The last two weeks have been very exciting ones for Bitcoin. To say there’s been a media frenzy about Bitcoin is not an exaggeration. I read a lot of news stories and opinion pieces about Bitcoin during that time, many of which I found on Twitter. Today I made a point to stay away from Twitter because I didn’t want to read any more news stories, other than one or two interesting stories on CoinDesk, which I quickly read this morning.
Until the past two weeks I’ve actually paid little to no attention to what the media was saying about Bitcoin. Occasionally I’d come across and article and read it, but that was once or twice a week. I got whatever information I was going to get from my interactions on the Bitcoin Forum and simply paying attention to the price. And the price was quite stable, hovering around $800, for over a month, maybe even two months.
I got more interested in actual news about Bitcoin when I started noticing the price of Bitcoin dropping significantly. I was still invested in Camp BX at the time and was trying to decide if I was going to wait around for them to finally send me my fiat money, or if I should just buy back my Bitcoins and ship them off to Coin RNR, or invest them in Havelock… or whatever other options I was weighing.
When the price of Bitcoin starts to change a lot there’s usually a reason, and I wanted to know that reason. That’s when I became a more regular reader of CoinDesk. At first I thought the news item behind Bitcoin’s drop was Apple rejecting BlockChain.info’s wallet app, and I figured it would rebound. Then I learned about Mt. Gox and figured it was going to be a long road south.
Mt. Gox had its saga which just got worse and worse. Then there was more bad news with other websites–heists, hacks and insolvency. Finally, there was the excitement about the Newsweek piece claiming to have figured out who the creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, was.
The news pieces were interesting. Many of the opinion pieces were downright embarrassing as pundit after pundit conclusively demonstrated that while they thought they knew so much, they in fact know so little. I learned that Bitcoin is similar to just about anything else I happen to know about which gets covered by the mainstream media: the story in the media is not the story that’s actually going on. It’s not even that the reporters are deliberately trying to mislead people; it’s just that they approach the subject with a vastly different set of assumptions than those of us who are actually involved do.
For example, one assumption which ran rampant was that Bitcoin was somehow equivalent to Mt. Gox. The media people saw the fall of Mt. Gox as representing the fall of Bitcoin, whereas many people involved with Bitcoin viewed Mt. Gox as an outdated exchange which had been surpassed by its newer competitors. Mt. Gox was barely the third largest exchange when it started to crumble. It certainly did not take Bitcoin down with it. Another assumption which came out in one of Leah McGrath Goodman’s tweets is the idea that we have to know who set Bitcoin in motion despite the fact that it’s already in motion.
— Leah McGrath Goodman (@truth_eater) March 6, 2014
Although people within the Bitcoin community are idly curious about who Bitcoin’s inventor might be, they are far more interested in the idea and the reality of Bitcoin than they are in figuring out who the programmer was. In other words, it’s really not that important to us who Satoshi Nakamoto is, and if he’d rather remain anonymous, hey, that’s cool. But lots of media outsiders seemed to believe Bitcoin wasn’t real until they could interview its founder.
But Bitcoin has its own life and it does its thing regardless of what the pundits say about it. Its price didn’t so much as blip amid all the frenzy surrounding the Newsweek story.
But after reading a bunch of media stories, I found myself starting to look at Bitcoin from the media’s perspective, to actually start to believe that Bitcoin was some sort of ephemeral concept which was vulnerable to what the highly read news sources said about it, even something that I would need to stand up for. I found myself tempted to actually defend Bitcoin. The original article that this one from CoinDesk is refuting was so bad I also felt tempted to embark on a personal mission to educate these poor pundits who were making such fools of themselves without even realizing it.
I wrote a lot about the various characteristics about Bitcoin which all those pundits were missing, and in the process of doing so I started to think that if I exposed myself to too much more news I might start missing those things too. The media is not merely an objective recounting of noteworthy events; it forms opinions for you and tells you not just what to think but how to think. Even if you start off with very strong convictions of your own about how the world works which are distinctly different from how the media portrays it, you will find the news stories you read impacting your thoughts and how you think, even your perspective. The change will be subtle and you won’t notice it at first, but it’s real. People might call me uninformed, but there does come a point where I have to decide that the best way to deal with irrelevant media chatter is to simply ignore it. They can say all they want, but saying it doesn’t make it so. Unfortunately, since so many people consume their fare, what they say is so in the minds of so many, and the illusions get perpetuated.
There was a time in my life (several, as a matter of fact) when I was more involved in politics than I am now. During one of those times my spouse and I decided to give up frequenting certain news sites for Lent. These sites happened to be in the alternative media but they still took their cues from mainstream media in terms of what items to cover. For forty days we did not read those sites, and at the end we found we were much more solid in our convictions about our place in the world, and much happier. Although after Easter we both occasionally checked out those sites, we never read them with the dedication we used to have.
It’s as if I have a certain tolerance level for mainstream media content. Some of it can actually be informative. So reading an occasional story or opinion piece every once in a while is fine. But there comes a point where I can almost feel my mind turning to mush and being molded by and into the great collective. I can just picture the Borg from Star Trek (Next Generation) surrounding me and forcing their way inside my mind, saying in their drone-like voices: “You will be assimilated; resistance is futile.”
Resistance actually is possible. It involves hitting the off switch. Back when the bulk of media came through the television, the off switch was the literal power button on the TV. Now with so much coming through the Internet, the off switch takes many forms, but finding it means putting a stop to the endless stream of media information coming my way. It’s replacing passive consumption of stories which just flow my way to consciously seeking out the stories that truly interest me.