Bored Ape NFT's on computer screen with hand silhouette holding phone with CoinDesk logo on screen

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A crypto site called out Bored Apes’ ties to Nazi ideology—hours later it retracted the piece

A historian wrote about hidden fascist imagery in Bored Apes NFTs. The article was retracted 10 hours later.


Jacob Seitz


Posted on Feb 1, 2023

Yesterday, cryptocurrency publication CoinDesk published a story on its blog tracing the history of Bored Ape Yacht Club and the allegations of its ties to Nazi imagery. Less than 10 hours after the story went live, CoinDesk took it down. 

The article tried to highlight Bored Apes and its founders’ ties to far-right and fascist ideology from a historical perspective. According to the writer, the story was edited and vetted by CoinDesk and was published Tuesday morning. But by late Tuesday evening, the piece was taken down and replaced with an editor’s note condemning the story.

“The column by a first-time external contributor was based on inflammatory, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and as such never should have been published. Accordingly, the content has been removed. We apologize for the editorial lapse,” the note said.

Todd Fine, a historian and Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York, wrote the piece because of an interest in NFTs and Bored Apes that developed over the past couple of years.

“I really wanted to write about this Bored Ape [NFT] because it was the biggest thing and it was the most interesting thing from a criticism perspective,” he said in an interview with the Daily Dot. “I’m finding that there’s kind of this 4chan-developed bizarre fascism that’s sometimes ironic, sometimes not, it’s very confusing. But I just wanted to lay it out there in this piece.”

Fine said he developed an interest in Bored Ape after he attended an NFT conference in New York last year. He said it seemed like Apes were everywhere and that no one really knew why.

“​​We woke up one day and were like ‘the number one symbol and the coolest thing is [Bored] Apes.’ Who agreed to that?” he said. “They just kind of made something cool without, you know, without anybody in the actual real world thinking it was cool. They just sort of decided it was cool. And then everyone else sort of got it through osmosis.”

Fine wrote about NFTs before for Hyperallergic, a New York-based art publication. Fine said the piece for CoinDesk went through several rounds of edits with two editors for the publication before going live on Tuesday. Email correspondence reviewed by the Daily Dot shows edits being sent back and forth between Fine and editors at CoinDesk between Jan. 17 and Jan. 30. 

In the article, Fine traced some of the accusations against the Bored Apes Yacht Club that have been previously reported, including that its parent company, Yuga Labs, is a riff on a popular tome in far-right ideology, noting that Kali Yuga is “a core concept in historical fascism, and one that has become more central for the contemporary alt-right.”

It noted the movement was “a maritime meme of waves and surfing matched with SS iconography of the Death’s Head or Black Sun.”

Bored Apes, it noted, was created around the time of the rise in popularity of the Kali Yuga movement in far-right circles.

Yuga Labs has frequently denied the accusations.

Fine received an email just after 10am on Tuesday letting him know that the story was live on the CoinDesk website. But, by 7:30 pm, the piece was gone.

“My Op-Ed on @yugalabs + @BoredApeYC was removed from @Coindesk,” Fine said in a tweet. “I did NOT base this article on ‘inflammatory, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.’ It is based on my expertise as a historian. I went through the NORMAL Coindesk editorial process with TWO EDITORS over TWO WEEKS.”

Fine said in the interview that he was never formally told why his piece was taken down and that CoinDesk has not reached out to him, but Fine tweeted that an employee at CoinDesk told him Yuga Labs threatened CoinDesk with a lawsuit over the piece. 

“A @CoinDesk employee just confirmed to me that @yugalabs threatened to sue them for libel over my op-ed piece,” he said in a tweet. “Rather than support their writers, they gave into threats.”

Editors at CoinDesk did not respond to a request for comment about why the story was taken down. The Daily Dot could not independently confirm that Yuga Labs threatened CoinDesk with litigation for the story.

While it is unclear why CoinDesk decided to retract the story less than 10 hours after publishing, Bored Ape critic Jeremy Cahen has been defending Fine on Twitter while spinning a tale that CoinDesk’s parent company, Digital Currency Group, pulled the plug due to the company’s connections with Yuga Labs.

Cahen, alongside Ryder Ripps, is currently involved in a lawsuit with Yuga Labs over trademark infringement and has been a frequent and vocal critic of the company.

Other users pointed out the hypocrisy of an article about Bored Ape’s ties to fascism being censored.

“You should be furious that it was censored if you think that it’s a good thing that it was censored, you’re literally behaving like a fascist,” said one Twitter user. “Anti Censorship should be bipartisan especially in blockchain whether you support YUGA/BAYC or @ryder_ripps.”

Yuga Labs did not respond to a request for comment.

More than anything, though, Fine is concerned that the story and the editor’s note will harm his career.

“I feel like I might be blackballed from writing about crypto now,” Fine said in an interview. “And so it’s, I feel I’m worried it’s gonna harm my career in writing. I don’t want this necessarily be the center of my life. I just wanted to get this article published.”

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*First Published: Feb 1, 2023, 4:32 pm CST