Sometimes the most efficient way to successfully attack your rival is to subject him to the public scrutiny of the masses. Especially if he is a shy and rather reserved middle-aged man who happens to lead the company that’s responsible for making your “big blocks hard fork” wet dream obsolete.
Barely Sociable’s video “Bitcoin – Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto” is nothing but a clever way of introducing a distorted narrative to clueless conspiracy theorists who most likely know nothing about cypherpunk culture or Bitcoin history.
It’s a justification for the technical and market failure of big block hard forks of Bitcoin, which basically implies that all of it happened because Blockstream CEO Adam Back is Satoshi Nakamoto – and therefore he could convince everyone else to support and invest in his sidechain project.
The documentary’s conclusions are silly at best and disregard multiple events and breakthroughs that happened at the time. There is no mention of SegWit, a network upgrade (soft fork) which managed to safely increase the block size of Bitcoin without breaking consensus rules to split the network (hard fork). Likewise, there is no mention of the Lightning Network – a second layer scaling solution which has been conceptualized in 2015 and played a major role in the scaling debate’s outcome.
As a matter of fact, the entire 40-minute video is mostly a collection of arguments which frame Bitcoin’s scaling wars as a dichotomous battle between on-chain scaling through hard forks (XT, Classic, Unlimited) and Blockstream’s sidechain proposal.
The fact that Mr. Barely Sociable spends more time talking about censorship on the r/Bitcoin subreddit and making an apology for Gavin Andresen’s and Mike Hearn’s intentions than actually researching into Adam Back’s work reveals a lot about the video’s true intentions.
After a while, it becomes evident that “Bitcoin – Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto” is a political statement against the Bitcoin project’s development direction – and it just so happens that it echoes the arguments that Roger Ver has presented for years.
By the time documentary viewers have found out the conclusion about Adam Back being the designated Satoshi Nakamoto candidate, they will have already digested 25 minutes of big blocker propaganda. “Gavin Andresen was good, Adam Back and his Blockstream company are the bad guys who hijacked development and changed the narrative”.
And if Barely Sociable has picked the rather unlikely candidate Adam Back to become his Satoshi Nakamoto candidate of choice, this doesn’t make his story fair, accurate, or factual.
It doesn’t even matter if Mr. Back truly is the creator of Bitcoin. One could argue that this is a masterful attack that’s orchestrated to put extra stress and pressure on a cypherpunk who is otherwise known for being reserved, while also diluting Bitcoin’s value proposition by implying a central point of failure.
Who is Barely Sociable?
Barely Sociable has joined YouTube on March 27th 2019, but he hasn’t posted videos until 6 months later. He also runs a second account named Slightly Sociable which hosts a podcast, speaks with an American accent, and has been recognized by the Coin Spice journalist C. Edward Kelso as being a “former SoundCloud rapper”.
This connection is very relevant in the context, as Coin Spice is a pro-bcash website which is known for featuring pro-big block opinions. And if none of Barely Sociable’s 380.000 YouTube subscribers have figured out the identity of the pseudonymous speaker, the SoundCloud account has been deleted before the Satoshi Nakamoto reveal was even published, and a Coin Spice journalist has made a confirmed connection to a music account… then the BCH connection might run deeper.
During the first 2 months, Barely Sociable has posted videos about popular internet mysteries and conspiracy theories – 3 of his 10 early mini-documentaries being about Reddit stories.
But on November 19th 2019, Barely Sociable has posted his most popular video: “Dark Side of The Silk Road“. In it, he makes the first mention of Bitcoin and introduces an essential individual and angle that may link Barely Sociable to Roger Ver: Ross Ulbricht, aka the guy who received a double life sentence for running starting the Silk Road and operating the Dread Pirate Roberts account.
This is important because Roger Ver is known to exchange letters with Ross and is an outspoken supporter of the “Free Ross” cause. Bitcoin.com is even listed as a top donor to the campaign.
While this connection doesn’t imply any kind of early collaboration between Roger Ver and Barely Sociable, it does reveal a common interest. Combine this with the unlikely identification from the Coin Spice article, and we can assume that Barely Sociable is a member of the Bitcoin Cash community.
