Preaching to the Crowd: Bitcoin’s Pulpit

Preaching to the Crowd: Bitcoin’s PulpitPreaching to the Crowd: Bitcoin’s PulpitI have made no secret of my fascination with the people who inhabit places like bitcointalk.org and /r/bitcoin. These two places dominate discussion regarding bitcoin, and aside from the obvious similarity that they are ruled, sorry, moderated by Theymos, the other noticeable similarity is that the constituent demographic tends to be identical. Because the audiences are the same, posts that attract the most attention tend to cater to that demographic: young, male, libertarian, tech-savvy, angry at “the system.” Whoever has written the most attractive sermon basks in the replies of “you get it,” as though believers are privy to a higher understanding of the world and how the world “really” works. What side effects does this have on the discussion, though?

For starters, it creates an echo chamber. Only positive views on bitcoin receive serious attention. Authors who support bitcoin receive praise, which is logical. If a group likes something, they’ll promote others who like it too. This trend becomes illogical when writers promote increasingly radical and unlikely scenarios for bitcoin, like the end of the “system,” a new world order based on bitcoin, or the end of warfare because of bitcoin, and commenters continue to respond as though these ideas are probable, or even desirable. This extends to outright crashes of the system, something bitcoin believers think will propel bitcoin upward in value. The acceptance and support of anything deemed positive for bitcoin also means scrutiny toward authors or ideas is not accepted.

Fast forward to the present, and this piece takes the cake as my featured preacher of the week. The author is an unnamed individual who claims to have worked for Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, where they consulted about the “bitcoin blockchain.” Incredibly, one might say miraculously, the author is the only person who saw the light of Satoshi, causing them to throw away mainstream ways, shed their naïve Keynesian skin to emerge from a cocoon of higher intellectual prowess as a beautiful Mises butterfly. The author took to Reddit answering questions about their “experience” in finance, suggesting that bankers knew the crisis was “all our fault” and that bitcoiners tend to be savvier than bankers when it comes to “economic theory.” The author is lavished with praise in the thread, including the obligatory “you get it” replies.

Incredibly, the author has managed to have a career in finance with the writing ability of a high schooler, penning a piece with a farcical amount of grammatical errors. The author offers a nod to Irwin Schiff, who died in prison after being convicted of tax offenses, and talks about Greece being a turning point in their outlook on the financial world. The article contains standard libertarian faire: the dollar is failing, money is an illusion, so on and so forth. Until the author comes to their real point, their intellectual haymaker, that bitcoin offers “monetary sovereignty.” This, the author declares, is the killer feature of bitcoin. Unfortunately for the preacher, no one cares.

Ok, that’s not completely true. Some people care. Those people make up the echo chamber on /r/bitcoin, the tiny fraction of people that believe in Austrian economics and the inherent evilness of government. Therein lies the problem. Local success within the bitcoin ecosystem doesn’t translate to global success because the ideological wants of bitcoin believers do not align with the pragmatic wants of mainstream consumers.

The community gave this author rave reviews, accepting the claim of being in finance for almost 15 years without a shred of supporting evidence because what the author was saying confirmed their worldview. The vague statements by the author about “bosses” and “bankers” and referencing Greece as a turning point rather than older scandals like the Savings and Loan bailout or the 2007-2008 crash, and the complete lack of professional writing ability leads me to think the author may be less than honest. If I had to guess about the legitimacy of the author I would bet that their claimed background is completely and unequivocally false. I would go even further to suggest that the author is a he, roughly 19 years of age, a recent high school graduate with some IT knowledge, who believes wholeheartedly in libertarian politics. As in, the author is claiming a false background to create a narrative that supports his worldview and will earn him positive attention from his peers in the libertarian community. The author has the pulpit and the attention of bitcoin believers, preaching the gospel of “monetary sovereignty” and Irwin Schiff. The echo chamber echoed with praise.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’d be happy to be proven wrong by the author. Feel free to add me on LinkedIn, I’m sure a fintech professional from Goldman Sachs has a legitimate and well-connected LinkedIn account. In the meantime, want to know a fun fact? Irwin Schiff was the victim of a Ponzi scheme as a young man. Coincidence?

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