Crypto Confronts Social Justice Warriors
“Many men are lamenting the “man-hating” rhetoric that they have imagined stemming from SJWs. It just so happens that many of these men are also heavily involved in cryptocurrencies due to the notion that Bitcoin can restore their libertarian ideals.”– Ross Chalmers, Coin Rivet. The following article is an oped by Wendy McElroy.
The Creep of Social Justice
Cryptocurrency confronts cultural bias as surely as it does state power. One cultural influence is particularly hostile. Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) are left-wing progressives who exert a powerful influence upon our culture. They self-describe as activists who believe in economic, political, and social equality in status, as well as in access to opportunities. “Equal” does not mean the identical protection of person and property for all, however, as it does in libertarian theory. It means egalitarianism—the equal status of all—in order to achieve social equity or justice for minorities and the marginalized through the forced redistribution of wealth and power. Egalitarianism is a starting point of Marxist philosophy.
SJWs focus on where they consider the crypto community to be “oppressive”: the paucity of women and the hegemony of white-male developers. To many SJWs, this makes Bitcoin a “Crypto-Patriarchy.” (The claim of “white” bias is difficult to sustain given how actively African and Hispanic nations embrace crypto, but women are a minority, perhaps due to their documented preference to eschew the hard sciences.)
The fact that crypto is decentralized, individualistic, and arose on the free market inspires hostility as well. In a crusade for egalitarianism, SJWs smash through such “elitist” barriers as property rights, meritocracy, logic, and white privilege. Their methodology is force, mostly in the form of law or policy, to impose correct behavior on dissenters.
The March of Identity Politics
Recent changes within the crypto community could foreshadow a softening of SJW criticism. “In 2019 nearly 10 percent of buyers [reportedly] identify as women…which is up from 5% in 2017, which is an encouraging trend.” On his December 4 Patreon page, Bitcoin advocate Andreas M. Antonopoulos stated, “I will not apologize for being an ‘SJW’…I dislike the word ‘warrior,’ because I am a pacifist and abhor violence.” The post was prompted by a “Twitter shitstorm” the day before. Antonopoulos explained, “After asking for recommendations for podcasts, I got more than 90% suggestions for the same type of podcaster: white, male, finance focused.” He then asked for recommendations outside the “white, male, finance focused” group. Many on thread objected, saying that merit was not based on skin color and genitals.
SWJ criticism will not soften for two reasons. SJWs will not “coexist” with anything but total agreement. The philosophical underpinnings of SJWs and crypto are antithetical.
Why SJWs Are Overwhelmingly Rejected by the Crypto Community
Disagreement revolves around key concepts, including the definition of social justice itself. The crypto ideal was captured by the free-market economist Walter Williams who stated, “Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you—and why?” In this view, social justice resides in the reward of merit and the protection of property rights, especially the property every person has in his or her own body. For libertarians, only individuals and individual rights exist. There are no group rights. Injustice is not committed against a group but against individuals.
SJWs disagree on all points. Social justice can be achieved only by taking away money, status, and power from those who earn it, and redistributing the “wealth” by force. They do not view it as force. The current system is considered to be institutionalized violence committed by capitalism and white privilege against “the oppressed.” SJWs view the world through a lens of identity politics, through groups. Identity politics occurs “when people of a particular race, ethnicity, gender, or religion form alliances and organize politically to defend their group’s interests” against the interests of other groups, notoriously white males. There is no shared humanity in terms of interests. This perspective allows them to violate a defining aspect of Western justice; namely, it is wrong to punish individuals who have committed no crime. By their skin color and genitals, all white males have committed a collective crime. There are no innocent individuals.
Beware the Social Justice Rhetoric
The danger presented by SJWs to crypto should not be underestimated. At a 2018 Ripple Swell conference, the keynote speaker, Bill Clinton, warned, “We could ruin it [blockchain technology] all by negative identity politics and economic and social policy. You think about that.”
The devastation is likely to occur through a modern version of social engineering in which the state and central banks will participate if advantage attaches to doing so. Social engineering is an attempt to control the operation and development of society through the central planning of its institutions—usually done by “experts.” Profoundly collectivist and elitist, central planning reconstructs society in the name of a collectivist ideology. To achieve the required conformity, massive government control is imposed.
In a Townhall column “Presumptions of the Left,” the free-market economist Thomas Sowell offers a key reason why the failure of central planning is inevitable:
If you start from a belief that the most knowledgeable person on earth does not have even one percent of the total knowledge on earth, that shoots down social engineering, economic central planning, judicial activism, and innumerable other ambitious notions favored by the political left … If no one has even one percent of all the knowledge in a society, then it is crucial that the other 99 percent of knowledge—scattered in tiny and individually unimpressive amounts among the population at large—be allowed the freedom to be used in working out mutual accommodations.
Social construction is a modern version of social engineering, and a theme that underlies SJW activism. In practical terms, social construction is similar to social engineering. It deconstructs the institutions and culture of a society in order to reconstruct them according to a subjective and shared reality—that is, an ideology. Social constructivists believe that reality is literally a product of human relationships. What is called truth or objectivity is actually a subjective consensus produced by social dynamics such as history. In short, reality is a social construct. The opposite is the independent and verifiable reality that is embodied in the laws of logic or innate characteristics of nature.
Both social engineering and social construction punish dissent and prohibit alternatives. But constructionism zealously seeks to control ideas and words because they define the content of reality. A specific philosophical approach underlies the SJWs’ denial of an objective world.
