On May 26th, crowds gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to protest the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of the city’s police department. Floyd was black. Many of the protesters were people of color.
The department fired four policemen that same day, after footage emerged appearing to show Floyd being strangled by a white officer; the video shows him placing his knee on Floyd, cutting off his air supply. Firing these officers was not enough to defuse anger in the city where less than four years previously, a police officer shot a black man, Philando Castile, dead at a traffic stop after Castile informed him he had a legally purchased firearm.
On the internet, meanwhile, a largely white, and far right movement publicly contended over what risks its members should take to support a black man killed by police.
On the Facebook page, Big Igloo Bois, which at the time of writing had 30,637 followers, an administrator wrote of the protests, “If there was ever a time for bois to stand in solidarity with ALL free men and women in this country, it is now”.
They added, “This is not a race issue. For far too long we have allowed them to murder us in our homes, and in the streets. We need to stand with the people of Minneapolis. We need to support them in this protest against a system that allows police brutality to go unchecked.”
One commenter added, “I’m looking for fellow Minneapolis residents to join me in forming a private, Constitutionally-authorized militia to protect people from the MPD, which has killed too many people within the last two years.”
These exchanges offer a window into an extremely online update of the militia movement, which is gearing up for the northern summer. The “Boogaloo Bois” expect, even hope, that the warmer weather will bring armed confrontations with law enforcement, and will build momentum towards a new civil war in the United States.
Mostly, they’re not even hiding it. And for the last several months, their platform of choice has been Facebook.
Like many other novel extremist movements, the loose network of pro-gun shitposters trace their origins to 4chan. What coherence the movement has comes from their reverence for their newly-minted martyrs and a constellation of in-jokes and memes
Above all, though, the movement has gained momentum over the last two years by organising on the world’s most popular social network. At the time of writing, that network’s parent company had added just over $150 billion to its market cap since Boogaloo-friendly anti-lockdown protests began organizing there in mid April. The valuation of the company at $662.8 billion on May 26th beat out it’s previous high of $620.8 billion, set on the same day, January 20th, that the Boogaloo movement made its high profile public debut at Second Amendment protests in Virginia.
For now, Facebook chooses to allow the Boogaloo movement to flourish on their platform.
Open source materials suggest that, for now, the apocalyptic, anti-government politics of the “Boogaloo Bois” are not monolithically racist/neo-Nazi. As we have observed, some members rail against police shootings of African Americans, and praise black nationalist self defense groups.
But the materials also demonstrate that however irony-drenched it may appear to be, this is a movement actively preparing for armed confrontation with law enforcement, and anyone else who would restrict their expansive understanding of the right to bear arms. In a divided, destabilized post-coronavirus landscape, they could well contribute to widespread violence in the streets of American cities.
Mainstreaming Civil War: From /k/ To Facebook
In recent weeks, the term “Boogaloo” has gone mainstream after months of growing popularity in online far-right communities. Nationwide anti-lockdown protests have provided an opportunity for right-wing militias to rally, armed, in public.
Much has been written about the “astroturfing” behind the initial rallies, particularly the first Lansing, Michigan rally. It is certainly true that mainstream conservative personalities and organizations have helped fuel this growing movement. Dark money, however, is not what turned “Boogaloo” into a household term.
It was 4chan that gave it its start. Now, above all, it is Facebook that’s helping it along.
The white supremacist upsurge in the last half-decade has been repeatedly linked (including in Bellingcat analyses) to the intensely racist, misogynist, and queerphobic culture that characterised /pol/ boards on 8chan and 4chan.
The Boogaloo subculture’s origins also can be traced in part to 4chan, but to a different board, /k/, which is devoted to weapons.
In recent posts on the board, /k/’s users discuss all manner of weapons from knives to fighter jets. Their overwhelming focus is on firearms.
Posters frequently post about unusual weapons, hunting military equipment, military history, or ongoing wars. Frequently, posts center on users’ own firearms and tactical gear, or asking advice about future purchases.
/k/ is hardly a bastion of sweetness and light (like all 4chan boards, it is littered with every imaginable slur), but unlike /pol/, militant white nationalism is not the default ideological position.
Although gun owners tend to lean right, the board explicitly discourages any political discussion. A “sticky” post at the top of the forum, made in October 2015, just as the “alt right” culture born on /pol/ was turbocharging the Trump campaign, warns that discussions of politics (even gun control) are unwelcome.
There are many racist remarks, and doubtless many racist users on /k/, but race war is not the overriding obsession that it is on /pol/.
While neo-nazis like failed congressional candidate Paul Nehlen have long used the word “Boogaloo” on Telegram channels, or extremist-tolerating platforms like gab or bitchute, these actors seem distinct from the the movement that arose from /k/.