Over the course of 2020, online conversations about ‘the boogaloo’, an ironic term for a second civil war, coalesced into the beginnings of an actual movement according to experts who monitor American extremists. Facebook even designated a network of boogaloo groups as a dangerous organisation similar to the Islamic State, and banned them from both the former and Instagram. That same year, at least 15 arrests and five deaths were publicly linked to boogaloo rhetoric, including the murders of two law enforcement officers in California.
The boogaloo movement, whose adherents are often referred to as ‘boogaloo boys’ or ‘boogaloo bois’, is a loosely organised far-right anti-government extremist movement in the US. It has also been described as a militia. Adherents say they are preparing for, or seeking to incite, a second American civil war or second American revolution which they call ‘the boogaloo’.
The movement mainly consists of—you guessed it—pro-gun, anti-government groups. The specific ideology of each group varies and their views on topics such as race differ widely. Some are white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups who believe that the impending unrest will be a race war.
There are also groups among the movement that appear to condemn racism and white supremacy, however, attempts by some individual elements of the movement to support anti-racist groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter have been met with wariness and scepticism as researchers are unsure if they are genuine or meant to obscure the movement’s actual objectives.
The movement primarily organises online, but adherents have also been spotted at in-person events supporting the anti-lockdown protests and at marches against police brutality and the murder of George Floyd. Heavily armed, boogaloo members are often identified by their attire of Hawaiian shirts and military uniforms (which are allegedly based on an inside joke, but I’ll get to that later).
Individuals affiliated with the boogaloo movement have been charged with crimes, including the killings of a security contractor and a police officer, a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and incidents related to participation in the George Floyd protests. In mid-2020, several companies including Facebook acted to limit the movement’s activities and visibility on their social media and chat platforms.
Like many other problematic internet movements, boogaloo initially emerged on 4chan and subsequently spread to other platforms. Although usage of the term dates all the way back to 2012, the movement did not gain mainstream attention until late 2019. Adherents use the word ‘boogaloo’, including other variations so as to avoid social media crackdowns and to refer to potential violent uprisings against the federal government—which is seen by these adherents as a tyrannical left-wing threat.
According to Vox, the name derives from the movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo—a joking reference to the 1984 sequel movie about breakdancing—and is meant to imply a lesser ‘sequel’ to something that has already happened. For many followers, that something would be the civil war.
“For many, the word boogaloo is used jokingly or ironically, but for others, the boogaloo memes are shared alongside violent text and images, seemingly to inflame an eventual confrontation,” adds NBC News.
According to what radicalisation researcher and podcast host Robert Evans told Vox, when the term first appeared on 4chan, it was “essentially a joke that people wrapped a bunch of different stuff in.” That vaguely ironic jokiness has remained among people who identify as boogaloo boys. For example, some people who follow the movement use the terms ‘big igloo’ or ‘big luau’ to avoid saying boogaloo on social media platforms, which then resulted in a new symbolism for Hawaiian shirts. That’s the inside joke.
According to Evans, open-source materials suggest that, for now, the apocalyptic, anti-government politics of the boogaloo boys are not rigidly racist or neo-Nazi. Some members rail against police shootings of African Americans, and praise black nationalist self-defence groups. In other words, the movement’s main political ideology, and its guiding sentiment more widely appears to be anti-government with a general focus on gun confiscation as a major concern.
As of now, boogaloo followers don’t seem to constitute a distinct political bloc. That being said, it’s also worth noting that some parts of the movement have clearly supported racist, neo-Nazi ideologies too. The meme-ing and jokes that make up a large part of the boogaloo movement can, for some, give effective cover to a desire for violence.
While it would be stupid to underestimate the movement and its boogaloo boys, it also appears that, for now, the US has bigger fish to fry—from QAnon followers to YouTube extremists, it might take the country’s government a while before it reaches this community of ‘jokesters’.
