Does the Evidence Suggest Yuga Labs Was Trolled?
Newly discovered corroboration and why the preponderance of clues point to new less shocking conclusions
OCT 30TH 2022 UPDATE: Due to the ongoing nature of this story, the findings herein are not to be confused with a vindication of the Yuga Labs logo nor this company's relationship to racism adjacent tropes, ideas or allusions (which exist). My conclusions were to suggest that Yuga has unremedied failures of due diligence at the least, or was/is purposefully and irreverently legitimizing racism/racism-linked content at the most. This article has not been altered to reflect my currently held views as to transparently preserve the historical record. But please do note, because of the discovery of new data which was unavailable to me during the time of this pieces composition, my mind has changed in kind. Future writing on this subject is to be announced. (Original July 1st 2022 article following)
Yuga Labs and White Supremacy? (The New Evidence)
As has been presented in the complaint against Yuga Labs, the word “Yuga” is claimed to have originated from 4chan white supremacist political memes as a dog whistle. Those from Yuga Labs have denied these claims, first saying their name was based on a boss from the Legend of Zelda, but have recently through a Medium post said that the Kali Yuga as a Eastern religious concept was not mysterious to them.
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Goners Link to Kali Yuga
Presented below is never before found evidence that Wylie Aronow (Gordon Goner) did know about the Kali Yuga as far back as 2020, and that he likely is/was a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy which isn’t the same tradition utilized by white ethnonationalists for this term. What the below evidence shows is not a tie to white supremacist points but Buddhist ones, such being alluded to by his Twitter profile banner.
I found Aronow’s deleted Twitter account by locating a cached Job review site which linked it. I then put this dead web address into the wayback and bingo, by providence Kali Yuga appeared.
With a simple Google search containing the terms, “Wheel of life” + “Kali Yuga” one receives numerous matches all speaking about it in its proper cultural form. There are no immediate references to misuses of its ideas in Far-Right boundaries.
There are Buddhist uses of the KaliYuga as a descriptive frame unique in its elements distinguishable from Vedic ideas which are where white supremacists get their mythology.But, in the aforementioned Medium article it states, “We were also aware that “Yuga” means “era” in Sanksrit. Gordon spent a decade practicing Hinduism, and the “Kali Yuga” is the current era we are in according to Hinduism.” So if the BAYC team could have hid behind “Yuga” as being Buddhist instead of Hindu, but instead admitted it was Hindu, this shows they were not afraid of the Vedic connotations from White Supremacist mythological theories. This point is important because it does not convey guilt.
The Kali Yuga is fought against in White Supremacy not glorified
For Yuga Labs to call their company after the worst Yuga of the 4 would make no sense. If they were 4chan trolls they still would not do as much because White Supremacist doctrines fight against the Kali Yuga due to it being a worldly force that was said by Savitri Devi in the book The lightning and the sun to have killed Hitler (this same author is referenced by those who say the Kali Yuga is a Neo Nazi talking point). Speaking about the Kali Yuga she wrote, “this doomed Dark Age world, stricken with madness, which exalts its foes and kills its friends, — has risen against him like one man)."(p 245) And even the most popular writers in this racist movements modern incarnation say it is an evil. In the article titled, Alt-Reich The unholy alliance between India and the new global wave of white supremacy by Carol Schaeffer it’s written, “Alexander Dugin is one of Arktos’s most popular writers ... In it, he said, “we must create strategic alliances to overthrow the present order of things, of which the core could be described as human rights, anti-hierarchy, and political correctness—everything that is the face of the Beast, the anti-Christ or, in other terms, Kali Yuga.”
White Supremacists look towards the arrival of a golden age and its ethnostate, if anything, the name Yuga would be a reference to the glorious phase after this one, certainly not now. If this were the case though, Goner having “Kali Yuga” as a tongue and cheek joke about his location would not serve as a point to celebrate, but instead exist as a condemnation. Then, this leads one to ask why a group of white presenting ethnicities, even if Alt-Right adjacent, would call their company after the evil they were fighting all while their company celebrates the name? This wouldn’t happen.
To Surf the Kali Yuga means to endure the troubles of this age. It is not a thing to celebrate but a meme to mock. Many memes are created on 4chan, but as soon as they leave they gain new context just like some say about conceptual art. These memes have become a common way for people to describe modern malaise, and so to suggest that everyone using these memes are crypto Nazi’s becomes a reach (even with their original connotations). But I acknowledge that my description of what makes for racist claims is here grossly simplified, and is so purposely.
I admit that the above meme does encapsulate everything raised about the 4chan theory, and the various strands of forum true crime sleuthing merging into a trolling totality is indeed what caused this concern to hold water initially, and for reasonable cause.
