White Boy Summer, Nazi Memes and the Mainstreaming of White Supremacist Violence
The video opens with a tranquil scene of calm lapping waves, accompanied by the song Venice Venture by Big Wild. Before long, however, the mood significantly darkens. Video plays of a 1999 interview with a white supremacist named Benjamin Smith. He tells the interviewer:
“If they violate our constitutional rights and say we can’t put out our literature, we have no choice but to resort to acts of violence and really to plunge this country into a terrorist war they’ve never seen before,″
Smith wounded nine Orthodox Jews in drive-by shootings, murdered a black man in front of two of his children and then gunned down a Korean-American graduate student over two days in July 1999 before taking his own life after a high speed chase.
The footage of Smith fades into footage from a security camera, of a young man walking towards a staircase and loading a 12 gauge shotgun. At this point, the voice of the actor and rapper Chet Hanks cuts in over the music and states:
“It’s about to be a White Boy Summer.”
This video had just over 1,000 views on Bitchute, a YouTube-analogue popular with the far-right, before being removed for containing “incitement to hatred.” Although its reach and influence was small while it was online, it represents just one piece of content in a growing collection of White Boy Summer videos and memes posted by far-right extremists attempting inspire acts of terrorism.
In a matter of weeks, the term “White Boy Summer” has gone from a seemingly innocent, mainstream internet fad to a viral meme among neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Versions of the far-right’s dark subversion of the meme have jumped across from the fever swamps of the imageboard 4chan and encrypted messaging service Telegram, to more popular social media apps like TikTok where Bellingcat found one video featuring Nazi iconography that had been viewed more than 10,000 times.
On Instagram, a number of White Boy Summer memes featuring Nazi motifs were observed coexisting next to more general White Boy Summer content depicting conservative political commentators and other popular figures who have a more mainstream profile.
The fact these two types of content can be found in the same spaces suggests the term has the potential to draw in more moderate right-wing users who can then be exposed to radical and extremist propaganda.
The more extreme White Boy Summer, or WBS, memes often include the same sort of radical imagery first seen in 8chan posts and videos geared towards inspiring terrorist attacks in imitation of the Christchurch shooting. In 2019, shootings in El Paso, Texas, Poway, California and Halle, Germany were all birthed from this community.
Telegram has long hosted a growing community of white supremacists, but mass deplatforming in the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection brought millions of new users to the app. Other journalists have noted that neo-Nazis have started coding their language to recruit and radicalise more of this new blood. Since April, WBS memes have formed an increasingly significant part of this media ecosystem.
Images posted in far-right Telegram channels also appear to show extremists bringing the phrase into the offline world, tagging graffiti with the term in public places and seeking to arrange White Boy Summer themed events. One group in Sweden used the term as its members posed while burning a LGBTQ pride flag while far-right entertainer, Nick Fuentes, has adopted the phrase for his summer road trip — which garnered major headlines this week after claims, since denied, it would include an event with a serving US congressman. While Fuentes has not used Nazi iconography or terminology in adopting “White Boy Summer” for his own purposes, he has posted content that appears homophobic in nature. In the past, he has appeared to deny the Holocaust while he also remains extremely popular on extreme-right and pro-Nazi Telegram channels.
The Origins of White Boy Summer and How it Became a Nazi Meme
The phrase ‘White Boy Summer’ originates from a viral Instagram video posted by the actor and rapper, Chet Hanks in March. There does not appear to be any political motive to Hanks’ work and he later sought to clarify that White Boy Summer is not about having “any ill will or prejudice towards anybody from a different background, race, walk of life than you.”
Hanks, son of actor Tom Hanks, followed up his initial Instagram post with a music video, titled “White Boy Summer” in mid-April as well as branded merchandise that used the phrase. Since White Boy Summer appears to have started as a play on “Hot Girl Summer,” the popular 2019 song by Megan Thee Stallion which currently has more than 104 million views on YouTube, Hanks’ video (which only had 708,494 views at time of publication) might be considered a comparative flop. But the phrase, and Hanks’ use of it, still received significant, if not always favourable, mainstream media coverage.
