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Nazis Cash in With Bitcoin

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COMMENT: After encoun­ter­ing prob­lems advanc­ing more con­ven­tion­al fund-rais­ing meth­ods, Nazi groups are pros­per­ing due to suc­cess­ful min­ing of Bit­coin.

The most suc­cess­ful Nazi min­er of Bit­coin is Andrew “Weev” Aueren­heimer: ” . . . . One neo-Nazi stands above the rest in his bit­coin usage: Andrew ‘weev’ Auern­heimer, who’s received over $1 mil­lion in bit­coin, accord­ing to one report [5]. Even though Auern­heimer has with­drawn rough­ly $118,620 from his bit­coin wal­let between late August and Wednes­day, his remain­ing bit­coin store has been replen­ish­ing his wealth through­out the recent bit­coin boom. . . .”

This is not alto­geth­er sur­pris­ing, in that Bit­coin’s foun­da­tions track as far to the right as can be.

We have explored Bit­coin in a num­ber of pro­grams–FTR #‘s 760 [6], 764 [7], 770 [8] and 785 [9].

An impor­tant recent book [10] by David Golum­bia sets forth the tech­no­crat­ic fas­cist pol­i­tics under­ly­ing Bit­coin [11]. Known to vet­er­an listeners/readers as the author of an oft-quot­ed arti­cle deal­ing with tech­no­crat­ic fas­cism, Golum­bia has pub­lished a short, impor­tant book about the right-wing extrem­ism under­ly­ing Bit­coin. (Pro­grams on tech­no­crat­ic fas­cism include: FTR #‘s 851 [12], 859 [13], 866 [14], 867 [15].)

In the excerpt below, we see dis­turb­ing ele­ments of res­o­nance with the views of Stephen Ban­non [16] and some of the philo­soph­i­cal influ­ences [17] on him. Julius Evola [18], “Men­cius Mold­bug” [17] and Ban­non him­self see our civ­i­liza­tion as in decline, at a crit­i­cal “turn­ing point,” and in need of being “blown up” (as Evola put it) or need­ing a “shock to the sys­tem.”

1.  “Neo-Nazi wealth is rapid­ly grow­ing. Why? Bit­coin.” by Jack Smith IV; Mic; 12/01/2017 [19]

In many ways, white nation­al­ists were the big losers [20] after the Unite the Right ral­ly in Char­lottesville in August. First, they lost web host­ing for neo-Nazi hives like Storm­front. Some far-right atten­dees lost access to Uber or their social media accounts. Oth­ers lost meet­ing venues and were dri­ven out of sub­se­quent pub­lic spaces dur­ing fol­low-up ral­lies. And of course, some atten­dees, such as those who were exposed in pho­tos tak­en at the infa­mous torch-lit march the night before the ral­ly, lost their jobs [21].

In that time, they were also essen­tial­ly forced to invest in bit­coin, and after the cryptocurrency’s mete­oric rise through­out 2017, that finan­cial move has broad­ened their wealth sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

After the Char­lottesville protests, many white nation­al­ists lost access [22] to mon­ey-trans­fer ser­vices like Apple Pay and Pay­Pal, and there­fore turned to bit­coin, dou­bling down on their invest­ment or cre­at­ing wal­lets to exper­i­ment with the apo­lit­i­cal cryp­tocur­ren­cy.

In the past few months, the price of bit­coin soared to record heights [23], reach­ing a trad­ing price over $11,000 per coin on Wednes­day. Through­out this boom, white nation­al­ist wealth has grown, with some of the country’s most vir­u­lent celebri­ty racists often rak­ing in thou­sands of dol­lars in a sin­gle day.

