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When Trolls Carry Guns: Were 4channers responsible for shooting 5 Black Lives Matter protesters?

Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis earlier this month
Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis earlier this month

Last night, according to various media accounts, Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis confronted three mask-wearing men at the protests who seemed to be acting shady. After a brief altercation, one or more of the men pulled out a gun and shot at BLM protesters, wounding five of them.

Police took two men — one white, one Hispanic — into custody in connection with the shooting, later releasing the Hispanic man. Two other white men, both in their twenties, turned themselves in to police this afternoon.

While we still don’t know all the details of the shooting, there’s some pretty compelling circumstantial evidence suggesting that the masked men (and perhaps a masked woman as well) were 4channers who had been lurking around the demonstrations for days.

Raw Story is claiming that

White supremacists have discussed various strategies online for sparking confrontation at the demonstration, which they described as a “chimpout.” …

They agreed to wear camouflage clothing and display a four of clubs to identify each other, and the white supremacist agitators argued over whether they should carry guns or wear Guy Fawkes masks.

Much of their language will sound familiar to you all. Raw Story continues:

The white supremacist mocked “social justice warriors” and other anti-racist whites, who they described in psychosexual terms.

“Best to act as much like a beta white as much as you can,” one the racists said.

Meanwhile, a video posted online shows two masked men in camo gear apparently on their way to disrupt the BLM protests; they refer to blacks as “dindus” (short for “dindu nuffin”), a racist slur popular amongst 4channers and white supremacists. (The video was apparently shot several days before last night’s shooting.)

While we don’t know for sure that 4channers — or the two men in the video above — were involved in the shooting, some 4channers are convinced of the connection.

In a 4chan /pol/ thread earlier today quoted by Gawker, one anon puts the responsibility on members of 4chan’s famously racist /pol/ board, as well as another 4chan board devoted to guns:

4chan in the news again. A bunch of /pol/lacks+/k/ommandos in Guy Fawkes masks just shot up a Black Lives Matter protest. Apparently the BLM protestors tried to assault them, the Anon’s ran off and when the BLM protestors chased after them the /k/ommandos shot them.

5 BLM supporters confirmed in the hospital.

Media hasn’t mentioned 4chan by name yet but these guys were on /pol/ a few days ago telling everyone how they were trolling BLM by attending their protests and open carrying.

Other 4hanners claim that the 4channers who talked about disrupting the protests were not the same people who were involved in the shootings yesterday.

If the connection to 4chan is as real as it seems on the surface to be, it’s yet another reminder that online talk can have potentially deadly real world consequences — even when the online talkers claim to be “trolling.”

The alleged planning emails quoted by Raw Story, with their references to “SJW faggots” and “beta white cuck[s],” are steeped in the language, and the aggrieved entitlement, not only of 4chan but of the broader manosphere; it’s the same sort of language used by readers of the cuck-obsessed white supremacist “pickup artist” Heartiste and more than a few GamerGate trolls.

Online hate is not somehow magically separate from the real world; it’s part of it. If the shootings last night were connected to 4chan, and it seems likely they were, they also show that the line between hateful “trolling” and “real” hate is exceedingly thin if not nonexistent. The shootings last night are what happens when “trolls” carry guns.

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spacelawn
5 years ago

@EJ

Guess i should get to deciding who i want to vote for then.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
5 years ago

A friend try to pull the card “not all 4channer !”.

He seem to have an hard time to understand that the comparison with muslims don’t work, because /pol/ isn’t exactly disowned by most 4channers.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

@spacelawn:
I wish your generation the very finest of luck, then. May you never tire of fighting for what’s right, may your cause not be clouded by self-interest, and may you never know defeat.

dhag85
5 years ago

Feels like I just turned 30 a few weeks ago, and now I’m almost 31. Does 31 count as late 30s? :/

Also, in my country it’s now legal for adults to have sex with people who were born in 2000. Ewwww.

DodoHunter
DodoHunter
5 years ago

1994 here. My generation seems to be okay, despite the bitching of the older generations.

DodoHunter
DodoHunter
5 years ago

Apologizing for what I think is a gendered insult for whining before somebody else tells me to. I wasn’t thinking.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

@dhag85:
I’m 31 now and will be turning 32 soon. It’s a splendid age to be, I think. I do not miss my 20s.

mildlymagnificent
mildlymagnificent
5 years ago

The kindergarten class needs to quiet down for a nap and let old farts like me — born 1947 — control the conversation as is our well-earned right.

