CONTENT ADVISORY: Bigotry, violence, sexual assault
Whether Proud Boys in their Fred Perry uniforms ‘standing back and standing by,’ or white men in polo shirts and khakis holding torches, modern white supremacy violence has a specific look and feel to it. The latest trend in this style is ‘the Boogaloo‘; an informal internet-inspired movement that often refers to members as ‘the Boogaloo bois’.
Boogaloo rhetoric started in reference to an imagined ‘civil war’ coinciding with Obama’s reelection in 2012, memeing it as “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo“. Its humor has always been violent and catered to white racial anxiety.
Boogaloo bois with their guns and Hawaiian shirts almost look like a stoner nephew imitating ‘The Dude’ from The Big Lebowski, except armed and ready for combat. The bois’ almost comical look is a specific choice of aesthetic – one that seems intended to downplay the seriousness of their actions. Throughout the earlier months of 2020, Unicorn Riot was actively monitoring ‘boogaloo bois’ via several Discord chat servers – Patriotwave, Boojahadeens of Liberty, and others – from which over 240,000 messages have now become available at our public DiscordLeaks database. Findings and themes documented below are intended to be helpful in decoding ongoing ‘boogaloo’ phenomena. Unicorn Riot has reported on Discord-based far-right activity since 2017.
‘Patriotwave’ was described by one of its adherents as the “absolute bleeding edge of the public face” of the boogaloo movement. As of May 2020, Patriotwave was an official entity with its own P.O. Box in in Hampton, VA, according to its founder and leader, Jordan Lee Shepherd aka ‘Squid‘.
Who are the Boogaloo Bois?
Boogaloos are a far-right, white supremacy militia group that organize across the internet. Boogaloos came into existence via the firearms board ‘/k/’ on 4Chan, and then expanded onto Facebook. They were more widely reported on after engaging in violent attacks. A boogaloo member is allegedly responsible for shooting Federal Protective Service officer David Patrick Underwood and another officer in Oakland, California on May 29, 2020; Underwood did not survive.
As the Atlantic has reported, the Boogaloo traffics in memes promoting civil war, armed revolts, and fantasies about taking down the U.S. government. These memes have spread from 4Chan to Discord chat servers, Facebook and Reddit. Armed with rifles, AK47s and heavy combat gear combined with their Hawaiian shirts, Boogaloos started appearing at George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, as well as pro-gun rallies; and Boogaloos, like other white supremacy groups, have a specific memetic framing and language to their posts – from the words they use and the topics they discuss to the kinds of memes they create.
The specific kind of content they post is important, because it creates a ‘sameness’ and a framing of values, thoughts, and political platforms and beliefs shared across the group. These are ‘deep memetic frames’ that are manifested within the group and bleed into their offline and online lives as actual beliefs. “Deep memetic frames” are a descriptor created by Ryan Milner and Whitney Phillips to explain how memes and movements create “sense-making orientations to the world” which “shape what we know, what we see, and what we’re willing to accept as evidence“… “establish the identity of the bad ‘them,’ as opposed to the valiant ‘us,’ and prescribe what can or should be done in response“. Phillips was using this framing specifically in a Wired article to talk about the dangers of QAnon, but it can be applied to Boogaloo bois as well.
Deep memetic frames aren’t contained to one corner of the internet or one part of a person’s life. Deep memetic frames illustrate how memes can become beliefs that worm their way into a person’s being, making conspiracy theories like QAnon feel like a real framework for seeing the world. And Boogaloo operates via similar pathways.
The ‘boogaloo’ is not a single coherent group but represents a decentralized informal online movement, yet devoted adherents consistently reproduce hierarchical right-wing social values despite their superficial opposition to government authority.
The boogaloo contains several strains, which Unicorn Riot has been monitoring via the chat app Discord throughout 2020. The group Patriotwave represents one of the more dominant recurring strains of Boogaloo phenomena. While a few members of the loose-knit group may claim to identify as leftist or even “libertarian socialist“, the group overall trends heavily in directions similar to previous far-right meme-based militia formations such as ‘Anticom‘, one of the younger online fascist groups (primarily organized over Discord) involved in planning and facilitating the deadly August 2017 Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville.
