Representing Monero at the Oslo Freedom Forum: A Report from Taipei

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Oslo Freedom Forum in Taipei, Taiwan. As a member of the Monero community I was ironically the only person at the event that paid with Bitcoin.

One of the first things that struck me about the conference is the fact that the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), which organizes the Oslo Freedom Forum, is not a neutral organization. Lets get the obvious out of the way first: Guantanmo is still open, Assange is in jail. If the US tried to portrait itself as the good guy, it just wouldn't work.

So the event was not really about Human Rights. It was a carefully crafted experience, similar to a TED talk event. Mixed in with the Human Rights speakers, local politicians from the DPP and the NPP got the chance to present themselves as Human Rights heroes. Which they are not. They are just local politicians doing their thing.

It was basically a propaganda event where people gave prepared speeches to drive home the fact that other countries commit Human Rights atrocities too. The place where the event was held was very bougie.

I skipped the second part of the presentations and had a conversation with one of the Bitcoin bros that I met at the Bitcoin session earlier. The session was an opportunity for beginners to learn about bitcoin. I witnessed firsthand how easily conversations about Bitcoin can be derailed by privacy. It gets technical real fast, to a point where it is completely infeasible for the average person to use bitcoin in an adversarial environment and not mess up.

The session was recorded by one of the attendees who kindly provided the footage. Here is the part about privacy for example. The Bitcoin people are overall very cool and have the right attitudes about freedom, censorship resistance, etc. But the thing is this: It makes zero sense for Human Rights activists in adversarial environments to use Bitcoin.

Take a look at the official Bitcoin HRF guide for non governmental organizations To spare you the effort to read all of this: It essentially recommends that the NGOs run their own btcpayserver to collect donations. Despite the fact that it would be much easier and safer to just use Monero or Zcash.

The HRF guide was written in collaboration with the Btcpolicy Institute, which has former Booz Allen Hamilton employees on its pay roll and writes longs effort posts about how Bitcoin is a strategic asset for US interests.

So what to make of this? we have to find the answer to two questions:

Is the HRF a front for the US intelligence community to frame US interests in the language of Human Rights?

The biggest Human Rights atrocities in the last decades were committed in the name of the "war on terror". Millions of people have been murdered in wars that were started because of lies and half truths. The US has systematically tortured people in Guantanamo and killed innocent people with drones that were operated from thousands of miles away. (the most cowardly way to wage war in human history)

The mass surveillance and constant invasion of our rights to privacy are a result of this same "war on terror". The HRF does a great job at diverting attention away from this simple fact. Our most basic rights get clawed away. The Human Rights heroes in the west get thrown in jail and the culprits get listened to on TV. Meanwhile the HRF paints Human Rights stories as these stories that happen in far away lands.

How do we make sure that the interests of the privacy community get respected in the Human Rights debate?

The people that want to encroach on our right to privacy are the same people that are responsible for the war crimes and drone murders that were committed in the name of the "war on terror". The timid way to go about this is to abide by the rules of their fake narratives to justify the "war on terror". This is the strategy that the TOR project also uses to get funding from the US government.

People need privacy in places that the drone murderers can't reach, so tools like TOR get funded. Zcash takes a similar approach in the way it presents itself. They develop very solid technology similar to the tor project, but at the same time distance themselves from criminals and the supposed bad guys in the "war on terror" narrative.

The Zcash foundation funded a long report about Bitcoin privacy that is mentioned in the HRF ngo guide.

It also mentions "privacy coins" in the second section of the document, but fails to arrive at the right conclusion that Bitcoin is just completely useless in adversarial environments. This clearly shows the limits of the timid approach.

Monero on the other hand goes all the way to the other end of the spectrum and proudly proclaims to be the coin for criminals. This immediately makes it the least dangerous coin from a political perspective. It basically takes the losing position from the very beginning.

The real criminals are the people on the other side. We should not forget this. The people that put Assange in jail. The people that cowardly murdered people with drones. The people that started the war in Iraq on the basis of a complete fabrication. Millions of people died as a result of this. Thousands were tortured. The same fake stories and arguments that were used to commit these atrocities are being used to attack our right to privacy.

We have to realize that the goals of the Zcash and Monero community are the same. We all want to protect our right to privacy. The issue is that Zcash is too timid and Monero is too out of touch with the political reality. We waste our time with useless infighting and debating Bitcoiners (many of which share our values).

We should focus on the real enemies. The people behind the advancing encroachment on our right to privacy. The people behind the "war on terror". The cowardly drone murderers. They are the enemies of the people. They are the real criminals. They are the scum of the earth hiding in our midst. We should not be timid in calling out the real criminals. "Privacy is normal" is not enough. "You are the real criminals" is the right response.

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Here is a funny clip where I tell a former SEC employee that taxes are also used for war and not just to fund schools and roads: