While most of us reeling from school shootings think Cody Wilson is a dangerous gun fanatic, much of crypto-world sees him as a principled warrior worth defending.
Last week, a federal judge barred the activist and founder of Defense Distributed from publishing his 3D-printed weapon blueprints online. Crypto fans have reacted with righteous outrage, just as they have defended other controversial figures, from Alex Jones to Ross Ulbricht of felonious Silk Road fame.
“The groundswell of media hysteria and political grandstanding around this issue is a reminder of the type of resistance any game-changing technology is bound to meet,” Marc Hochstein, CoinDesk’s managing editor, wrote this week.
Hochstein sees the judge’s decision as classic overreach and a dangerous portent of what might happen to crypto if it isn’t “on guard.” If someone isn’t allowed to publish gun recipes, the argument goes, what’s to stop a court from censoring cryptocurrency projects?
Winning this fight could prove crucial for Bitcoin and other crypto projects: if you can't post technical blueprints to guns, banning technical blueprints to crypto too doesn't seem far fetched. https://t.co/gZyWUKRErx
— Peter Todd (@peterktodd) July 30, 2018
There’s one problem with this line of thinking: PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE. Defending Wilson’s extremism is nice as constitutional theory, but Wilson is selling guns, not bumper stickers. Wilson admits his products might be used in murders, which means that defending Wilson is something like ignoring or even enabling a first-degree crime.
It’s all terrible optics for an industry that already has an image problem.
While it’s certainly possible to argue that code is speech, it’s somewhat of a stretch to say gun control is speech control (as the libertarian hub Reason.com does). It seems instead like another example of the First Amendment being weaponized by extremists we should disdain rather than placate (as the A.C.L.U. realized after Charlottesville).
Cody Wilson has always supported mine and other activists work (Assange, .etc) putting his resources at service of other noble causes regardless whether it helps his position personally. Now the community of rich crypto millionaires owes him big time. https://t.co/OfFx3blcG2
— Amir Taaki (@Narodism) August 1, 2018
The blockchain community now finds itself taking a principled stand in favor of an unprincipled, hate-monger. Hochstein is putting us in league with individualists who care so much for freedom that they’re prepared to see other people die for it. Someone who developed Hatreon is not a good front-man for an industry trying to burnish its brand.
“The prohibitionists almost certainly can’t stop innovation or adoption of either blockchains or home manufacturing altogether. But they might slow it down in some places and cause collateral damage,” Hochstein writes, twinning causes that have little in common.
Silk Road defined cryptocurrency in ways that were non-helpful to the goal of widespread acceptance. Aligning crypto with Cody Wilson now seems likely to slow down the industry again, certainly more than the actions of some judge. If crypto folks want to signal their fidelity to the First Amendment, it would be better to champion something more worthy than equipment that maims and kills.