Yesterday, a video was posted on the “Anonymous” YouTube channel in which Yuga Labs is accused of using Nazi symbols in images of NFTs from Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC).
This is not the “Anonymous Official” YouTube channel with more than three and a half million subscribers, but another channel with just over 300,000 subscribers, already known for threatening Elon Musk.
The video by Anonymous of the accusations made against the BAYC NFT collection
Regardless of the channel’s trustworthiness, the images being shown do indeed seem to suggest that images closely resembling Nazi symbols were used in BAYC’s NFTs.
The video shows dozens of images that seem to be traceable to Nazi iconography, even though these images are not immediately recognizable as belonging to that iconography.
However, it is clear that, as they say in the video, after more than a month of investigation several possible points of contact have emerged.
In fact, they claim that without a shadow of a doubt Bored Ape Yacht Club and Yuga Labs used dozens of esoteric symbols that were not only Nazi, but also racist and in support of pedophilia.
Yuga Labs denies the allegations, but back in June it filed a lawsuit against conceptual artist Ryder Ripps who created the RR/BAYC collection with images seemingly identical to the original BAYC collection.
Ripps himself had already raised the issue in early August of the strange similarities between BAYC images and Nazi iconography.
so you're telling me a fully tattooed hindu jew who only eats cheeseburgers named his company "yuga labs" after the "kali yuga", a term neo nazi richard spenser has discussed for 7 years, and the logo for the company looks like a nazi emblem… just by coincidence? lol.. pic.twitter.com/ySBlaqAg0c
— RYDER-RIPPS.ETH 🔜 (@ryder_ripps) August 5, 2022
Thus, Anonymous merely extended its investigation, finding dozens of other suspicious cases.
Yuga Labs denies the allegations
Yuga Labs co-founder Greg Solano, a.k.a. Gordon Goner, claimed back in June that a disinformation campaign was underway against Yuga Labs.
According to Solano, a group of “Jewish, Turkish, Pakistani, and Cuban friends” are falsely accusing them of being Nazis (Ripps grew up in a Jewish family). He also cites a statement by an ADL (Anti-Defamation League) expert that such accusations are not true.
According to Mark Pitcavage, for example the BAYC monkey skull cited by Ripps in no way resembles the Nazi Totenkopf. That is, it would be a trivial resemblance between skulls, detectable in any skull.
Solano called these allegations “insanely far-fetched,” calling this campaign a true conspiracy theory.
Thus, on the one hand there are those who speculate about some sort of Yuga Labs plot aimed at promoting Nazism, while on the other hand there are those who speculate about a scheme aimed at discrediting Yuga Labs and the famous Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collections.
However, while initially the allegations were limited to a few images, after Anonymous’ discovery they expanded to dozens of images apparently linked not only to Nazi symbolism, but also to racist and pedophile symbolism.
It is very difficult to determine whether any images from Nazi, racist or pro-pedophilia symbolism were actually used within the NFT BAYC images. So, for now these are just allegations coming from someone who actually is gaining visibility in return.
In addition, it has been discovered that some of the Nazi symbols mentioned are actually based on earlier symbols that existed long before Nazism itself was born, so Yuga Labs’ inspiration may also have come from older, non-Nazi symbols, which then unfortunately were also used by Nazi propaganda.
It is also worth considering the rivalry that has arisen between Ryder Ripps and Yuga Labs, and that may be the real origin of this diatribe.
Is Anonymous making people lose faith in BAYC?
While there is little indication that the issue is really hurting the BAYC project, the images of NFTs are unchangeable and indelible, so it is very likely that such allegations will remain alive forever, at least as long as there is media attention on the project.
The hypothesis that the similarities are there, but are due to coincidence, seems plausible, but it does not appear that Yuga Labs has ever exhibited actual neo-Nazi-like behavior. On the other hand, the hypothesis that the company has exhibited anti-Semitic behavior might seem to be related specifically to the soured relationship with Ripps, and his attempt to justify that animosity.
These hypotheses have been circulating for months now, and given that there are many images in the NFT BAYC collection, it seems fair to expect that there are various coincidences linking them to “ramshackle and divey” environments, since this, by Solano’s own admission, is the inspiration for the appearance of those images.
In particular, Solano states that “everything about the BAYC was meant to convey a spirit of irreverence and absurdity,” and this may justify why the “ramshackle and divey” appearance of the images may at times be reminiscent of other irreverent and absurd iconography.
“It’s a ‘Yacht Club’ that’s actually falling apart and smack dab in the heart of the Everglades. As such, it needed an appropriately grimey, intriguing logo. We went with an ape skull to help convey just how bored these apes are — they’re ‘bored to death.”
It actually proves extremely difficult to find a connection between this approach and the Nazi and racist world. Therefore, the hypothesis of simple coincidence cannot be ruled out.
In other words, although the similarities do indeed seem to be there, it is merely an aesthetic issue apparently not supported by deep-seated motivations or basic ideological reasons. If this were the case, it would be precisely just an unfortunate coincidence.
One curious thing Solano points out is that Ripps accused the wife of one of the other co-founders of being “alt-right” (i.e., right-wing) because she had the word “cowabunga” in her Instagram bio. In reality, the woman is Mexican-American and distant from classic US right-wing positions, and she simply likes ninja turtles.
This surely is a mere coincidence, and reveals that Ripps sometimes works from imagination when trying to extrapolate deep meanings from simple aesthetic or linguistic manifestations. This is not enough to bring down the entire range of accusations leveled against Yuga Labs, but it may be representative of the mental patterns behind them.