Toxic Bitcoin Maximalism can serve an important purpose to ward off newcomers from scams and altcoins, but is there a time when the toxicity is too much?
This is an opinion editorial by Boomer, a long-time and active member of the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) movement and a contributor for Bitcoin Magazine.
I was recently inspired after reading Tomer Strolight’s piece, “Bitcoiners Are Not Toxic — They Have Integrity.”
For context, I read it a few days after Nic Carter’s “situation” really exploded on Twitter, and Strolight’s article really resonated with me. To be clear, I have a great deal of respect for Carter and all the good work he’s done for the Bitcoin community, especially the work he’s done to debunk the energy fear, uncertainty and doubt out there. Like him or hate him, he really is one of the most important voices Bitcoin has in the energy and mining space. Over the past few weeks, he’s been taking it on the chin from many people in the community for investments in “blockchain” and “crypto” companies through his venture capital investment firm, Castle Island Ventures. In his defense, he’s been very transparent about his investments in these projects, talking about them quite openly on his “On The Brink” podcast for at least a year. In retaliation to the criticism, Carter has written a few articles and appeared on a few podcasts where he’s punched back at the critics, calling out a vocal group in the Bitcoin space known as “toxic Bitcoin Maximalists” or derogatorily “toxic maxis.” I don’t intend to go over exactly what was said about him or what he said back, but the whole thing has gotten pretty ugly. In this humble pleb’s opinion, it feels childish. It might be a symptom of the bear market that people in Bitcoin are turning on each other, or maybe it’s the Bitcoin immune system doing its job.
Over the past week, I’ve been thinking about what the terms “toxicity” and “maximalism” mean to me. I’ve purposely held back from reading too much on the topic because I want to make sure that I get to my conclusions on my own, but I know that there have been quite a few pieces on the topic recently. Pete Rizzo, Stephan Livera, and John Vallis have all written articles on maximalism over the past few days, and I’m looking forward to reading them, but I want to get my own thoughts out there first. I have been listening to my regular rotation of podcasts and I’ve heard pretty much every Bitcoin podcaster give their two sats on Carter, maximalists and toxicity. I’d like to give a shoutout to Joey and Len from “The Canadian Bitcoiners Podcast” for discussing Carter’s recent spat with the maximalists in a way that I felt summed up the situation well. They get into it at the end of the episode.
When I first started my journey into Bitcoin, Elon Musk was in the middle of pumping dogecoin. I remember the mainstream media’s fascination with the whole thing. Musk even hosted “Saturday Night Live!” It all seemed playful to me and it made sense. Musk is this future-centric tech CEO, and I knew that Tesla had put some bitcoin on its balance sheet. Bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin — it was all similar to me at the time, and Musk seemed to fit in perfectly. I remember listening to Bitcoin podcasts that were very critical of Musk, and it confused me. Any publicity is good publicity, isn’t it? A lot of the Bitcoiners I was following were really upset over what this guy was doing, and I just didn’t get it. I guess this was my first taste of Bitcoin’s “toxic” culture, not that I thought much about it. I wasn’t ready. I was too busy learning.
Strolight wrote his article around the same time that Musk was hosting “Saturday Night Live.” It was before I was ready to understand it all, so I’m thankful to have stumbled upon it now. It really motivated me to do a personal exploration into how I define “maximalism.”
I’m nowhere near done in this exploration and it might be something that I ponder for a long time. I’m still way too new here to have a fully formed opinion on what “toxic Bitcoin Maximalism” really is, but I know enough now to have a grasp on how Bitcoin continues to shape me and how important it is. Bitcoin means different things for everyone, so it only makes sense that Bitcoin Maximalism is just as personal. I truly believe that in Bitcoin we’ve discovered the greatest form of money ever and with this discovery, we have the potential to realign many (if not most) of the perverse incentives that plague this world. To me, this belief is Bitcoin Maximalism. Does standing up for that make someone a toxic Maximalist? I guess it depends on your perspective.
Generally speaking, Bitcoiners are leaders: type-A personalities that aren’t exactly the most politically correct group of people. What we are is a group of sovereign individuals guided by truth, transparency and a belief in a protocol that doesn’t have time for bullshit. Of course, we can come off as toxic! Does that really surprise anyone!? There is a difference between being toxic and being an asshole, though. Some of the things I’ve read on Twitter coming from defenders of Bitcoin are flat out rude, intolerant and childish. Slinging insults in the name of Bitcoin doesn’t make you a maximalist, and it doesn’t make you a hero, either. Stop that shit. It isn’t helping. But if you’re calling a spade a spade, that isn’t toxic. And if you’re offended by someone being toxic by defending something they believe in, maybe you’re the toxic one.
Bitcoin is for everyone. And while there are no gatekeepers, maybe there’s a need for protectors. Maximalism is that protection. Bitcoin Maximalists have to fight off threats, and there certainly are a lot of threats out there. Maybe maximalists need to be toxic since Bitcoin is itself, perfectly pure. Maybe Gigi is right and toxicity equals love. It’s been said many times before, but I believe that the toxic maximalists serve as Bitcoin’s immune system. Like a biological organism, sometimes the immune system can go too far and kill off healthy cells from time to time, but it does so to protect the organism. A degree of toxicity is needed because if we’re not toxic enough, then shitcoins, scammers and fiat bloodsuckers will run rampant. But if we’re too toxic, we’ll waste our energy fighting among ourselves and we’ll alienate people who are looking on with curiosity. While no degree of toxicity will ever kill Bitcoin, an overly toxic environment could certainly slow down its adoption. It’s a fine line to walk, and every Bitcoiner needs to find where they fit in, but we don’t need to all agree on where that line truly is.
I know that Nic Carter has studied Bitcoin in more depth and for longer than I have. He knows that bitcoin isn’t just an investment tool or an asset class. He knows just how important the discovery was. That being said, he should be allowed to invest in as many “blockchain” companies as he chooses to, but he’s going to be held to a higher standard than some newbie, and he should expect that. He shouldn’t be surprised (or triggered) when people call him out on it. Is this a case of the immune system attacking a healthy cell? I’m not sure.
Personally, I find myself getting more and more convinced about Bitcoin by the day. I suppose my maximalism is growing and I find myself being less and less tolerant, but you still won’t find me hurling insults on Twitter. That’s not who I am, but I reserve the right to be as toxic as I need to be. And you know what? You don’t have to like it. We all have a role to play in this Bitcoin world. If I can eventually become the “not-so-toxic” Bitcoin Maximalist, that’s a role I’d be honored to serve, but to all the toxic maximalists out there, keep up the good work. Growth only comes from discomfort, and every time your toxicity makes someone uncomfortable, it helps someone else along their journey. Keep calling out bullshit as you see it.
This is a guest post by Boomer. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.