The Satoshi investigation series started on January 18th 2020 with the video “The Most Elusive Identity on the Internet, Pt. 1“. This debut was pretty reasonable, presented already-known arguments and introduced some facts about cypherpunks and their origins (with an evident focus on Chaum, Finney, and Szabo). Upon watching it, nobody would suspect that Satoshi would later be revealed as Adam Back.
It’s the second part, published on February 7th 2020, which begins to introduce wrongful facts. First of all, Barely Sociable says that Satoshi Nakamoto “premined” his coins – which is technically and semantically untrue because his presumed bitcoins were fairly mined after the launch of the network (and not before it, as the “premine” implies).
Secondly, the narrator argues that altcoins like Ethereum and Litecoin thrived in spite of having well-known creators, so Bitcoin wouldn’t be hurt if Satoshi revealed himself. Which is false, as neither of the projects chosen as examples are as successful and ambitious in their scope as Bitcoin. It’s a fake equivalence that was most likely inserted to normalize the subsequent “reveal”.
In the coming 3 months, Barely Sociable has kept on teasing the reveal on his YouTube page. And on May 11th 2020, he finally published the controversial “Bitcoin – Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto” – the 40-minute glorification of Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin XT and big blocks, which presents the kind of conclusion that is means to further damage the Bitcoin project and its development.
In hopes that I’d find more information about Barely Sociable, I’ve looked at the Reddit accounts that posted his video. Unfortunately, the accounts don’t reveal much. Albin Nyden posted it in r/btc and r/videos, while r/JelloBrickRoad is responsible for promoting the content in the r/cryptocurrency subreddit. On r/bitcoin, it was a low-karma account named Number1ess that posted the video. I could probably undergo the process for each of his videos and look for patterns and links to the bcash community, but I’ll give Barely Sociable a free pass for now. There is plenty to analyze from his video anyway.
Why reveal Satoshi’s identity now?
It’s really no coincidence that the video got posted the day after the Bitcoin halving and scrutinizes Adam Back’s involvement in the Bitcoin project. After the BTC mining rewards were cut in half, the hashrate has also taken a ~30% plunge. It’s very likely that some miners no longer found their activity profitable due to electricity cost and low ASIC efficiency.
In the Bitcoin network, it takes 2016 blocks (~2 weeks) until the mining difficulty readjusts. So until this event happens, unprofitable miners can choose between running at a loss, shutting down operations, or temporarily migrating to another chain. Therefore, this can be regarded as an opportunity for minority chain BCH.
According to Bitinfocharts, the BTC halving has helped BCH regain the hash security that it has prior to its earlier April 8th halving. The difference is not great (only ~3% of the hash that BTC lost went to BCH), but it truly matters to a minority chain.
The only way to make miners stay on a particular chain is to give them proper incentives. So if more users do transactions and buy amounts of the network’s native cryptocurrency, then more fees are collected by the miners, the coin’s price goes up thanks to the demand, and consequently the miners sell their freshly-mined coins faster and more profitably.
It makes a whole lot of sense to push a campaign against BTC at this time when the difficulty readjustment is a week away, the halving press coverage has reignited interest in Bitcoin, and there are millions of people who have no idea about how the scaling debate of 2014-2017 took place.
Essentially, Barely Sociable’s documentary is conveniently-useful and well-timed. Through a 40-minute video he tells his viewers “Adam Back is Satoshi Nakamoto, but he’s the bad guy of the story because Bitcoin was supposed to scale with big blocks and that’s also Satoshi’s original vision”. And if Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn are the good guys for pushing the XT project, then the “red-pilled” viewers will discover that XT has been merged into Bitcoin Cash.
Ignoring these facts and assuming that Barely Sociable has no idea about the halving and the momentum to onboard clueless newbies is simply foolish. Furthermore, not suspecting him of being a member of the BCH community is likewise naive. He basically echoes the same arguments that Roger Ver has been spouting for years.
Why Adam Back?
For years, Adam Back has been perceived as the enemy of the big block hard fork camp. As the CEO of Blockstream, he raised capital to hire some of the most talented Bitcoin developers to work on projects that preserve the network’s decentralization. Therefore, it can be argued that he helped make big blocks unnecessary and rudimentary in comparison with Blockstream’s more sophisticated scaling solutions.
