What the Warren/Satoshi Flag Moment Means

The prank was believable because even bitcoin critics like Sen. Liz Warren might have to embrace crypto voters in the wake of ETF approvals, says Daniel Kuhn.

AccessTimeIconFeb 16, 2024 at 9:07 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 9:42 p.m. UTC
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If you ever wanted confirmation that politicians do not always read the documents they sign, look no further than Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Recently, an anonymous Bitcoiner pranked the Senator from Massachusetts, who has built a brand around supposedly helping the financially unprivileged, by getting her to sign a document commemorating Satoshi Nakamoto.

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The U.S. government, apparently, runs a “flag program” via the Architect of the Capitol, which flies commemorative flags over the Capitol building in Washington D.C. As the government site notes: members of Congress are able to nominate individuals or groups deserving of this special acknowledgement.

Over 100,000 flag requests are fulfilled each year, a number that suggests not everything is always properly vetted. Bitcoin Magazine broke the news that on Dec. 18, 2023, Sen. Warren honored the creator of Bitcoin for the accomplishment of creating the first “truly inclusive financial system.”

“While the sudden embrace of Bitcoin by the Massachusetts Senator may seem a surprise, her career-long rhetoric about fighting for the financially under-served has finally taken shape within this tangible statement,” Bitcoin Magazine editor Mark Goodwin wrote, probably with a smirk on his face.

Warren is a candidate for being the most outspoken legislator standing against Bitcoin. Last year, as part of her re-election campaign, she announced the formation of an anti-crypto army, for instance, and has introduced the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act, which would use the Bank Secrecy Act as a cudgel to bash crypto miners, coders and exchanges (and might be unconstitutional).

Which is why the idea of her doing an about-face on Bitcoin was so surprising. CoinDesk’s Sam Kessler reported on how the prank was pulled off: “anyone can, for a fee, fill out a form on the Senator's website to have a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol.” And apparently someone did.

While there doesn’t appear to be a record online of the flag being flown (or any documented evidence, for that matter), the anonymous prankster did send the certificates Sen. Warren’s office signed to PubKey, a waterhole for Bitcoiners in downtown New York City. Last night, comedian T.J. Miller revealed the documents at the establishment, PubKey’s head of marketing Daniel Modell said in an interview with CoinDesk.

“I mean, if they're not reading simple things like a certificate, how deeply do they read legislation?” Modell said. “This is not an Elizabeth Warren issue. This is not a Democrat/Republican issue. This is a general politics issue.”

Indeed, as Modell said, it is incumbent on legislators to understand the laws they pass — and it’s not always clear they do. It’s common to complain about gridlock in D.C., but equally as insidious is how quickly some bills are passed after being introduced. That’s why “riders” can be an issue, for instance.

The public spectacle was planned to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the legendary BitcoinTalk post titled “I AM HODLING,” from Dec. 18, 2013, which spawned the meme about holding bitcoin for the long haul still in the lexicon today, Modell said. You can argue that Bitcoiners are sometimes too nerdy about their inside jokes and lore, but it’s hard to disagree with the act of civil disobedience.

It’s likely the prank will rank among other legendary moments of lighthearted sabotage, like Bitcoin Sign Guy broadcasting to the world to buy bitcoin as now Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was delivering a talk, or the still unknown Apple employee who put a version of the Bitcoin white paper on MacOS.

What makes it all the richer is that the document Warren signed, recognizing the “new economic freedoms” Satoshi Nakamoto brought about, contained a typo misspelling “Americans.” Hopefully, politicians take it as a sign to start figuring out what crypto can do and how to appropriately regulate without strangling the industry.

Part of the reason the stunt was so believable (it had me fooled, at least), was that pols like Warren might want to extend an olive branch to crypto. With the advent of crypto-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which enable Average Joes to add bitcoin to their retirement accounts, there might be a time in the near future where it becomes politically unpalatable to attack assets that so many people are banking on.

“We welcome [politicians] to come and have conversations with the public,” Modell said, extending an invitation to Warren and her peers. “We want to call attention to those important details.”


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Daniel Kuhn

Daniel Kuhn is a deputy managing editor for Consensus Magazine. He owns minor amounts of BTC and ETH.

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