly polarized and politicized. This is both a sign that the technology is gaining mainstream attention and a hindrance to informed discussion. Social media exacerbates the issue by promoting fear-mongering and oversimplified solutions. As a result, it seems that the public’s understanding of the technology’s potential and risks is becoming even more elusive.
The crypto discussion is often trapped in a binary of love or hate, with strong but often uninformed opinions on both sides. There appears to be a lack of willingness to understand the other’s position and little search for compromise. Those who believe in cryptocurrency may be quick to blame politicians and regulators for their uncompromising stances, but it is important to recognize that a toxic discourse takes two sides to create.
To move forward, the industry must figure out how to communicate with its detractors. This may mean engaging in more real-world interactions and less reliance on social media. It is important to avoid arrogance, dismissiveness, and trolling in online discussions.
Good reporting, such as that of Nikhilesh De, Cheyenne Ligon, and Doreen Wang in their piece “The Bitcoin Mining Debate Is Ignoring the People Most Affected,” can help identify areas where both sides need to cede ground. The article explores the impact of Greenidge Generation’s bitcoin mining operation in Dresden, NY, which has become a lightning rod in the wider debate over Bitcoin’s environmental impact. Both sides have made exaggerated claims about the harm or benefits of the operation, highlighting the need for a more nuanced discussion.
The politicization of the issue is evident in the fact that Dresden’s mayor, William Hall, had never been contacted by a reporter, lobbyist, or politician about Greenidge before CoinDesk’s visit. This underscores the fact that competing factions in a wider national debate can create fact-starved abstractions of reality, overlooking the multifaceted experiences of those affected.
As emotions run high and procedural gridlock leaves Congress unable to pass clarifying legislation for the industry, the bipartisan spirit that once existed around crypto on Capitol Hill has evaporated. While there are still many supporters on the left, criticism increasingly feels like a Democrat position, while advocacy is owned by Republicans. This division is unlikely to lead to positive outcomes.
To help facilitate informed discussion and progress, CoinDesk will publish the forthcoming Consensus @ Consensus report next month. This report will be the result of a deliberate effort to bring competing voices together during the Consensus event in Austin last month to discuss and debate eleven core issues for the industry.
As individuals, we can all take stock of our behavior on social media and elsewhere. This means avoiding arrogance, dismissiveness, and trolling. For example, the spoof video released by Riot Platforms in response to a New York Times piece on bitcoin mining’s environmental impact was seen by some as an example of a “bitcoin bro” stereotype that ignorantly believes a mining operation has zero carbon footprint. The video missed the mark and failed to contribute to informed discussion.
In conclusion, the politicization of the cryptocurrency debate is hindering progress and informed discussion. To move forward, both sides must be willing to cede ground and engage in nuanced discussion. As individuals, we can all play a role in promoting respectful and informed debate.