(Earned? We survived the 60s and the 70s, what more do you want?)

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

Born in 1968. That means I lived through the Cold War when we all thought we’d be wiped out at any minute (and that post apocalypse would be more “Threads” than “Mad Max”). That actually was an existential threat, unlike terrorism.

Speaking of which, also experienced “The Troubles” so just got used to bombings. Lived in London for a lot of that so was quite close to a few. By the time of 7/7 being on the train in front of one that blew up was barely something that registered.

Was at school when corporal punishment was in vogue. Our school had a simple system. If you were bad you got the cane, if you were good you got a Kit Kat. I know many might find that a bad thing but we did all turn out to be reasonably well behaved people. Maybe it’s an operant conditioning thing.

In summary though it does mean that, whatever may be going on in the world today, by comparison it’s all pretty idilyc. I suspect that’s where my laid back attitude comes from.

dhag85
5 years ago

@EJ

I also don’t miss my 20s in the slightest, but I sometimes wish I had been more active in those days. I feel like I’m way behind on everything. I wasted so much time playing Pokémon. :p

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
5 years ago

Time you enjoyed is time well wasted :p

Which is basically how I live my live.

Leda Atomica
Leda Atomica
5 years ago

I was born in 1987, so my childhood was coloured by the Soviet Union collapse, which resulted in a major depression as no one wanted to buy the crappy products Finland produced anymore. The Soviets buying our exports was a sort of a good will dealie up until then.
All of a sudden everyone knew someone who had lost everything and the overall atmosphere was very dark. And for some reason when I think about the 90’s it was filled with sex workers. Another thing everyone knew was at least one house used by prostitutes.

It was also the time when a lot of immigrants came here and I went to a school in an area that was particularly popular by foreigners, so “multiculturalism” ha always seemed such a stupid thing to worry about.

The same themes of fear are still around: Where does the next meal come from and when will the evil foreigners murder my entire family?
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freemage
5 years ago

It’s difficult to ascribe a single vector to the effect the internet has had on racism and the like.

For one thing, it’s harder to keep someone who wants to learn something from doing so. This has led to the undermining of more insular branches of religion, and has also fed directly into battling homophobia, because it made it easier for LGBT youth to find out the truth about their status, rather than the lies they were fed by ignorant elders.

OTOH, it also makes it easier for extremists of any sort to congregate, and from there to form an actual echo-chamber. While the ‘establishment media’ of the 70s, when there were pretty much three networks and a few local channels to choose from, obviously had muting effect on marginalized communities, it’s now possible for truly fringe groups to organize and whip each other into a frenzy about how right they are.

Consider: In the pre-internet era, if you had a point of view that was only shared by one percent of one percent of the population, it was quite likely that you would never actually meet someone who agreed with you. This had a moderating effect–even if it didn’t persuade you that your belief was wrong, per se, you still were forced to confront the fact that it was a fringe view, one that you would probably never see accepted by the mainstream.

Now, however, the U.S. and Canada have a total population of about 350 million people. That same one percent of one percent translates into about 35,000 people who think that the moon landing was faked, or that shooting an abortion doctor is justified, or whatever. Nearly 90% of those people have internet access, and people with fringe views are usually more motivated than most to seek out corroborating views.

So you end up with an internet community of around 25K+ (literally a small city), all of whom bolster one another with both emotional support and an ever-escalating assurance that they are correct. And suddenly, instead of feeling like you’re part of a bizarre fringe, you think, “Hey, almost everyone I talk to online agrees with me! We must be onto something!”

And finally, there’s the backlash element to all of this. The world is changing, and I believe that for the most part it’s changing for the better (the way it usually has throughout human history). And reactionaries hate that, and thus become more active during times of change. So now that small city of conservative fringe believers is telling one another “Hey, maybe we need to start getting more aggressive.” And some of them are, out of a combination of fear and ignrance.

mockingbird
mockingbird
5 years ago

@WWTH – I’m saving that picture.

35 here.
I’m the same age as Star Lord and Harry Potter, so I’ve got that going for me.

@Alan and the other old darts re: NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION: I was juuuust old enough that I and my young classmates had serious discussions (“serious” for precocious 1st-3rd graders) about if and how we’d survive given a nuclear exchange between us and the USSR.
That we were outside of DC may have had something to do with the preoccupation.

