The amorphous hacktivist group Anonymous appears to be back at it again — and this time, they're claiming that the Bored Ape Yacht Club is smuggling the worst kind of ideologies into broad daylight.
In a nearly nine-minute video released this week, the hacker collective accused Yuga Labs, the organization behind the BAYC non-fungible token (NFT) project, of hiding "esoteric" Nazi, white supremacist, and even pedophilic symbolism in its sought-after art.
Beyond echoing the Nazi symbolism allegations that first appeared about the project earlier this year, Anonymous claims to have proof "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that Yuga Labs intentionally put secret Nazi imagery in its NFTs. The evidence, according to the video, is gleaned from intensive research and interviews with purportedly key figures, though the collective did not share any of that information in the video.
Anonymous claims that this video will be the first communiqué in a campaign bent on taking down the BAYC, which it says will include a "pitch deck" for investors. The group also challenged Yuga Labs to a debate with a location and moderator of the latter's choosing.
The allegations, which the Yuga Labs founders have strenuously denied, appear to have been originated with shock jock digital artist Ryder Ripps, who in January published a Geocities-esque website claiming to outline the many ways in which BAYC uses thinly-veiled Nazi symbolism in its AI-generated NFT art.
Indeed, in the Anonymous video, Ripps' name can be seen flashed across the screen at one point in an apparent reference to Yuga Labs' copyright infringement lawsuit against the artist — onetime Azealia Banks fiancé — over his apparently-satirical copycat NFT collection.
While Ripps' allegations are indeed shocking, they're also entirely circumstantial and based on visual similarities, albeit eyebrow-raising ones.
Perhaps the most jarring similarity is between the BAYC logo and the Nazi Totenkopf emblem. As Ripps pointed out, the ape skull in the BAYC even had exactly 18 teeth, echoing the Totenkopf in a known numerical reference to Nazism. Here's Ripps' illustration of the similarities:
While it's unsettling to consider that an extremely popular digital art line would contain veiled references to either of these ideologies or practices, Ripps' and Anonymous' claims still seem awfully hazy. And while BAYC people can be pretty cringe, any suggestion that the tokens' value is linked to a perceived link to Nazism seems fairly farfetched.
Until Anonymous or Ripps comes forward with direct evidence, we're just going to have to go on their word — and for allegations as serious as these, that doesn't seem quite good enough. They say have the proof, so let's see it.