Dogolachan And The Ghost Of Massacres Past
On March 13, 2019, two young men entered their former high school in the small city of Suzano in São Paulo, Brazil. The first one in, Guilherme Taucci, age 17, immediately opened fire with a .38 revolver. Luiz Castro, 25, followed him inside. So began the eighth massacre in Brazilian schools since 2002.
Five students and two employees were killed that day. Many others who managed to survive were injured by bullets and an axe swung by the killers. After the police stormed the building, eight minutes in, Taucci killed Castro and then committed suicide.
Yet the bloody trail followed them even outside the school. Before the attack, both men had killed Taucci´s uncle and stolen his car.
While the Suzano Massacre, as it came to be known, caused tremendous sorrow and grief, it gained little international attention. Yet the Suzano Massacre was destined to become part of the same web of international fascist violence that includes the massacres in Christchurch, Halle (Germany) and El Paso. While those shootings were all tied together by the website 8chan, Suzano became wrapped up in the sordid tale of a website similar to 8chan: Dogolachan.
What Is Dogolachan?
In December, 2013, Marcelo Valle Silveira Mello founded Dogolachan on the surface web as a haven for his particular brand of “free speech.” He had been an active user of the social network Orkut since 2005, regularly posting his support for pedophilia and racism, and sharing pictures of violent crimes.
Prior to founding Dogolachan, Mello had a history of launching online hate campaigns. In 2009, he was the first person in Brazil to be formally condemned for the crime of racism. His lawyer successfully appealed, stating that his client had mental issues. Because of that, Mello avoided prison at that time.
Three years later, in 2012, Mello was finally arrested by Brazilian Federal Police (BFP)—along with his cohort Emerson Setim—for a series of hateful websites they created and managed. These sites spread a bevy of racist and sexist articles directly aimed at several universities with articles like “How to rape a girl at [insert University]”, attributing their authorship to various individuals the chan community considered their enemies, a tactic used to this day.
The websites were a form of an extremely high pressure harassment campaign targeting both people and institutions, disrupting classes and the well-being of said communities in coordinated efforts at intimidation that only grew over the years.
The equation of online anonymity as a weapon to be used against opponents, not to mention the excuse of “humour” and “irony” , all made worse by a lack of police power to monitor forums like these, resulted in a spike in hate websites. Safernet, a Brazilian non-governmental organization that combats Internet crime, says that at least five domains linked to Dogolachan users generated, in their lifespan, more than 160,000 complaints.
The BFP also stated that Marcelo and Emerson were planning a massacre against leftist students at the Universidade de Brasília (UNB). This planned shooting was inspired by the deadliest school massacre in Brazilian history; the murder of 12 children (including 10 girls) at the Tasso da Silveira Municipal School in Rio de Janeiro by a mentally ill man. The murderer had known links to online hate communities, like the ones frequented by Mello.
The duo spent a little over a year in federal prison and was released in May 2013. Just a few months later, they created Dogolachan.
Inspired by 4chan, 8chan, and numerous other chan-style image boards, the name “Dogolachan” is a reference to the dogola meme, a picture taken in Russia and embraced by Brazilians. It is frequently spammed in online discussions. The country’s online culture is known for its memes and online trolling.
While the dogola meme, as it is commonly known, was fairly innocuous in its Russian form, it quickly spread as a forced meme, winning the hearts of spammers and shitposters worldwide, especially in Brazil, where it became the visual basis for the mascot of the newly created chan.
From the beginning, the forum was a hate site on par with 8chan’s /pol board. It focused on inspiring and celebrating attacks, flamebaiting and trolling campaigns, with doxxing of women, minorities and leftists. Mello and his fellows on Dogolachan also advocated mass harassment of individuals they saw as enemies.
One such “enemy” is Dolores Aronovich, known publicly as Lola, an English literature professor at the Federal University of Ceará and author of the most influential feminist blog in Brazil, online since 2008. For her advocacy in fighting against hate crimes in digital communities, Aronovich has received countless threats, mainly linked to men’s rights activists or Dogolachan users. Aronovich was the inspiration behind a congresswoman’s bill, named after Lola herself, that allows the federal police to take over any investigation into online crime of a misogynistic nature. Aronovich was recently nominated for the 2019 Press Freedom Award by Reporters Without Borders.
Channers also celebrate mass shooters. This was a common practice on 8chan’s /pol board. They saluted shooters inspired by the board by declaring them “Saints” and co-opting religious iconography:
Likewise, on Dogolachan, users honour the “saint acts” (actum sanctus) of those they call “saint men” (homini sanctus), like Wellington Rodrigues, the perpetrator of the Rio de Janeiro Massacre. While the attacks inspired by this site have not garnered widespread global attention, Dogolachan’s users see themselves as members of an international movement, since they also award this title to foreign murderers, like Elliot Rodgers and Anders Breivik
A Haven For Lulz, Trolls And Killers
On June 16, 2018, Dogolachan moderator André Luiz Gil Garcia, known online às Kyo, posted about his suicidal feelings. He then went out and sexually harassed a young woman, Luciana de Jesus do Nascimento. The woman’s response to the harassment was not to his liking, so he shot her in the back of the head as she tried to get away from him. André fled the scene and committed suicide when the police arrived. The victim would die twenty days later as a result of her injuries.