By late April, “White Boy Summer” appeared to be just another viral trend, destined to fade away like so many other moments that briefly piqued the Internet’s attention. But far away from Instagram and YouTube, on 4chan’s /pol/ board, some extremely online Nazis were watching. The first reference to ‘White Boy Summer’ came on March 28, the same day Chet Hanks’ first White Boy Summer video went viral:
Initially, the term garnered little interest. One poster accused it of being a “dogwhistle” to try to provoke white supremacists into action so the police could crack down on them. Others complained about the hot summer weather or about Chet Hanks. But a few did seem to interpret in a way that was positive to them:
The term next showed up in /pol/ on March 31, in discussion about a Guardian article about controversy over the Gothic-style font Hanks used for his White Boy Summer merchandise. Some people on Twitter claimed that this font made the merchandise look “aggressively racist”. Some on /pol/ celebrated this article with a post declaring, “Chet hanks is a white nationalist”. Comments were a mix of anons celebrating the idea of White Boy Summer and mocking the outrage over Hanks’ font choice.
The term next showed up in /pol/ on April 14. The first post seems to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and does not have any particularly fascist overtones. But two posts later, someone had “WHITE PRIDE SUMMER” and started dropping racial slurs. This quickly turned into a debate over whether or not White Boy Summer was “based” (cool and ideologically consistent with their values).
The overall reaction to Hanks and White Boy Summer appeared, among those with extreme far-right views, extremely negative at this point. They accuse him of being a Jewish paedophile “psyop” and later declare him “violently anti-white”. But the next day, April 15, another anon posted a thread asking other users, “what are the political implications of this “White Boy Summer?” In the second response, a user declares it “highly political” and “perhaps the most important political issue at the moment”.
They go on to explain that “the jews” have debased white men in culture, “doing their best to portray [them] as weak”. As a result “there can be no question that the resurgence of a white machismo culture is anything but political”.
They continue: “By promoting the concept of White Boy Summer we’re actively subverting the jewish ideology which for decades has reigned supreme in the west, thus destroying the very thing which keeps them in power. White boy summer is political, and you better believe it’s going to be a White Boy Summer”.
From 4chan to Telegram
While anons on /pol/ were debating whether “WBS” was based, members of pro-Nazi groups on Telegram immediately jumped on it as an opportunity to recruit and radicalise people. The channel White Boy SummerTM (The March) was created April 12, with the stated purpose of hosting a mass march at an undisclosed location on June 20 (although, this gathering does not appear to have happened). While that channel only had 463 followers before being taken down last month, its posts regularly get more than a thousand views.It was also part of a broader network of channels that includes tens of thousands of subscribers.
The meme below was posted in the channel and includes both a Sonnenrad (an occult Nazi symbol worn by the Christchurch shooter who killed 51 people in a mass shooting in New Zealand in 2019), and the word “Accelerate”. Accelerationism is the belief that terrorist attacks, like the Christchurch shooting, can accelerate the collapse of the United States into a race war.
A number of posts in the channel detail extreme racist content:
Most of the earliest references to the WBS meme Bellingcat found on Telegram started proliferating in May. It spread in the chaotic, disorganised way most memes spread. But there were also signs of a more organised and conscious rollout. Starting on May 22, a Nazi lifestyle brand called “Asgard Brand” started posting about “White Boy Summer” with a vaporwave meme that included a Sonnenrad:
A week later, on May 29, they started advertising sales of a White Boy Summer shirt:
The picture of soldiers on a tank appears to be a photograph of men from the Rhodesian Armored Corps. Rhodesia was a white minority-ruled state that existed between 1965 and 1979 in what is now Zimbabwe. Its defeat in the Zimbabwean War of Independence is a major cause celebre of the international far-right. For example, before murdering nine people at a black church in Charleston, Dylann Roof wrote a manifesto called “The Last Rhodesian”.
