Echo Chambers

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” 
George R.R. Martin

Donald Trump’s victory on November 8th, 2016 sent the world reeling. Pundits, presses, and politicians sat stunned and asked themselves how they ever could have been so wrong. Hillary had it in the bag, they thought. But to anyone that was paying attention (that is, thinking for themselves), Trump’s victory should have come as no surprise. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, and I fear that the conceit of certain members of the Bitcoin community will lead to yet another Great Disillusionment when Bitcoin finally undergoes the inevitable block size increase hard fork.

In an excellent post-election article on “the Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit,” Glenn Greenwald quotes his own writing from July:

Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, [elites] are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to delegitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic, and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future.

The coming hard fork will be another Brexit. Another Trump. To those who have been paying attention, to those ignoring the propaganda and rhetoric that claims half of their own community is a “cesspool,” to those still following dissenting voices on Twitter — it will come as no surprise.

To those who have tucked themselves away in comfortable little echo chambers, patting one another on the back and turning their noses up at those unfortunate others — you will be blindsided. And it’s nobody’s fault but your own.

You pushed out valuable members of your community. It wasn’t enough to merely disagree with them, no. You had to ban them, silence them, assassinate their characters, and destroy whatever shred of influence they had left. Instead of speaking out and wondering if you had a problem on your hands, you cheered.

Anyone who thought to voice their concern, wondering if what you were doing was right… well, you gave them the same treatment. And again, your heads were so firmly lodged in the sand that still you could not recognize what you were doing.

You were content to read the media that already agreed with you, and did not dare to challenge yourselves. You prided yourself on being of superior mind, yet failed to perform the basic tasks that any critical thinker should undertake.

You clung to the cozy security blanket of self-congratulatory power, and took that power as evidence that you were right all along. Instead of questioning where the dissenting voices had gone, you cheered their being forcibly removed from your gaze. Out of sight, out of mind.

But hey, dipshits (as Greg is so fond of saying): we didn’t go anywhere. We’ve been here all along. Sitting next to you at conferences, participating in conversations with you on Twitter (if you didn’t block us), making kamikaze post attempts on your own turf to tell you what was happening, before getting banned again for the dozenth time. But still you didn’t listen. You called us trolls and buried your heads even deeper into the sand.

The danger of isolating yourself in an echo chamber is that by purposely limiting what information is available to you, you remove your ability to make informed decisions. Decisions that carry real world consequence, in business and in community.

The first act of your Great Disillusionment has begun, though you may not realize it yet. The entire Core machinery is in the earliest stages of total breakdown. The people, those meddling plebeians, are becoming rebellious once more, fed up with the abuse and the derision that has become de rigueur in your treatment of them.

The second act of your Great Disillusionment will be when Segregated Witness fails to activate. This great big thing you’ve built up to be the second coming of Jesus, that will save you from the spectre of bigger blocks, that you’ve placed all your bets on, will end not with a bang but a whimper. The excitement you feel right now is like that of the Clinton campaign on the morning of November 8th, so cocksure of your impending victory. As the results from each state come back, with each two week retargeting that comes and goes, your hope will gradually be chipped away. You’ll cling to the thinnest shreds of logic, looking like MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki and his magic board as you frantically try to come up with scenarios in which it’s still possible to win, even when it’s clear that defeat is imminent.

The third and final act will be when the mining pools start running different software. By that time the final outcome of this process will be clear, even to you.

Unfortunately, it’s probably too late to save yourselves. The damage has been done. Your technical solutions have become so intertwined with tyranny that the merits of your work can no longer outweigh the resentment we feel towards you. But all tyrants are overthrown, eventually, and the depth of the collective delusion you are now experiencing will not be realized until the performance is complete.

The sad result of all this has been a great loss of momentum and a derailment from the overarching goals of the Bitcoin movement. There is much work to be done to rebuild, but rebuild we must. And because we are not your enemy, but rather your compatriots, we will welcome you back. Let this be a lesson to us all.

John Blocke fully recognizes the possibility that he may be mistaken, and it could turn out that a distributed and leaderless movement really is best managed through censorship and exclusion, not freedom and inclusion. But, what do I know?

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