American white nationalist Richard Spencer once declared Bitcoin “the currency of the alt right.”
But now, Bitcoin and just about every cryptocurrency are in full-on crisis mode, after the crypto market lost roughly $1 trillion in value since November. And some folks on far-right online message boards aren’t taking it particularly well.
Cryptocurrency has been a magnet for domestic extremists ever since payment processors like Stripe and PayPal scrambled to deplatform the far-right in the wake of the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. A recent investigation by Southern Poverty Law Center identified more than 600 crypto addresses with known white supremacists and far-right extremists, with an estimated value in the millions of dollars as Bitcoin’s price skyrocketed over the years.
Now, the global meltdown in cryptocurrencies is creating anxiety, desperation and frantic posts casting blame in online forums that cater especially to the extremist right.
To take just one example: A poster on 4chan, a traditional favorite hangout for white supremacists, claimed crypto is falling because Jews “want you losing money like idiots”—in a post that put three parentheses around the word “they” in an online code often used by antisemites to refer to Jews.
Meanwhile, the Telegram channel associated with the New Jersey chapter of the far right, street-fighting Proud Boys, shared a mock image of the 4chan business channel that featured a lengthy row of screaming, cartoon faces, with all-caps “AAAA” as the only commentary. (Proud Boys and their former chairman Enrique Tarrio pushed hard on Dogecoin.)
White nationalist so-called “groypers” have also been prominent beneficiaries of crypto— in particular their leader, Nicholas Fuentes. His supporters lamented the collapse of crypto in the livechat during one of his streaming sessions earlier this week. “Anyone else staring at their portfolio instead of working today?” wrote one viewer with the handle “Chicago Groyper.”
It’s little wonder the mega-collapse in cryptocurrencies is causing consternation on the extreme right. The value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has fallen in half since late 2021 as investors fled from riskier assets amid economic turmoil that has also roiled traditional financial markets.
The upshot is a stark reversal in fortune for an asset long favored by the right due to its supposed anonymity and censorship-resistance. .
Andrew Anglin, founder of The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi outlet, tapped a global network to take in “at least” 112 Bitcoin, which would have been worth about $4.8 million at last September’s exchange rate, according to a report by Frontline and The Associated Press.
Today that same amount of Bitcoin would be worth more like $3.4 million.
Naturally, there’s plenty of anxiety going around now on the far-right chat groups.
One user on a Telegram channel associated with Chris Cantwell, sometimes known as the “crying Nazi,” a user named Raspberry Pirate wrote: “My crypto portfolio looks like shit but I’m still hodling,” using an acronym, “hodl,” which in online circles means “Holding On for Dear Life.”
Meanwhile, over on Patriots.win, a gathering place for mega-fans of former President Donald Trump, one user ruefully pointed out that anyone who bought Bitcoin back when famed actor Matt Damon did a cryptocurrency Superbowl ad, they would have lost half their money.
(Disclosure: Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys in 2016, was a co-founder of VICE in 1994. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.)