Other posts in the Asgard Channel were memes, that appear designed to appeal to non-Nazi chunks of the far right. This vaporwave meme of Mark McCloskey, who pointed an AR-15 rifle at Black Lives Matter activists in St. Louis, offers an example. McCloskey and his wife spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention and is broadly popular on the right.
The McCloskeys have expressed no support for the neo-Nazi ideology their images have been coopted to support.
Mark McCloskey’s image has already been popularly used in similar contexts. Here’s an April 20 post from the Telegram of Owen Benjamin, an alt-right comedian. It appears to show Florida Governor Ron Desantis’s face photoshopped over Mark McCloskey’s body.
It was shared on the White Boy SummerTM Telegram channel within a matter of minutes. The vaporwave meme of McCloskey from Asgard Brand was also used as the background image for a June 5 YouTube video on White Boy Summer published by a far-right (but not explicitly fascist) media & culture website “The Unshackled”.
Many of these less obvious memes involve figures who are broadly popular, both among Nazis and within the larger right-wing media ecosystem. Tucker Carlson is a particular favourite of the White Boy SummerTM channel:
Had this sort of content remained a series of memes on obscure far-right channels, there would be little cause for concern. But that does not seem to be the case.
From the Internet, to the Real World
Throughout late May, an increasing amount of ‘White Boy Summer’ content attempted to reframe the term as supportive of violent opposition to BLM protests:
Some violent White Boy Summer memes had considerable reach. These two posts from the ZoomerWaffen Telegram channel had 5,446 and 11,000 views, respectively:
More than 7,000 people viewed this reposting of a June 1 Nick Fuentes tweet, declaring, “Gay Pride Month is cancelled this year due to White Boy Summer.”
The original tweet is now deleted. But while it was still online it was liked at least 9,224 times and shared more than 1,710 times.
The rhetoric in Fuentes’ tweet has gone viral on the corners of Twitter popular with “Groypers” (as his followers are known), and variations of his tweet have been reposted countless times:
On June 7, the Asgard Brand channel posted video and images of Nazis in Sweden burning a pride flag. These were accompanied by the text: “Fa***t pride month is cancelled due to white boy summer.”
Just one day earlier on June 6, Asgard Brand posted a photo of another group of Nazis making a sieg-heil salute in front of White Boy Summer graffiti they spray-painted on what appears to be an underpass in an unknown location:
After the Christchurch shooting, anons of 8chan dedicated themselves to inspiring further attacks. They developed an entire category of inspirational terrorist propaganda, the descendants of which now proliferate on Telegram. For example, a May 24 video (which we are not showing or linking to) posted in the White Boy SummerTM channel opened with the song ‘All Summer Long’ by The Beach Boys, playing over footage of men shooting a Synagogue.
The video goes on to show several clips from the film 22 July, a movie about Anders Breivik’s 2011 attack on a youth camp in Utøya, Norway. Breivik murdered 76 people. His manifesto was cited approvingly and extensively in the Christchurch shooter’s 2019 manifesto.
White Boy Summer memes targeting the LGBT community for violence seem to be particularly common. On June 3, the artist behind a Nazi telegram channel called ‘The Art of Friendly Father’ posted a meme with the exact same wording as the Asgard Brand post from Sweden: “Fa***t pride month is cancelled due to white boy summer.” It had been viewed more than 21,000 times prior to publication.
This same post was shared by the channel ‘White Boy Summer’ (a separate channel from WhiteBoySummerTM), where one user with the name “Deplorable MAGArican” (which is more suggestive of the alt-right than the neo-Nazi right) commented positively. The user below them posted “Month of the Rope”, a reference to ‘The Day of the Rope’, a Nazi meme about the time when they will finally be free to lynch their ideological and racial enemies.