Many of you know vaguely what the QAnon conspiracy theory is about—its followers believe that a group of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires run the world while engaging in paedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children. And there’s way more to it. If you’d like to discover more about the absolutely unhinged world of conspiracy theories, fake news and misinformation, feel free to have a browse through.
What few people are aware of, however, is that QAnon (along with numerous other conspiracy theories) is completely founded on an old form of antisemitism—only repackaged for our digital age. And now, its awful foundations are finally getting exposed. So, what’s happening among the ranks of QAnon believers, and why are the community’s antisemitic views coming out just now?
“There’s a war brewing within the QAnon community,” writes VICE. An anonymous QAnon account called GhostEzra has amassed a massive following in the space of a few months by spreading wild claims about President Joe Biden being a ‘fake’ played by Hollywood actor James Woods in a mask. Don’t ask where this came from. In recent weeks, the ‘on-the-rise’ account has become more and more extreme, spreading Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi content.
By doing so, GhostEzra has seriously pissed off some old school QAnon followers who’ve spent years promoting the conspiracy theory’s misinformation by pretending—and pretending is the key word here—that it isn’t intrinsically antisemitic. Unfortunately for these QAnon ‘influencers’, they have a smaller combined following than the mysterious GhostEzra. But the real problem lies in the fact that they aren’t actually worried about the antisemitic content itself; they’re just worried that the extremist language being used to express that antisemitism is damaging the QAnon brand. Which party is worse? I’ll let you decide for yourself…
“Do you see how disinformation accounts hurt our movement?” CJTruth, part of the establishment QAnon influencer group, wrote on Telegram last week, according to VICE. You’ll notice that the message doesn’t go as far as to try and debunk the Holocaust denial content or antisemitic posts.
With Q gone MIA since December 2020, and President Trump out of office (and therefore unfit to save the world from ‘Satan-worshipping Democrats’), QAnon’s followers seem closer and closer to embracing more extremist views. Obviously, experts see this as a very dangerous trend. “They point out that GhostEzra’s account has become ‘a hub for radicalisation’, where more extreme groups can recruit QAnon followers,” continues VICE.
Yes, QAnon had always promoted antisemitic views, only it never did it so blatantly. The type of content being shared in the GhostEzra channel has taken very extreme turns. In no time, the anonymous account became the leading channel for QAnon content on Telegram. No one knows who is behind the account exactly, but their rise to power within the QAnon community has been extraordinarily fast.
A Twitter account using the same name was set up in December 2020, and within weeks gained over 18,000 followers. After it went down as part of Twitter’s major QAnon purge in the wake of the Capitol riots, it quickly reemerged on Telegram. There, freed from any sort of moderation, the account quickly became a massive hit with QAnon followers.
Besides the standard QAnon conspiracies and the Holocaust denial content, GhostEzra has also promoted some truly wild claims. From some of the wildest flat Earth theories I’ve ever heard to the good old Biden is in fact Woods in a mask idea, one thing is for sure, GhostEzra doesn’t lack imagination.
But last week, the underlying antisemitic content that GhostEzra had always been pushing came to the fore in a series of posts on their Telegram channel that left no doubt about just how extreme the account was. It first promoted the neo-Nazi film Europa—the Last Battle, a ten-part film that claims Jews created communism, and deliberately started both World Wars as part of a plot to found Israel by provoking the ‘innocent’ Nazis, who were only trying to defend themselves.
“Almost all the 4,000 comments responding to the post on Telegram are positive, with very few pushing back against the openly racist message,” reports VICE. On Tuesday 25 May, the account posted more antisemitic content. Here again, the post attracted radicalised comments from other QAnon followers.
Meanwhile, other QAnon followers have only criticised GhostEzra for exposing those views, not promoting them in the first place. Why would they? They’ve been posting that same content for years. As of now, their complaints about GhostEzra seem to have fallen on deaf ears, with hundreds of thousands still interacting with his posts every day. As GhostEzra’s channel on Telegram continues to grow, many worry that it’s already too late to stop him on a platform known for its undisguised lack of rules.