Patriotwave arrived on the national media’s radar on January 20, 2020 during a large pro-2nd Amendment ‘Lobby Day‘ protest in Richmond, when Vice journalist Tess Owen noticed their “boogaloo boi” ‘pepe the frog’ patches and alerted Twitter:
The ‘Lobby Day’ demonstration ended up being a unifying social event for some of Patriotwave’s more devoted participants, with many demonstrating their belonging in the group’s inner cadre by acting out performative military formations. In the leadup to the rally, Patriotwave’s Discord chat featured memes depicting the hanging of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Members also discussed taking action to “purge” people who were leaving anti-Nazi comments on Patriotwave’s Facebook page ahead of the Richmond pro-gun rally. In the weeks after the rally, some in the Patriotwave chat shared the home addresses of several Virginia state legislators.
Patriotwave, organized by Jordan Lee Shepherd, a reservist in the US Navy and a private military contractor for the US Air Force, was the largest and most significant Boogaloo Discord chat server whose logs we obtained. This Patriotwave leader who has gone by ‘Patriot Squid‘ and ‘Trash Squid‘ was first exposed by name in August 2020 by ‘Rod Serling 161’ or ‘@TwilightZoneAFA’, an anonymous antifascist Twitter account devoted to “Documentation, Research, and Analysis of the Far Right.”
After being identified on Twitter, Jordan Lee Shepherd aka Squid attempted to distance himself from his own violent ideology and eventually claimed to be shutting down Patriotwave’s online presence entirely.
While the future of Patriotwave’s internet presence is now in question, its adherents are highly likely to continue to serve as attractors for potential eruptions of far-right violence.
Jordan Shepherd, aka Squid, started a Facebook page for Patriotwave in early 2019 as a place to share his “war wave” memes – glitched-out images showing things like US soldiers deployed in the Middle East, historical paintings of the US revolutionary war, or other images invoking a romanticized seductive visualization of the excitement of an adrenaline-soaked battlefield experience.
Squid is an adherent of a racist interpretation of the pagan religion Asatru, a subcultural adaptation of a subset of Norse Odinism. This Asatru variant is well known for supporting ‘ethnic separation’ and has roots in white supremacy. Squid has also been involved in leading a small Asatru group called Legacy of Tyr, which calls itself “a Germanic/Norse heathen tribe chartered in Hampton Roads, VA and Western NC.” Episodes of a Legacy of Tyr podcast recorded in 2018, which features Jordan Lee Shepherd as a co-host, includes frequent far-right commentary. Shepherd and his podcast co-host described a desire to keep so-called “SJWs” out of their Asatru community. Squid says also posted on Discord that he “fucking hate[s]” progressive elements of the Asatru community that welcome gay and trans people.
Squid’s “war wave” aesthetic is very evocative of “fashwave“, an already established style of vaporwave music aesthetic associated with the more murderous elements of the neo-nazi alt-right, as seen in terror groups like Atomwaffen and The Base.
Squid likes to present himself as a constitutionalist or libertarian, but these misapplied labels mask a darker violent animus. In a June 2019 message, he wrote that he believes a “new United States can be formed under the Constitution” but only after “tyrants, criminals, and the morrally depraved” are “cleaned up“.
He is a self-described “fan” of the Proud Boys, and praised the American Identity Movement (a rebrand of the neo-nazi group Identity Evropa). He also shared a meme featuring the ‘Black sun‘ or Sonnenrad, a European runic symbol commonly substituted for swastikas by contemporary neo-nazis.
In an interview he gave on the podcast ‘Deadbeat Radio’, Jordan/Squid said he is the “founder and creator” of Patriotwave which he claims to have started “as a hobby, as a war wave page.” He told the podcast that he is from North Carolina but recently moved to Virginia “for military stuff and work” and claimed to be “currently in an expeditionary combat command.”
Boogs bound by ‘deep memetic frame’
If the ‘deep memetic frame’ of QAnon is revamped, John Birch Society-inspired, suburban paranoia, the framing of the Boogaloo is more inherently militaristic in nature, meant more for those who would take reactionary violence into their own hands as opposed to wait for a magical James Bond-type savior to arrive (à la Q).
