For the second year, Rīga, Latvia was host to the Baltic Honeybadger conference (BH). Billed as “the first major event in Latvia dedicated to Bitcoin and the technologies built around it,” the website read, their “goal is to create an educational and community-driven event with high-profile speakers from all around the world and with different backgrounds — from technical engineers and cybersecurity professionals to business owners and bestselling authors.” And if there was any doubt, they’re “not promoting various so called altcoins, ICOs, banks and other blockchain-based ‘snake oil.’”
Of the two day conference, the final morning in Rīga began 9 a.m. in the Riseba, Arhitektūras un mediju centrs H2O 6. Bitcoin Maximalism Dissected by Giacomo Zucco was that day’s kickoff presentation. Mr. Zucco is a lesser-known personality in the space, CEO of the Italy-based Blockchainlab, and a polemicist who increasingly divides the world between those who embrace Bitcoin core (BTC) and those who are evil dupes.
For the uninitiated, bitcoin maximalism was essentially a neologism fashioned a slur by Vitalik Buterin, one of Ethereum’s founders. The insinuation was how certain factions within the ecosystem refused to consider anything other than the BTC ticker as a viable cryptocurrency project. Little did he know a group of pasty social media mavens would embrace the phrase, fully remaking it into a kind of religion complete with dietary restrictions.
Such factions embraced Mr. Buterin’s characterization, doubling down on the concept, all the while themselves insisting BTC needed to be changed in rather significant ways—by their own admission, the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper left a lot to be desired, and this became the entry point into altering BTC away from its once cash-like qualities, and on purpose.
Chris Pacia of OpenBazaar and a tweetstorm
“As some background to this presentation,” Mr. Zucco, self-described bitcoin maximalist, begins, “the idea for this presentation comes from an infamous tweetstorm. Basically, there was a day in May where basically Chris Pacia asked why do I think that bcashers are either malicious or stupid. He seemed interested in an honest debate about that. I tried to formalize my argument about why I do think that bcashers are either malicious or stupid.”
Mr. Pacia is a very well-known and sober voice within the community. His credits include being lead back-end developer for OpenBazaar. He often has tried to be a go-between, offering to debate publicly those who demonize and hector Bitcoin Cash (BCH) enthusiasts. It was here Mr. Zucco was able to use the good name of Mr. Pacia and gain some notice. Their back and forth on Twitter eventually was turned into an essay by a maximalist admirer, one summarizing Mr. Zucco’s position while arguing against Mr. Pacia’s larger block, pro BCH stance.
“Making the Strongest Case for Small Blocks,” then, was published by blogger Sosthène on the Le Blog de Sosthène. Written originally in French, its English version is careful to take Mr. Zucco’s broken Italian-English tweetstorm and form it into sensical statements. It doesn’t take long to figure out where all of this is headed.
After the fork creating Bitcoin BCH, Sosthène writes Bitcoin Cash “became a tool of agitprop leveraged by a small group whose leaders are a prooved [sic] scammer and a narcist [sic] sociopath that have made up a new narrative in which Bcash is the true and unique Bitcoin.”
“Bitcoin is not a business,” Sosthène continues, insisting such truths are a prerequisite for understanding BTC’s purpose, “nor is it a currency and most importantly it is not a payment network. Factually, Bitcoin is a software, it is code, information, period.” You get the idea. The blog post is referred to as a way for listeners to get a fuller fleshing out of Mr. Zucco’s ideas, such as they are.
At any rate, Mr. Zucco anticipates the most common objections to the maximalist position, seizing on how people “have this vision of bitcoin maximalists as something that is emotional …,” he explained, and how “maximalists are ‘toxic;’ if you see the word ‘toxic,’ you should walk away because it’s usually someone who can’t conversate with you logically. Some people say maximalists are creating a bad environment and people feel unwelcome because of this. Maximalist means rude; you have to be kind of a dick in order to be maximalist, and it’s like… rude… we are maximalists, we don’t eat carbs, we are sad,” Mr. Zucco said tongue firmly in cheek.
The above stereotype is well-earned. A quick trip to an open conference, Twitter, YouTube will disabuse anyone of the notion maximalists are somehow being maligned unjustly. No, no. Maximalists have worked extremely hard and consistently for their dickish label. They are for sure toxic to any healthy debate and future innovation in the crypto space.
In fact, the uniformity in argumentative style, the insults, the dismissive tones, the dogmatic clinging to groupthink, have all combined to basically make BTC maximalists a cult. And it’s not even a cool cult with sex orgies and parties. It’s just a bunch of sullen dudes who’ve held on to a speculative science project that, had they jumped-in late 2017, has plummeted in price … thus almost defeating their entire reason for being. At least Scientology has Tom Cruise.
The next part of his presentation veers into a very strange place. I am sure it is meant to be funny, ironic, and truthful all at the same time. But the reaction by fellow maximalists to it says more about the BTC cult that I could ever in one installment of A Power of Facing.
Modeling in a jokey way so-called Universal Truths of Buddhism, Mr. Zucco outlines “four universal truth of maximalists. The first truth is that everything which is not bitcoin is a scam. The second universal truth is that every attempt at changing bitcoin is a scam. The third universal truth is that every attempting at pushing people to spend bitcoin is a scam. The fourth universal truth is that we shouldn’t be nice to scammers.”
The meme has made its way around the Crypto Twitter, and it has become a kind of Rorschach for the maximalist camp. The slide with four points was immediately retweeted by supporters with a Hell Yes! zeal. Dickishness was on full display, especially as they championed the final bullet point. Intolerance in the least charitable manner seemed to carry the day. It wasn’t until a few who actually attended or viewed the presentation informed brutish cheerleaders much of it was on the jokey side of things that maximalists began to lighten up. A little. They then turned it back on BCH supporters who pointed to the slide’s bald assertions, suggesting BCH enthusiasts lacked a sense of humor. This simple display alone reminded me of cultish inside jokes, where members laugh maniacally at their leaders’ assumptions without explanation. Really creepy.
Lest readers feel I am being unfair with the cult charge, consider the fad these idiots are currently embracing, so-called carnivory. That’s right, an all meat diet. Oh, you’re reading, you mean paleo or keto. No. All meat. That’s it. And water. It’s one thing to grope and grasp at a theory of money, and struggle to find a balance between mediums of exchange and settlement layers, fungibility, tech security … but to take diet advice, like real life health advice, from dudes who cannot get laid … well, that’s just fucking stupid.
C. Edward Kelso is a financial technology journalist based in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
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