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Understanding Accelerationist Narratives: The Boogaloo

Understanding Accelerationist Narratives: The Boogaloo
18th November 2021 Matthew Kriner
In Insights

“You wanna create f***ing some instability while the Virginia situation is happening, make other things happen. Derail some rail lines … shut down the highways … shut down the rest of the roads … kick off the economic collapse of the U.S. within a week after the [Boogaloo] starts.”

This quote from Base member Patrik Mathews highlights the varied nature of the term ‘boogaloo’, a concept that has at times been used as a verb, as a reference to an event (ongoing or set to occur in the future), and as the name of a violent extremist movement. For the purposes of this Insight, ‘boogaloo’ is best understood as two things: 1) “a decentralized, anti-authority movement” whose adherents’ believe that “they are following in the footsteps of the United States’ founders and participating in a revolution against tyranny” (hereinafter referred to as the Boogaloo); and 2) a narrative that focuses on an expected event in the near future where society collapses either due to proactive insurrection or a necessary uprising of people against an oppressive political system. While the first is predominantly an American phenomenon, the latter is a broader tent that has been shown to hold appeal to a wide range of actors, but especially to accelerationists. Within the context of this Insight, accelerationists can be understood  as those who seek to “exploit contradictions intrinsic to a political system” that will hasten its collapse.

This Insight will focus on understanding the distinction between the Boogaloo movement and the boogaloo narrative, and how that has informed accelerationist exploitation of both. For ease of distinction this article will capitalise references to the contemporary movement or adherents of the movement (e.g., Boogaloo).

Ideographic Inheritance

The boogaloo narrative emerged jointly out of both anti-government and white supremacist spaces online, and its evolution has reflected ongoing influence from the neo-fascist milieu. For example, users on 4chan’s /pol/ board adopted ‘Boogaloo’ as a synonym for ‘The Happening’, a meme term referring to a large-scale, catastrophic conflict that itself developed as a veiled reference to Turner Diaries-esque race war. Boogaloo adherents were also influenced by apocalyptic collapse and anti-modernity narratives and worldviews (e.g., prepper, survivalist, patriot/militia movement) – many of which featured prominently on 4chan’s /k/ board. Notably, those digital meeting spaces were also the same breeding grounds for groupuscules and milieus that later formed explicitly accelerationist tendencies.

A principal differentiation between boogaloo as a narrative and Boogaloo as a movement is the added assumption of a collective identity in the latter that is formed around a loose, ideological coalition that has perverted American ideographs (defined by Sam Jackson as “ abstract ideas that carry stable moral value but are only vaguely defined” such as natural rights, liberty, patriots, etc). As we have stated elsewhere, “the consistent narrative focus on contention with the current political system and perceived institutional failures allows unlikely partnerships, coalitions, and conflicting ideologies to coincide in one movement.” And in tandem with the boogaloo narrative, this movement has primed its “targeted audience with the belief that insurrectionary violence or civil war are not only imminent, but inevitable and necessary.” This is central to its appeal within accelerationist groupuscules as the broader accelerationist strategy is to approach societal collapse with an apoliteia framework that inculcates coalitional partnerships. What better vessel could accelerationists imagine than a ready-made revolutionary movement fixated on an ultra-patriotic necessity to overthrow a corrupt government by force?

Offline Organising

Early Boogaloo organising offline was driven by multiple groupuscules: Patriot Wave, Mike Dunn’s network, and most recently the Unity Coalition spearheaded by Magnus Panvidya. Tangential to that activity was the plot by Patrik Mathews and Brian Lemley, two members of the neo-fascist accelerationist group The Base. Each of these collectives were, or are, accelerationist, though their individual level of adherence to the doctrine varies (as with all extremist adherence to violence). As such, how they approach the boogaloo narrative varies and informs greatly our understanding of how actors would operationally or tactically act on the narrative’s lessons.

