David Z. Morris is CoinDesk's Chief Insights Columnist. He holds Bitcoin, Ethereum, and small amounts of other crypto assets.

It has been a bad month for bulls**t artists.

Early Thursday, a Norwegian court ruled in favor of Hodlonaut, aka Magnus Granath, in connection with Craig Wright’s claims to be pseudonymous Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. A judge ruled, in part, “that Granath had sufficient factual grounds to claim that Craig Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto in March 2019.”

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The verdict is expected to help Granath fight off parallel defamation allegations in the U.K., where Wright is already on a yearslong losing streak in the assorted nuisance lawsuits through which he has doubled down on his unsupported claims to be Satoshi.

The ruling caps off an even broader string of recent losses for bloviators, fabulists and frauds of various stripes.

Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was ordered to pay $965 million in damages to victims’ families early this month, after repeatedly claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting didn’t actually happen. Earlier this week, Do Kwon, a man who managed to trick both the public and himself into thinking he was a genius, gave an embarrassingly evasive interview while on the run from international law enforcement.

Even Elon Musk, intermittently the richest man in the world, has given up attempts to escape a trap he singlehandedly built for himself. He recently agreed to buy Twitter at an inflated valuation rather than risk more revelations of exactly what designer drugs do to your brain.

It’s almost enough to give a cynic some hope in our supposedly post-truth age.

But the fascination of deception is hard to turn away from. With the case of Granath vs. Wright falling in favor of the truth, it leaves one contemplating even deeper questions. Such as: Why exactly is Craig Wright claiming to be Satoshi if he has no evidence?

Bitcoin Faketoshi’s Vision

One clue came in early October in the form of a new promotional video from Wright’s Bitcoin SV camp, describing a new “digital asset recovery” system for the irrelevant Bitcoin fork that claims to represent “Satoshi’s Vision.” The system would offer courts direct influence over BSV operations, including the ability to blacklist criminal funds and, even more radically, circumvent private keys to reassign ownership of tokens.

This lunatic proposal provides some further illumination of Craig Wright’s bizarre insistence in recent years that blockchain tokens can be moved by court order. This is true in the very limited sense that law enforcement can compel suspects or convicts to hand over their private keys, but Wright has insisted on the much broader and sillier claim that a court order can move tokens entirely without private keys. This is technically impossible on Bitcoin and any other cryptocurrency system – in fact, that’s kind of the point.

Reading between the lines, the asset recovery proposal suggests the BSV coalition’s long game is to leverage Wright’s claims to be Satoshi to somehow gain control of more than 1.1 million bitcoin (BTC) that were mined by Satoshi early on, and have remained untouched since Satoshi’s disappearance.

If that’s their goal, they are still far away from it. The issue is not whether keys alone confer legal ownership – ultimately, they don’t – but whether tokens can be moved or spent without them. Ultimately, they can’t.

Wright and Calvin Ayre’s effective control of the low-value BSV blockchain means they can implement whatever ludicrous notary-censorship subroutine they want. But even if they manage to trick some U.S. district judge into thinking that this is how blockchains are supposed to work, the Satoshi BTC keys are not going to simply appear out of thin air.

The end of an error

With the Norway judgment, it seems reasonable that Craig Wright’s pathetic tale is nearing its last days of even marginal relevance. Anyone who still believes his unsupported claims at this point deserves what they get, as far as I’m concerned.

Yet, there is one tantalizing question that still haunts me: to quote the great Aretha Franklin, Who’s zoomin’ who? Specifically, are Craig Wright and allies like Calvin Ayre and Jimmy Nguyen all in on this together? Or is Wright alone defrauding his nominal allies as well as the public?

The arcana are definitely not worth most people’s time and energy to sort out, but there is reason to believe Wright saw Ayre as a potential financial savior after the Australian Tax Office uncovered one of Wright’s earlier frauds and levied a big fine in 2015 – just as his claims to be Satoshi became public.

It’s easy to imagine Wright convincing Ayre that he’s really Satoshi, and that there was money to be made from it. It’s particularly easy to imagine because Calvin Ayre does not seem like a very smart man.

It is obviously unacceptable that Craig Wright has managed to waste so much of everyone’s time, energy and money with his little charade. But there may be some cold comfort in the idea that his biggest victim is a callow billionaire who let greed override his (apparently limited) critical faculties.

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David Z. Morris is CoinDesk's Chief Insights Columnist. He holds Bitcoin, Ethereum, and small amounts of other crypto assets.

David Z. Morris is CoinDesk's Chief Insights Columnist. He holds Bitcoin, Ethereum, and small amounts of other crypto assets.