Recent developments in crypto, particularly Bitcoin’s price surge, starkly contrast with the continued skeptical and sensationalist coverage by legacy media.
Granted, Bitcoin’s journey in the digital currency landscape has often been tumultuous, marked by significant price fluctuations and evolving public perceptions. However, despite a remarkable 168% increase in value this year, Bitcoin continues to face a barrage of skepticism and negative framing in legacy media reports, except one.
New York Times
The New York Times repeated use of terms like “bet” in describing investments in Bitcoin ETFs subtly casts a speculative shadow over the cryptocurrency.
“A Bitcoin E.T.F. would allow investors who want to bet on the cryptocurrency to buy shares in a fund that holds the cryptocurrency without directly exposing them to the more volatile and chaotic digital asset markets.”
Similarly, the term “digital asset fans” used in the same article carries a slightly pejorative connotation, contrasting with the more neutral language typically employed for traditional investments.
The distinction between Bitcoin and the broader web3 sector remains blurred in such reporting. While Bitcoin has demonstrated resilience and growth, media narratives often conflate it with other aspects of the digital asset world, which have been more tumultuous.
“Digital asset prices have been battered by a year of token crashes, company scandals, bankruptcies and regulatory crackdowns.”
With Bitcoin over $43,000 when it started the year below $20,000, this amalgamation overlooks Bitcoin’s unique position and its distinct trajectory compared to the rest of the cryptocurrency market.
The portrayal of Bitcoin mining in media, particularly regarding energy consumption, is another area where sensationalism often overrides factual reporting.
“Bitcoin mines cash in on electricity — by devouring it, selling it, even turning it off — and they cause immense pollution. In many cases, the public pays a price.”
Again, the New York Times’ depiction of Bitcoin mining as an immense polluter during Texas’s Winter Storm Uri fails to acknowledge the industry’s significant strides toward renewable energy. Notably, firms like Riot have actively contributed energy back to the grid during crises, and the current renewable energy mix in Bitcoin mining surpasses 50%.
Riot even responded to the article, stating it operates in rural regions where wind and solar are “abundant and otherwise wasted” during off-peak times and takes advantage of that available energy. Riot also confirmed that its Bitcoin mining operations “do not generate any greenhouse gas emissions” and instead use energy just like other data centers.
Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal’s coverage further exemplifies the skewed narrative prevalent in crypto reporting.
“So it turns out that of the two largest crypto exchanges, one was a fraud and the other was a money launderer. Whoever could have guessed?”
By focusing on the legal issues faced by Binance and painting the entire industry with broad strokes of fraud and crime, these reports neglect the nuances of the legal situations and the nature of the fraud, which are more akin to traditional finance misconduct. Binance.US allowed users outside of the U.S. to transact on the exchange, while Sam Bankman-Fried took user deposits and transferred them to Alameda to buy homes and donate to politicians. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the underlying blockchain technology in either of these examples. Further, during the FTX collapse, DeFi platforms such as Uniswap and Aave were able to settle withdrawals and liquidate positions without material concern for their operations. The issues around Binance.US and FTX are akin to similar cases in traditional finance but are often viewed differently in legacy media publications.
“I don’t understand why anyone would pay a cent, let alone real money, to inscribe art in the bitcoin blockchain, but hey, whatever floats your boat. “
The misunderstanding of Bitcoin’s technical applications, such as the use of its blockchain for inscribing digital assets (Ordinals), also reflects a gap in comprehending the currency’s technological robustness and potential. Bitcoin Ordinals offer a novel way to create and manage digital assets on the Bitcoin blockchain and provide significant benefits. Ordinals enable unique and verifiable ownership of digital collectibles, foster innovation by expanding Bitcoin’s use cases beyond simple transactions, and enhance security and decentralization, making them a valuable investment for both creators and collectors.
Forbes’ reporting on Bitcoin exhibits a particularly contradictory stance. On one hand, it characterizes Bitcoin as a “Ponzi scheme,” drawing from Chinese state-sponsored media, while on the other, it runs a CryptoCodex newsletter, seemingly capitalizing on the cryptocurrency’s popularity. This inconsistency raises questions about the objectivity and consistency of its cryptocurrency coverage.
“Virtual currency is becoming the largest Ponzi scheme in human history[…] BSN executive director, wrote in the state-sponsored China newspaper the People’s Daily last month.”
Interestingly, while Forbes has been historically satisfied using the Chinese media publication People’s Daily for commentary on Bitcoin when it comes to social media, it takes a drastically different approach. Regarding TikTok, it reported, “TikTok has served up a flood of ads from Chinese state propaganda outlets to millions of Europeans in recent months[…] from Chinese state media outlets like People’s Daily.”
However, it’s noteworthy that amidst this predominantly negative portrayal, some sections, like Forbes Advisor, offer a more balanced view. Its recent acknowledgment of Bitcoin’s potential rise, considering various economic and geopolitical factors, stands as a rare example of nuanced reporting in the Forbes catalog.
In stark contrast, over the past six months, Bloomberg’s coverage of Bitcoin has been largely positive, focusing on its price increases, resilience in the face of market volatility, and potential as an investment asset. For instance, Bloomberg reported on Bitcoin’s price hitting $40,000 for the first time since May 2022 and later surpassing $44,000. It also highlighted Bitcoin’s resilience, noting that it shrugged off a dip in global stock markets to set a more than 19-month high.
Furthermore, Bloomberg discussed factors that could be driving Bitcoin’s price increases, including hopes for Federal Reserve interest-rate cuts and expectations that the US will allow its first spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds.
In balance, despite the positive coverage, Bloomberg has also acknowledged the challenges and controversies in the crypto market without resorting to hyperbole. It reported on the volatility of Bitcoin’s price, attributing it to a lack of liquidity in the cryptocurrency markets. It also covered the hype around the potential approval of a Bitcoin ETF, suggesting that it could drive more institutional investors to the crypto market.
However, not all content published on Bloomberg coverage supports Bitcoin. An opinion piece from Dec. 6 titled ‘Bitcoin Hype Will Clash With the Rolex Recession’ discusses the speculative nature of Bitcoin and the lack of a clear use case for the digital asset.
“Bitcoin may be a glorified pet rock in terms of money-ness, but people like to hoard it and trade it as a risky hybrid of gold and NASDAQ startup in the hope of outsized gains.”
It also mentions the significant amount of money tied up in crypto markets and the potential uses for this capital in the real world, stating, “The world could do a lot with the $1 trillion currently tied up in crypto markets.”
Overall, in contrast to other legacy media outlets, Bloomberg’s coverage tends to emphasize the potential benefits and opportunities associated with Bitcoin. While it does acknowledge the challenges and controversies in the cryptocurrency market, its overall coverage is generally more positive, focusing on the potential benefits and opportunities of Bitcoin.
This approach reflects Bloomberg’s focus on financial markets and investment opportunities, providing a unique perspective on Bitcoin and the broader cryptocurrency market. Further, nobody should exist in an echo chamber, and constructive criticism is essential to the sustainable growth of the blockchain industry.
Ultimately, legacy media’s coverage of Bitcoin often oscillates between skepticism and sensationalism, failing to consistently capture the cryptocurrency’s complexities and advancements. As Bitcoin continues to evolve and gain traction, a more balanced and informed media portrayal is essential for public understanding and the healthy development of the digital currency ecosystem.
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Author: Liam ‘Akiba’ Wright