The Theoretical Man is one of the most common arguments online today. First defined by my friend Isaac Morehouse after a series of conversations we had, the Theoretical Man is the imaginary man who is brought up so often today, particularly online, to discredit, undermine, shame or abuse. You have probably encountered him yourself.
He offers people a way to win any argument without having to provide any actual proof for that argument. As Isaac writes, no one has ever met this Theoretical Man, but if you can imagine that he exists, someone will use him as evidence against something. To give a common example of this, consider one of the popular talking points around voter ID laws: oppressed minorities will not be able to vote.
This argument carries a ton of weight every election cycle and typically includes some sort of accusation of racism or callousness towards voters who support ID laws. Whether you agree with the laws or not is irrelevant. The interesting thing my friend T.K. Coleman pointed out to me was that nobody can ever show a real world example of someone who wants to vote but can’t get an ID. There’s a great video he showed me in which Ami Horwitz asks black people he meets on the street whether they know any black people who don’t have IDs. All of them laugh at the idea. It’s absurd to them that a bunch of white people in the media think they don’t know how to get an ID.
This is the Theoretical Man in action. It’s an argument from imaginary victims. “Anything that wouldn’t work for TM – which is everything – can be dismissed. Very useful.” It’s false, but it’s powerful and deadly.
Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking of a new variant on this term: The Theoretical Bitcoiner. The Theoretical Bitcoiner is the imaginary victim of Bitcoin Cash. It is used by Bitcoin Core supporters to attack the Bitcoin Cash community and technology. The argument usually goes as follows: there are some people out there, somewhere, who are being tricked into buying Bitcoin Cash or sending their Bitcoin Core to Bitcoin Cash wallets because of sites like Bitcoin.com, members of the community, and online discussions. Bitcoin Cash is bad (bcash bcash bcash).
I’ve provided a few recent examples from Twitter below, but all you need to do is post about Bitcoin Cash a few times and I guarantee you will hear some version of the Theoretical Bitcoiner.
@jgarzik Bitcoin Cash was a hostile hard fork that was a direct *attack* on the bitcoin network. It has been pumped and dumped. It has had a propaganda campaign designed to intentionally mislead the public and leading many to lose a great deal of money. It is a fraud!
— jratcliff63367 (@jratcliff) March 7, 2018
How is that act of Bitcoin supporters reporting the @Bitcoin account any less “dirty and underhanded” than Bcash fans misleading the masses by pretending to be Bitcoin through @Bitcoin? Pretty sure the latter is the definition of dirty. #goshower
— 151 (@sukhiiiiiiiii) March 8, 2018
Pushing a scam is not expressing an opinion, it’s defrauding people of their money.
— CryptoIcarus (@CryptoIcarus) March 7, 2018
Just like people who use the Theoretical Man, nobody has ever actually met this Theoretical Bitcoiner who was “defrauded” of their money by Bitcoin Cash supporters. They’ve certainly never experienced it themselves, nor have any of their friends. The simple fact is that it’s not very difficult to see the differences between the Bitcoin forks, but since they can imagine somebody in theory being confused, they denounce the community and the technology as fraudulent.
The point of the Theoretical Bitcoiner is not to protect these imaginary victims, but to distract, discredit, and subvert. I have called the bluff now hundreds of times and never once have they replied with a credible source. One must assume they do not exist at all.
The following Tweet provides a good case study in how to respond to Theoretical Bitcoiner claims:
Did you lose money?
— Sebastian Weber (@SabWeber) March 7, 2018
I’m reminded here of that scene from Billy Madison where the bus driver claims to have slept with the teacher, and when challenged on it, he says “No…no I didn’t. But you can imagine what it would have been like if I did, right? Right?”
Theoretical Bitcoiners are the crypto equivalent of that bus driver’s sex story.
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Illustration by @SatoshiDoodles