A Plunge Into Philosophy
Philosophy can be broken down into three broad categories: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Three questions capture the relationship between them. What exists? How do I know? Why does it matter?
Many issues confronting crypto are philosophical. A skeptic who claims crypto is not real because it is based on nothing is raising a metaphysical point as much as an economic or political one. Someone who weighs an investment—in an ICO, perhaps—is dealing with epistemology; “how do I know it is legitimate?” When a regulator calls crypto a criminal endeavor, he is appealing to ethics.
A specific philosophy propels the SJW approach.
Deconstructing an institution, such as money, and reconstructing it to serve a new vision is the most visible aspect of SJWs. On a deeper level, social constructionism is a theory of knowledge by which perceptions of reality vie for dominance in order to be the reality. Everyone is familiar with the example of gender identity and the battle over whether biological males and females exist. Those grounded in biology point to clear differences between male and female, including brain structure, without denying variations that result in unique individuals. SJWs believe gender is a social construct that people determine for themselves. If a biological male identifies as female, then he is female because there is no gender beyond perception. Perception determines the reality.
When a perception becomes powerful enough, then it becomes “the dominant narrative” of society and serves the interests of the prevailing social group, which need not be in the majority but merely be the most powerful. To maintain dominance, alternative ideas, expression, and words must be prohibited. This is necessary because, again, ideas and words literally create reality.
Understanding Social Constructionism
The French postmodernist philosopher Michel Foucault was a father of social constructionism. He developed a framework to understand how reality was created. Foucault’s landmark book, “Words and Things” (1966), laid out the concept of an “episteme,” which means “knowledge” in Greek. The episteme of a culture is a self-enclosed totality that includes its language, attitudes, ideas, and science: it is how a specific culture or era approaches the world. As history progresses, one episteme replaces another. That of the Middle Ages is replaced by that of the Renaissance, and a new era is said to dawn. Words and things are inseparable from the episteme in dictating how people think, who they are, and what they will do. They are inseparable from reality.
Consider the human body. Most people assume there is a pre-cultural human body. They assume that history and culture do not alter human biology. For Foucault, however, the human body lives in the episteme and it is a social construct. Even so-called “physiological givens” are constructed by successive medical epistemes. Foucault’s treatise “The Birth of the Clinic” presents what he calls the “medical gaze.” This objectifies the body and converts it something that medicine seeks to control through surgery and so on. But the medical gaze of the 18th century differs from that of the 20th century. Therefore, the reality of the 18th century human body differs from the 20th century one because the body itself changes with the episteme.
Another way to understand this counter-intuitive point is to consider the Victorian Age of repressed sexuality. It is commonplace to look at its plays and literature, the songs and newspapers—its texts—and conclude that they reflect a sexually-repressed culture. Foucault sees the opposite; society reflects the texts. The text cause the society, not vice versa. This is why feminists and subsequent SJWs place so much stress upon language. Words and ideas are considered to be the source of oppression. This is why feminists used to fly into rages at being called ‘Madam Chairman.’ This is why SJWs insist upon the gender-neutral pronouns ze, zir, zem, and zeir. Words define reality. And ze who controls the words controls the reality.
What Does This Have to Do With Crypto?
Crypto and SJWs are philosophically antagonistic, which means they are destined to collide.
Ross Chalmers’ opening quote in this article states one reason: “Many of these men [who decry ‘male hating’] are also heavily involved in cryptocurrencies due to the notion that Bitcoin can restore their libertarian ideals.” The original developers of Bitcoin were predominantly libertarian and intractable individualists whose philosophy is a ringing rebuke to SJWs. The rebels within crypto go against the state, the central banks, and anyone who tries to dictate what they can think, say, or do with their bodies. They are the anti-SJWs: individualistic, technological, unPC, and, yes, mostly male.
The crypto community is also a competitor in redefining key institutions of society, including money and banks. SJWs want the reconstruction to be in their own image, which makes the crypto community a threat.
Moreover, SJWs are generally suspicious of technology and hard science because they are based on objective reality and the merit of being able to perceive it. The blockchain is pure technology; it is a testament to man’s ability to engineer reality. This contradicts the metaphysics and epistemology of social constructionists who believe there is no objective world to discover. This is why they politicize technology and science by creating categories such as “feminist science” that absorb the fields into their interpretation of reality.
But the blockchain and crypto are not matters of democracy, opinion, public consensus, epistemes, or justice. They are software designed for individuals to control their own finances and—if the individuals so desire—to achieve freedom. The blockchain and cryptos function on merit, which is indifferent to anyone’s politics; what works is true. This contradicts the basis of leftist social justice.
Crypto is a standing rebuke to SJWs, and vice versa. Both cannot be correct. Metaphysically and epistemologically—what is real and how do people know it—one must be wrong for the other to be correct. The two philosophies are in ethical and political conflict as well. SJWs look to the speaker of an idea—to his or her group identity—to judge whether the idea is correct. By contrast, if Bitcoin teaches nothing else epistemologically, it is this: it does not matter from whom or where ideas arise. Only the merit of an idea matters, and the surest sign of merit is when it works like a law of nature that’s come to life. Like Bitcoin.
Op-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Bitcoin.com is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the Op-ed article. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the content. Bitcoin.com is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any information in this Op-ed article.
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