If a suburban homeowner nervously looking out from between their blinds is an example default mind of the deep frame for QAnon, the default host mind for Boogaloo imagery would be military “vets or current enlistees“, a high schooler passionate about his ROTC involvement, private security or military contractors, K-9 handlers, a gun store employee, or just lonely alienated men who enjoy video games and live-action roleplaying, leaning towards misogynist and right-wing libertarian views. Some Patriotwave members also appear to be coworkers, with pre-existing social bonds feeding into the sense of memetic group belonging.
The Patriotwave strain of boogaloo boi is soaked in racist memes and fascist ideology. A review of content they posted is a ‘who’s who’ checklist of far-right, fascist, and neo-nazi Youtubers, authors, and memelords associated with the downward spiral into alt-right radicalization.
Patriotwave members in the Discord chat shared content produced by well-known white nationalist pundits such as Stefan Molyneux, Ramsey Paul, Mark Collett, Nicholas Fuentes, and the Red Elephants. They also shared propaganda by the self-described ‘American Fascist’ group Patriot Front.
Members discussed the work of Jack Donovan, the founder of the violent fascist occultist gang Wolves of Vinland. Others recommended books by fascist philosopher Julis Evola, American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell, as well as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf itself. Some also praised ‘Siege,’ an infamous text considered the bible of self-proclaimed terrorist neo-nazi groups such as Atomwaffen.
4chan’s /k/ board leads to ‘Boogaloo’ organizing
Participants in the Patriotwave chat (and presumably most boogaloo groups) are highly likely to have spent a lot of time on 4chan, especially the /k/ board focused on weapons. Long before today’s boogaloo memes went viral, 4chan’s /k/ board was already serving as a hub for armed white supremacists to plan meetups, shooting practice and camping trips.
Before alt-right memes took off in 2016, several Minnesota neo-nazis who had met via /k/ meetups embarked on a campaign of racist agitation against racial justice protesters in Minneapolis, eventually shooting and injuring five people in November 2015. 4chan /k/ enthusaist and neo-nazi Allen Scarsella would eventually be sentenced to to 15 years in prison for the shooting.
Several Patriotwave adherents described themselves as “/k/ommandos“, a term for devotees of the 4chan weapons board. Many also indicated this affiliation by including a variation on /k/ in their Discord usernames.
While enthusiasm for firearms is certainly a unifying factor in boogaloo adherents who congregated in the Patriotwave chat, this same passion did not always extend towards practicing proper firearm safety.
Many chat users used the Patriotwave Discord to share images of themselves with their guns – including posing for photos holding guns with their feet and toes, or, in one popular repeating motif, pointing handguns directly at their genital regions. This gives a glimpse of the extent to which boogaloo adherents can get so carried away in an ecstatic meme dance that they may often disregard all safety, even their own.
Several active participants in the Patriotwave chat (and again presumably the larger boogaloo ‘movement’ as well) also claim affiliation with chapters of the Three Percenter militia – one prolific Discord user in Patriotwave claimed to be leading a Three Percenter chapter. Another member, ‘thatgoonsteve42‘, shared a picture of his tattoo reading “Molon Labe“, a Greek phrase commonly used today as a Three Percenter logo and motto.
Online racist seeks law enforcement career & authority
One of the more active administrators of Patriotwave’s Discord chat and Facebook page – posting under the alias ‘thedarkness05’ and ‘Based Yan/k/ee‘ – claimed he worked as a security guard contracted to guard public schools in Long Island and had interned with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, and once was part of the winning Color Guard team in New York state in 2013.
He used racist lingo such as “dindu nuffin”, and shared memes praising the defunct apartheid regime of Rhodesia (now known as the African nation-state of Zimbabwe) as an “ethnostate“:
‘Thedarkness05’ also attended the August 2019 ‘Minds IRL’ speaking event in Philadelphia that included alt-right internet personalities Timothy Pool and Carl Benjamin (aka ‘Sargon of Akkad’).
