When an Australian neo-nazi murdered 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, he was playing into a pre-existing online racist subculture that encourage the kind of attack he carried out. The gunman placed himself in a lineage of white nationalist and alt-right killers such as Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers and Dylann Roof who shot and killed nine black churchgoers in North Carolina in 2015.
Newer shooters since the New Zealand massacre have also played directly into online subcultures that promise to reward alienated young men with praise and attention if they kill for the cause of white supremacy.
While much has been written about the role of sites like 4chan and 8chan in the neo-Nazi mass murder radicalization process, the networks encouraging alt-right terrorism also rely on less-public online spaces to gather, share memes, plan harassment campaigns, and strategize. This more private part of the radicalization process often takes place in ‘servers’ or chat rooms on Discord, a free chat service marketed to gamers and hugely popular with the alt-right.
One such Discord server, called Outer Heaven, is a neo-Nazi chat made up of thousands of users ranging from young, impressionable teens to grown men in their 30s and 40s. While much of the content in Outer Heaven is ‘shitposting’ that seems to use hateful content mostly for its shock value, at times the chat users expressed genuine ideological sentiments. After the mosque massacres in New Zealand, several members of Outer Heaven expressed an intention to carry out similar mass shootings themselves.
“[The shooter] is a hero” wrote ‘K3‘, one of the more prolific posters in Outer Heaven, praising the self-described white nationalist who had just murdered 50 unarmed Muslim worshippers. “Fuck muslims tbh” wrote Discord user ‘Double Negative’, who went on to praise the shooting as “calculated and efficient.”
Others shared criticism of the shooter and offered their advice for how he could have been more effective in shaping the narrative around the massacre for propaganda purposes. “He should’ve said ‘Je suis Charlie’ as he shot them” said Outer Heaven Discord user ‘Mart‘, referencing the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shootings by radical Islamists in France, which have often been referenced by those seeking to promote anti-Muslim sentiment.
Others in Outer Heaven created memes praising the New Zealand gunman, turning frames from the livestream of the massacre into images from the first-person shooter video game DOOM. Others celebrated the Mosque shootings by tapping into the pre-existing racist meme language that was also used by the shooter. One poster rejoiced about there being “30 less kebabs“, a reference to the popular online use of “kebab” as a racial slur targeting Muslims and Arabs. (“Remove kebab” is a meme popular among neo-Nazis that serves as a whimsical, yet serious, call for genocide against Muslims. “Kebab” in this context is used as an anti-Muslim slur).
The New Zealand shooter who murdered 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch mosques last month had written “kebab remover” on his assault rifle with white-out. The gunman also played “Remove Kabab“, a song popular with online neo-Nazis, in his car during his livestream of the shooting. According to the Daily Dot, Serbian soldiers “made it to honor their former leader, Radovan Karadžić. Karadžić was convicted of war crimes during the Bosnian war, during which he was responsible for the killing of approximately 7,500 Muslims.” Others even made memes using images of dead bodies of Muslims killed during the shooting.
‘Tinker Tom’, one of the more active users in Outer Heaven, shared his desire for shootings like the New Zealand massacre to become more commonplace and accepted – “hopefully the zeitgeist changes and more people start supporting this“, he wrote shortly after the news broke. “The shooter is a hero and deserves an fucking iron cross” wrote ‘Grim Creeper’, another highly active Discord user in Outer Heaven, adding “let’s make #RemoveKebab Trend n*****s“.
Celebration and excitement in Outer Heaven quickly led to calls for real-life violence: “Let’s kill all the minorities“, wrote one member. Another Discord user in Outer Heaven, ‘saN‘, expressed a desire to imitate James Alex Fields’ deadly car attack in Charlottesville, writing “I legit want to drive into this, too bad i didnt have an ied” after sharing an image of a liberal protest. Outer Heaven Discord user ‘Niccolo’ responded, “Ask amsalem he can solve the no IED issue” (‘Ansalem‘ is another prolifically active Discord user in Outer Heaven.) ‘saN’ then went on to say “if i do a shooting im gonna do the same…i’m pretty fast so i can probably stab a few before they can get to me.”
Outer Heaven also served as a hub for archiving and real-time sharing of the New Zealand gunman’s manifesto, as well as the livestream recording showing the shooting taking place. Discord user ‘GGPL’ encouraged others to make new fake social media accounts in order to “spam the [shooting] video everywhere“. Copies of the files were shared and archived on various platforms such as Pastebin, LiveLeak, MEGA.nz, and via torrents. (As of this writing, some of the MEGA share links were still active.) PDFs of the manifesto, as well as images and video clips taken from the shooter’s livestream, were also shared via Discord’s CDN (Content Delivery Network) which allows Discord users to upload files directly in the app. All Discord CDN file links we examined with content from the shooting were still active as of the time of writing.
