A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.
A funny thing happened in the Bitcoin world late last week with Bitcoin core developer Mike Hearn quit his work with the cryptocurrency and spectacularly pronounced in a post on Medium that Bitcoin has failed.
Putting aside that Bitcoin has failed so many times now that we’ve lost count, the post actually had the effect of driving the price of Bitcoin down as mainstream media organizations happily repeated Hearn’s claim without any critical analysis of whether what Hearn had to say was accurate and, more importantly, why was he making the claim now.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and to that Hearn is no exception, but putting aside the technical issues of which there is already plenty of excellent commentary on why he is wrong, his motivation for proclaiming Bitcoin dead is something that needs to be considered.
1. Hearn had his proposals for Bitcoin XT (a fork of the Blockchain) rejected by his peers
2. Hearn now works for the R3CEV LLC, a consortium that is developing private Blockchains that will compete with Bitcoin.
The first point is the easiest one to address, and is best described by Bram Cohen as being a case of whiny rage quitting.
To quote Cohen:
He attempted a hostile takeover of Bitcoin with Bitcoin-XT, and now that he’s predictably been made to feel like persona non grata in Bitcoin development he’s throwing a tantrum on his way out.
On Reddit the crash in the price of Bitcoin following Hearn’s announcement is best addressed by u/MrGlobalCoin who wants it called the butthurt crash:
Can we term this the butt hurt crash, to memorialize this crash as the time when Mike Hearn turned into a baby girl and stomped his baby wittle feet, sold his btc, and blogged about it. I know that is not the cause, but it be nice to tie it to him.
There is no question that Hearn’s motivation is definitely in part an reaction to having his ideas rejected, but it’s the second point that is the more important one, the fact that he’s now nothing more than a paid shill for R3.
Reddit user Tollro describes it well:
While I do agree with Mike Hearn’s position on the need to expand the size of the blocks in the blockchain, the more I read about what he did, the more I’m convinced his real intention was to privatize the blockchain.
That is; to ensure private corporations were the ones in control of the blockchain before regular, household computers could catch up with the processing power needed to maintain the blockchain.
I’m saying this because of Hearn’s employer pushing for private blockchains….
Hearn’s plan apparently was to cause a panic so people would abandon bitcoin because of a price crash in order to force the hands of the Core developers. And his shennanigans did sink the price of bitcoin to almost 350 dollars per coin from a high of 430.
If Hearn had walked away from Bitcoin without having employment with R3 you might be able to take what he is saying far more seriously, but when you’re putting food on your table with money from an organization that is primarily a large competitor to Bitcoin you can’t be taken seriously, and this is what the media coverage of Hearn’s announcement completely failed to note.
Image credit: kongharald/Flickr/CC by 2.0
Duncan is a co-founder of VC funded media company B5Media and founder of news site The Inquisitr, and was a senior writer at TechCrunch in its earlier days.
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