Why Crypto Twitter is Infested with Scum
Twitter is a necessary evil, needed to keep apace of happenings in the bitcoin market, but a vile cesspool of conspiracy theory, radicalism, pettiness, indecency, and stupidity (periodically pierced by rationality, intelligence, and warmth). Crypto twitter is the embodiment of this dynamic, with the same twitter accounts often flopping between these two countervailing styles.
We believe there is something unique about the cryptosphere which makes the community particularly susceptible to conspiracy theories and the like. Take for instance Nick Szabo, the bitcoin trailblazer, often thought to be Satoshi Nakamoto himself. His words carry special weight. And the hypocrisy between his crypto philosophy and his politics is, in our view, extraordinary.
According to Szabo, the “Department of Justice has been trying to disenfranchise us [Trump voters] since he started winning primaries.” They are engaging in “blatant sedition” from their bases in “deep blue urban areas”. This is the result of “political appointees that have very little control over permanent employees”. Between crypto-related tweets, Mr. Szabo’s feed suggests that the Mueller probe cannot be justified, Russian interference in the election is not a big deal, and campaign criminality is a liberal plot. His feed is sprinkled predictably with Trump talking points, generally via retweets of mouthpieces like Tucker Carlson and Rudy Giuliani.
To Szabo, despite the unified assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies, not to mention Stone and Trump effectively confessing in public, the Russia story is a big nothing burger. Mike Flynn, Mike Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates all plead guilty? Twelve hackers from the Russian intelligence agencies indicted in public, and in meticulously detailed fashion? An effective coup by the US intelligence agencies and the department of Justice.
Nick Szabo’s life work can broadly be described as the attempt to remove the need for trust in central authority. Yet he displays an almost cultish parroting of an historically untrustworthy man, while confidently sputtering on the evil of institutional checks and balances based on conspiratorial fancies. This is not meant to be anti-Trump screed, though – spoiler – we are not fans. However, it is baffling that someone as notable as Nick Szabo can flip so dramatically from skeptical to credulous, from distrusting authority to regurgitating agitprop.
If you disagree – and say what you will, his opinions are not bulletproof – good chance you are BLOCKED! Suggest Mr. Szabo’s deep state conspiracy theories combined with Trump adoration might fray societal bonds? “You are blocked, you utter loon.”
So, why does Nick Szabo spout off like a political pepe, and why do his musings find fertile soul amongst a considerable percentage of crypto twitter? Because much of crypto twitter has become a microcosm of a particular debased aspect of Libertarian thought, ripe for conspiracy theory, closed to persuasion through rationale discourse, ensconced in dogma.
The Debasement of the Libertarian Movement
We split this debasement into two aspects. The first is the mainstreaming of conspiracy theory. Most of us will agree, to greater or lesser extent, that governmental problem solving is flawed, and when their bungling bureaucratic hands are clumsily stuck into the free market, inefficiency, waste, and negative consequences often result. Politicians may also be incentivized personally to prefer the politically expedient solution to the right one. Monetary policy and its effect on an individual’s wealth is an excellent example of this, and one of the reasons for which bitcoin was initially established.
With each additional program or active policy, the government effectively expands its own power at the expense of the individual, or so the argument goes. A growing audience believe this is by design, a conspiracy by a corrupt and nefarious political class and their supporters.
This is a fundamental aspect of anarcho-capitalist thought. Anarcho-capitalists believe the state may be replaced by a free market, with taxation replaced with voluntary funding. Anarcho-capitalists seem to reject the social contract theory upon which essentially all western political philosophy is based, replacing it with what is in our view, a utopian and empirically unsupported view of human nature in which entirely free association + capitalism unites to create a non-violent, prosperous society. And who stops the realization of this free-market voluntarism? The nefarious government, who seeks power at the expense of individualism and free markets.
Any specific issue may be viewed through this ideological lens – whether that issue be consumer protection, environmental regulation, health care, gun control, or international alliances, to name a few. Libertarianism has always had a problem dealing with these Tragedy of the Commons type issues because they require the sacrifice of some individual liberty for a public good. Devolving towards the fundamentally nefarious / anarcho-capitalist stance neatly side steps the need to actually understand in depth the topics; you can roll out the same argument universally without the need to engage on substance.
Dedication to this way of thinking may be particularly appealing to the rising tide of Dunning-Kruger individualists who seem to suspect things like expertise, experience, and empirics. Theirs is a warped skepticism, a new form of postmodernism, in which their opinion is just as good as yours, despite the fact that you have a post doctorate on the subject. Learn one basic argument and deploy it anywhere, an attractive proposal for a generation with a 140 (280?) character attention span. It is a state of mind extremely easy to manipulate by fellow partisans, who find fertile soil for additional conspiracy theory or radicalism simply by appealing to a shared fundamental belief.
Which brings us to the second aspect of Libertarian debasement – susceptibility to racist thought. The father of anarcho-capitalism, Murray Rothbard, is considered by many to be the intellectual forefather of the alt-right, and at the very least made common cause with David Duke, Joseph McCarthy, and an assortment of other scumbags. His Libertarianism is heavy on the economic side, light on the social side, which served to morph Classical Liberalism into a new philosophy that found embrace by Nazis and white supremacists. Many Crypto-anarchists, with their shared ideological underpinnings, have been embarrassingly reticent in the face of such radicalism, and in many cases has flirted coyly with such opinions. Not physically donning khakis and breaking out the tiki torches, but letting down the flowing blonde locks, so to speak. As many anarcho-capitalists are OGs in the crypto space, this has become an ideological stain in the community.