Toxic Bitcoin Maximalism is dumb.
I tried to lead this article with something more poetic but it honestly boils down to that.
Ever since altcoins started surging in value, and the DeFi story increasingly captured the spotlight, Bitcoin’s “murder hornets” can’t seem to hide their jealousy or their rage.
That vibe was on stark display at Bitcoin 2021 in Miami last week. But something funny happened ̶ Bitcoin’s “murder hornets,” the toxic Bitcoin Maximalists that want a monopoly on the space and will hurl personal attacks on Crypto Twitter for even thinking another cryptocurrency or token could be useful, were just as overblown as the real things. They were painful, annoying, buzzy, but not at all deadly. If anything, it was laughable in its pitifulness.
Bruce Fenton, a long-time Bitcoiner, founder of Satoshi Roundtable and the managing director at Chainstone Labs, was the MC giving toxic Bitcoin Maximalists this murder hornet moniker on stage, right before introducing a panel entitled “Toxic Maximalism: A Feature, Not a Bug.”
I will point out that a hornet is a bug, but let’s then skip right past that… Because it didn’t take long to see the Maxis maxing out. “Not only do I think Bitcoin toxicity is important, I think it’s absolutely necessary,” said one speaker on the panel. “And if you’re against Bitcoin toxicity, you’re against Bitcoin and if you’re against Bitcoin, you’re against freedom. Period.”
And the toxicity was stirred even before Bitcoin 2021 started. Take the emails that went out ahead of the event, asking people to “save conversations about other protocols and cryptocurrencies for outside the conference.”
We’re talking about a group of people who supposedly hold censorship resistance and freedom in the utmost regard, telling people, who paid good money to be at conference, that they shouldn’t talk about, firstly, whatever they want, and secondly, a tangential, huge and important part of the ecosystem.
Still, the first large-scale crypto event since the pandemic began nearly a year and a half ago was actually really fun, and not because everyone there was beating their chest about Bitcoin.
In fact, the toxic Maximalists were the minority.
Nearly everyone I spoke to was holding other bags and I even got a Bitcoin Maxi himself to admit that maybe NFTs are valuable in gaming. It isn’t tough, though, there are serious use cases for some of this technology that we’ve been seeing play out over the past decade.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of opportunists and definitely outright scams, but to call everything else besides bitcoin a shitcoin just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Sure the first altcoin boom in 2014 consisted mainly of copies of Bitcoin’s code with new names slapped on them. And sure the ICO boom was frothier than a Starbucks latte, with billions of dollars being dumped into trash protocols. And even today, there are meme coins whose value appears only to be making select investors rich AF while leaving others holding the bag with pump and dumps.
Lambasting Everything in the Space
But surely that’s not everything. There are some amazing things going on ̶ billions of dollars locked up in DeFi protocols to earn multiple times the interest you can earn on fiat in a bank and people getting loans with crypto collateral that couldn’t access them before and a whole massively creative economy of artists building decentralized games and making uniquely generative art.
So lambasting everything in the space as shitcoins reminds me of the time when the the big banks and traditional finance businesses and PayPals of the world sneered at Bitcoiners when we were first starting out. We were trying to get some attention at conferences and explain how and why the technology is powerful. Instead, the legacy guys called Bitcoin a fraud and a bubble and said it wouldn’t last.
It’s pathetic that the people who were so innovative less than a decade ago are now unwilling to talk about innovation.
And this attitude is taking a toll. Bitcoin has seen big gains this year, but other coins and tokens have far outpaced that growth (albeit, I’ll admit, with more risk). “Actually maximalism has cost me so much money, a fortune,” said Steve in line at the Pleb Party at Freehold on Thursday night before the conference started.
See, Steve was a Maximalist, scared to sell his Bitcoin and try some other crypto. He finally relented, and the returns have been worth it. Sure, he’s a bit of a lucky case, because his biggest earner was Safemoon and that is for real a shitcoin. But without a job, he was able to watch the markets and sell at the right time. And when he sold, you know what he put that money back into? Bitcoin.
Rebecca was another example. She made good money on Bitcoin the past couple years, but having worked in traditional financial services, she knew it was good to diversify as well. So at the beginning of the year, she put up five Bitcoin as collateral – around $30,000 at the time – for a loan of around $66,000 and bought altcoins.
“I doubled my net worth in a month,” she said.
Initially, she was only in a handful, but then, she learned how to use Voyager and SushiSwap. “I kinda went crazy,” Rebecca said. She bought about 20 different altcoins and crypto tokens. With those profits, she was also able to pay down some of her debt. And every month or so, she rebalances, following the 80/20 rule – 80% Bitcoin and Ethereum and 20% altcoins. The 80% in bitcoin and Ethereum also follows the 80/20 rule with Bitcoin the bigger percentage.
That’s because everyone loves Bitcoin. It’s the biggest, baddest, OG cryptocurrency and we all know it and we all appreciate it. We love it, we want it, we need it. And no one in the industry is trying to destroy it.
Honestly, you Bitcoiners created this yourself. This is a free and open system. So it’s hard for me to say anything besides get over it.
I’ll admit, I went into Bitcoin 2021 thinking ‘What are they even gonna talk about? Bitcoin is just working like it’s supposed to; nothing’s really happening and that’s fine, but like a bit of a snooze fest right?”
And actually, I was pleasantly surprised.
