How Cryptocurrency Revolutionized the White Supremacist Movement

Hatewatch identified and compiled over 600 cryptocurrency addresses associated with white supremacists and other prominent far-right extremists for this essay and then probed their transaction histories through blockchain analysis software. What we found is striking: White supremacists such as Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents, race pseudoscience pundit Stefan Molyneux, Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer and Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer, and Don Black of the racist forum Stormfront, all bought into Bitcoin early in its history and turned a substantial profit from it. The estimated tens of millions of dollars’ worth of value extreme far-right figures generated represents a sum that would almost certainly be unavailable to them without cryptocurrency, and it gave them a chance to live comfortable lives while promoting hate and authoritarianism.

Less than a quarter of Americans presently own some form of cryptocurrency as of May 2021. But those numbers increase substantially within fringe right-wing spaces, according to Hatewatch’s findings, approaching something much closer to universal adoption. Hatewatch struggled to find any prominent player in the global far right who hasn’t yet embraced cryptocurrency to at least some degree. The average age of a cryptocurrency investor is 38, but even senior citizens in the white supremacist movement, such as Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, 69, and Peter Brimelow of VDARE, 73, have moved tens of thousands of dollars of the asset in recent years.

Cryptocurrency, or a group of digital moneys maintained through decentralized systems, has grown into a billion-dollar industry. A growing swath of Americans embrace the technology. Nothing is inherently criminal or extreme about it, and most of its users have no connections to the extreme far right. (One of the authors of this essay owns cryptocurrency, as disclosed in an author’s note at the end.) However, the far right’s early embrace of cryptocurrency merits deeper analysis, due to the way they used it to expand their movement and to obscure funding sources. It is not uncommon for far-right extremists to seek to hide their dealings from the public. The relative secrecy blockchain technology offers has become a profitable, but still extraordinarily risky, gamble against traditional banking.

“There are a lot of Bitcoin whales from pretty early [on in its history],” futurist and computer scientist Jaron Lanier told the Lex Fridman podcast in September. (People use “whales” to describe those who hold large sums of cryptocurrency.) “And they’re huge, and if you ask, ‘Who are these people?’ there’s evidence that a lot of them are not the people you would want to support.”

‘A huge tolerance for unreality’

Johnson of Counter-Currents, an influential figure in the white nationalist movement due to his outspoken support for the creation of an “ethnostate” serving only white, non-Jewish people, first picked up Bitcoin on Jan. 19, 2012, Hatewatch found, making him the first known figure in the movement to invest. Hatewatch could not determine how Johnson generated just shy of 30 Bitcoin on that Thursday in January 2012 – whether he mined it or purchased it, or someone merely sent it to him – but the date falls just a year-and-a-half after the first known commercial cryptocurrency transaction took place.

Johnson obtained the 29.82 Bitcoin on a date when prices for the asset sat between five and 10 dollars. Hatewatch found that Johnson flipped the Bitcoin from that first transaction and additional ones into over $800,000 worth of value. He has turned his website Counter-Currents into a hub for cryptocurrency discussion in the movement and solicits donations in digital tokens, or cryptocurrency “coins,” such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, Bitcoin Cash, Tether, Cardano, Ripple, Dash, Neo, Stellar Lumens and Basic Attention Token. Hatewatch reached out to him for a comment on this essay, but he did not respond.

“If any of you haters out there have any Bitcoin and you just want to get rid of it, send it to Counter-Currents, we have a Bitcoin address,” Johnson said on a Jan. 5 edition of his livestream, referring to those who perceive cryptocurrency as lacking in real world value. “I’ll hold it, I’ll stack it, I’ll keep it … I have a huge tolerance for unreality.”

Johnson often platforms on his site an antisemitic white nationalist personality who goes by the pseudonym Karl Thorburn. As Thorburn, the author advises people in the movement to purchase and hold Bitcoin as an investment. He wrote through his Telegram account that he advertises for Bitcoin so white nationalists can have money they “can travel with, that bad people can’t seize/inflate, and that will allow [them] to live in a safer, White neighborhood and start a family.”

Thorburn also advises people in the movement on how to donate cryptocurrency to white nationalist causes without exposing their identities, highlighting one of key reasons that the assets appeal to them.

“Just transfer the [Bitcoin] from your exchange account to another wallet you control, and later move the [Bitcoin] from that wallet to the donor’s address. This creates plausible deniability because you aren’t sending the [Bitcoin] directly from your exchange account to a publically [sic] known nationalist,” he wrote for Johnson’s site in a post published on Nov. 26, 2020.

Matt Gebert, a State Department official Hatewatch identified as a white nationalist organizer in 2019 (the government suspended him after we published the story), also has contributed material to Johnson’s Counter-Currents. In April, Gebert brought the person behind the Thorburn pseudonym onto a podcast. Explaining how he got interested in white nationalism, Thorburn said that he “went into the Stefan Molyneux thing, where it was hardcore atheism, and hardcore anarcho-capitalism” before becoming a white nationalist. A significant number of people who started in libertarian online spaces adapted to the pro-fascist ideology of the “alt-right” movement during the rise of Trump.

“And in fact that’s what really led me into Bitcoin,” he said of Molyneux’s influence.

David Gerard, a cryptocurrency analyst and author of Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain, told Hatewatch that the cryptocurrency community denies that extremists have immersed themselves in their subculture.

“Bitcoin started in right-wing libertarianism,” Gerard said in an email. “This is not at all the same as being a neo-Nazi subculture. That said, there’s a greater proportion of Nazis there than you’d expect just by chance, and the Bitcoin subculture really doesn’t bother kicking its Nazis out. … Bitcoiners will simultaneously deny they have Nazis (which they observably do), and also claim it’s an anti-bitcoin lie, and also claim it’s good that anyone can use Bitcoin.”

‘At the expense of the parasites’

Molyneux, a self-described moral philosopher who started his career as a libertarian pundit, denies being a white supremacist despite repeatedly and falsely claiming that non-white people are predisposed to be of lower intelligence. He started to embrace white nationalism around 2018 during a trip to Poland. (Hatewatch obtained leaked video of Molyneux calling a monologue he filmed at that time his “white nationalism speech.”) He never responded to a request for comment about that incident.

YouTube, and even typically more lenient Twitter, suspended Molyneux’s access to their websites in 2020 after years of his using the platforms to denigrate women and non-white people. Molyneux, relegated to fringe websites, saw his website traffic and his ability to raise funds plummet. One of his associates implied that Molyneux could…

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