"We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas."
written on a phone during a bagel delivery shift, forgive any inchoate ideas or messy writing
Yesterday, Wired and Gizmodo published articles alledgedly unmasking the psuedononymous creator of Bitcoin , Satoshi Nakamoto, as Craig Steven Wright. The ensuing uproar on the internet has led to a set of debates about whether PGP keys alledgedly linking the two were forged (seems like they were) and accusations that the entire story is a carefully planned hoax. The calls for "mathematical proof" of this identity and proliferating conspiracy theories about the Satoshi Nakamoto reminds me of another search for the true identity of a masked psuedonynomous figure: Subcommandante Marcos . The connection between the cases of Subcommandante Marcos and Satoshi Nakamoto are illuminating, helping throw into relief the politics of the mask and the compulsive desire we have to ascribe causation to things. My goal with this post is not to enter the debate over the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto but to focus on the politics of psuedonymity and the mask.
In a 2013 article, the philosopher Thomas Nail wrote a Huffpo article on the politics of the mask exploring the role of the mask in zapatista struggles. I turn to this article because while a large amount has been writtten about the politics of anonymity and psuedonymity, I find his three points capture effectively the politics of masking and want to use them in my reflection on the role of Satoshi Nakamoto:
1. The mask rejects the political representation of the party and state.
The Zapatistas said that after five-hundred years of invisiblity they "donned their masks to become visible". While this seems like a paradox, this insight highlights how the mask simutaneously funcions as both something that conceals, refusing any attempt by the state to recognize the subject of action and as something that reveals, dictating the terms by which you are recognized. Here, refusing representation or recognition by the state means refusing the ""binds" or "cunning" of recognition, where recogntion is predicated on conforming to a specific category. In the case of Satoshi Nakamoto, we see this anarchist refusal of recognition serves both to protect the actual figure of Satoshi from state violence while giving Satoshi the ability to present only the details about themself that they choose.
2. The mask creates a political universalism
When the state unmasked Subcommandante Marcos, he responded by unmasking himself and showing that behind the mask he was.....a mirror. The mask is a political technologly which, in refusing recognition, transforms the wearer of the mask into a universal subject. Considering that the crypto-anarchit nature of bitcoin itself is a technology that undermines national boundaries and particularity, it seems fitting that Satoshi would don a mask. The search to reveal who Satoshi is further shows the universalizing potential: Satoshi has been revealed, at different times, to be someone in a wheelchair with ALS, a rather dull austrailian businessman and a young japanese hacker. Everytime attempts are made to particularize the universal bearer of the mask, people are forced to contend with the fact that anyone, a hacker sitting next to them at a conference , a man in a wheelchair, could be Satoshi.
3. The mask supports direct democracy and egalitarianism.
The habit of always assigning an author, always seeking to recognize the individual creator, is a habit which affirms hierarchy. This is the same for the media that always searches for a "leader" of a political movement as it is for the search forthe genius coder behind a technology. It is a habit creates a world where there are experts and the rest, a world where the vast unrecognized labor that goes into creating any technology is effaced. By donning a mask, Satoshi let the code speak for itself and did not attempt to secure some sort of status from the creation .
What then does the poltiiics of the mask reveal about drive to dox Satoshi? It is my hope that a reflection on the mask as a political technology reveals that the attempt to secure some sort of true identity and ascribe causation to the technologies we use is a recactionary one. We should not let ourselves be distracted search for heroes but insteaad work together to develop the ideas, technologies and forms of social organization of another world.
 In case my dear readers take my interest in bitcoin as some form of anarcho-capitalism, my interest in bitcoin is entirely in the ability of the public ledger to provide a decentralized, cryptographically secure means of verification. The uses of this technology for anti-authoritarian communist ends are manifold and probably one of the most exciting recent crypto-anarchist inventions. I ,of course, believe that communism requires the abolition of the value form and don't envision a decentralized currency as part of any emancipatory social or political horizon.
 For thosewho donot know the tale of SubcommandanteMarcos, let me briefly recount it. Subcomandante Marcos was the masked figure who was part of the leadership of the EZLN, thearmed wing of the Zapatista movementthat lead the 1994 uprising in Chiapas. He also has written prolifically, from political philosophy to novels, childrenbooks and even erotica. Figured as a "leader", the Mexican state put agreat deal of effort in unmasking himand thereby discounting the Zapatista movementnot as anindigenous uprising but as leftist manipulation of naive indigenous peoples. Marcos' engagement with psuedonymity has been perhaps one of the most interesting engagements with the politics of the mask. In 1996, after the Mexican State revealed him to be a radicalized student from UNAM, Marcos responded by revealing that behind the mask wasa mirror, that his identity was nothing other than a universal identity of all those resisting oppression. More recently, the EZLN declared that Marcos never existed and was a collective hallucination that was a necessary tactic in their revolutionary communication strategy.
 Particularly relevant for me is the work of Anthropologists Michael Taussig and Gabriella Coleman and the writings of TIqqun, Giles Delueze and Felix Guatarri. I am also inspired by the use of the mask & psuedonym in insurrectionary social movements, from the Luddites to the Black Block and (evidently) the zapatistas.
 I am particularly influenced by Patchen Markell's Bound by Recognition and Elizabeth Povenelli's Cunning of Recognition.
 Satoshi did however make an immense profit from bitcoin. We see in this profit precisely how bitcoin, as a form of digital currency, is not an emancipatory technology - that it merely reproduces the same forms of alienated value that exist with other bearers of capitalist value. Hence, the blockchain as the only really anarchist or revolutionary piece of technology, bitcoin is just the same old wolf in newer, higher tech, clothing.