Newsweek’s Satoshi ‘Reveal’ Eight Years On

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  • Eight years ago yesterday, Newsweek ‘revealed’ the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto
  • Unemployed stroke victim Dorian Nakamoto strongly denied the claims, with the author getting pilloried for her investigative methods
  • With hindsight, is it possible that Dorian Nakamoto pulled an extremely fast one?

It was supposed to be a monumental moment, possibly the biggest single event in Bitcoin’s history, but it turned out to be a dud. The man who was supposed to be the face behind the name Satoshi Nakamoto, that of Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator, wanted nothing more than a free lunch and then to be left alone. Eight years ago yesterday, former laborer, polltaker, and substitute teacher math teacher Dorian Nakamoto denied being the creator of Bitcoin after a Newsweek investigation led them to his San Franciscan door, yet his face is still indelibly linked to Bitcoin. Eight years later, however, is it possible that his reaction was in fact a masterstroke of deflection?

(Not) The Face Behind Bitcoin

Newsweek’s Satoshi Nakamoto reveal, The Face Behind Bitcoin, arrived on March 6, 2014, with writer Leah McGrath Goodman named as the author. Incidentally, it was McGrath Goodman who, in the wake of the Wired and Gizmodo pieces ‘outing’ Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto in December 2015, revealed that a trove of supporting documents were “shopped around quite aggressively” at the time, including to her.

McGrath Goodman had tracked Dorian Nakamoto down following a two-month investigation, during which she learnt that he had a degree in physics and came from a family steeped in tech and engineering. She also discovered that he lived in the same neighborhood as Bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney. And, you know, there was the name.

A Free Lunch and a Denial

McGrath Goodman’s attempt to interview Dorian Nakamoto about Bitcoin was met with denials and, eventually, a police presence. After her piece was published, the press descended on him, which resulted in a more comprehensive denial…after a free lunch provided by an Associated Press reporter, who no doubt thought he was getting a scoop.

This harassment of the frankly baffled-looking Mr Nakamoto led McGrath Goodman and Newsweek to be pilloried for their impact on his life, causing Newsweek to put out a statement the following day saying they stood by their story.

On March 19, Dorian Nakamoto issued a strong rebuttal to McGrath Goodman’s claims, saying that he had first heard of Bitcoin when his son had told him that the Newsweek reporter wanted to speak to him about it just weeks before.

Nakamoto also revealed that he was struggling to make ends meet, was still recovering from prostate surgery, and had suffered a stroke just six months previously. He absolutely denied being Satoshi Nakamoto and slammed the Newsweek story and the “great deal of confusion and stress” it had caused.

Anecdotal Evidence Supports Mcgrath Goodman’s Case

The story, and Dorian Nakamoto himself, have gone down in Bitcoin history (retold through memes, naturally), but was there actually a kernel of truth that Mr Nakamoto was trying to keep buried by creating a firestorm of sympathy around him?

Arthur Nakamoto, Satoshi Nakamoto’s youngest sibling, had told McGrath Goodman that his brother was a “brilliant man”, before adding more compliments:

I’m just a humble engineer. He’s very focused and eclectic in his way of thinking. Smart, intelligent, mathematics, engineering, computers. You name it, he can do it.

Arthur Nakamoto then told McGrath Goodman that his brother was also “an asshole” who would “never admit to starting Bitcoin”. His daughter, Ilene Mitchell, told McGrath Goodman that she “could see my dad doing something brilliant and not accepting the greater effect of it.”

McGrath Goodman also found that others close to Dorian Nakamoto described him as “extremely intelligent, moody and obsessively private, a man of few words who screens his phone calls, anonymizes his emails and, for most of his life, has been preoccupied with the two things for which Bitcoin has now become known: money and secrecy.”

It’s not hard to see why she was so confident she had her man.

A Masterstroke of Deflection?

The general consensus among Dorian Nakamoto’s family seemed to be that he had the ability to create Bitcoin and a set of core values that seem to chime with those of the cryptocurrency. However, his flat denial (which must be taken into consideration), plus the lack of tangible evidence, suggests that Dorian Nakamoto’s case is as strong (or weak) as those of many other candidates. None of his family members ever recall him actually working on anything like Bitcoin, which also has to count for something.

On reflection, it’s clear to see why Leah McGrath Goodman was so convinced that Dorian Nakamoto was indeed Bitcoin’s creator. However, ‘could’ doesn’t equal ‘did’, and unfortunately for her, and Newsweek, the strong reaction to the imposition placed upon the ailing Mr Nakamoto undermined the actual substance of her research, and ensured that no one will be bothering Dorian Nakamoto ever again with regard to Bitcoin.

Which is exactly what Satoshi would have wanted.