It’s been a tumultuous 12 months for cryptocurrency, with the good (Bitcoin’s record high) mixing with the bad (suggestions that it only got there by means of price manipulation). The same could be said of the Trump White House.
For example, so many of Trump’s senior advisors have resigned or been sacked that you could be forgiven for thinking that you were watching the final act of a particularly bloody and Machiavellian political drama. Most of those players have faded quietly away from the scene, but there’s one name that still emerges from time to time to be a continuing thorn in The Donald’s side – Steve Bannon.
And Steve Bannon is also an enormous fan of Bitcoin.
Bannon isn’t just a political figure; he’s a former investment banker (including a spell as vice-president at Goldman Sachs in Los Angeles) and executive chairman of the infamous far-right organisation Breitbart News. His current function appears to be as a kind of roving reporter and agent-provocateur, supporting populist political movements worldwide. In short, he is doing all he can to make the alt-right mainstream, including interfering in UK politics, meeting regularly with both those on the far end of the mainstream right, and those with more extreme views.
Bannon’s questionable politics aside, his economic expertise with regard to cryptocurrency shouldn’t be disregarded. He professes to have a ‘good stake’ in Bitcoin, and a keen interest in working with individuals and nations with a view to developing their own cryptocurrencies. In fact, the “deplorables coin” might not be far off, taking its name from Hillary Clinton’s reference to half of Trump’s supporters as being “a basket of deplorables” in 2016.
“Bitcoin is the currency of the alt-right”
The decentralised aspect of cryptocurrency holds a certain appeal to a movement keen to take back control from authority. Richard Spencer – the American white supremacist whose main claim to fame is having a viral clip of him being punched by an anti-Nazi protestor – made the claim above in March 2017. This earned him a veritable torrent of flame responses on Twitter, including many assertions that the same basis of decentralisation and trust also made it attractive to considerably more liberal political viewpoints, including his direct ideological opponents!
What should I read into this?
In short, cryptocurrency is for everyone. It should exclude no one, and watching it spread into the financial mainstream in the past year or so has been encouraging for those of us who have faith in it as the currency of the future. However, the associations with the dark web are still there, not least that the nature of decentralisation itself means that transactions are hard to track; a gift to those who want to cause disruption and do harm. Despite associations this year with inclusive sporting events and philanthropic figures, there’s still a perception of cryptocurrencies being something that inhabits the underground.
If anyone has the financial nous to start their own cryptocurrency, it’s Steve Bannon – however uneasy a token to attract the extreme right end of the political spectrum might make us.