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There is a problem with the monkeys' NFT

The accusations made by the artist Ryder Ripps against Bored Ape

There is a problem with the monkeys' NFT The accusations made by the artist Ryder Ripps against Bored Ape

You know the NFTs of those monkeys illustrated with the Hawaiian shirt, the cigar between their teeth and the ironic grin? Well, the company behind these tokens, Bored Ape Yacht Club, was recently at the center of a media storm following the accusations of racism made by the American artist Ryder Ripps, mainly known for having collaborated with characters such as Kanye West and brands such as Gucci and Soylent, as well as creative director of the CryptoPhunks project (parody of CryptoPunk). A recent investigation has lined up some controversial clues on the link between the Bored Ape project and the symbolism of the American alt-right which, according to Dazed, have earned the collective an investigation still ongoing by the FBI. Among the many evidence collected by Ripps and spread on Twitter, the first and most important is precisely the choice of the symbolic animal, which would be the latest example of a long racist tradition in which people of color are compared to monkeys, in a process called "animalization". A rather uncomfortable situation for the numerous celbs who have decided to invest in these NFTs, such as Jimmy Fallon, Paris Hilton, basketball player Steph Curry, Eminem and lastly Justin Bieber who recently bought one for more than 1.3 million dollars, despite the controversy had already spread widely.

The anonymous collective behind the NFT-monkey born in 2021, initially decided to delegate the artistic and technological part to others and to devote himself personally to the creation of the context of the virtual "Yacht Club", the meeting point between future token holders. An algorithm randomly generated stylized monkeys, combining a series of predetermined characteristics by chance, yet, despite the unrealistic premises and the random result, Bored Ape had a unique fortune among the "collectibles", proof of how successful the many projects of the digital world is completely unpredictable. Last April the NFT of each of the 10 thousand existing monkeys was sold for less than 200 dollars, but to determine the final value were the subsequent transactions, those of the so-called secondary market, which reached a total value of almost 100 million dollars, with some of the NFTs currently worth more than a million. But, perhaps, behind this strange and sudden success, there is perhaps much more than pure chance.

It is undeniable that the logo of the project recalls that of the Nazi Totenkopf division, including the same number of teeth depicted in the skull: 18. The eighteen is also a number very dear to the neo-Nazis, who use it to indicate the initials of Adolf Hitler (the A is the first letter of the alphabet, H the eighth). The extensive use of Hawaiian shirts, apparently harmless, instead recalls the symbol of the far-right movement Boogaloo, one of the most active of the Trumpian alt-right. Then there are the nicknames of the creators of the project (Gargamel, Gordon Goner, Emperor Tomato Ketchup and No Sass), linked to the rhetoric and memes of anti-Semitism and white suprematism, as it was for Pape The Frog in the discord channel in which the assault on Capital Hill was organized on January 6, 2021. The creators are still anonymous and one of them, a certain Gargamel (the character of the Smurfs believed to be an anti-Semitic caricature), has declared that behind these bored monkeys there is it indeed "a hidden message", while Emperor Tomato Ketchup takes its name from a 1996 short film by Shûji Terayama that was banned in America because it contains pedo-pornographic scenes. After the first assumptions, social media was flooded with more and more imaginative accusations, while Ripps was insulted by extremists and accused of having opened the matter only to obtain publicity for the sale of his NFTs. In January, Yuga Labs, the company that owns the Bored Ape Yacht Club, openly denied all links to extremist imagery as experts from the Jewish organization Anti-Defamation League questioned the evidence presented by Ripps.

Accusations that are not that hard to believe after all, given the close link between the far right and cryptocurrencies. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a center that studies and fights racism in the United States, the estimate of the far right's crypto money is difficult to calculate but is in the tens of millions of dollars, while it has been established that more 600 addresses used in cryptocurrencies are "associated with white supremacists and extremists". It's hard to tell whether a group of racists and anti-Semites are behind the world's most rewarding NFTs, but what is certain is that many of Bored Ape's avatars feature logos, facial features, clothing and accessories - such as chains of gold, helmets and a kamikaze headband - representing minorities through stereotypes. In the era of cancel culture, in which even making the almond-shaped eye gesture with your hands is considered offensive, it is rather absurd that Justin Bieber decides to buy such controversial NFTs and that Superplastic, an agency known for digital avatars and games that has recently also collaborated with Gucci, drops a capsule with Yuga Labs. Perhaps the NFT fever has also affected common sense.