Over the weekend, a mob of unruly Bitcoin Maximalists took to Twitter to assail Mike Dudas, the CEO of cryptocurrency trade publication The Block. Dudas had been singled out for his loose association with Twitter agitator Joshua Davis, a prolific “shitposter” and serial collector of galaxy-brained Maximalist inanities who had unfavorably compared a prominent Bitcoiner, Pierre Rochard, to an infant with “fetal alcohol syndrome.”
Obviously angered, Rochard tweeted: “Vile, 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!”
It’s true that Davis and Dudas are somewhat friendly. But it’s also true that Rochard’s outrage was wholly performative—the day before, Rochard had heaped praise on a widely circulated, anti-free speech talk given by Bitcoin booster Michael Goldstein (@bitstein). At a conference in Dallas over the weekend, Goldstein had laid out the ground rules for cultivating an online “echo chamber,” instructing adherents to troll, “bully” and harass the non-believers, “nocoiners,” skeptics, and journalists who dared criticize the Bitcoin cult.
Quoth Goldstein: “We can have a lot of fun and expedite the process by finding people at the margins and teach them new information about what we know about the world, and also bully the people that don't agree with us.”
Besides the obvious hypocrisy there, the more salient point is...Maximalists think they can meme?
The point of a Great Meme War is to draw in outsiders, through one’s own superior wit. Victory is being mentioned publicly by normies, however briefly. Goldstein, for instance, takes two recent examples—Rep. Warren Davidson saying “Shitcoin” in the House of Representatives, and an obscure CNBC host, Joe Kernen, saying the word “Maximalist” live on air—as evidence that Maximalist memesters are now “engaging in advanced geopolitical meme craft and...shaping civilization for centuries.”
But those who aren't Rep. Warren Davidson—and those who don't follow C-SPAN religiously—see Maximalists as frothing pseudo-revolutionary maniacs. The majority of outsiders never even see their memes (do they even exist?); to most, Maximalists are notable for their campaigns of online harassment, diets of excessive sodium intake, raging hard-ons for dead Austrian economists whose ideas don’t even cohere with their own, and the saying of disturbing things like, “play the long game, get the kids!”
Indeed, in their campaign to win over the world, they proffer such convincing arguments as, “The solution to literally every problem is Bitcoin.” They argue, as booster Max Keiser did earlier this month, that Bitcoin would have prevented the El Paso shootings. Saifedean Ammous, Bitcoin economic theorist extraordinaire, has apparently given up on theory altogether and has started peddling the high-protein “keto” diet. Others attack journalists like Leigh Cuen for uncovering sexual abuse, while yet more convince themselves that the Financial Times is masterminding a vast conspiracy against them. They antagonize normal people to the point that several prominent figures in the industry, reached for comment, declined out of fear of reprisals.
“It's a cult after the apocalypse failed, and like cults do in that circumstance, they're turning inwards and looking for witches to blame,” said David Gerard, who wrote Attack of the Fifty-Foot Blockchain and has been embedded in the cryptocurrency space since 2014 (and was attacked by a rabid Twitter horde just today). Now, “they've declared a meme war and shown up waving their micropenises.”
And then there’s this nonsense with Davis….
We reached out to Rochard, and asked him how Maximalists could possibly advocate memeing while censoring other memesters, like Davis. Rochard said Goldstein had distinguished between dialectic, trolling to persuade; and rhetoric, trolling to get a rise out of people. Rochard said his own work was dialectic; Davis’s mere rhetoric. But then, tellingly, he refused to elaborate until we read several books, and an essay called “Live not by lies,” which he felt was germane to the subject. We said that was unreasonable, and he said that was a problem Bitcoin could likely solve…
That’s apparently typical of Rochard, who prefers people wade through centuries of dialectical literature before engaging him in debate. “Rochard is the one who told me to read Saifedean Ammous' book, as an excellent expression of the maximalist position,” said Gerard. “He wasn’t very happy with the resulting review, however.”
“I don’t think they have much of a capacity to think for themselves,” mused Davis, recalling the Maximalist furor over the weekend. “Pierre was already blocked, someone likely sent the post to him with the subtext that he should be upset about it. He then directed the brainless lemmings to feel the same. It’s not unlike a leftist outrage mob. Sadly for them and fortunately for us, it’s had a Streisand Effect...cemented this joke for the foreseeable future.”
But how did Davis—a small time agitator by anyone’s standards—attract such venom in the first place? Maximalists, he agrees, are trying to contrive a “meme war” between the zealots and nonbelievers, but he routinely pisses in their memetic lunch. That’s made him, and other critics, a target. “The Maximalists have sternly taken a position against all journalists, critics of bitcoin, and shitcoiners,” Davis warned, starkly. “It’s quickly proving to be a losing position for them as they don’t have the wit or fortitude to back up this position.”
In the absence of wit, we have only circular self-praise. “The reason we have the best memes is because we have the best tech,” said one Maximalist recently. “Groundbreaking tech > compelling narratives > strong network effects > stellar memetic propagation.”
But beware of the snake-oil propagandist who promotes his ideology as mere meme—that’s how dumb ideology infiltrates subconscious, creeping in with a jester’s hat. “When the alt-right say it's just a joke,” said Gerard, “the problem is that the punchline is always, ‘and we will kill you.’ When incels say it's just a joke, the punchline is always, ‘we will kill and rape you.’ When Bitcoin Maxis say it's just a joke, the punchline is, ‘we will each have 72 nocoiner slaves.’”
Maximalists, of course, are just one of the many defective communities driven insane by the widening chasm between dogma and reality. It’s why investors in Chainlink—“#linkies”—extol the obscure tech company’s interesting-but-hardly-revolutionary software with Trumpian proportions of hyperbole. It’s why footsoldiers in the enormous and inscrutable “XRP Army” discuss their investment as though it is Christ’s vision manifest.
Ethereum Maximalists, meanwhile, have begun to communicate entirely through an absurdist Hegelian dialectic, mediated through Twitter and understood by nobody. And the reprehensible “nocoiners” define themselves entirely by their opposition to Bitcoin, like Taylor Swift haters, but with third-class bachelor’s degrees in computer science. On all fronts, the tech is interesting, worthy, even revolutionary, but everyone is retreating into gibbering banalities.
But Maximalists are by far the worst. Nothing can now save them from their unreality. They’re fully deluded—and now they’re trying their hand at comedy.
Photo credit: Alexas Fotos, Flickr.