Peter McCormack on Silk Road and Bitcoin: as a Cocaine User—It Was Brilliant


As governments and law enforcement agencies love to remind us, Bitcoin, just like everyday paper cash, does have a darker side. Many people entered crypto through shady deals and darknet markets. Yet some managed to get their lives in order and realized that Bitcoin was just so much more than darknet cash.

Peter McCormack, the host of the popular What Bitcoin Did and Defiance podcasts, embodies the story of reformation and success. In a conversation with Max Keidun, he shared his thoughts on the mysterious introvert Satoshi Nakamoto, talked about his best interviews and Bitcoin maximalism. And of course, shared the turbulent story of his life.

How did you discover Bitcoin? You mentioned it was through Silk Road, but can we go into details with that?

That was cocaine and advertising, and my friends.

My friend texted me or maybe called me. He said: “Oh, Pete, I found this website where you can buy coke online.” I said: “What do you mean?” He said: “Yeah, it’s like Amazon, but it’s got all the different drugs and you can buy them online.”

I was like, really? What is it, that Silk Road? So I put it in Google and I couldn’t find the website, because it turned out you needed Tor. So I ended up on what I think was Gizmodo or Gawker, one of their articles about it. And I was just looking at the photos from the website. I was like, “this cannot be real.” So I phoned my friend back, and he was like: “No, no, it’s totally real, my friends are using it. You need this thing called Bitcoin and you’ve got to get a Tor browser.” I was like, “what’s Bitcoin?” and he was like, “oh, it’s just digital money.”

At no point was I thinking about learning about Bitcoin or decentralized money. I’ve spent no time looking at how it worked, what it meant. All I knew is somebody said it’s money they can’t trace to you, because that’s what people thought at the time, and you can use it on this website. So I went on LocalBitcoins, that’s where I did my first Bitcoin purchase. It was back when you had to have a photo of you, with a message on it. And then you would do the bank transfer and be held in escrow and it would transfer it to you.

I remember buying my first Bitcoin, it was probably $100 at that point. And then I downloaded the Tor browser and eventually got onto this website. I sent my Bitcoin there and bought some cocaine. And then I was doing it all the time because the website was brilliant. They had this review system, so you could just order the dealers in terms of the reviews and get really good high-quality uncut cocaine.

And as a cocaine user—it was brilliant. It was, until it wasn’t, until you end up doing too much. But yeah, what a great amazing system. I didn’t look at it and go, “isn’t Bitcoin amazing?” I actually was like, “isn’t the Silk Road amazing?” It’s like: wow, I’m getting very high-quality drugs with good customer service with no risk, with little or no danger as well. Isn’t this better than prohibition?

It immediately struck me how amazing this was. I didn’t really care about Bitcoin at that point. And then I just started trading some Bitcoin just for fun, made a lot, then lost it all like a moron.

How much did you make?

I turned 2,000 into like 40,000 and then lost a lot. I was trading ETH, and I was trading Tesla stock as well. I just didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest. Made and lost it, forgot about it. And then I just forgot about Bitcoin.

But then my mom got sick. I said: “We should try the cannabis,” my dad was like: “How do you get it?” I was like: “Remember, I used to do that stuff,” and he was like: “Well, that’s it, buy some Bitcoin and do it.” So he gave me the money, Bitcoin was like 600$ or 700$, it was December 16, I found Coinbase, bought Bitcoin, and that’s it, here we are now.

At which point did you understand actually that you wanted to do the podcast about Bitcoin?

I was finally fascinated by Bitcoin. At first, it was a tool for the Silk Road. But then it was like: okay, this is something, let’s look deeper into it. I was more into the thought of cryptocurrency and blockchains. It was like: wow, I can have this private currency here, and I’ve got Bitcoin here, and then I’ve got this banking currency called Ripple, and there are all these other ones that just did different things.

I lived through the dot-com boom. I was like, this is the same thing. And that’s why I always say to people: don’t be overly hard on shitcoiners. Just be a little bit empathetic. These people aren’t just being morons for the sake of it. I get it, I believed it, I was like, “this makes sense.” And then over time I realized it was all bollocks and didn’t make sense, and became hardened to Bitcoin. But that was after starting a podcast.

And then I just became more and more interested in it. I always took more of an interest in the freedom/human rights side of things then I did in tech as such. But you have to then learn a bit about the tech anyway, a little bit.

Watch the full interview on ForkLog Live YouTube channel.

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