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The defamation case Wright v. McCormack is telling

This post originally appeared on ZeMing M. Gao’s website, and we republished with permission from the author. Read the full piece here.

The defamation case of Wright v. McCormack is telling in multiple ways, not only in the result itself, but also in how the BTC world and cryptoverse have reacted to it.

In Wright v. McCormack, British/Australian scientist Dr. Craig S. Wright sued podcaster Peter McCormack for libel (defamation in writing). McCormack in a series of posts on social media called Wright a fraud for claiming himself to be Satoshi. Wright sued McCormack in a U.K. court for libel.

The outcome in the lower court: Wright won a judgment against McCormack on all libel accounts. But the judge awarded Wright only a symbolic £1 for the damages.

Potential appeals: Because McCormack gave up the truth defense in the trial, there will be no path of an appeal by McCormack on the libel verdict itself. But Wright might appeal on the matter of the lower court’s determination of the amount of damages.

The significance of the libel case Wright v. McCormack

This is an important case, and should have sent shockwaves to the crypto community, because who is Satoshi Nakamoto the inventor of Bitcoin, and especially whether Craig Wright is Satoshi, is enormously consequential, not merely for history, but more importantly for the present and future direction of the developments of Bitcoin and Blockchain.

This is because both the identity of Satoshi and what Craig Wright stands for are at the center of a fundamental base Blockchain protocol war. Not only that, it extends to an ideological war and a war on morals and values, due to the philosophical, economic, legal and social differences between the two opposing sides.

These matters are all critically related to the identity of the inventor of Bitcoin. And the identity of the inventor of Bitcoin is a critical part in the libel case of Wright v. McCormack.

Libel by definition is making written statements that are false and defamatory. With rare exceptions, to be libelous, the statements must be false. Because the thrust of McCormack’s statements is that Wright’s claiming himself to be the inventor of Bitcoin is fraudulent, the case naturally turns its focus on whether Wright is Satoshi or not, something of significance not only to the parties of the case but also to the world.

The simple facts about the libel case

The verdict of the case is simple and straight: The court found that McCormack committed libel against Craig Wright for publicly calling Wright a fraud for claiming himself to be Satoshi.

But the court also found the evidence for damages presented by Craig Wright unsupported, thus awarding only a symbolic £1 for the damages.

(Note, the civil lawsuit is bifurcated into stages: a verdict, and a calculation of damages caused by the losing party.)

Besides, the judge was clearly impressed by McCormack’s mannerism and was sympathetic of him.

And if you look further, you might find some ironies in this case:

McCormack’s giving up on truth defense deprived Wright’s opportunity to present evidence to the world through court; and

Wright’s resilience to harms of libel saved McCormack from financial ruin.

An important twist

It is how the verdict was reached that became a point of confusion to the outsiders, especially if they learn about it from manipulative sources.

There was no trial. McCormack and his supporters simply gave up on defending the libel charges after seeing “a crazy amount of evidence” Wright produced to prove that he is Satoshi.

What does this imply? Well, there is an honest and commonsensical way to understand it, there is also a dishonest and manipulative way to do it.

In a defamation case, the defendant only has the following possible defenses:

  1. What I said is true (the truth defense),
  2. I did not say it,
  3. What I said is a pure matter of opinion in its nature and has nothing to do with facts,
  4. I have a special legal privilege to say what I said,
  5. The plaintiff has consented to what I said,
  6. There is a law that specifically permits me to say what I said, or
  7. Everyone knows what I said wasn’t serious and no one in the world could have believed what I said because it was meant to be satire.

In McCormack’s case, only the above first one, namely the truth defense, is available because all other options are inapplicable. Therefore, McCormack only had two choices facing the evidence produced by Wright: either go to trial to prove that what he said is true, or admit to the libel charges.

To prove what he said was true, McCormack must prove that Wright indeed fraudulently claimed to be Satoshi, which in turn practically requires McCormack to prove that Wright was not Satoshi.

