The previously pseudonymous creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) have been doxxed by BuzzFeed. The report shares an opinion by a Neo-Nazi conspiracy theorist, despite finding no evidence to support such a theory.
The unmasking of the BAYC founders came on Friday, February 4, when BuzzFeed announced that the real identities of ‘Gordon Goner’ and ‘Gargamel’ were ‘Wylie Aronow’ and ‘Greg Solano’ respectively.
According to BuzzFeed, Greg Solano is a 32-year-old writer and editor, while Wylie Aronow is a 35-year-old man who hails from Florida. The two men are together responsible for the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of 10,000 anthropomorphized NFT apes.
Solano formerly edited websites and once wrote a book about World of Warcraft.
Aronow is not known to have ever written a book, but according to a “Readers of The Week” column published in the Chicago Tribune and relayed by BuzzFeed, he once read and enjoyed a book by the Ukrainian surrealist novelist, Nikolai Gogol. Just how deeply BuzzFeed journalists had to dig to uncover that particular gem of information can only be speculated upon, but its inclusion in the final BuzzFeed article reeks of sunk costs.
While the great bulk of the information about Solano and Aronow is milk toast, one serving of information about the founder does hold at least a little flavor: Aronow at one time held the bitmex.guru domain despite having no links to the exchange. In May 2021 Bitmex took Aronow to arbitration to gain control of the URL. Aronow did not contest the case, and the arbitrator ruled that the domain should pass to Bitmex control.
All that said, based on current information about the two, the most interesting thing you can say or know about the BAYC founders is that they’re the founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. So what about those Nazis?
Bored Apes of the Fourth Reich
While BuzzFeed does not directly accuse the BAYC founders of Nazism, they uncritically share the work of Ryder Ripps to support the notion that Bored Apes are a racist trope.
BuzzFeed cite the Ripps-owned website GordonGoner.com as the source of this claim. The GordonGoner.com site is named after one of the BAYC founders and its headline claim is that, ‘Bored Ape Yacht Club is Racist and Started by Neo-Nazi Trolls’. Quite the accusation for any publication to share without comment, especially considering the fact that Gordon Goner aka Wylie Aronow is himself Jewish.
Digging deeper, site creator Ryder Ripps is a complicated character himself, and his work – including any accusations of racism – should not be taken at face value.
Ripps is a visual artist and serial attention-seeker who has worked with the likes of Kanye West and former fiance Azaelia Banks. Ryder Ripps belongs to a specific corner of the art world which relies heavily on publicity stunts, being controversial, and causing outrage wherever possible.
Ripps’ body of work includes hiring prostitutes to create cheap art for him, with the artist being accused of exploitation for his efforts. In 2015, he was reportedly accused of misogyny for paintings which distorted the image of fitness model Adrianna Ho (although his accuser remained anonymous and the whole incident could have been orchestrated by Ripps). In 2018, he produced work based on PornHub, and most recently in 2021 he claimed credit for a redesign of the CIA logo.
“People are furious because they have a lot of emotions in life, and the internet is a way for them to release those emotions,” he said in an episode of The Pornhub Podcast when asked to address the controversial nature of his work. “You have to get the attention in order to succeed now,” he added.
In short, Ryder Ripps is a first-class nuisance and turbo troll, pragmatically and deliberately so.
His investigative work on BAYC relies in part on information sourced from 4chan; the internet’s most unreliable narrator. The Anonymous gestalt entity’s previous work includes transforming everything from Pepe the Frog, hand gestures, and Taylor Swift into so-called Nazi propaganda. Little wonder, 4chan can also find Nazism in BAYC.
Once you know the slightest thing about Ryder Ripps and his work, a reasonable observer might ask whether his expose of BAYC can be taken seriously, but the better question may be whether Ripps himself takes it seriously. The only question remaining after that is why BuzzFeed takes it seriously.
Stop being so boring, you Bored Apes
Following the BuzzFeed expose of the BAYC founders, the investigation uncovered definitive proof that much like the Wizard of Oz, the mystery behind the curtain wasn’t as interesting as the mystery itself.
Here, BuzzFeed invites us to ignore reality and to instead engage in a thought experiment of sorts:
“Solano and Aronow don’t appear to have any particular red flags (apart from Aronow domain name squatting). But what if in a different NFT collective, the founders turn out to have a long criminal history or extreme political leanings that might make collectors regret spending huge sums of money on their products?” ask BuzzFeed.
The question boils down to whether collectors are ever interested in collecting art made by controversial figures. For further insight on that topic, perhaps BuzzFeed should seek to consult Ryder Ripps.
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