TL;DR: Roger Ver, Executive Chairman of Bitcoin.com, doubled down on his theory Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey’s vigorous support and promotion of the Lightning network might have something to do with a romantic relationship between Dorsey and Elizabeth Stark, Lightning Labs’ cofounder. Woke culture and social media white knights had a different take, characterizing Ver’s remarks as “vile,” “misogynistic,” “sexist,” an attack against women-led businesses. Maybe some context is important.
Roger Ver Floats Dorsey Lightning Theory, Woke Culture Responds
Andreas Antonopoulos commented, “Vile.” Russia Today (RT) employee Stacy Herbert accused Ver of “spreading vile sexist fake news” out of spite. A rival publisher framed his own outrage as Ver belittling Stark’s accomplishments because she is a woman, urging Roger Ver to “crawl back to his misogynistic hole.”
— Roger Ver (@rogerkver) August 10, 2019
Whoa. Let’s look at what triggered all of the above.
“My theory for why @jack is so irrationally hot for #LightningNetwork,” Ver tweeted, “is because he has / had a romantic relationship with @starkness, the CEO of @lightning.” It was actually the second time in roughly as many days he’d publicized his pet theory, the first during an interview on the livestream video program, Collin’ It Like It Is, hosted by Collin Enstad.
The Theory in Context
Enstad is a cryptocurrency enthusiast and admirer of Ver’s, and the interview came at an opportune moment. Ver recently announced his hiring of a CEO replacement, moving himself to Executive Chairman of Bitcoin.com, and so it was a chance to exclusively dig deeper on that subject, and ask his thoughts on other controversies. The nearly hour-long interview shows the two men sharing inside jokes, laughing at memes about Ver, and generally appraising what is the ecosystem’s current state.
At the 28th minute and 20 second mark, Enstad laughingly asks, “Who do you think is your biggest arch-nemesis in Bitcoin Core?” Ver grimaced and half-smiled, leaning back in his chair while looking for the words, “Without going into the exact details, because it was told to me kind of in confidence, and I had no problem with her what-so-ever, … so, ‘her,’ right, that’s already a big hint, … even today it’s still kind of confusing to me as to why she would be so upset with that, … but there was one person that does interviews in the cryptocurrency space and wanted to interview me […]. One of the other people he also wanted to interview was Elizabeth Stark of Lightning Labs. She told this person that if he interviewed me, and allowed me to have any sort of voice on his platform at all, she would not do an interview for him. Apparently, she hated me so much that she wouldn’t give an interview to this guy if he interviewed me. To me that just seemed really, really strange. So maybe I am Elizabeth Stark’s arch-nemesis and Bitcoin Cash?”
Roger Ver’s comments about Stark are in context and clearly extemporaneous, pulling from a curious anecdote. And while independent confirmation of Ver’s claim about Stark’s interview ultimatum hasn’t appeared, it does tend to fall in-line with BTC maximalism’s modus operandi, especially when it comes to topics such as Ver and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). The Lightning network itself can be seen as a proprietary second layer BTC scaling answer to BCH, though it has yet to find much traction nor be thoroughly rolled-out. Ver is very much a pariah in BTC maximalist circles for his promotion of BCH and criticism of Lightning.
Case Study: Peter Rizun
A fairly recent example of something like the alleged Stark him-or-me challenge came when a podcaster dared to have Peter Rizun, a BCH-friendly computer scientist, on his show to discuss objections to Lightning. The interviewer was hounded by Stark fellow travelers, who put immense pressure on the podcaster to cancel Rizun’s appearance. He did, disinviting Rizun publicly, caving to the mob.
Laster, the podcaster would think better of it and eventually have Rizun on, but the precedent of illiberality, uncharitableness, and BTC weird tribalism was on display for all to see. Compounded by historic and on-going censorship campaigns by BTC maximalists, it’s probably not out of the question to suggest Stark might have demanded Roger Ver be cast aside in her favor.
He continued his answer to Enstad, “For me, I don’t really care about her one way or the other. I met her in person, and she was fine in person before. My theory, and I have no evidence to back this up, it’s just a suspicion on my part: I think the reason Jack Dorsey of Twitter is so hot for Lightning and Lightning Labs and doing promotion with Elizabeth Stark is I suspect there is a romantic relationship there, or there was a romantic relationship. That’s my spicy thought of the day. I don’t have any evidence to back that up. It’s just a suspicion. Everything would make so much more sense if they were in some sort of romantic relationship and that’s why Jack is busy promoting her Lighting Labs company because otherwise why would he care at all. I suspect that-that’s what’s going on there.”
More About Dorsey Than Stark
Enstad was clearly taken-aback and said so, laughing about how he thought Ver would have other names more prominent in the space as an answer. For those unfamiliar with the broader debate, Ver’s theory can be viewed as questioning Jack Dorsey’s motives rather than Stark’s or her relative success.
Many critics have suggested Lightning tech is too far off, over-engineered, and a strange end-run around raising block size. That it is also proprietary raises concerns about centralization and censorship resistance, and those are just for starters. There’s a lot to debate, and yet Dorsey has gone all-in on the project, even giving interviews with Stark, promoting her products through his personal account in various ways.
Dorsey is a partisan, and evidently constructing his payments business, Square, along BTC’s current roadmap of small blocks, high transaction fees, slower confirmation times, necessitating at least a second-layer solution for BTC to ever act anything like a medium-of-exchange or cash-like. And Dorsey has also signaled an openness to participate in the censorship game, entertaining calls to ban the @Bitcoin Twitter account due to its advocacy of Bitcoin Cash and criticism of Lightning.
In the end, Roger Ver doesn’t need defending (fuller disclosure: I once worked for Bitcoin.com), nor does Stark. She is a public businessperson who isn’t shy about the press examining minutiae of her life and lifestyle, from education to diet (she’s vegan). It’s not misogynist nor sexist to ask if Dorsey’s seemingly irrational (to Ver) behavior is clouded by googly eyes and kissy faces. Readers might be shocked to read men and women fall in love and tangle financial relationships in the process.
It also doesn’t mean Stark, clearly accomplished prior to Lightning Labs, was some kind of kept woman, boosted by Dorsey’s investment of capital and amor (if the theory turns out to be right). All it means is Ver likes to be provocative, doesn’t really care what anyone thinks, and enjoys speculating about odd on-goings in the world of cryptocurrency. Ultimately, it was a less than a two-minute segment during Enstad’s fun Roger Ver interview, a chat between friends. Context and background matter unless your opinion is already made up.
DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.
CONTINUE THE SPICE and check out our piping hot VIDEOS. Our podcast, The CoinSpice Podcast, has amazing guests. Follow CoinSpice on Twitter. Join our Telegram feed to make sure you never miss a post. Drop some BCH at the merch shop — we’ve got some spicy shirts for men and women. Don’t forget to help spread the word about CoinSpice on social media.