McCormack started with defiance by publicly claiming what he said was true. But after the parties exchanged the evidence in a pretrial proceeding, everything suddenly changed. He first gave it up entirely by choosing not to further respond which would have led to default judgment, but subsequently received aid and advice from a third party to take the following defense strategy:

-Even if I admit what I said was false and defamatory, it did not cause any serious harm to the Plaintiff.

That was the strategy McCormack stuck with. Given the dire reality he was facing, that conceding strategy was the only one available for him to possibly avoid a large damage verdict against him. There was no honorable victory in this strategy, but only pecuniary survival. For that, McCormack can only consider himself lucky because the strategy did pay off in its own limited sense.

The media reactions

The media, mainstream or social, is largely muted, pretending nothing has happened. But when the media does report or comment on it, it spins the outcome as a victory for McCormack, basing the assertions entirely on a negative comment made by the judge on some of the evidence provided by Wright to prove damages, and the judge’s awarding a symbolic £1 damages to Wright.

What the public get from the media are untruthful headlines and statements to this effect: Wright filed suit as the self-claiming Bitcoin inventor against a journalist but lost the case and got nothing. What a blatant lie.

Some people even try to make it sound as if McCormack saw meager evidence against him and decided it was not worthwhile to refute. McCormack is therefore a hero even.

That is an even more blatant lie. The fact is that McCormack saw a “crazy amount of evidence” and gave up the defense, knowing a substantive defense was going to be too expensive and unwinnable anyway.

Every observer of this case knows it. McCormack himself also admits to it.

Yet it did not stop people from making dishonest statements and arguments.

‘Giving up the truth defense’ and ‘admitting the truth’

Some supporters of McCormack emphasize the subtle difference between “giving up the truth defense” and “admitting the truth,” and claim McCormack did not admit anything about Wright being Satoshi.

Technically, there is indeed a difference between the above two. The ultimate goal of defamation law is not about establishing truth itself. It’s to protect a person from defamatory acts.

But the truth is a critical part of a defamation case. It is the primary defense by the defendant, and no defendant would choose not to defend on the truth if he believes what he said is true, especially when no other alternative defenses are available.

Therefore, in a practical sense, in the case like this one, giving up the truth defense is equivalent to admitting the falsehood of the Defendant’s defamatory statements.

Therefore, claiming that McCormack did not admit anything, and the case did not prove anything, all based on legal technicality, is simply wicked sophistry.

At the same time, one should be cautious in claiming that the case has definitely and legally proven that Wright is Satoshi. Technically, it is not the ultimate purpose of the court of a defamation case to decide on the truth about the plaintiff, but rather the falsehood and defamatory nature of the defendant’s statements. The two are not exactly the same, although they are logically and closely correlated.

In this sense, to those who are concerned of the truth in this case, it is not only the verdict itself, but also exactly what evidence was presented in the case that is important. “A crazy amount of evidence” was presented by Wright to McCormack in a pretrial evidence exchange. Unfortunately, however, because this case didn’t see a trial, the evidence is not available for the public to view.

Nevertheless, the proceedings of the case, including the evidence and the verdict, do carry strong inferences. One may reach an inferential conclusion based on the fact, one way or the other. The inferences add to other evidence that is already available outside of this case. Altogether, it leads to a probabilistic conclusion. See further below.

Setting the legal technicality aside, it deserves further attention that expensive litigation like this is not only a service provided by the court system to the litigants but also a public service to the society at large. It is not only a venue to solve legal disputes, but also a venue to test and prove truth, even if the court may not explicitly declare a verdict on the truth itself.

The public service to the society at large as a secondary function of the court system has been overlooked in the past but is becoming more and more important as the society has entered into an increasingly prevalent and confusing disinformation age. It will be harder and harder to prove the truth through media including the social network environment where no formal and reliable process is available to be applied for checking and testing the facts.

In some important cases, a court proceeding may be the only reliable resort for the general public to find truth. This is not to expect the court system to formally become an arbitrator of truth, but to effectively utilize the court proceedings in which facts and evidence are subjected to a process that is vigorously contested according to strict evidentiary rules. When the “court of the public opinion” manifested in social media is clearly failing, this may become the last-resort hope in the society.

