And created little monsters like Dylann Root.
This is a great article discussing how the white supremacist type flood the web with lessons learned from a site called 4CHAN.
To understand Dylann Roof’s thinking, he tells us, we have to go back to 2012. To Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, the moment that Roof writes in his manifesto that he was reborn as a white nationalist. Roof’s inspirations are clear in a way that his psychology is not. They go back further than the Martin case into centuries of American history and, along another path, less clearly marked, to the peak years of a now widespread Internet culture, when a new kind of reactionary sensibility was hatched.
A reactionary, defiantly anti-social politics has been emerging for the last decade. It was well known under the auspices of “trolling” and well hidden by its pretense of trickstersism. It was actually juvenile fascism and vitriolic racism but, because it grinned and operated in cyberspace, it was a sensation when it first appeared less than a decade ago. Excitable theorists, bored journalists and naive political activists looked at its strange, adolescent face and pronounced on its revolutionary potential.
According to the accepted wisdom, trolls were fiercely apolitical pranksters up until they put on Guy Fawkes masks and became the radical progressives known as “Anonymous.” But Anonymous doesn’t have a monopoly on trolling’s political legacy. They are only its nominally left-wing manifestation. Something else has been growing in the online ferment they came out of—something that Anonymous and its supporters want to disown—a politics that is temperamentally of the right, not quite coherent, though Anonymous isn’t always either, but unified by certain passions, a conspiratorial bigotry and anti-black racism above all.
This is another legacy of 4chan, the infamous online message board that spawned trolling culture. It is a different branch of politics than the hackitivism associated with Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, but its roots are the same. While Anonymous has gotten most of the attention, the trolls they left behind on 4chan have seen their influence spread as well, though without a catch-all name or striking avatar to easily refer to them. You can see this other side of trolling’s inheritance spreading on popular sites like Reddit and in the widespread adoption of the rhetorical style they developed: using bombast and absurdism to hide racist tropes in conceptual riddles.
If Roof was not directly shaped by that Internet culture, he nonetheless moved in the world it helped create.
We know that Dylann Roof had a history of taking drugs and that friends say he had expressed interest in committing a mass shooting, but little else about his psychological state leading up to his massacre. We know from what he told the woman he left alive to explain what he’d done, since he apparently intended to kill himself, and from his manifesto that he believed he had no choice but to murder defenseless black people—he specified defenseless; he wanted a slaughter, not a fight—in service to his white nationalist ideology. And we know where the ideas in Dylann Roof’s manifesto first appeared: almost verbatim on a neo-fascist website inspired by 4chan’s politics.
Back to Trayvon Martin. If there is a single event that sparked the current period of social unrest, the national controversy around race and policing, and the largest protest movement of President Obama’s second term, it is the night in February 2012 when a mixed-race Florida man, alarmed by the presence of an unarmed black teenager in his community, confronted and killed him after a struggle.
The fault line exposed by the killing of Martin is still sending out aftershocks. It inspired the Black Lives Matter movement and its more radical offshoots, including a group that named itself after Martin, despite objections from his family, and became notorious after leading a chant calling for “Dead cops” in New York.
The Martin case, and the mainstream media’s handling of it—marred by bothcasual slanders of Martin and outright distortions about Zimmerman—reverberated in the Internet’s ideological echo chambers, the former inspiring the nascent protest movement that reemerged in Ferguson, the latter inspiring a right-wing counter-movement online.
A story that had started on Twitter before it was picked up by news continued to spread on the populist Internet.
The racial and political divisions revealed by perceptions of Martin’s death and the media’s handling of it attracted activists to the cause. Some organized protests. One anonymous Internet user hacked Martin’s email and social media accounts and posted the results online in an effort to depict him as a thug and drug user, and justify his shooting death. The hacker, who went by the name Klanklannon, posted an edited, slideshow version of the messages stolen from Martin’s accounts. Klanklannon, as the name suggested, was a white supremacist, and a member of 4chan’s political message board, “/pol/,” which is where the hacks were first posted.
“The event that truly awakened me,” Dylann Roof wrote before walking into a church in South Carolina and killing nine of the black parishioners who had invited him into their Bible study group, “was the Trayvon Martin case.”
It’s not all that far from the mainstream of American discourse to the places where Roof dwelled online, but the distances get skewed by perspective.
The organized political groups that inspired Roof, like the Council of Conservative Citizens, have, while courting influence, been considered disreputable for decades. That’s a far cry from the kind of ambivalent, if not adulatory treatment, offered to the avatars of 4chan’s bleeding-edge web culture, who were fêted by academics and journalists even as their much pondered trolling cleared out a space online for a new breed of fascist websites, like the one Roof appears to have visited online.
There’s something immediately familiar about The Daily Stormer, where whole passages from Roof’s manifesto first appeared. Its name is taken from Hitler’s paper of record, the Nazi propaganda organ Der Stürmer. The site owes as much, perhaps more, to the style and mode of political rhetoric developed on the 4chan message board as it does to any tract published by the KKK or American Nazi party. (…the nitty gritty here…)
Now – there is a way to fight this – and I will get more into that over the next few weeks (hopefully). Some people have already started using the trolling method to counter, making most conservative sites even quicker on the trigger to ban liberal folks than usual. You also have to be prepared to be persistent, as in many places where there are racist types working the board – you will get a slew of complaints instantly from the trolling group to try and knock you off almost immediately, for even mild deviance from the racist mantra being spewed. They truly hate it when you blow up one of their racist memes with facts.
Step 1 always is to understand the problem.