“The initial blast wouldn’t get us, but we’d die from fallout.”
“What I they hit Fort Belvior or the Pentagon? Or Quantico?”
“Probably the same for the first two. We might be lucky enough for it to be quick if they dropped a big one on Quantico.”

We also had little to no grasp on the concept of Perestroika.

mockingbird
mockingbird
5 years ago

re: violence, extremism, and the Internet:

Freemage wrote almost exactly what I was thinking.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

That’s a fantastic analysis, freemage.

TheLulzWatch
TheLulzWatch
5 years ago

Dude, no.

If they were, all 3 would have pulled out guns instead.

A Hermit
A Hermit
5 years ago

Looks like one of the guys in that video is definitely one of those arrested…

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027380569

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his pronouns)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his pronouns)
5 years ago

@mildlymagnificent

1947, huh?

Can you come to my house and lecture my mother on some things that she won’t listen to me about? Maybe she’ll listen to you, since I’m too “young and naive” to know that white people shouldn’t use the n-word and such.

Viscaria
Viscaria
5 years ago

I was born in 89. Still working on this adulthood thing, with mixed results.

I can’t quite process the fact that Black people risk being shot when they attend demonstrations focused, in part, on the principle that their lives are just as precious as the lives of anyone else.

Falconer
5 years ago

1979 — younger than Star Wars, older than Empire. A Carter baby now taking care of Obama babies.

I missed the tail end of the Cold War. I didn’t get the nuclear tensions when I read Watchmen in the early 90s, but I saw it all over when I re-read it when the movie came out.

My childhood is Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Pound Puppies, GI Joe; my adolescence, Game Boy and Drizzt Do’Urden. When 9/11 happened, my fears were for the loss of freedoms and civil rights, and not of dusky men throwing bombs.

Falconer
5 years ago

Huh. I refreshed the page, and all the comments disappeared. The banner under the post says there’s 70 comments, right next to the permalink, but none of them are showing up. Weird.

Paradoxical Intention
5 years ago

I was born in 1990.

And I can’t quite process it either. It’s like they don’t realize they’re only proving the protester’s point.

Iconsborn
5 years ago

GamerGate/4chan/MRAs are terrorists and they are getting out of hand now. I have some stuff on them I am debating whether so send to the police or not.

Viscaria
Viscaria
5 years ago

White supremacists are truly the scum of the earth.

ultimateprotagonistnerd

Since y’all are talking about how old/young you are. I was born in 97, been 18 since october, what even is adulthood? I have like… a checkbook now, with money in my name. How?

Viscaria
Viscaria
5 years ago

@theultimateprotagonistnerd, in my experience at least, that feeling never truly goes away XD.

freemage
5 years ago

Mine’s a bit strange too, Falconer. I’m showing 6 comments–which is the number of comments on THIS page, at the moment, but the comments on the previous page are not being counted at all.

R Cawkwell
5 years ago

If we’re talking age, I’m 32. Still haven’t got the hang of adulting. I have got better since I moved in to my own place last year, paying the rent and bills, and still having enough left for food really concentrates the mind.

On the topic of the post, why am I not surprised? And also not surprised the police did nothing.

zyvlyn
zyvlyn
5 years ago

I was born in 1986. I’m about to turn 30 in a few months and I keep alternating between getting depressed with how “old” I am and realizing that it’s really not a big deal and that I’m being ridiculous.

Tessa
5 years ago

Falconer, I was born the same year as you.
Though I’d add Jem and TMNT to my childhood, and Sailor Moon to my adolescence.

And it seems to now only list the number of comments on the page you’re on. You were post 71, so started a new page. The “older comments” link is still there. It’s weird.

weirwoodtreehugger
5 years ago

I was born in 80. My mom took me in my stroller to go vote and she remembers being depressed because she just knew her baby would be 8 by the time Reagan would be out of office.

ben
ben
5 years ago

Looks like the local NAACP chapter is saying the police were connected to the shooters somehow.
http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/minnesota-naacp-leader-shocks-cnn-police-are-behind-the-black-lives-matter-shooting/

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

I was born in 1984 in a country where white people explicitly had more rights than black people, including the right to vote and the right not to be abducted and tortured by the police; but which was heavily supported by the West because it was the cold war and we were their local enforcers. Fortunately I was born to the favoured ethnic group, so I had it good.

Leda Atomica
Leda Atomica
5 years ago

@Falconer

My page also seems to only think there are as many comments as the latest page displays, and sometimes comments appear (though this might be a moderation issue).

