‘This is just gonna explode’: How Bitcoin bigwigs’ ‘HonkHonk’ came to fundraise for Canada’s ‘Freedom convoy’
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/02/2022 (297 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Bitcoin investors who want to “orange pill” the world and create a financial system outside of government regulation are rallying to join forces with — and raise money for — the “Freedom convoy” protest in Canada.
The group of five men will exclusively control the donations — which have so far reached around $500,000 CAD — and they say they want to show that cryptocurrencies are the libertarian money of the future.
Such cryptocurrencies are also, experts contend, much harder for any authority to access.
Greg Foss, Jeff Booth and two other men who go by the pseudonyms BTC Sessions and Nobody Cariboo all invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and create videos, books and online courses promoting cryptocurrency as a key component of a future financial system that is free from government oversight.
Now, they’ve teamed up with B.J. Dichter, one of the original organizers of the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa — and pulled in donations from cryptocurrency-rich investors known as “whales” — to raise money for the protest’s anti vaccine-mandate and anti-restrictions cause.
The term “orange pilled” is used in the bitcoin subculture as a play on the concept of taking a “red pill” — made popular in the 1999 film The Matrix and alluding to allowing someone to see through lies to understand the truth about the world. It has also become a popular metaphor among some right-wing groups.
The bitcoin fundraiser is being hosted on the website TallyCoin and has attracted more than 4,000 donors.
“This is just gonna explode. And you know, this is what Bitcoin was made for,” Foss said Monday in a public live chat on Twitter Spaces about the new fundraiser. “GoFundMe just proved the entire use case for Bitcoin. And we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Dichter and Booth did not respond to interview requests for this story.
The convoy, which has been carrying on an occupation-style protest in Ottawa for 11 days, and has inspired other anti-mandate protests across the country, had raised more than $10 million on the fundraising platform GoFundMe. It was started by Alberta woman Tamara Lich, with Dichter having been added later as another organizer.
GoFundMe cancelled the fundraiser, however, after Ottawa police contacted the platform, and it subsequently concluded the cause had become an occupation associated with instances of harassment. GoFundMe is automatically reimbursing the donors to the original campaign.
The cancellation of the fundraiser, while cheered by many residents of Ottawa, Liberal politicians and Ottawa police, who all want the convoy to end, created an immediate backlash from supporters of the convoy, as well as a host of American right-wing politicians, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said it was evidence of bias from GoFundMe.
It also appears to have been a launching pad for Bitcoiners promoting their own anti-establishment messages.
Two days before the GoFundMe was cancelled on Feb 4, an online personality known as “HonkHonk Hodl” had set up an alternative fundraiser — and its pitch for “censorship resistant” fundraising using Bitcoin started to take off.
On Sunday evening, the fund even got a donation of an entire Bitcoin, more than $50,000 CAD from Jesse Powell, who heads Kraken, one of the highest value cryptocurrency exchanges in the world.
“Fix the money, fix the world,” Powell wrote on the fundraiser page, later sharing a screenshot to his Twitter account. “Mandates are immoral. End the madness. Honk Honk!”
Powell did not Monday respond to a media request for comment through his exchange’s media line.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are irreplicable codes that are generated online and can be traded through a publicly accessible database known as the Blockchain. There are a finite number of each cryptocurrency that can be found, or “mined,” and people buy them when they expect their value will rise due to scarcity.
“HonkHonk Hodl” is actually a name for the five men running the fundraiser, said Foss.
Foss said he didn’t come up with the name HonkHonk, but that it simply refers to the honking that has typified much of the trucker convoy protest so far. The “hodl” part of the name is a part of crypto-speak.
“It stands for ‘hold your Bitcoin,’ but it was written in a time of market stress and the guy that wrote it, said, I’m going to ‘hodl’ my bitcoin forever,” Foss said.
Foss, 58, is from Oakville, Ont., and had a long career in the financial industry before retiring and diving headfirst into Bitcoin enthusiasm.
“I believe it to be the most beautiful financial and technological innovation I’ve ever seen,” he told the Star in an interview Monday. “And it was made for situations like this weekend, where you have a centralized platform that decides upon on their own volition that the funds raised on that platform are not going to be distributed to the people that the funds were raised for. And it’s very scary.”
Foss said he’s double vaccinated but sympathizes with parts of the “Freedom convoy” because he doesn’t think the government should enforce vaccination through mandates. And while he doesn’t want the financial system in Canada to collapse, he said, he wants to see a libertarian financial system built on Bitcoin rather than “fiat money” (government issued currency).
That’s the ultimate goal of the Bitcoin community he’s a part of, Foss said.
“Fix the money, fix the world,” he said, parroting the same slogan used by Powell in his donation message. “Fiat money is the cause of so much of our problems. Fiat money is an elitist money.”
The notion that government, media and economic structures are foisting lies upon the public underlines many of the ideas on display in a HonkHonkHodl blog, which is part reporting from the Ottawa protests and part political manifesto.
Written by Nobody Cariboo, whose first name is Nick, it calls for the outright elimination of “legacy media” and the replacement of Canada’s parliamentary democracy with a government overseen by “elder councils” that will fire politicians who lie.
The ultimate stated aim, however, is the upending of the current economic system, which the blog says is the root of all evil.
“‘The Bank of Canada’ is the final boss in this battle. Without monetary freedom, we will always be at a disadvantage to the politicians seeking to control us,” the blog says.
Foss says his view is that “Fiat Money” and the Bank of Canada will “have to exist” but that in an ideal world, everyone stores their wealth in something completely decentralized, such as cryptocurrencies.
On the Twitter Spaces talk, he put it bluntly.
“None of us want the legacy system to fail outright,” he said. “I just want to develop a parallel system that will be much more resilient than this current system we live in. And that’s happening, right? Because so many people were not Bitcoiners until they saw what happened to the GoFundMe.”
The money raised by the Bitcoin investors, according to Foss, is currently sitting in a cryptocurrency wallet for which all five men jointly own the key. That means use of the money — for legal fees for the truckers, or to hand over the money entirely to Freedom Convoy organizers, is in their hands.
“At some point, we could hand it right off to the truckers, because the people that are donating their Bitcoin, that’s what they want to happen,” Foss said. “We’ve only had one meeting. And, you know, it could be anything, and it could also go into when we could keep it as an endowment, right? Because if I think if Bitcoin attains the price that I think it could, in five years time, we’re going to they’re going to want to have held some of the Bitcoins rather than spend it.”
Bitcoin transactions are not centralized through banks, making them the more difficult to track by law enforcement, says Candyce Kelshall, president of the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies in Vancouver.
She said the diffuse nature of cryptocurrency puts it outside the traditional reach of police forces, which are often unfamiliar with how those systems work.
“You have to know the groups and pages where you will find wallets or you have to know the individuals hosting wallets. So you have to be part of some aspect of the movement or be familiar with the sites frequented,” she said.
She said cryptocurrency campaigns, alongside more commonplace fundraising websites, are becoming increasingly popular tools of fundraising for anti-government groups. They also allow for direct financial aid from highly motivated supporters.
“In the past, it might be one or two guys with deep pockets,” she said. “Now it is small donations, collected quickly, from a large number of people.”
The donations to the HonkHonk campaign range from as little as a few cents to a few hundred dollars, with a handful of very large donations in the thousands of dollars.
Alex McKeen is a Vancouver-based reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_mckeen
Grant LaFleche is a St. Catharines-based investigative reporter with the Standard. Reach him via email: email@example.com