A photo that ‘Yan/k/ee’ posted of his Suffolk County Sheriff internship, along with other information he shared in the chat, confirms his identification as 24-year-old security professional Christopher Dark; his online profiles indicate he recently worked for a firm contracted by the state of New York for security guard services, including at school districts. In an interview he gave on ‘Deadbeat Radio’, Dark went into more detail about his background. He claimed to have a military background through his experience with the Civil Air Patrol, and bragged about having done licensed ‘VIP’ private security gigs in New York. He also claims to know some “based feds“, such as former Homeland Security officials who he says he is friends with, who share his politics and who be believes to be sympathetic to “the boogaloo”.
He spoke disparagingly of Black students at Longwood High School in Long Island, where he appears to have been working as an armed guard. After local news picked up on Longwood students’ lawsuit against a teacher who reportedly called them “monkeys” in a Facebook post, Dark shared the story’s URL with the Patriotwave chat, adding derisively that “these kids need to grow some thick skin.”
Dark also recounted making a racially insensitive joke about a “young black kid” in “an Elementary school” (“I work for a school district”) during his internship with the Suffolk County Sheriff – “…the COs overseeing my internship… loved it, but told me I probably shouldn’t repeat it to the Sheriff.”
In one message he sent in Patriotwave’s Discord, Christopher Dark shared instructions for making white phosphorus and discussed making Molotov cocktails. In another, he replied to a Patriotwave Discord user’s proposal for “exploring extrajudicial rope+tree options” by naming politicians such as Andrew Cuomo, Bill DeBlasio, Chuck Schumer, Kristen Gilibrand, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as targets for assassination.
Dark also told the Patriotwave group that he was pursuing a career in law enforcement and had already tried to get a job with US Customs and Border Patrol: “Ya boi here is trying to get into a local LEO position, and at one time had an academy date to be a CBP fed.” Customs and Border Protection officers have been found to privately share racist content amongst each other on Facebook.
Another message he sent in January 2020 claimed that he had an “orientation with the SO [Sheriff’s Office] soon.” In another January 2020 message in Patriotwave’s chat, he claims his father “is a lead supervisor for the board of elections out by me.”
Neo-nazis leverage online organizing space to trade bomb recipes
Many participants in the Patriotwave chat are open neo-nazis, often making posts promoting racist views and denying or justifying the Holocaust. While not every person in the chat appears to be a literal neo-nazi, the nazi elements were active and dominant enough that anyone sticking around knew beyond a doubt who they were involved with.
Jordan/Squid gave admin powers for Patriotwave’s Discord chat and Facebook page to a young man with the username ‘Foxhound’, one of the most open neo-nazis in the chat who called himself “EcoFash with NatSoc political and moral views” and regularly encouraged others to carry out violence against people of color and anti-racists.
In addition to empowering open neo-nazis in his group, Jordan/Squid also allowed the sharing of bomb recipes alongside calls for violence in his group chat. In July 22, a man using the Discord username ‘Biohazard6520‘ shared a “tacticool recipe for plastic explosive” (some details in the chat logs have been redacted by Unicorn Riot for safety). Detailed instructions were included on how to make an apparent weapon of mass destruction. Instead of removing this dangerous information from his Discord venue, Squid sought to compartmentalize it. After sharing the bomb recipe, ‘Biohazard6520’ asked Squid “is this not allowed?” to which Squid replied, “Put that in boogaloo chat,” referring to another chat channel within the Patriotwave Discord server.
While ‘boogaloo bois’ love to present themselves as protectors of freedom for all, their semi-private online discourse exposes this claim as a low-effort farce. In fact, most boogaloo followers are hardly meaningfully different from the various alt-right white supremacy groups that gained notoriety during the earlier years of the Trump administration.
Patriotwave’s Discord chat seems to be made up, at least in great part, by angry racist white men who are at plausible risk of being or becoming murderers and/or rapists. The chat server’s logs are rife with blatant calls for genocide, sometimes not even wrapped with a veneer of irony.