Virtually Out of Touch
Virtually Out of Touch
5 years ago

“Is it just me or has the internet fueled racism and violence since its become widely accessible?”

What I mean is not that current racism and violence is the internet’s fault, but the medium provides a network for racists to get together and plot things like “trolls carrying guns”. Without such a medium they would be much more isolated and perhaps not spurred to take action. Also, things that people would never say in public face to face, people free empowered to say over the internet behind a made up moniker. I’ve actually never heard what I would call racist comments in real life from people I know who carry biases. They might be biased, (who isn’t?), but they have the class, the culture, the decency not to verbalize out loud in shocking and violent terms these biases. They would never think in such ways either. They might not want their kids marrying certain people, but they don’t wish those people ill will. They would never threaten violence on them or even think to.

It does seem these violent verbalizations and threats have increased since the internet provides a platform for them; facebook, twitter, email, etc.

sunnysombrera
5 years ago

1988 is my birth year. My childhood included tacky pop bands of the late 90s (Spice Girls, Five, Steps etc), Pokemon cards, Tamagotchis. On TV there was plenty of Disney animated series based on the films, along with intelligent kids’ dramas and 80s reruns. Also, the dying days of Blue Peter.

megpie71
5 years ago

The year of birth is in the nick’. Old enough to remember the Cold War, and remember seeing articles on the TV news about the Troubles in England and Ireland as a kid. I’ve been watching my country (Australia) grow colder and harder and nastier since the 1990s (I blame John Howard) to the point where these days we have prison camps on Nauru rather than welcoming in people fleeing conflict (meanwhile, I can remember sitting next to Vietnamese kids in primary school and thinking they were pretty okay – they didn’t seem invested in hurting others, the way some of the white kids did), and we have “work for the dole”, which is basically the modern update on Victorian-era workhouses (same pointless labour for little to no money, except they make the inmates feed and house themselves – a terrific saving on the cost of gruel).

I agree the main effect of the internet on both negative and positive minority discourse is a magnifying effect – the internet’s primary value to people is that it’s a tool of connection, allowing you to find someone just like you. Or even several someones. Several dozen. Several hundred. It’s a wonderful tool for piercing the depressing fog of isolation surrounding loners. The problem is the effect works just as strongly in the negative domain (where it magnifies the discourse around various damaging ideologies – racism, neo-liberal economics, Randian political thought, individualism etc – to toxic levels) as it does in the positive domain (where it unites minorities and allows them to come together to better their situations). So at the same time we’re starting to see a massive swing toward acceptance of people who are more diverse in their gender preference and presentation, we’re also starting to see a massive concentration of effort at attempting to push society back to some imagined past where a particular group’s behaviour would go unquestioned.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
5 years ago

1968 baby here, like Alan earlier, though in Canada so I didn’t deal with the Troubles as well, but I remember the Berlin Wall coming down while I was in University.

I was a bit of an early adopter (first did computer programming in 1976 or so, had a desktop computer by 1979, was on BBS’ all through the 80s, have Usenet posts dating back to 1985, and was involved in onling gaming as MUDs by 1990). I think the bit above about the Internet providing mostly a gathering place is the core point. The Internet has been an absolute godsend for fandoms, where groups united by interest in a particular show/book/concept/piece of trivia can all find each other and get together to talk about it. Anime fandom (for example) started with local clubs, spread out to BBSs in the 80s and early 90s, then quickly moved onto the Internet.

Unfortunately, the exact same features that make it good for non-out gay or trans people to talk with each other and find people that can empathise with them, also work for allowing racists who can’t talk about their racism in ‘polite’ company to find someplace to practice being angry and find people that can normalise their bigotry.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
5 years ago

@katz:
Well, yes. The Internet makes organizing special interest groups easy. It says absolutely nothing about the positive or negative social worth of such groups, and doesn’t do a particularly good job of differentiating based on that.

mockingbird
mockingbird
5 years ago

I agree the main effect of the internet on both negative and positive minority discourse is a magnifying effect – the internet’s primary value to people is that it’s a tool of connection, allowing you to find someone just like you.

The siloing of interaction and opinions seems to a thorough job of scratching our tribal itch, at least in some circles.

I’ve had professors who’ve said that they’ve noticed a real diminishing of civil discourse as a norm, or at least an aspiration, since the 80s or so.

Any posters a bit older than me (1980) have an opinion?

mockingbird
mockingbird
5 years ago

I was born in 89. Still working on this adulthood thing, with mixed results.

