Last year an alt-right group aligning with neo-nazi ideologies gathered in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. The conflict between the protesters and counter-protesters resulted in the death of Heather Heyer as well as igniting a long-simmering fight between right and left in the United States. The fallout from the event reached the Oval Office as President Donald Trump was compelled to comment.
Funding the Alt-right
Authorities are on red alert for this year’s Unite the Right rally which is scheduled for August 11, 2018, in Washington D.C. At the moment, the city is prepared for 400 extreme supporters and has prompted a proposal to separate protestors from the general public on public transportation before and after the rally. These plans were, however, scrapped.
Behind the scenes, cryptocurrency donations to neo-nazi organizations have spiked leading up to the event. Digital currencies have a long history of funding underworld activities including drugs, human trafficking and of course political fringe groups. Far-right spokesperson Richard Spencer went so far as to call Bitcoin the “currency of the alt-right.”
Bitcoin is the currency of the alt right.
— Richard ⛄️ Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) March 18, 2017
Financing the Underground
The association between cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and illicit ideologies has many to questioning if the digital currency will ever move entirely into the mainstream. While cryptocurrencies can transfer value discreetly and immediately and thus prized by the Fintech community, it also makes them perfect for funding movements whose resources are limited due to contentious philosophies.
Last year the Daily Stormer, a far-right website, was funded with $60,000 in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the lead up to the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally which was a record high for that year. Furthermore, the neo-nazis responsible for keeping the website afloat have also seen their publishing coffers padded with cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR).
Monero is a cryptocurrency which began in 2014 and focuses on privacy and ease-of-transfer though currently sells at a far lower price than Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies are predicated on exchanging wealth on a level playing field free of traditional constraints.
While this is an upside for global business, it is also a plus for illicit activities. It remains to be seen if this downside is enough to pull investors away from significant cryptocurrencies.