Before we evaluate the way each groupuscule acted on and uniquely propagated the boogaloo narrative, it’s important to understand the social context that served as backdrop. Civil unrest erupted across America in 2020, with an unprecedented number of armed demonstrations – many attended by adherents of the Boogaloo movement and explicit accelerationist cliques. For adherents of the Boogaloo movement, ‘tyrannical’ COVID-19 government mandates, coupled with the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer, served as an acute expression of a tyrannical government preparing for a war on its populace. For accelerationists, the societal upheaval was a moment to exploit the boogaloo narrative and the Boogaloo movement represented a choice opportunity to merge revolutionary sentiment with insurrectionary actions.

Patriot Wave

Patriot Wave was a small groupuscule led by an individual known as ‘Patriot Squid’ (aka Squid), allegedly an active duty naval reservist in Virginia. For a brief period of time, the group was the literal face of the burgeoning Boogaloo movement due to their prominence at the 2020 Virginia Lobby Day 2nd Amendment protest. Yet, the inner workings of the group show that members harboured explicit accelerationist views and a review of their leaked Discord channel illuminated the channel’s fixation with neo-Nazi accelerationist content. One member of the Patriot Wave Discord server posted: “People call me antisimetic, but honestly, I don’t mind the label. People call me a nazi? I show them my atomwaffen patch.”

Patriot Wave was also the pioneer of the boogaloo ‘patriotwave’ aesthetic for memes online, often promoted by ‘Molotov’, one of its Discord server admins. The Patriot Wave aesthetic became a major feature of online Boogaloo groups, to the point that it was nearly synonymous with Boogaloo organising online. An interview from the 2020 Lobby Day shows Patriot Wave members stating that they started as a Facebook meme page and progressed to viewing themselves as the memes, hoping to “create patriots” and incite others into making the country “what you wanna see it be.” Notably, the small clique of individuals assembled with Patriot Wave that day displayed multiple symbols of deeply accelerationist nature, such as /k/ patches and the skullmask popularised by Atomwaffen Division. Patriot Wave’s meme workshop, Thicc Boog Line, also produced the first of the now dominant version of the Boogaloo flag.

Mike Dunn

Mike Dunn broke onto the Boogaloo scene in the second wave of Boogaloo organising and activism. Defined by a stated intent to be ideologically and racially inclusive, this wave was instrumental in mainstreaming Boogaloo views among a younger generation of anti-authority gun enthusiasts that sought partnerships with social justice movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM). Entities like the Unity Coalition became the flagship of these efforts to co-opt and exploit social justice protests. Yet Dunn, like Patriot Squid, clearly displayed insurrectionary accelerationist sympathies and symbols.

Dunn held extensive contacts to much of the national Boogaloo presence, including claiming to have personally known Boogaloo martyr Duncan Lemp. One contact, Cameron Rankin of Austin, TX, was arrested on prohibited persons firearms violations and had been in frequent contact with Ivan Hunter, a skull mask-wearing individual that fired into a police precinct in Minneapolis in 2020. Rankin was also filmed encouraging BLM protestors to burn the police precinct, but not the Alamo. A member of Rankin’s Austin groupuscule attended the protest that day wearing a skull mask. Additionally, Dunn was in contact with Barry Croft prior to Croft’s arrest for his role in the Boogaloo groupuscule Wolverine Watchmen’s plot to kidnap and execute Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Dunn also claims to have been in contact with Stephen Carrillo, the active-duty Air Force Boogaloo adherent that murdered multiple federal officers in 2020.

Dunn’s most recent group, Last Sons of Liberty, attended the 2021 Virginia Lobby Day wearing the Boogaloo’s customary Hawaiian shirts, but with multiple members wearing skull masks. A 29 January 2021 Twitter post by Dunn, visually reminiscent of the Patriot Wave aesthetic, contained a meme with text stating “those who defend tyrants are tyrants themselves.” On the post, Dunn wrote “#burnitdown.” Another from 2 February 2021 stated “I am 100 percent a revolutionary. Im [sic] not here to preach peace and happiness. Im [sic] about Unity and war with the current issue.”