Most of us feel like imposters at least part of the time.

Or, like, all the time.

mockingbird
mockingbird
5 years ago

Hell, in my last job, one of my responsibilities was supervising a bunch of part time student employees.

I’d be up there doing some department mandared HR training wondering why in the hell they should listen to me, especially when I really wanted to condense the whole presentation into three slides:

1. Do your gott-dang work.
2. If you don’t know something, ask.
3. Don’t be a jackass.

Anne
Anne
5 years ago

I will turn 50 yo Next time 🙂 I find it alarming the role 4chan seems to have

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
5 years ago

I’ll be 31 in two months.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants

1967 here. Cold War, bellbottoms, disco, stagflation, the Boston busing riots. I recently re-watched “Back To The Future” and had the unsettling realization that we’re now as distant from 1985 as 1985 was from 1955, when I first saw it in the theater.

Also just realized that as far as my twins are concerned, the US President has always been black.

Discourse has definitely gotten a lot more polarized and coarse in the past few decades. As everyone else has said, before the internet, cranks were mostly confined to writing letters to the editor and distributing poorly mimeographed newsletters at their own expense. Now they’ve got an instant community and a willing audience at their fingertips. Add to that the fact that the right wing in the US has been steadily shoving the Overton window off the cliff, so that ideas that were unthinkable twenty years ago are now accepted mainstream opinion. The internet has also made swearing, violent threats, and vulgarity part of mainstream discourse (not saying this is good or bad, but I’ve been seeing the F and S bombs creeping into print journalism lately, and for me at least, it damages objectivity). People don’t know how to disagree respectfully anymore. It’s winner take all, my way or the highway. You see that in politics too – an endless stream of freshman Tea Party congressman who don’t know how to argue, compromise, or negotiate with the other side (the essence of politics). They’re literally there to obstruct and cause gridlock. That’s it. They have no other purpose.

Another effect of the internet has been to magnify the importance people put on their own opinions. Starting with LiveJournal and MySpace and progressing to FB, Twitter, etc., thoughts which once would have been written down privately in a diary and cringed at years later can now be broadcast to millions, liked, amplified, commented on, and made viral. It’s a powerful effect, but I think it’s made people more prone to confuse their opinions with immutable fact, more hooked on others’ reaction to their opinions, more prone to writing hyperbolic outrage prose to get attention, and less liable to do the outside fact-checking needed to keep their beliefs grounded in reality. (Ironically, the internet has made fact-checking easier than ever).

It’s also been my observation that there’s been less push to teach critical thinking skills in schools over the past couple of decades. There isn’t time, with all the Common Core and standardized testing and ever-spiraling college costs and tightening admissions standards and the rise in homeschooling (not that no homeschoolers are exposed to critical thinking skills, but certainly fundamentalist households aren’t teaching it). College, too, has become more of a consumer experience than a place people go to be exposed to new thoughts and have their beliefs challenged. A lot of people simply aren’t being taught how to look at the big picture, how to formulate their thoughts persuasively, how to be comfortable with ambiguity, and how to separate good opinions from bad. The result is a population more susceptible to woo, crank magnetism, and crappy belief systems that never require them to stray outside their comfort zone.

That’s my 2 cents. Which would have bought a lot more back in 1979.

Orion
5 years ago

I’ll be 31 in 70 months.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
5 years ago

You see that in politics too – an endless stream of freshman Tea Party congressman who don’t know how to argue, compromise, or negotiate with the other side (the essence of politics).

I’d argue that’s less a matter of the Internet and more a matter of the inevitable result of Nixon’s Southern Strategy and the Moral Majority outlook after a couple of generations resulting in ‘the inmates running the asylum’. It used to be that the politicians pandered to the racists and evangelical extremists for votes because they were easy to wind up and point in the right direction; the politicians never had any intentions of following through, if for no other reason than actually doing things like overturning Roe vs. Wade would result in one less thing they could use to wind up the base to vote for them.

Nowadays you have an entire generation of extremists that have grown up always being pandered to… and they don’t realize it was just pandering. They go into politics to take up the torch from the ‘leaders’ that never really wanted to do anything except get votes, but the new generation actually believes all the hardline rhetoric that was part of the public face of the Republican party. They don’t know how to govern, they don’t care about governing, they’re just single-issue voters throwing temper tantrums because they’ve discovered the hard way that the system of government was actually very deliberately designed to make it difficult for a narrow ideological group like them to perform a complete takeover.