The Internet – Gab is a popular alt-right social media website used by Robert Bowers, who posted to the platform shortly before going on a shooting spree and killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday, October 27, 2018. Gab has repeatedly been taken offline by its hosting providers in the wake of its connection to the Pittsburgh shooting. Bowers told his fellow Gab users he wanted to stop Jewish people from allegedly facilitating an “invasion” of refugees and wrote “screw your optics, I’m going in” shortly before entering the synagogue and opening fire. Violent, anti-Semitic language such as seen in Bowers’ messages is not unusual on Gab, and the site is primarily known for its refusal to take down hate speech and death threats.
While Bowers used Gab to declare he was “going in,” others have used the platform to systematically spread racist propaganda as well as organize an online fascist subculture. A leaked Discord chat server named Gabber Hangout sheds light on how neo-Nazis coordinate campaigns on platforms like Gab, a Twitter-like “alt-tech” clone popular with white nationalists and the far right. Gabber Hangout served as a more private conversation to complement the users’ more public-facing posts on Gab, with some of them coordinating their Gab activity over Discord. Agendas for voice chat meetings held in the Gabber Hangout Discord show that discussion topics included overcoming “roadblocks” to “ethno-nationalism” as well as subjects like “the Jews and Europe,” “the Jews and the alt-right” and “hiijacking social justice.”
The Gabber Hangout chat logs stretch from December 2016 to July 2017, and include over 59,000 messages from over 200 usernames. Unicorn Riot has analyzed over 50,000 messages from the server and is releasing them as part of our DiscordLeaks series. Discord is a voice and text chat application popular with gamers but also widely adopted by alt-right white supremacist groups to organize and recruit online. The platform has gained notoriety since it was exposed as playing a key role in planning violent hate rallies in Charlottesville:
The Gabber Hangout Discord chat logs provide a window into Gab’s early, core user base when the site was still relatively unknown, in the months following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. Gab would later undergo a dramatic increase in its use after Twitter banned many neo-Nazis and white supremacists after Unite The Right in Charlottesville in August 2017.
One user with multiple pseudonyms, including ‘Jossi’, Ever, Aventeer, and Everrit Foster, commented “we got BanIslam trending at #1 today” in reference to their Gab social media strategy of flooding Gab with coordinated comments. At the time of his posts in late 2016, Everitt Foster claimed he was a 40-year old PhD candidate at the University of Texas-Austin who had previously received a M.A. in Lubbock, Texas.
The same statement is repeated by Discord user ‘HeimatFreiheitTradition‘, who appears to be the administrator of the server. The username is a reference to the slogan: “Heimat, Freiheit, Tradition” which translated from German is “Fatherland, Freedom, and Tradition.” This phrase is popular with so-called ‘Identitarian’ groups like Identity Europa in the U.S. and Generation Identity in Europe. ‘HeimatFreiheitTradition’ is also seen interacting with far-right YouTuber and conspiracy theorist Brittany Pettibone. Pettibone told the Gabber Hangout chat in December 2016 that she was “still researching PizzaGate” and commented she was attending the ‘Deploraball‘ in Washington DC with other alt-right attendees like Mike Cernovich, Baked Alaska, Jack Posobiec and Gavin Mcinnes. In 2018, Brittany Pettibone traveled to neo-Nazi linked protests in Chemnitz, Germany.
One of the most prolific posters is a ‘Mr Goat‘, an alt-right video gamer. A review by Unicorn Riot of his social media show the same images posted to both his personal Instagram and Discord. In reality, ‘Mr Goat’ is Brandon Michael Woolridge, a carpenter in Mahomet, Illinois, who has previously been arrested for assault.
Notably present in Gabber Hangout is Brett Stevens of the anti-semitic website Amerika.org. Brett Stevens posts under the pseudonym ‘diversity_is_racism‘ and previously ran a music distribution company called Death Metal Underground out of the Houston area. His profile on Gab shows the username @alternative_right, a nod to the phrase coined by Richard Spencer which would eventually be shortened into the now-infamous “alt-right” label. Stevens also appears to have ties to the neo-Nazi group League of the South and posted about a League event in Texas on September 29, 2018.
Brett Stevens also engaged in a series of bizarre and obscene posts with another Discord user who stated that she was 17 years old. In one post, Stevens called the young woman “jailbait” and even commented that police were “investigating” him for his comments.
The chat ended in October 2017, when all the users migrated to a different Discord server. Most of the users are assumed to still be active on Discord. Despite the company’s promise to crack down on white supremacy on their platform after events in Charlottesville in August 2017, recent investigations found that neo-Nazis are still openly organizing en masse on Discord.
April Glaser, writing for Slate, called Discord “a safe space for white supremacy” and pointed out that she was able to easily locate “more than 20” publicly available Discord servers that openly promoted racist and anti-semitic content.