On 2 November, Mike Dunn posted a video to his personal YouTube channel which began with the statement, “If you want a war, let it begin with us.” YouTube terminated his account within a few hours of the video upload. The #burnitdown hashtag and the other posts’ themes fall into the No Political Solution narrative category of accelerationist rhetoric.

Magnus Panvidya

Magnus Panvidya (an alias) is the most recent face of the Boogaloo. Panvidya assumed a leadership role in the Unity Coalition, the largest Boogaloo coalition to date, following the ouster of Mike Dunn. Panvidya’s time as the de facto voice of the Unity Coalition has been less explicitly accelerationist than his predecessors – though one associate of Panvidya’s has been linked to members of the Wolverine Watchmen by virtue of having attended protests alongside them in Michigan.

Where Dunn and Patriot Squid played heavily on the aesthetic and themes of American revolutionary patriots, Panvidya evolved the focus of the Boogaloo to be more apolitea – a wholesale rejection of politics and the current political system. Panvidya’s contribution to the overlap of accelerationism and Boogaloo organising is defined by his efforts to refocus the Boogaloo on anti-systems narratives through appeals to anarchism, bridge ideological divides, and bring “unity across the political spectrum.” Panvidya openly seeks to exploit atypical political coalitions (such as those between Boogaloo, leftist anarchists, BLM activists, anarcho-capitalists, Green Party representatives, and more) to radically shift and overthrow the current political system in America and the liberal democratic West. Despite this adjustment to apolitea, Panvidya’s appeals to overthrowing a corrupt American government still embraced boogaloo narratives elements that belonged to an earlier iteration of the movement (e.g., anti-ATF boogaloo and 4chan /k/ memes).

While Boogaloo organising around his groupuscules has been less explicitly accelerationist, much of Panvidya’s personal social media activity and podcast content glorifies and promotes actions and individuals that are accelerationist. This includes explicit support for the violent actions of John Subleski, a Boogaloo adherent and member of the United Pharoah’s Guard (a Unity Coalition partner) shooting at a vehicle during a riot on 6 January 2021. Subleski was sentenced to time served and three years probation for violating the Riot Act, as well as for inciting others to violence.

Conclusion

As with other modern domestic terror movements in the United States, the offline manifestations of the Boogaloo movement as a cohesive space will inevitably ebb and flow based on external factors, narratives, and inevitably due to law enforcement response. While the Boogaloo movement itself has waned as an organisational force, evidence suggests that boogaloo and other pro-collapse narratives have been integrated into the ideological foundations of neo-fascist and Christian Identity spaces, and thus the narratives are likely to outlive the Boogaloo.

On Telegram, dozens of neo-fascist accelerationist channels, collectively referred to as “Terrorgram,” have cross-promoted memes, propaganda, and rhetoric endorsing the Boogaloo as a precondition for apocalyptic race war. The case of Mathews and Lemley shows how neo-fascist elements of the skull mask movement saw the Boogaloo as an opportunity to advance their accelerationist goals. It also shows how their interest in the Boogaloo was not predicated solely on shared ideological notions, but rather their ability to tap into and exploit a movement that was fixated on social collapse.

Despite the drop off in explicitly accelerationist features of the Boogaloo movement, it is important for researchers and practitioners to recognise how accelerationists have influenced not just various sub-milieus within the movement, but also the different iterations of the movement and boogaloo narratives that continue to inspire actors to violence.

Matt Kriner is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC).

Alex Newhouse is the Deputy Director of CTEC, where he focuses on right-wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, and coalitional accelerationism.

Jon Lewis is a Research Fellow at the Program on Extremism, where he studies violent extremist organisations and actors in the United States as well as the activities of the Islamic State and its supporters in the United States and Europe.