Apeing To The Right
March 4, 2022
Could the speed of the NFT market—which often comes at the expense of reflection on artistic intent and sociopolitical context—allow fascist aesthetics to circulate unencumbered in a time when far-right extremism is on the rise globally? The creators of Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) have been accused with propagating racist imagery and neo-Nazi references by artist Ryder Ripps and others. Yet this has barely impacted the high value of the NFT series. There is a long history of mainstreaming fascism through art, memes, and merchandise, from Italian Futurism to Pepe the Frog and Proud Boy-associated apparel. The innocuous presentation of the BAYC brand means that any connections to neo-Nazi imagery can be dismissed as conspiratorial speculation. But no matter what the intent of the creators may be, the success of BAYC raises the question of why pop culture is still profiting from racist symbols, and offers an entry point for identifying how alt-right extremists are making gains in the NFT field.