Associating 4chan racism with the Alt-Right is a superficial reading
In the Academic journal New Media and Society, a paper titled The challenges of studying 4chan and the Alt-Right: ‘Come on in the water’s fine’ it warns, “Conflating 4chan with the Alt-Right also risks downplaying the existence of historical and contemporary contention about the identity(ies) of the /pol/ community. More fundamentally, it ignores that 4chan contains dozens of different messaging boards, of which the ‘politically incorrect’ /pol/ is only one. Still, that the /pol/ community is a site in which discourse associated with the Alt-Right circulates is widely recognised”but this conclusion is not used in this paper as an evidence that all peoples using these memes are part of the Alt-Right. Not even on the site. We know that Joe Rogan made Kali Yuga discussion popular by discussing it and this didn’t make him a racist. Old memes can take on new meanings, and this has to be considered with Yuga Labs.
New White Supremacy doesn’t openly glorify substance addiction
In an article from Newsweek titled, Neo-Nazi Conspiracy Theory: 'Jews' Are Trying To Get America Stoned On Legal Marijuana, it details the moral codes popularized within some Alt-Right circles. Getting high and associating with unhealthy living would not be an idea that those communicating its best messages would do continuously.And though we know skinhead groups do drugs and commit crimes, for a group fighting against the Kali Yuga or the “degenerate state” they certainly do promote drugs and substance addiction through the BAYC franchise alot.
Don’t like other races yet prominently feature a black female punk?
An obvious tenet of Alt-Right ideology is race hatred. It could be argued that Yuga if part of a cabal would only feature drugs or people of colour to align with pop consensus, but, at their point of mass adoption and wealth they would no longer have to appease people by ticking boxes, yet we see them creating inclusive imagery which seems antithetical to their so called racist purposes. It would also be an assumption to say that their goal was to simply troll the world, accelerationism isn’t out to troll but to convert, and these images are not making new racists in my view.
When I first viewed the comparison of the BAYC logo to the SS totenkopf I thought the similarities were undeniable, for they were. After reading the response from the mentioned Medium article I have come down to three explanations for how their logo got these allusions that don’t presuppose Yuga’s allegiance to Alt-Right beliefs. 1) The designer of the logo trolled Yuga Labs (he was a 4chan user, or is alt-right) or 2) The designer used the Totenkopf as a basis from an unlikely source which got its design from it (second or third order influence), or 3) this design happened coincidentally (less likely).
What follows was my research before the Medium article broke explaining how the logo was designed. Not few journalists have tried to undermine the point saying that the variegated edge was important, but as you can see in the top right corner it was meaningful and did have a precedent in WW1 Prussian/German iconography.
In the bottom left we have a motorcycle gang emblem that is near identical to the totenkopf, and the BAYC founders admit that punk or gang badges were part of their design motif. Though I’ve discovered the crinkled edge, to rest an argument on it becomes tenuous when the majority of the totenkopf images on the internet do not have this. To say the hired artist used this wiggling edge specifically to mimic an original design would demand that he saw the version with this edge and it mattered enough to him to duplicate it. Below is the original online source.
What troubles me is that someone edited this above image in black to reveal its wobbled outline for greater impact, and this to me was disingenuous, for, when first seeing the image it doesn’t look to have an edge unless one’s screen resolution discerns many shades of black, and even with this its edge remains meaningless to want to differentiate.
The below letter and design reference elements were sent to the hired artist. As an artist myself, from this brief, a few things stood out that troubled me immediately when thinking about people making racist claims: the uneven application of outrage.
In this email we see that, “maritime related patches”, “street wear”, and “Japanese anime” were sources Wylie wanted the artist to look. I myself used these words as literal places to begin my search for iconographic cognates. Below is the original mock-up of the logo made by Aronow. Notice the wobbly edges indicating water related themes from the very beginning.
I choose to pay attention to the stickers in this reference and from them found two street wear brands (both Japanese) who’ve alluded to Germanic Nazi symbols and even the totenkopf itself. In the following image I suggest how it was possible for the designer to be inspired by a second gen image derivative that held all the same positional and skull elements (only the inner circle excluded).
If BAYC is a group of crypto Nazi’s surely one of the most respected Japanese designers in Street wear and another adored collaborator with Bape also are, because, by the original measure these too also have to be at least Nazi sympathetic. But luckily I don’t think anyone reasonable actually believes this.