On the original thread, printed below, Anões (a self-deprecated version of the word “anon” that mingles its meaning with the Portuguese translation for people with dwarfism) lamented that Garcia had not been able to kill more women. In the months following the murder/suicide, the rhetoric on Dogolachan grew more violent and radical.
Many of the members began referring to themselves as “falhos”, or “flawed”, a term which seems to have broadly similar connotations on Dogolachan as “incel” does in English-language chans. “Falhos” saw their lives as essentially over, and urged each other to “take the scum with you” or “take the cattle with you”, when committing suicide, as it is written in the highlighted part above.
8chan’s /pol board is well known for its role in inspiring at least three mass shootings. After the El Paso shooting in the summer of 2019, the website was forced off of the Internet under the weight of public outrage — though it is doing its damnedest to come back.
Dogolachan is still online, albeit in the deep web due to Mello transferring control of the site to other people when he was sent to prison for a variety of crimes, including transmission of pedophilic images, incitement to commit crimes and terrorism.
After Mello was finally sentenced to 41 years behind bars, the chan, nonetheless, continued. Over the years, it has evolved its own repertoire of terror tactics that allow it to function as something very much like a melting pot for terrorists, creating an atmosphere of what some are calling stochastic terrorism.
The Suzano Massacre in March, 2019, for example, was carried out by two young men who are widely believed—although not confirmed—to have been channers. The only proof of their involvement are the statements made by one of the anonymous administrators in the forum itself on the day of the massacre, saying that the killers were “definitely members”. No further proof was presented, but the media was thirsty for any answers that could help complete the picture.
In the main Dogolachan board, /b/, journalists found a thread with a screengrab of a suspected secret board inside the forum. In the screengrab, dated seven days before the massacre, the killers thanked the administrator in helping them plan their rampage, stating they would post a secret warning in the form of music lyrics before acting. The screengrab and translation are as follows:
Two days before the shooting, someone translated and posted the lyrics of Foster The People’s hit “Pumped Up Kicks” — which is sung from the perspective of a troubled young person with homicidal thoughts and is frequently described as a song about school shootings — and this was interpreted by the press and the Brazilian online community as a confirmation of their suspicions:
Even though no news outlet nor the police could confirm the existence of this secret board and its content, the attack is to this day connected to Dogolachan, which widely celebrated the massacre. The chan moderators claim that the audience of their deep web website (only accessible via a Tor browser) skyrocketed since Suzano due to the press bringing attention to their forum.
It is possible that members fabricated the connection between the chan and the massacre to achieve Lulz (basically, for fun). It’s also possible they co-opted the shooting to raise the profile and notoriety of their site, so future threats made by members would be taken more seriously. Police investigating the Suzano case confirmed that the shooters were assisted in the planning stage by another minor (now detained) who did not participate in the attack, and who told journalists that the killers did not know what Dogolachan was.
This same tactic was used later, in August, when members of the forum planned to falsify the authorship of a school attack. They suggested members to retroactively create a fake post in order to bait the school, the police, and the press into believing a channer had forewarned his friends about an imminent massacre.
It’s also known that the individuals involved were deeply influenced by the Columbine shooting, which has inspired dozens of copycat attacks around the world. Just this October, a Florida woman was arrested with 24 pipe bombs. Materials found at her house indicated an obsession with the crime.
It’s important to remember that these massacres and threats of massacres are all part of a connected campaign of international fascist violence, even though the movement behind these killings is completely decentralized. It consists of different “nodes”, including 8chan and Dogolachan, which work in predictable ways. After Christchurch, 8chan users took to giving one another advice on weaponry and bomb-making tactics:
Meanwhile, in the immediate wake of the Suzano Massacre, a user on Dogolachan posted this question: “How can I engage in such a Saint Act without money or guns?“. The main collective wet dream of the channers, according to screengrabs provided by Lola Aronovich, is easier access to guns and ammunitions. Historically, these have been very hard to acquire legally in Brazil.
Those regulations are currently being relaxed by President Jair Bolsonaro. The far right politician was passionately supported by channers long before he even launched his campaign due to his history of hateful, misogynistic, racist and anti-left statements. Marcelo Mello, the founder, even created a fork of litecoin called Bolsocoin to be used by channers.
A Timeline Of Threats
According to UOL, after Suzano, at least 18 universities throughout Brazil received threats of all types, mostly explained by the copycat effect. Not all of them could be directly linked to Dogolachan, but at least six have been independently confirmed by the authors as tracing back to the forum or its users.
In fact, Suzano is just another chapter in a broader campaign that Dogolachan users have embarked on since the original site owner began acting out in criminal ways in 2005. This harassment against individuals and institutions have been unprecedented in its scope and scale, at least in Brazil, as Safernet claims showed.
All the hyperlinks below—except for three—originated in the Brazilian press and were translated automatically by Google. This is just a selection of the most pertinent threats, not a comprehensive list:
Sept, 23, 2016: Federal University of Minas Gerais — A Dogolachan user posts a direct threat, which includes a picture of the Columbine shooting and expresses a desire to target leftists. The perpetrator states his desire to kill men and torture women. Many students refuse to attend class, for several days. Security at the school is heightened.
