For a while now, the founders of the most successful NFT collection, Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), have been accused of hidden motifs and allusions to racist symbolism. Some explanations seem quite plausible, although Yuga Labs denies any accusations.
According to a blog post by Gordon Goner, founder of Yuga Labs, his company and its products have been the victim of a crazy disinformation campaign. The Bored Ape inventors - a group of Jewish, Turkish, Pakistani and Cuban friends, according to him - are being falsely accused of being far-right Nazis. The accusations are ridiculous conspiracy theories used to sell fake NFTs. Are the various parallels merely coincidences or is there more to it?
The origin story of the Bored Apes
With the letter from the Yuga Labs founders, the origin story of the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) is evoked once again. It also explains why Yuga created the first NFT collection with motifs of bored monkeys. For a long time, people in the crypto world have affectionately referred to themselves as monkeys, as they pounce on fresh projects like animals, often rashly and animalistically. This was already apparent in the Crypto Punks of 2017, with some of the rarest and most valuable NFTs in this collection being monkey motifs.
Yuga liked the idea of creating a whole collection around monkeys. They became so wealthy with the rise of cryptocurrencies that they became extremely bored. A monkey's boredom is ended when it can retreat to a secret club in the swamp. This is how the fictional yacht club was created in the depths of the Everglades. Thus, the monkeys are by no means pejorative references to other ethnic groups; they are merely used as a playful proper noun.
Right-wing extremist accusations in circulation
With the recent allegations against Yuga Labs, the website "GordonGoner.com" was created. It was optimized to the name of the founder Gordon Goner, in order to spread the information as easily as possible through search engines. At the moment there are listed some "proofs" for the alleged national socialist background thoughts of Yuga Labs, which can be only partially invalidated even after the explanation of the developer team. May the project dates be due to a misunderstanding of a reporter, the use of symbolism cannot be denied so easily. Especially since co-founder Gargamel admitted in an interview that nothing in the collection is "random".
According to Gargamel, there should be a hidden coded meaning in the collection. He refers to the "iceberg theory". This states that only a small part of the whole is visible and a large part remains hidden. In the same interview, the co-founder quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein: "The inexpressible should be communicated inexpressibly". This seems a bit strange when it's just bored cartoon monkeys. The hidden meanings were not explained further and inquiries were evaded.
The coincidences accumulate
Besides the logos and the motif of monkeys, the company's name is also criticized: Yuga Labs. In Hindu cosmology, Kali Yuga is the term for the last of four ages, characterized by decay and ruin. As a result, the term has become a central part of far-right ideology; another allusion? According to the founders, Yuga is inspired by the name of a villain in Zelda who has the ability to transform himself and others into 2D art. This makes perfect sense as a name for an NFT company, and in a way, can invalidate the accusation.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that many of the chosen names and anagrams of the Yuga Labs founders are inconveniently chosen. In terms of ideologically tainted names of well-known people of the Nazi era, they have certain similarities. Even Gargamel, a character from the Smurfs, has an anti-Semitic bias according to some sources. The letter from the founders tries to attribute these to coincidence and holds out a valid explanation for most of the names.
Not a clear case
As with many things, these accusations against the Bored Ape founders are anything but a clear-cut case. The chosen symbolism indeed shows parallels and the number of coincidences makes you wonder. However, the development team was able to plausibly refute some serious accusations. This by no means suggests that Yuga Labs is innocent, but it should be sufficient in the context of credible deniability.
After all, a good half of the accusations made by the GordonGoner.com operators seem quite far-fetched. For example, the number of teeth of the monkey in the Bored Ape logo, 18, is an alphanumeric code for the name Adolf Hitler. Furthermore, the banana boomerangs in their game are arranged like swastikas. Or the company's Otherside NFTs were released on the anniversary of Hitler's death (April 30) - a somewhat oblique accusation. To sum up, there are plausible arguments on both sides, a final conclusion is difficult to reach with the current state of affairs.
As you may have heard, we’ve become the target of a crazy disinformation campaign accusing us - a group of Jewish, Turkish, Pakistani, and Cuban friends - of being super-secret Nazis. ?
— GordonGoner.eth (@GordonGoner) June 24, 2022