Bit­coin can be used anony­mous­ly, but in order to accept dona­tions, white nation­al­ists had to de-anonymize them­selves. So John Bam­benek, a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty researcher and threat ana­lyst, cre­at­ed a Twit­ter bot [24] to fol­low and col­lect this infor­ma­tion. It’s from that bot, @NeoNaziWallets [25], that Mic has col­lat­ed and graphed this behav­ior. Even so, while any­one can watch the mon­ey move in and out of accounts, it’s uncer­tain where the mon­ey trav­els to, who is con­tribut­ing and how many oth­er dig­i­tal wal­lets are involved in the net­work of white suprema­cist bit­coin users.

The cryp­tocur­ren­cy is also pret­ty attrac­tive to those who believe in anti-Semit­ic con­spir­a­cies about greedy, often assumed Jew­ish, over­lords who engi­neer our soci­ety through con­trol of cen­tral banks. In March, Richard Spencer declared bit­coin “the cur­ren­cy of the alt-right” — though that should be tak­en with a grain of salt. The alt-right will lay claim to any­thing from New Bal­ance shoes to Papa John’s piz­za if it suits them.

Bit­coin is the cur­ren­cy of the alt right.— Richard ???? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) March 18, 2017 [26]

Still, since Char­lottesville, white nation­al­ists who ramped up their invest­ment in bit­coin have seen their vir­tu­al wealth grow.

The clear­est case of such growth is with Counter-Cur­rents, a pub­lish­ing house for books like Trevor Lynch’s White Nation­al­ist Guide to the Movies and Toward the White Repub­lic. From late August until Wednes­day — our obser­va­tion peri­od for the data — the wal­let for the far-right pub­lish­er held at about 7.7 bit­coin, includ­ing some tiny con­tri­bu­tions (pos­si­bly dona­tions) along the way. Its wealth more than dou­bled, net­ting them about $41,000 between Sept. 2 and Tues­day. And then by Wednes­day it made $5,859 more.

Bitcoin’s been par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful for Andrew Anglin, a neo-Nazi leader who’s been in and out of the pub­lic eye [27] since the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter filed a poten­tial­ly debil­i­tat­ing law­suit against him. Bam­benek has esti­mat­ed that Anglin has tak­en in about $250,000 in bit­coin since 2014.

On Oct. 1, the Dai­ly Stormer with­drew $64,353, reap­ing the ear­ly rewards of the bit­coin boom, short­ly after mak­ing about $2,202 in just one day. Since then, the bal­ance for the Dai­ly Stormer has been fair­ly lev­el, as who­ev­er man­ages the wal­let skims the occa­sion­al few hun­dred dol­lars off the account, with some with­drawals as high as $1,602.

Oth­er white nation­al­ist exper­i­men­ta­tions in bit­coin are fair­ly mea­ger. Spencer — pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, a white nation­al­ist think tank — had about $3 in bit­coin sit­ting in an account until Nov. 22, when rough­ly $1,000 in bit­coin was trans­ferred to the wal­let. As of Wednes­day, he had about $1,317. Van­guard Amer­i­ca, a mil­i­tant white nation­al­ist group with a large con­tin­gent in Char­lottesville, grew a small bal­ance from rough­ly $218 on Aug. 27 to about $533 on Wednes­day with no new deposits.

One neo-Nazi stands above the rest in his bit­coin usage: Andrew “weev” Auern­heimer, who’s received over $1 mil­lion in bit­coin, accord­ing to one report [5]. Even though Auern­heimer has with­drawn rough­ly $118,620 from his bit­coin wal­let between late August and Wednes­day, his remain­ing bit­coin store has been replen­ish­ing his wealth through­out the recent bit­coin boom.

While bit­coin is an effec­tive, apo­lit­i­cal escape pod for mov­ing mon­ey away from ser­vices that become inhos­pitable to hate groups, many main­stream wal­let providers can still de-plat­form white suprema­cists. After the Char­lottesville ral­ly, Coin­base alleged­ly kicked users off [28] of its wal­let-pro­vid­ing ser­vice for donat­ing to the Dai­ly Stormer.

In the mean­time, all of the trans­ac­tions mov­ing in and out of the iden­ti­fied wal­lets are still in pub­lic.