Bellingcat has also observed WBS memes propagating on Instagram, where they have shown up alongside hashtags like “pridemonth”, “proudwhite” and “fascist”. In this meme, we see Mr. Rogers (an American children’s entertainer) done up in a skullmask (popularised by the terrorist group Atomwaffen).
In this next White Boy Summer meme, an individual tracks his path of radicalisation, starting with gun culture, internet memes and online gaming and ending with accelerationist neo-Nazi beliefs:
On Twitter, the aforementioned Fuentes has posted about White Boy Summer on numerous occasions, regularly garnering significant engagement.
Fuentes is currently embarking on a “White Boy Summer road trip” in multiple cities across the US.
Reports and social media posts earlier this week suggested Republican congressman Paul Gosar (AZ) would be participating in a fundraiser event with Fuentes, as part of the far-right entertainer’s tour. Yet although Gosar has appeared alongside Fuentes previously and initially seemed to defend plans to meet with him again, he later said he had no idea what the reports were about and that there was no fundraiser planned.
Nevertheless, references to Gosar skyrocketed on Telegram, where Fuentes is extremely popular among many neo-Nazi and white supremacists who use the platform.
In one case, a user in a channel called “Watchadoinjews2” celebrated this event as “the Rubicon”, stating their belief that if Rep. Gosar can avoid being “canceled” and “can get away with being an ‘antisemite’” then “there’s going to be a flood of new blood.”
The above comment appeared before Gosar said he had no idea what the fundraiser was about. He had initially tweeted in apparent response to the furore news of the event created: “Not sure why anyone is freaking out. I’ll say this: there are millions of Gen Z, Y and X conservatives. They believe in America First. They will not agree 100% on every issue. No group does. We will not let the left dictate our strategy, alliances and efforts. Ignore the left”.
There is also some evidence that ‘White Boy Summer’ memes are propagating on TikTok. On May 30th the “Based TikTok” channel (11,411 subscribers) posted this video with the caption “white boy summer”. It features a young man, wearing a “groyper” shirt (which signifies his support of Nick Fuentes). There is a Sonnenrad behind his head while the Lil Baby song “Sum 2 Prove” plays in the background.
In the ‘Based Tiktok’ channel, this meme has been viewed more than 8,000 times. It has been viewed more than 4,000 times in the “Hate Facts” channel where it was also shared. On TikTok, it has been viewed more than 10,000 times:
The placement of the Sonnenrad behind this young man’s head, and behind the wojak’s head in the second TikTok video, is evocative of memes around white nationalist mass shooters commonly spread on 4chan and 8chan. Killers like Brenton Tarrant and Tree of Life Synagogue shooter Robert Bowers are often declared “saints”. They are celebrated in memes with halos and Sonnenrads behind their heads:
The Rabbit Hole
The ongoing attempts by the fascist right to infiltrate and build rapport with mainstream conservatives are more complex than any single meme. But every time someone like Fuentes, who has been posting regularly about White Boy Summer garnering thousands of likes and retweets, pulls an elected leader like Rep. Gosar closer to his orbit, the memes, terms and beliefs he spreads risks growing more accessible to voters and the wider public.
The same can be said each time a Nazi meme makes its way onto mainstream social media platforms alongside more regular or non-extremist content.
It doesn’t take too much searching for the right keywords and terms to go from this:
To the most extreme content at the bottom of the White Boy Summer rabbit hole, such as this:
Bellingcat contacted TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Telegram about the details and posts in this story. A spokesperson for Telegram said that it had recently updated its policies regarding hate speech and incitement to violence to cover more content and implemented new algorithmic tools to detect content that breaks its guidelines.
TikTok said it had no “higher priority than keeping our community safe” and that “hateful ideologies are incompatible with the inclusive and supportive community that we hope to create on our platform and we remove content that promotes them.”
Instagram did not provide an on the record comment but appeared to have removed the content on its platform detailed in this story. Twitter said that it had “abusive behaviour, hateful conduct and violent threat policies” and that it takes “enforcement actions when we identify violations.”