The above image shows how the designer could have easily been influenced by the Mastermind brand logo, replaced the skull, used a motorcycle gang emblem and maritime badge as requested by Goner and came up with the BAYC logo iteration without ever seeing the Totenkopf. Because this option exists, doubt does as well. At this point though, I do think that the original designer trolled the BAYC founders, but I can never know. I believe the founders when they said they were not artists because people in writing typical suck at art unless multipotentialite. The BAYC team did have to agree on the final design, so this leaves room for hidden motivations, but if this e-mail was not fraudulently composed then I wouldn’t presume this, especially in seeing how much could be lost by them if discovered. We must recall that success for this NFT collection was never promised.
History of the dead head or Momento mori (Not German)
To say that only racist ideas could have been inspiration to the logo is also sort of wrong because the dead head has had a long history stretching back many centuries with even the textual aspects present.
Above shows how this image which become racist made its way to a female soccer clubs app icon. The image and layout of this icon is so common today that it is not automatically racist anymore just because it has been reiterated continually. This is also why the Japanese designers can now be pardoned.
Anagram of Gordon Goner
“Gordon Goner” even if an anagram is not inherently racist. If read reverse order as Negro Drongo we get a breed of crow like bird famed in India for being able to copy other animals warning calls so it could steal their food. I don’t believe this name has special anagram meaning, but if it had it could have been this. Since this bird has connections to India and has an interesting special power why couldn’t it be used?
Gargamel as racist, or, not so much?
The same author that was used to justify Gargamel as a racist trope also denies that the characters creator was racist, “Buéno added that he does not believe the Smurfs' creator Peyo, a pen name for the late Belgian artist Pierre Culliford, added the racist overtones to the Smurfs deliberately. "Peyo was not at all politicised; all this was unconscious," he said.”
This cap isn’t racist because apes did wear them in Morocco historically. These were pets. In the French war in the WW1 era, black soldiers did wear them also, but before them so did all sorts of nationalities in battle.
Leopard print and bone necklace
The bone tribal necklace and leopard print seems rather blatant, but with some investigation even this can be viewed as a nod to African royal attire and a respectful reduplication, not a slight.
Not all traits seeming to be racially insensitive are. Putting gold teeth and jewellery or sunglasses evoking hiphop culture does not immediately make for mockery. Hiphop doesn't own the idea of gold teeth nor chains, so this assertion is itself based on a limited understanding of the history of adornment. According to the work done by Sam Davies of Highsnobiety, “The Etruscans did it first, then the Mayans; ancient civilizations who stuck bits of metal over their teeth as a statement of wealth between about 800 BC and 900 AD” are not an uncommon sight across history.
I know that the BAYC founders did use HipHop as their source material, but apart from this, we also know the image of Jaws from 007 Moonracker (1979) whose metal bite is also a part of memorable pop culture.
The severed hand has been said to belong to the barbarisms done to African peoples. It is more likely that this monkey paw is a talisman fitting in with the tiki torch Indiana Jones theme, and there is no need to say a monkey hand becomes a stand in for severed human limbs extracted as punishment.
Here is the accurate conclusion to this conspiracy if real.
If Yuga Labs were crypto Nazi’s with a hidden accelerationist agenda I fear that Ripps was manipulated by those who drip fed him information in order to use him as a vehicle to make their racist theory go viral. They knew he would fall for it and harass Yuga Labs because of his stubborn conviction, and this so that Yuga would eventually sue him, and through this lawsuit greatly undermine the decentralized ethos of blockchain. This was done for a way to have people angry at the system, destabilizing trust in it further which is an accelerationist goal.
Through him these forces have created intra-race strife (coloured people who own apes against those who don’t) and this will escalate to greater social anger and distrust. All of these outcomes are fashioned in order to usher in the Golden age where white people will rule the earth. Or so the Alt-Right mythology goes.
My reasonable conclusions
In the first part of my investigation I showed how personified apes weren’t inherently racist. In this study I found that the Kali Yuga didn’t belong to white supremacy only, and that what is used on 4chan as racist memes can change with contexts outside of its borders. I found that the Totenkopf is so well known and such a part of pop culture that many have copied it not realizing its racist mid 20th century origins, but that it also as an image predates a racist reading (though the BAYC logo seems identical to it to me). I’ve concluded that Yuga Labs was trolled by their hired designer and that they didn’t do enough due diligence to realize what occurred. I think Yuga hid Goners connection to Hinduism at first under the advice of VC’s to quell speculation. I found that almost all attributes on the apes are things part of popular culture/war history, some of which inevitably have racist notes or myriad other causes for offence to someone somewhere due to their subject matter. So after thoughtful consideration of all the available evidence, for myself, I do not support the idea that the BAYC founders were/are hidden Neo Nazi’s, nor world record setting 4chan trolls, and if they are either, they haven’t been very good at it. In the least, they have been insensitive, dishonest and bound by forces beyond their control.