“The dis­ad­van­tage [for neo-Nazis] is that I can see their trans­ac­tions, I can see when they’re spend­ing mon­ey, and giv­en effort and invest­ment of time, I could fig­ure out who is donat­ing to them also,” Bam­benek told Mic.

Bam­benek said his next project is to chart the web of trans­ac­tions around the neo-Nazi bit­coin wal­lets to try to deter­mine where the mon­ey is going and, poten­tial­ly, the iden­ti­ty of the donors using cryp­tocur­ren­cy to lend thou­sands of dol­lars to the white nation­al­ist cause

[29]2.  The Pol­i­tics of Bit­coin: Soft­ware as Right-Wing Extrem­ism by David Golum­bia; Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press [SC]; pp. 73–75. [10]

. . . . As objects of dis­course, Bit­coin and the blockchain do a remark­able job of rein­forc­ing the view that the entire glob­al his­to­ry of polit­i­cal thought and action needs to be jet­ti­soned, or, even worse, that it has already been jet­ti­soned through the intro­duc­tion of any num­ber of tech­nolo­gies. Thus, in the intro­duc­tion to a bizarrely earnest and destruc­tive vol­ume called From Bit­coin to Burn­ing Man and Beyond (Clip­pinger and Bol­lier 2014), the edi­tors, one of whom is a research sci­en­tist at MIT, write, “Enlight­en­ment ideals of demo­c­ra­t­ic rule seem to have run their course. A con­tin­u­ous flow of sci­en­tif­ic find­ings are under­min­ing many foun­da­tion­al claims about human ratio­nal­i­ty and per­fectibil­i­ty while expo­nen­tial tech­no­log­i­cal changes and explod­ing glob­al demo­graph­ics over­whelm the capac­i­ty of demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions to rule effec­tive­ly, and ulti­mate­ly, their very legit­i­ma­cy.” Such abrupt dis­missals of hun­dreds of years of thought, work, and lives fol­lows direct­ly from cyber­lib­er­tar­i­an thought and extrem­ist rein­ter­pre­ta­tions of polit­i­cal insti­tu­tions:” What once required the author­i­ty of a cen­tral bank or a sov­er­eign author­i­ty can now be achieved through open, dis­trib­uted cryp­to-algo­rithms. Nation­al bor­ders, tra­di­tion­al legal regimes, and human inter­ven­tion are increas­ing­ly moot.” Like most ide­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions, these sen­ti­ments are high­ly resis­tant to being proven false by facts. . . .

. . . . Few atti­tudes typ­i­fy the para­dox­i­cal cyber­lib­er­tar­i­an mind-set of Bit­coin pro­mot­ers (and many oth­ers) more than do those of “San­juro,” the alias of the per­son who cre­at­ed a Bit­coin “assas­si­na­tion mar­ket” (Green­berg 2013). San­juro believes that by incen­tiviz­ing peo­ple to kill politi­cians, he will destroy “all gov­ern­ments, every­where.” This anar­chic apoc­a­lypse “will change the world for the bet­ter,” pro­duc­ing “a world with­out wars, drag­net Panop­ti­con-style sur­veil­lance, nuclear weapons, armies, repres­sion, mon­ey manip­u­la­tion, and lim­its to trade.” Only some­one so blink­ered by their ide­o­log­i­cal tun­nel vision could look at world his­to­ry and imag­ine that mur­der­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ments and thus putting the gov­ern­ments them­selves out of exis­tence would do any­thing but make every one of these prob­lems immea­sur­ably worse than they already are. Yet this, in the end, is the extreme rightist–anarcho-capitalist, win­ner-take-all, even neo-feudalist–political vision too many of those in the Bit­coin (along with oth­er cryp­tocur­ren­cy) and blockchain com­mu­ni­ties, what­ev­er they believe their polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion to be, are work­ing active­ly to bring about. . . .