This article was originally posted in the Blockonomics Blog.
Bitcoin has a problem. No it isn’t being green. No it isn’t the price drop. Bitcoin has a worship problem. The Bitcoin community loves its heroes, and it has had many. The most recent iteration was Elon Musk, and that hero worship ended in Bitcoin plunging to as low as $29K. Other heroes include John McAfee, wanted in the US for a variety of crimes; Arthur Hayes, founder of BitMex who is also currently in jail for multiple financial crimes; and Roger Ver, who jumped ship to Bitcoin Cash and now criticizes Bitcoin any chance he gets. See a trend? Bitcoin users love to elevate people on a high pedestal, but they quickly get burned.
Don’t put Bitcoin “Heroes” on a pedestal
These Bitcoin “heroes” enter Bitcoin, shout a few key phrases, and then either get jailed for money related crimes (market manipulation anyone?), dump Bitcoin to go on a different adventure, or both (Fingers crossed, Musk!) There is a clear Bitcoin Hero Path that every hero has gone through: 1. Rise to Grace, marked by interest in Bitcoin from a generally already established public figure. 2. Height of Power, when the figure has attracted the attention of the Bitcoin community, they will praise the figure and defend them at any length, and hang on any word they say. 3. The Fall, eventually the figure will move on to a new project, burning their Bitcoin bridges in the process, or get discovered committing a variety of financial crimes.
Many have gone through this cycle, but the two most prominent are John McAfee and Elon Musk who followed the cycle almost word for word. Andreas Antonapolis, who himself is currently a Bitcoin Hero at the Height of Power but is at least self-aware, points it out best:
The Rise to Power phase of the Bitcoin Hero’s Journey often begins with ego. Elon Musk dreamed of becoming a Bitcoin hero long before he actually did in December 2020. He praised Bitcoin a few times over the years, such as in 2019 when he called Bitcoin better than paper money (well duh). Yet, he also admitted he never owned Bitcoin, beyond a measly .25 BTC given to him as a gift. That seems very suspicious for a billionaire who claims Bitcoin is brilliant. John McAfee rose in a similar way, focusing more on the blockchain aspects until realizing he could manipulate a lot of people by shouting Bitcoin’s praise.
For Elon Musk, the true rise coincided with the Bitcoin price hike at the end of 2020. He sent out feelers again, sharing Bitcoin memes. And yet, even then he trolled:
But the seeds were planted. When he said he would like to be paid in Bitcoin that solidified his position as a hero. The Bitcoin community took it hook line and sinker.
For Musk and McAfee the Height of Power was a wonderful time, full of market manipulation and sending sheep to the slaughter. Elon Musk had Tesla purchase boatloads of Bitcoin, and even produced a Bitcoin payment processor for Tesla:
He was raking in dough as bitcoin continued to soar, partially driven by Musk’s actions. And the Bitcoin community swooned, taken in by the smooth billionaire. In 2017 and 2018 it was the same thing with McAfee. When he tweeted his infamous $1mil or I’ll eat my dick tweet, the Bitcoin crowd went wild:
He shilled Bitcoin and the Bitcoin community lapped it up. In 2019, when he received a tip off that he was going to be arrested for tax evasion, the Bitcoin community came to his defense.
For both men, at the height of their power, it seemed like this could go on forever. Elon Musk would build an electric car empire paid for in Bitcoin. John McAfee would never have to eat his penis on television. The Bitcoin community would sing their praises for years to come.
That was not the case. Both men were frauds. John McAfee, as his penis eating day approached, quickly turned against Bitcoin. He went as far to say that Bitcoin was actually worthless, and he never believed in it. The Bitcoin community quickly tore him to shreds. Needless to say, he did not eat his penis. He was jailed in 2020 for cryptocurrency market manipulation, and this time no one came to his defense.
With Elon Musk, the reaction was even harsher. It felt that one day he woke up and decided today was the day, and announced Tesla would no long accept Bitcoin because it wasn’t green. He also implied Tesla had sold off its Bitcoin. Bitcoin crashed hard, and the Bitcoin community turned their praise from just days ago into fury.
If there’s one thing Bitcoiners don’t like its betrayal, which is ironic because it has happened to them so often.
As Andreas said, the Bitcoin community needs to learn their lesson. Hero worship never brings anything good. There are many people out their with greed in their hearts, and they will do anything to get an extra buck. Elon Musk manipulates Bitcoin and Doge Coin and makes millions. John McAfee gets jailed for the same thing. The Bitcoin community has to understand, the Bitcoin is the hero here, not the billionaires looking to make even more money.
The founder of Bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto has remained anonymous since he created Bitcoin. He did not want the attention, he did not want to be the focus of the project. Instead, he knew Bitcoin was the hero, it was the future. He knew the focus had to be on the project, not on the person. We in the Bitcoin community need to learn from that. Focus on the technology, the currency, the idea. Don’t attach yourself to some billionaire shill.