Given this, the public should apply commonsense and objective reasoning based on evidence and processes manifested through the court system. For important public matters like the identity of Satoshi, the inventor of Bitcoin, the public should treat every independent element of evidence as a factor, this McCormack case being just one of them, put all evidence together according to a probabilistic determination, and evaluate the probability mathematically.

Everything is connected, and increasingly so. It is time to be done with the mentality of seeing things in a mechanically isolated pieces and expecting an absolute proof to separately come out from each piece, and learn to evaluate all available evidence holistically with a proper probabilistic model. See Mathematical proof that Craig Wright is Satoshi.

Therefore, put everything together, reach your conclusion. Don’t be fooled by dishonest and manipulative assertions and presentations in the media.

Why such blatant distortion of the facts?

If the verdict of Wright v. McCormack is telling, BTC community and cryptoverse’s reaction to the verdict is perhaps even more telling, because it makes one wonder: Why, why such blatant distortion of the facts?

It is self-interest driven agenda and psychology. It is not because the above identified facts and relevancies are not obvious, but precisely because they are, and they are touching the nerves of the stakeholders of BTC and the cryptoverse.

To put it simply, the identity of Satoshi, especially the identity of Craig Wright being Satoshi, is the number one threat to a fake industry called crypto, a diversion from the true Bitcoin/Blockchain technology. The threat is likely even greater than strict enforcement of securities and finance laws and regulations.

From large corporations to smaller groups and to regular individuals profiting and hoping to profit from the dirty cryptos, they all want Satoshi to be unidentified, because a mysterious and unidentified icon is very convenient for the crypto narratives, perfect for manipulations.

Even if a real person is to be identified, they specifically don’t want Craig Wright to be Satoshi, because he is the worst they can imagine: strong belief in conservative values; firm support to the rule of law with a rude spite against lawlessness; believing in true values and utilities; holding a contemptuous stance against purely speculative opportunism let alone Ponzi schemes which are common in the cryptoverse, etc.—all painting just the opposite of the antigovernment-liberal-rebel image created and imagined by BTC and the crypto world.

And Wright’s vision about Bitcoin, blockchain and the new Internet makes the bias (or even hatred) against him even more intensified. Wright openly claims that the real Bitcoin Blockchain (not BTC, but BSV) will replace almost all other blockchains (and the crypto parasites on them). In order to do that, Bitcoin will become the one and only base blockchain for the new Internet that integrates Bitcoin Blockchain with IPv6, and be able to support or subsume all Blockchain-related transactions and activities, thanks to its unbounded scalability and extremely low cost. These statements are understandably offensive to many.

He is not only saying this, but has devoted himself to this cause since 2016, when he ended several years of inactivity after he made himself disappear from the Bitcoin scene circa 2012 due to frustration and disappointment. He secured funding in billions, created a 200-member strong research company called nChain, became the number one inventor in the space boasting over 1,000 patents and filings, and restored Bitcoin blockchain to what was designed according to the White Paper. It is the Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV). As of today, BSV’s actual transaction volume is already 10-50 times that of BTC, at transaction costs thousands of times lower than BTC. An ecosystem of infrastructure and application companies and projects is rapidly growing and emerging.

It’s understandable that Wright’s vision and work, plus his brutal bluntness and an appearance of lacking modesty (at least partially a result of having Asperger’s syndrome with an ultrahigh IQ), are intolerable to his opponents.

Simply put, Wright being Satoshi is their worst nightmare.

The reaction to Wright v. McCormack is just one more case to prove the above point. The same forces and motivations played out in another even more significant case which Wright won in November 2021 in a U.S. court, Wright v. Kleiman. So there’s no surprise at this point.

Where the truth stands

Despite the noise, the verdict stands against McCormack for being guilty of libel. The fact that McCormack was saved from financial ruin because Wright couldn’t prove that the libel has caused him serious harm is only ancillary.

In terms of the two men’s respective reputations, only the verdict itself is relevant. No honorable man would find pride in losing a libel case, regardless of the amount of damages awarded. 

For the rest of the world, it’s time to squarely face the truth.

I have done my research and concluded that Craig Wright is Satoshi. No other claim is even serious in comparison.

I wrote my analysis here:


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