The Real Problem With Nocoiners

OPINION
Marc Hochstein
Feb 19, 2018 at 03:35 UTC  |  Updated  Feb 19, 2018 at 22:16 UTC

Marc Hochstein is the managing editor of CoinDesk. 

The following article originally appeared in CoinDesk Weekly, a custom-curated newsletter delivered every Sunday exclusively to our subscribers.


A nocoiner, according to Urban Dictionary, is someone who has no bitcoin. But not everyone who has no bitcoin is necessarily a nocoiner.

Rather, what makes a nocoiner a nocoiner is not simply the absence of cryptocurrency from his investment portfolio, but his sanctimonious attitude about it.

Urban Dictionary's definition, which was posted in December - about the time the word entered wide usage in the bitcoin community - goes on to describe nocoiners as:

"....people who missed their opportunity to buy Bitcoin at a low price ... and who [are] now bitter at having missed out. The nocoiner takes out his or her bitterness on Bitcoin Hodlers, by constantly claiming that Bitcoin will crash, is a scam, is a bubble, or other types of easily refuted FUD."

In other words, a nocoiner is full of what philosophers call ressentiment, defined by La Wik as "a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one's own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat."

The Twitter user known as @crackbagged picked up on this psychological insight in a Medium post in June of last year, warning fellow bitcoiners not to gloat when the price reaches $1 million:

"The people you told about Bitcoin may turn on you and assault you. You might be accused of witchcraft and thrown down a well, or worse. The mind of a nocoiner (a person who has no Bitcoin) is a dangerous place."

Marco Santori, a lawyer who's represented bitcoin startups since the early days and now the president and chief legal officer of wallet provider Blockchain, recently tweeted his distaste for the word "nocoiner," writing that "it has a bitter us-vs-them flavor to it" and "smacks of partisan tribalism."

But nocoiners engage in tribal signalling at least as much as bitcoiners. The nocoiner isn't just skeptical or even bearish about bitcoin. He feigns epistemic certainty that it will fail.

A nocoiner doesn't simply express doubt about the use cases for cryptocurrency - he declares, unequivocally, that there are no use cases at all, in the face of evidence to the contrary. (A subset of nocoiners will assert that the only uses are criminal, implicitly committing the logical fallacy of appeal to the law.)

The nocoiner mocks the bitcoiner's evangelical fervor, but he is every bit as religious in his convictions - and nowhere near as endearing.       

The first use of "nocoiner" on Twitter is believed to have been in February 2017, though the term's apparently been used in 4chan forums for several years. But nocoiners have arguably been around since long before Satoshi's white paper. As long as humans have walked the Earth, perhaps.

In the late 19th century, Nietzsche compared the nocoiners of the day to tarantulas: "In all their lamentations soundeth vengeance ... and being judge seemeth to them bliss."

Mea culpa

Cards on the table: I myself was a proto-nocoiner in the late 1990s, a good 10 years before bitcoin's Genesis block.

Working at a daily banking newspaper (a phrase that will be indecipherable to our grandchildren), I sneered at the dot-com boom and regularly gawked at F**ked Company, a website that printed unvetted rumors of layoffs and bankruptcies at the era's highflying startups (what an edgy name, I thought then).

Incredulous about market valuations for companies with no profits or even revenues, I rolled my eyes and looked forward to the day when the the internet bubble would burst. Once this nonsense is over, I thought, we can concentrate on writing about serious companies. Like Countrywide, ha ha.

In my defense, a lot of those tech companies I scoffed at were indeed frivolous, and most went belly-up or got acquired. But the internet still transformed the economy (though the financial services industry less so) and the subsequent mortgage boom and bust were far more destructive, all things considered.

Even Fast Company is still around, while the tawdry gossip site that spoofed the magazine's name is long forgotten. Its rapier-like subtlety lives on at the r/buttcoin subreddit.

To be clear: The lesson from that era was not that we should revere entrepreneurs or accept all technologists' claims unchallenged. Rather, keep an open mind, think beyond the quarterly metrics Wall Street obsesses over, question your assumptions about how the world will always work - and don't confuse a beautiful horse (the world wide web, bitcoin) with the flies buzzing around its rear end (Pets.com, Mt. Gox).

In other words, you don't have to hold or even like bitcoin. Just don't be a nocoiner.

Bitcoin and money image via Shutterstock

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