But as an individual, Adam Back is more inclined to follow the “cypherpunks write code” mantra. Though he attends conferences and joins panel discussions, he doesn’t get into heated debates. He doesn’t talk much about his private life, mostly shows interest for the technical discussions, and is the exact opposite of altcoin CEOs.
This makes him the perfect target for harassment and public scrutiny. The fact that he also has the proper credentials and interest to be a worthy Satoshi Nakamoto candidate is a great bait for politicians and law-makers who may investigate him on the basis of these claims.
Yet a cypherpunk like Satoshi Nakamoto would definitely know better than to put the headline of the local newspaper in the Genesis Block, use British grammar and double spaces to delineate sentences, and mention himself in e-mails and the whitepaper. And these arguments aren’t even compelling enough.
Yet it all makes more sense when you realize that Roger Ver & co have experimented with the “We’ve got Satoshi Nakamoto on our side” narrative for a while. They legitimized Craig Wright’s status on the basis of Gavin Andresen’s testimony, and agreed to look the other way when counter-evidence started to emerge.
The angle didn’t work out for them. Bcash only looked more centralized in decision-making, scammy, and distant from Bitcoin’s philosophy. Newbies might have been fooled by the scheme, but the miners and major businesses stuck with the real Bitcoin.
And for years, Roger & co have pointed out to the fact that Adam Back has only joined the Bitcoin project after BTC hit the $1000 mark in 2013. The “Roger Ver has been around for a longer time and is the first investor in Bitcoin projects” argument has been an instrumental part of the anti-Blockstream and pro-hard fork propaganda.
But what if the narrative gets reversed to put more burden on Adam Back? Why keep on discrediting him when you can put him in the spotlight so the unwanted attention wears him out? And in the whole process, why not make it look like Bitcoin development does have a single point of failure and is still coordinated by the creator?
These arguments dilute the digital commodity value proposition of Bitcoin and make bcash seem a lot more decentralized in comparison. If enough people buy into this narrative, then Mr. Barely Sociable will definitely make a new video to introduce his viewers to the “real vision” that wasn’t perverted by VC money. And the video might benefit bcash in a more noticeable way.
Bcash’s last resort propaganda
We shouldn’t forget that bcash is a minority chain that failed to secure support from miners, traders, and users. Most people who do use BCH do it for purely ideological reasons – because otherwise they could get the same results with altcoins like Litecoin and Dogecoin, which precede the invention of Bitcoin’s contentious forks. Bcash can’t survive in the absence of proper incentives, so it needs to gain traction by any means necessary.
Trying to expose Blockstream’s CEO to public scrutiny (a phenomenon that happened to Dorian Nakamoto in 2014) may be one final attempt to push the big block narrative.
Barely Sociable is trying to make up a narrative about a perverted Bitcoin creator who surrendered his early principles to VC money and decided to centralize the project by moving transactions to a sidechain that makes him and his investors money. He abandoned his original vision that Bitcoin can scale on-chain, expelled the well-meaning developers, and flooded the space with opinion censorship and corporate greed.
In reality, Liquid mostly serves exchanges and big traders that need more privacy, quicker settlements, and lower fees. Regular users will keep on using the base layer and eventually move microtransactions to the Lightning Network when the fees increase. In the future, many more sidechains will exist to serve different purposes, and Bitcoin remains a decentralized base layer for which anyone can run a node and which serves as the foundation for lots of interesting inventions.
Also, building a fee market is essential for the Bitcoin network’s long-term sustainability and censorship resistance. If miners don’t earn attractive rewards from discovering new blocks, they will have to collect transaction fees to keep the operations profitable. Anyone who thinks that “instant” 0-conf transactions made through SPV wallets that trust the few existing nodes and for which negligible fees are paid is what Bitcoin should look like is delusional or doesn’t get it.
As for Adam Back, he’s done a great job as the CEO of Blockstream. He hired some of the most prolific developers, supported the release of remarkable research and open-source project, and facilitated the creation of tools and workarounds that big blockers would have never conceived. He’s definitely too smart to write the headline of a London newspaper in the genesis block, which confirms his own claims that he is not Satoshi Nakamoto.
I’ve done this research and made these connections so you don’t have to. If you have anything else to add, feel free to contact me on Twitter or via e-mail. And next time someone cites Barely Sociable’s video as evidence for knowing the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, send them this article to put an end to this nonsense.