credit where due

When Vox was still a young site, they published a piece on technology adoption rates that was just fundamentally misguided. The methodology simply didn’t work, as Paleofuture’s great writer Matt Novak detailed. Mistakes happen, particularly for young publications, but Vox compounded the issue by being cagey and evasive in addressing the problems. I criticized them for that at the time.

Today, Vox’s tech-libertarian type Tim Lee ran a curious post in which he both announced that he was investing in Bitcoin and made the case that others should buy Bitcoin as well. He made an interesting case about the future of Bitcoin, but the ethical problem is direct and obvious: whatever else Bitcoin is, it’s a commodity that is traded speculatively, and part of what drives the price of a speculative asset is people in the media telling you to buy it. If a financial columnist at the Wall Street Journal can buy shares of a stock, urge readers to buy that stock, and then sell when the price goes up from more people buying– well, you get the picture. For this reason, Lee’s old employer the Washington Post sensibly prohibited him from investing in Bitcoin. But despite acknowledging that rule in the piece, Lee and Vox’s editorial team seemed to have no issue with that conflict of interest.

They got some criticism, and apparently thought better of it. Ezra Klein’s explanation is clear and direct and apologetic. That’s how you do it: you just express the thought process that you used to arrive at the prior bad decision, explain why it was wrong, and apologize. So much better for all involved. So good for them.

5 Comments

  1. An interesting subject.

    You are wrong. I can prove it.

    First, of course, Ezra can fire Tim for being a Libertarian. He can’t argue this is journalism issue. Doing so, proves Ezra is a corrupt journalist.

    Bitcoin in the first position, is not a stock, it is not an investment. It is a political movement. Owning it s donating to a cause. It is a political act. PERIOD. THE END.

    Fred, you need to admit to all that nobody buying and playing with BTC is motivated first by profit. It starts with “Let’s tear this motherf*cker down.”

    ANY political activist ALSO gains personal profit if their cause becomes the thing, if their guy becomes the guy.

    And now is when you admit, that by shoehorning Tim and BTC into “wants to get rich” will “shade coverage”

    IS BULLSH*T.

    The reality is this:

    “I’m a VOX reporter and I want to tear this motherf*cker down. I want to dismantle the levers of govt. power and leave progressives and statists with less control, I want them to be weakened.

    “As such, I an buying a ton of BTC, and using it everyday in everyway, and I will be reporting about BTC from a position as described above.”

    Then Ezra says, “dude, that’s not what I’m about, you are fired.”

    But to treat this like a journalism issue, rather than a editorial one, is wrong.

    And you need to admit it.

  2. “Fred, you need to admit to all that nobody buying and playing with BTC is motivated first by profit. It starts with “Let’s tear this motherf*cker down.””

    I highly doubt 1) no one buys and plays with bitcoin is motivated by profit, and 2) everyone playing with bitcoins has a “Let’s tear this MF down” attitude.

    I also don’t think Lee was fired, and am confused by your reinterpretation of events at the end.

    Perhaps make a better argument before you ask another to recant theirs.

    1. The poster you’ve responded to does not make better arguments. He is a delusional fanatic who constantly spams this and other blogs with his nonsensical “cheap labor for me and other rich dudes to exploit = happiness for everybody plan” (which he calls “choose your own boss”). Whatever you do, don’t click any of his links. You’ll thank me later.

  3. Gabriel, you’re wrong. Your view is the exception, my view is the rule.

    BTC IS a political movement. You might not like it, but that’s too bad… from DAY ONE, the goal has been to end the government’s power over money.

    People who do not want to see that happen and just are looking to make profitable investments, are not actively involved in the project. There may be a handful of rich guys who went and bought 3 coins and stuck them away, just incase the political movement guys make it happen… but that’s a throw away.

    I didn’t say Tim got fired, I said the legitimate frame is an editorial one, not one about Tim’s credibility – because it is POLITICAL. A Liberal site can fire Tim for wanting to smash the state.

    If I’m right (and I obviously am) that it is a political movement, Fred is wrong on Ezra.

    1. “Your view is the exception, my view is the rule.”

      “…wanting to smash the state.”

      “If I’m right (and I obviously am)…”

      Bro, your ideology, bro.

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