There appears to be a good amount of work happening on lightning. Jack Mallers, founder of lightning network app Zap, announced at the conference Saturday that the President of El Salvador is developing a bill to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender in the country. And Elizabeth Stark of Lightning Labs spoke on stage about listeners streaming sats to their favorite podcasters over lightning. Although, at the time of writing, there is about $52 million total value on the lightning network. I can’t say $52 million isn’t a lot, but I can say that the lightning network is being eclipsed by 43 other networks in terms of total value, the largest being Aave with $12.66 billion, with a B, total value locked.
The Taproot upgrade, which enhances privacy, increases flexibility and should lower transaction costs on the Bitcoin network, looks like it’s going to be activated soon with broad support signaled recently. There’s also more projects: RSK, Sovryn and Bitcoin Core developer Jeremy Rubin’s Sapio ̶ building DeFi systems on top of Bitcoin as well.
For Don, sitting beside me during the DeFi on Bitcoin session, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Why do it on Bitcoin when there are other networks purpose-built for it? Why possibly add vulnerabilities or areas of attack into the system?
Bitcoin’s Many Use Cases
That’s fair, but George Burke of Portal, a DeFi platform for Bitcoin, had a compelling argument on the other side. If the industry increases Bitcoin’s usage, especially in lending, it adds more pressure on governments to be open-minded about Bitcoin. Much like Uber in its fight against the traditional taxi industry; by the time governments thought about shutting Uber down or regulating it heavily, it had an extremely loyal and huge user base.
There was a demo of Bitcoin sats paying for the electric charging of a Tesla. There were video games and art (some of which are probably NFTs, but don’t say the word NFT at the conference) and copious amounts of booze, because look, bitcoin is proving itself as a great store of value and we’re all making pretty good money now.
So that’s all really exciting actually.
“The mainstream media focuses on Bitcoin as an asset, a stock that goes up and down and they don’t focus on the on-the-ground use cases,” said Lyn Alden Schwartzer, the founder of Lyn Alden Investment Strategies. Just like the mainstream media was surprised by Bitcoin’s price rise, she continued, so will they be surprised by Bitcoin’s many use cases in the years to come.
That said, none of these cool things were enough to push the price. Bitcoin was relatively flat last week even with all the excitement for the conference. Yet, on the other hand, ETH’s price is up 17% this week.
Before You Shitpost Me
Still, it’s a fair statement by Schwartzer. Bitcoin continues to provide an alternative to the traditional systems of money and banking in places all around the world. It’s just doing so a bit quieter than DeFi ––and with far less TVL.
I know I’m going to get it. And I’m fully prepared to throw an emoji middle finger right back to the shitposters, you know, the people that don’t read past the headline and have 20 Twitter followers.
But I’m hoping that the bitcoiners that I have looked up to, who I have written about over the past decade, who I have repped for, can stop fighting people who aren’t the enemy.
The toxic Maximalists merely create unnecessary divisions in an already tiny community. And while their numbers are dwindling, they are loud and irritating.
Take the guy who said bitcoin toxicity is important. That was Nico ZM, CEO of Bitvolt (which according to his LinkedIn profile, he’s been at for four years; the website is just a coming soon countdown clock), and co-host of YouTube channel Simply Bitcoin, which has a “whopping” 1,600 subscribers.
ZM was on stage Saturday towards the end of the conference, right after a recorded message from Ross Ulbricht, the Bitcoin evangelist who’s serving two life sentences without parole for operating the online black marketplace Silk Road. Ulbricht petitioned the industry, the whole industry, forks and tokens and all, to come together.
Just Doing It for the Troll
After that message, five men I’ve barely even heard of, took the stage to say nothing of any real importance. No tech talk, no use cases mentioned, no solid reasoning for their constant vitriol… just grandiose, hyperbolic statements meant to get people riled up. Like: “It’s either Bitcoin or communism.” Or: “We’ll tear apart anything that tries to fuck with Bitcoin.” How about: “Bitcoin fixes you; you don’t fix Bitcoin.” And even equating those that don’t own Bitcoin to being in modern gulags.
And plenty of people were riled up by this talk. Many attendees in the audience cheered and applauded. But it felt a bit flat, like they were just doing it for the troll.
And if those guys want some trolling, I’ll give it back. No wanna-be YouTube influencer or low-level Twitter talking head is gonna tell me I’m against Bitcoin because I don’t like watching a circle jerk of grown-ass men whine about how they’re not the center of attention anymore. And I’m not going to let these chumps disrespect all of us who buy, sell, hold and play with other cryptocurrencies and tokens. That’s ludicrous, idiotic even, and definitely not an open, free system.
I Am a Bitcoiner
I started researching and writing about Bitcoin in late 2012. I have introduced more people to Bitcoin than probably 75% of the other attendees and probably most of the speakers there, too. I have a Bitcoin tattoo on my leg and there’s absolutely no chance I would get any other coin tattooed on my body. I am a Bitcoiner.
So who really needs to GTFO?
The majority of old-school Bitcoiners would say the same thing. Erik Voorhees, founder of ShapeShift and just an OG of OGs, took the stage after that toxic Maxi panel and referencing that comment said, “Yeah, that’s some bullshit.”
Really, it probably doesn’t need more than that.
Although, I’d prefer to end on a positive note. At a session called, “Who is a Bitcoiner?” journalist Leigh Cuen quipped that, “Everyone is a dormant Bitcoiner.”
And I whole-heartedly believe that’s correct. The problem is if they meet a swarm of toxic Bitcoin Maxis first, it could take them awhile to get over all the stinging. And why prolong the inevitable?