A few days later, ‘Sulferix‘ shared in Outer Heaven that he was deeply moved by the shooter’s manifesto and expressed intent to follow in his footsteps: “Wow. Just finished reading the manifesto. Truly powerful…and I wholeheartedly agree. I will be starting my own contribution to the fight soon, in every way that i can. i will start a group, i will train. i will be part of this if it fucking kills me.”
Others in the Outer Heaven chat shared extensive PDF libraries of manuals on creating explosives, homemade firearms, and chemical weapons in the server’s #pdfs-and-documents channel. (NOTE: Due to the nature of these links, they have been redacted by Unicorn Riot.) The weapons guides were posted alongside PDF copies of Siege, a book by neo-Nazi writer James Mason that calls for white supremacists to carry out random acts of mass terrorism in order to spark a race war.
The Outer Heaven server has been around for a few years, serving as a hub for various alt-right harassment campaigns and ‘meme warfare’ operations. In 2017, Outer Heaven was closely involved with intensive coordinated harassment against ‘HWNDU’ or ‘He Will Not Divide Us’, a participatory livestream-based art project launched the day of President Trump’s inauguration directed by actor Shia LeBouf along with artists Luke Turner and Nastja Rönko.
The Outer Heaven Discord server is run by a self-described “proud National Socialist” who uses the alias ‘JT Kirk’ or ‘Captain Kirk JT‘. At times, Discord users entrusted with moderating Kirk’s chat server have included members of Anticom, or Anti-Communist Action, a young neo-Nazi faction involved in planning Unite The Right in Charlottesville. Like Outer Heaven, Anticom’s leaked chats also featured ebooks of instructions for creating homemade explosives.
Discord users ‘skrrt’ and ‘AyeExAye’, both of whom have been involved in Anticom leadership, appear at times in the Outer Heaven chat logs. The deep connection between Anticom and Outer Heaven is further borne out by “JT Kirk”‘s presence in the leaked 2017 Anticom Discord chats. An Anticom podcast released in December 2017 also features voice recordings in which both ‘Skrrt’ from Anticom and ‘JT Kirk’ of Outer Heaven describe harassment campaigns against the HWNDU project.
Apart from Outer Heaven, other far-right online communities saw a connection between themselves and the New Zealand shooter. According to posts in one Discord server, users of the /k/ board on 4chan, which focuses on firearms, believed that the Christchurch gunman was a frequent poster on /k/ boards and that they might be legally liable for potential ties to him.
Just after the news of the Christchurch mosque shootings broke, an admin in the Discord server ‘The Pathetic Life of an Average /K/ommando’ (a Discord chat made of /k/ enthusiasts) posted that any discussion of the shooting would be banned out of a precaution regarding police inquiries into the shooter’s potential ties to /k/.
“Attention all users. Considering the circumstances we find ourselves in it is very likely that this man was in any number of /k/ servers. Considering this it is very likely we could all be, in the event the man was in the server, considered accomplices and held for a federal investigation. Seeing as that is the case, any mentioning of the recent habbening from now on us strictly verboten. Sincerely, the PK mod team.” – Discord user ‘Maj. Asshole’, in the “Pathetic Life of an Average /K/ommando” Discord chat
“The happening potentially involves everyone here,” wrote another admin in the same /k/ Discord server, “therefore nothing happened AT ALL STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.”
This is not the first time that 4chan’s /k/ board has been implicated in a neo-Nazi mass shooting. Investigations into Allen Scarsella, a neo-Nazi radicalized on 4chan who shot 5 unarmed black protesters in Minneapolis in 2015, revealed that he and others tied to his shooting had attended “meetups” organized on /k/ to do firearms training at local shooting ranges. After Scarsella was convicted and sentenced to prison in 2017, his close associate, former Marine, and leader of the armed harassment that led to Scarsella’s mass shooting, Julio Suarez, posted about it in the Anticom Discord chat, where Outer Heaven admin ‘JT Kirk’ was also present.
While violence and terrorism stemming from globally networked, internet-based white supremacist movement is on the rise, the networks encouraging and promoting racist attacks are finite, and can be exposed.
Additional reporting based on chat logs released for this story has been published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Discord chat logs published as part of this reporting:
- Outer Heaven
- Foxhound (Outer Heaven backup server)
- All Things Metal Gear (gaming-themed Discord server operated by ‘JT Kirk’ of Outer Heaven)
- Pit of Autism (a smaller Discord server made up mostly of users also in Outer Heaven)
- Turtle Hermit School (8chan and Qanon-themed Discord server listed as a ‘Partner Server’ with Outer Heaven)
- The Ice Wall (flat earth conspiracy-themed Discord server listed as a ‘Partner Server’ with Outer Heaven)
- The Pathetic Life of an Average /k/ommando Discord