Since Tuesday, Facebook has decided to free the social network for the presence of the right-wing movement Boogaloo. These activists, who stood during protests against police violence in the United States, are determined to start a civil war.
Outstanding cleaning on Facebook and Instagram. Over 300 accounts, 100 groups and 26 pages belonging to the Boogaloo nebula have been deleted. The internet giant has decided to treat them in the same way as terrorist groups such as the Islamic State organization, says the New York Times.
According to experts from radical movements in the United States, it is not too early. Two independent reports, published in Februaryand inApril 2020, emphasized the extent to which Facebook had allowed a diverse team of Americans to unite around the rallying Boogaloo, which is a reference to an Afro-Cuban musical movement in the 1960s. On the social network, these groups – called BoojieBastards, Boojahadeen Memes or Big Igloo Bois – could organize violent measures against institutions and law enforcement in support of demonstrations against police violence and anti-inclusion movements.
Hawaiian shirt, skull mask and clown nose
It will have taken murder of a federal agent in Oakland, in California, May 30, that of a sheriff of Santa Cruz, six days later, and the arrest of a man – killed during his arrest – who had planned onen bomb attack in a hospital, to push Facebook to shut down. In each of these three events, Boogaloo had been called to motivate them.
It is easier to identify a person who joins this movement than to define it as such. In general, “wooden Boogaloo” arrives at heavily armed demonstrations, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt over which they have been wearing a military jacket, decorated with some distinctive characters specific to this nebula. To complete this disguise, they sometimes wear a skull mask on which a clown’s nose is drawn.
A veritable pre-inventory of symbols borrowed from both the Internet subculture and neo-Nazi images. For example, the Hawaiian sweater is a reference to a Hawaii-inspired variant of the term Boogaloo – Big Luau – used online to escape any censorship. The clown nose is found in the iconography of some groups of white supremacists to designate “farce of multicultural societies”, emphasizes the center of the Southern Poverty Law, an observatory for the American Right.
From 4Chan to Facebook
A suit, a love of firearms and a tendency to violence, which soon earned the Boogaloo media label for the extreme-right group. The kinship is undeniable and US politicians like the former Republican candidate for Congress and declared supremacist Paul Nehlen have taken Boogaloo on their own.
However, it is not an ideologically homogeneous block and it took time to reach media maturity. Originally, the term Boogaloo was used in a forum dedicated to firearms enthusiasts on the 4Chan website to express the hope that the re-election of Barack Obama 2012 would lead to a second American civil war, from a study by the Center for Studies on Terrorism and Extremism at the University of Middlebury in Vermont.
This word then turns into a meme on this forum frequented by libertarians, fierce defenders of the right to carry firearms, anarchists or racists in all stripes. This is where the ideological backbone of Boogaloo is formed: it becomes a crying cry for all who demand an armed uprising against the state, the authors of a study published in February 2020 by Network Contagion Institute, an American research center for hate online.
In 2018-2019, Boogaloo leaves its niche on 4Chan to launch itself into the big leagues on Facebook. The number of aficionado groups exchanging advice on the best way to prepare for confrontation with the authorities or circulate anarchist manifestos filled with advice to make bombs grow steadily, found Technical transparency project, a US non-governmental organization that analyzed how Boogaloo promoters are spreading their web on Facebook.
2020 and the spark of protests in the United States
But the beginning of 2020 is a kind of “big night” for this nebula. “Wood boogaloo” made its first public appearance during a demonstration against restrictions on the right to bear arms in Virginia at the end of January. Then, between February and the end of April 2020, more than 100 groups, with tens of thousands of subscribers, appear on Facebook, notes the Tech Transparency Project. The Covid-19 pandemic and the containment measures that followed, since the demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, gave them the impression that the advent of the long-awaited Second Civil War was imminent. All it takes is a spark …
And the “Boogaloo firewood” is determined to give a boost. Therefore, their appearance together with demonstrators against police violence when ideologically everything seems to differentiate them from the Black Lives Matter movement. But some take the side of the black minorities authentically because they see the struggle against the state as “ethnically neutral”, stresses the Bellingcat research site, which dissected the diversity of discourse within the Boogaloo movement. Others, the most extremist, just see it as a way to achieve their goals: “Lowering society in chaos to seize power and establish a new fascist state,” notes the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The experts hope for the fight against radical movements is that the great spring cleansing of Facebook will stop the online infection of Boogaloo. Depending on their selectable platform, “wooden boogaloos” will be more difficult to organize. But “it’s too little and too late,” fears Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, interviewed by the Guardian. His organization found that dozens of groups similar to those that had been banned have emerged. Facebook recognizes that we must be vigilant against activists who will do anything to circumvent censorship. It is therefore a game of cat and mouse that promises. Except that the mouse here is armed to the teeth and ready to take action.