TL;DR: At a recent conference, Bitcoin Core (BTC) maximalists (maxis) cheered the call to crush, submit perceived cryptocurrency enemies — basically the entire ecosystem, everyone not exclusively devoted to BTC. Those notions made it into the wild as maxis doubled-down, calling for purity tests and what amounts to kicking off a hearts and minds meme war.
BTC Maximalists Call for War
Embedding during a meme war carries an inherent risk. Outlets can become useful idiots, a pipeline to further a propagandist’s aims. Covering meme-makers is, of course, exactly what they want. And if it’s ever pointed out what they’re doing is even slightly negative or foolhardy, the reporter has just fallen for an epic troll, becoming part of the master plan as it were.
That’s going to be the reaction to anything written about BTC maximalists during a meme war. Observers are either “in” on the joke or too woefully dim to appreciate maxis’ genius. Those are the choices. Michael Goldstein would be the first to play either side of that rhetorical box. Goldstein is probably best known as President of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, co-founded by true believers as an online repository for maxi education — a place for a kind of BTC Wahhabism, where jihadists can load up on sacred materials.
Goldstein is also part organizer of the BitBlockBoom! conference, self-described as a “true” Bitcoin event. The second annual gathering was held over the weekend in Dallas, Texas with madrassa-like talk titles such as, “Bitcoin – There Can Be Only One,” “Bitcoin, Changing the Mental Model of Civilization,” and “Bitcoins & Barbells.” The diet emphasis of meat-only really does seal the fundamentalist metaphor: one way, one food, one coin.
Be Sure to Block Them All
“The Art of Bitcoin Rhetoric: How to Meme Bitcoin to the Moon,” however, is the conference presentation gathering most traction online. Goldstein delivered a call to verbal arms for BTC maximalists, urging echo-chambers (his phrasing) and in-group, out-group strategies to further stated maxi goals.
First to notice and catch Goldstein’s ire was Mike Dudas, publisher of the relatively new cryptocurrency news site, The Block. Dudas is known for very thin skin online, an exceedingly emotional fellow prone to hysterics and notoriously bad takes. He often vents hastily, dividing the world neatly between those he labels Trump-like and the morally enlightened with whom he agrees, … only to then just as quickly delete tweet evidence.
The Block’s focus is largely on BTC and covering the supposed rush of institutional investment in its direction. They’re corporatists, social-climbing scenesters who name drop and CEO watch. Imagine a slightly less hip CoinDesk. What they’re not is in any way hostile to BTC, and their coverage reflects that bias. Most of its staff caught the Bitcoin bug in 2017’s mad price climb, and have stuck around if only for the market opportunity of providing professional journalism to the space.
And so it is Dudas and The Block have had an uneasy time with BTC maxis, unknowingly stepping in years-long hostilities and debates which predate their entrance into the ecosystem. Dudas especially doesn’t get the culture, and can have grave trouble separating funning from reality. Recently, Dudas displayed cognitive dissonance at Goldstein’s conference presentation calling for a trolling of journalists, wondering aloud if Goldstein and the conference were serious.
That reignited tensions between BTCers, maxis and corporatists, as Goldstein’s conspirator, Pierre Rochard, attempted memetic sleight-of-hand, what’s known in propaganda circles as a purity test. Taking Dudas’ criticism of the conference and Goldstein as a jumping-off point, Rochard then played cry bully. He screen grabbed shitposter Joshua Davis‘ troll, juxtaposing an unflattering profile of Rochard with a fetal alcohol syndrome diagram, trying to connect Dudas and The Block with Davis.
“Vile,” Rochard tweeted, “disgusting people like Joshua are very warm and close friends with Mike Dudas and The Block, so be sure to block them all! We need to clean up this industry and exclude bad actors like Joshua and Mike. Don’t invite them to conferences, they are unwelcome!” Out came maxis in response, with grievances against The Block and Davis, dutifully following Goldstein’s echo-chamber formula. Even those not thought particularly polemical commented Davis had gone too, too far, and demanded Dudas and The Block answer — perfect meme war foils for Rochard and Goldstein.
This is Getting Meta
Truthfully, Davis and Dudas and The Block do have a comfortable online relationship, though nothing formal (Davis was politely invited to a spin-off conference The Block took over in New York after Breaker Mag fell apart). However, Davis, as has been well-documented, posts about everyone, teases all comers, and his fetal alcohol swipe was probably an answer to the Dallas conference being a topic of conversation among Crypto Twitter. It literally had nothing to do with Dudas or The Block.
Nevertheless, Rochard pushed harder, urging outraged maxis to cancel support of The Block’s paywall model, a strike at the news organization’s core. Dudas called it “terribly sad,” and characterized Rochard as a friend “at one point,” only to now become “part of a coordinated attack on sane, objective analysis in the crypto space.” Dudas continued through the weekend to repost Goldstein’s language, stressing Goldstein and maxis were “calling for censorship” while “threatening the livelihood” of his business, an act of “incredibly sad harassment.”
Goldstein then boastfully posted, “To give credit to Mike, when he couldn’t handle the heat, he indeed got out of the kitchen,” complete with a shot of having been blocked by Dudas. Mission accomplished. Out the corporate BTCer, show him up as spineless, and claim memetic victory. Not too long before dunking on Dudas, however, Goldstein himself, champion of trolls and shitposting, the man who literally just gave a BTC maxi homily on the subject, quietly blocked Davis. Heat? Kitchen?
The ecosystem is paying particularly close attention to these online battles because cryptocurrency is as much about community as it is development, mining, and speculative price. Ten plus years into Bitcoin, and enthusiasts are still trying to figure out exactly what Bitcoin means: store of value, settlement layer, alternative money system, payment rail, data storage, cureall, religious sect, philosophical movement, or even peer-to-peer electronic cash for the world. Welcome to the meme war.
DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.
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