May 29, 2017: New York City, Atlanta, Asheville (NC) — Dozens of bomb threats are faxed to seemingly random businesses, demanding $25,000 in ransom. Emerson Setim (Mello’s former partner) is identified in the faxes as the sender. But this is almost certainly not the case. Setim and Mello had a well-known falling out after their time in jail and these faxes were likely an act of revenge against Emerson. Several businesses are evacuated as a result of the threats.
June 12, 2017: University of Sao Paulo — Threat sent by email to the institution. The hoax message starts by complaining about alleged violence from leftists at the school against a far-right activist. The sender threatens to kill leftists with guns and acid attacks. Back on Dogolachan, in a discussion of the threat, channers were found discussing how to use the name Daesh (an Arabic nickname for ISIS) to make their threats more impactful.
July 31, 2018: Débora Diniz — Respected anthropologist and bioethics professor, Déborah Diniz, receives threats due to her work for women’s choice on abortion. She goes into exile a few days later. A copy of the police precinct investigation states that the person responsible for the threats was in contact with members of Dogolachan. This story by The Guardian exposes how Diniz and a few other prominent people in Brazilian society, like the former congressman Jean Wyllys, chose to flee Brazil due to constant threats. Right wing politicians have also been targeted.
August 1, 2018: Website Rio de Nojeira — Dogolachan users sometimes create hoax websites and, as previously mentioned, attribute the writings on it to someone they see as an enemy. In this case it is Ricardo Arouxa, a graduate student at a private university in Rio de Janeiro who had gotten into a spat with a Dogolachan member over a fantasy football game. Ricardo’s name is attached to a variety of harassing blogs and emails which target women and minorities. Members of Ricardo’s college actually report him to the police. He is not arrested, as police are able to determine that he was actually talking to officers when some of the posts were made in his name.
March 21, 2019: Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul — A threat written directly by someone posting in Dogolachan. After a post threatening a massacre somewhere in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, a fellow channer suggests the UFRGS university as a target, citing supposed security breaches. Even though the institution does not cancel classes or activities, many teachers and students skip classes for several days. Security is reinforced.
April 1 2019: Federal University of Goiás — Threat sent by email using a name linked to Dogolachan in its body. As with the University of São Paulo threat on June 12, 2017, the message contains a similar structure and starts by complaining about attacks by campus leftists on far-right activists. The individual responsible is found days later and shown to have lacked the required equipment for any sort of attack, but all journalism classes are cancelled for the day.
April 10, 2019: Federal University of Paraná — Threat directly written by someone posting in Dogolachan, showing a picture of a handgun and listing places where the purported shooter planned to execute black people, women, and people with AIDS. All classes are postponed for one day.
June 8 2019: Federal University of Pernambuco — Threat directly written by someone posting in Dogolachan. Targets leftist students and claimed to have an AR-15 to kill the “stoners that criticize Bolsonaro”. Classes are not postponed, but many students choose to skip classes.
June 16, 2019: Federal University of Espirito Santo — Threat directly written by someone posting in Dogolachan. Shows an image of a handgun and of known places at said university, targeting leftist students. Security is reinforced, and more students choose to skip classes.
October 14, 2019: UNICARIOCA (CARIOCA UNIVERSITY) — A small private university in Rio receives direct threats of a massacre via Dogolachan. A Dogolachan user says they would go to campus to supposedly get revenge on everyone who bullied them, showing off pictures of weapons.
Dogolachan Leverages Fear And Violence
The anons of Dogolachan have committed far fewer killings than their ideological comrades on 8chan’s /pol board. Even their supposed milestone crime — the Suzano school massacre — is not confirmed to have been their doing.
But despite a relative lack of actual violence on their record, Dogolachan’s users have managed to mount a high pressure campaign of harassment against their enemies. Universities and businesses have been shut down, classes disrupted, and lives severely impacted by a mixture of coordinated attacks from its core members and a decentralized campaign of intimidation against generalized foes, such as leftists, women or any progressive figure.
What Dogolachan seems to have done, very successfully, is to build a reputation that other disaffected and violent people identify with. This has allowed them to outsource their “brand” and their “portfolio” of attacks in the press and social media. Now individuals make threats in Dogolachan’s name simply because they know they will get a reaction. We see evidence of this with the template threat copied by a criminal that menaced the Federal University of Goiás (UFG).
In this, the “anões” of Dogolachan may have found a way to artificially magnify the ghosts of past massacres, in Brazil and elsewhere. They celebrate this reputation in much the same manner 8chan has done, by adopting the slogan “Embrace Infamy”. For Dogolachan, even unfulfilled threats produce real consequences to real people and institutions. Given the difficulty of acquiring firearms in Brazil, it may be statistically unfounded to fear massive attacks like El Paso or Poway from Dogolachan’s users. But countless anões are waiting in the wings for laxer gun laws, so they can graduate from threats to body counts.
Research and concept by Leonardo Coelho, edited and organized by Robert Evans.