The main violent animus possessed by Jordan/Squid and his Patriotwave followers seems to be against antifascists and the left, who they clearly want to “purge” from society via mass murder. Particular interest is expressed in killing “communists“, with Squid clarifying that he also sees labor unions as “commie shit.”
Some Patriotwave members expressed interest in “hunting” Jewish worshipers at synagogues. Others shared memes celebrating the Christchurch mosque shooter and advocated killing Muslims. Another shared a post advocating for the “physical removal” of gay people from society.
Many of the men in the chat also showed a disturbing inclination towards violence against women. ‘Foxhound’ confessed one day that he wanted to go on a “rampage“ after his alleged girlfriend left him before his 21st birthday. Patriotwave Discord user ‘slvr_neo‘ shared a fantasy about kidnapping and raping a woman. Jordan/Squid, the group’s leader, seems to share the proclivity for patriarchal killing, posting that he believed “cheating is an executable offense.”
A Texas teen using the alias ‘One Shot Paddy’, one of the more hyperactive posters in Patriotwave’s chat, bragged about his activity in his high school’s JROTC program. ‘One Shot Paddy’ also shared photos of himself making and testing firebombs; one photo of him posing with a lit Molotov cocktail and Nazi-style helmet was remixed by other members and made into glitched-out propaganda images.
‘Paddy’ also complained about “race mixing” ruining “the superior southern race” and fantasized about killing “liberal civies“. He also went on to tell the group “my mom found out [about] my Molotov cocktail attempts” and “I’ve already been exposed by my school for a potential school shooter“.
Others in the chat shared instructions for questionable DIY modifications to firearms alongside recipes for thermite, napalm and homemade mortars.
The group showed an interest in targeting law enforcement, with one member also suggesting they “target politicians, CEOs, and so on“. They also discussed “destroy[ing] roads, bridges, power plants etc.”
While some of the Patriotwave boogaloo bois want to kill cops, some are trying to join the ranks of law enforcement. Others proposed a more subtle strategy to “radicalize” sympathizers in the police and military “while they maintain their positions or even advance in their career.” Discord user ‘North /K/arolina‘ even claimed to be in contact with a pro-boogaloo police unit ready to go rogue: “we have a swat team in Eastern NC ready to do liberty shit and break away from the PD.”
Quite a few of the of Patriotwave boogaloo boys, including its leader Jordan Shepherd aka Squid (believed to currently be in the US Navy), are actively serving in the military.
Discord user ‘/K/aptainBlastin‘ promised to share “scout sniper instructionals” he claimed he obtained while serving as a Marine. Another active Discord user in the Patriotwave chat, ‘PILLARMAN‘, claims to be “part of a NORCOM/JSOC task force” that augments the US Army’s 75th Rangers 3rd Battalion.
Binding an aesthetic of violence
Aesthetics shape and reinforce a visual language, and instill a sense of group belonging. A uniform, like the Proud Boys’ shirts, signals belonging to a club. The hashtag of ‘white pill‘ signals to white supremacists that their compatriots are online and existing. Uniforms, aesthetic visual choices, and specific hashtags or catchphrases create in-groups, and exist as flares or signals out in the world. Boogaloo is no different.
The Hawaiian shirt motifs and humorous memes and puns holding the Boogaloo together are the binding ingredients of an abstract online device intended to seduce lonely men and drive them to commit political violence along highly specific lines.
The tickle of laughter accompanying the aesthetic seems intended to distract, to disarm, and ultimately, to clear the way for more advances along the lines of violent right-wing ideology. To ignore it is dangerous, especially given the strong prevalence of unapologetic nazis and fascists in their ranks.
Discord chat records added to Unicorn Riot’s #DiscordLeaks database for this story can be explored at the links below:
- P A T R I O T wave (March 2019 – May 2020, 223,445 messages)
- Patriot Wave Speak Easy (March 2020 – May 2020, 23 messages)
- Boojahideens of Liberty (February 2020 – May 2020, 8,752 messages)
- Iowa MKII: Cornfed Boogaloo (February 2020 – April 2020, 1,845 messages)
- The New Order of the Templar (February 2020 – April 2020, 9,563 messages)