the home of online investigations

Ignore The Poway Synagogue Shooter’s Manifesto: Pay Attention To 8chan’s /pol/ Board

April 28, 2019

By Robert Evans

Translations: Русский

On April 27, 2019, at around 11:30 a.m. local time, a young man with a semi-automatic rifle walked into the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Poway, California. He opened fire, killing one worshipper and wounding three others. In the hours since the shooting, a manifesto, believed to be written by the shooter, began circulating online. Evidence has also surfaced that, like the Christchurch Mosque shooter, this killer began his rampage with a post on 8chan’s /pol/ board.

Although both of these attacks may seem different, since they targeted worshippers of different faiths, both shooters were united by the same fascist ideology. They were also both radicalized in the same place: 8chan’s /pol/ board.

This has been corroborated by posts on the board itself, where “anons,” as the posters call themselves, recirculated the shooter’s since-deleted post. In it, the alleged shooter claims to have been “lurking” on the site for a year and a half. He includes a link to a livestream of his rampage — which thankfully does not appear to have worked — and he also includes a pastebin link to his manifesto.

The very first response to his announcement was another anon cheering him on and telling him to “get the high score,” AKA, kill a huge number of people.

As I noted after the Christchurch shooting, this shooter’s manifesto is filled with “shitposting” — internet in-jokes meant to distract authorities and the media and make 8chan’s /pol/ board seem less threatening, and less worthy of serious concern. The fact that this is the second /pol/-related shooting in a house of worship in slightly more than a month should be enough to explain that this is false.

This article is not a dissection of the shooter’s manifesto. It is a dissection of the online community that moulded and spawned him.

What Is 8chan’s /pol/ Board?

8chan is a large website, which includes a number of different discussion groups about everything from anime to left-wing politics. /pol/ is one particularly active board on the website, and it is best described as a gathering place for extremely online neo-Nazis.

The overarching goal of /pol/, held by most of its members, is to radicalize their fellow anons to “real-life effortposting,” i.e. acts of violence in the physical world. This goal is well embodied by a post I found in a discussion of the Poway Synagogue shooting.

I’ve browsed /pol/ on an almost daily basis since the Christchurch shooting. It has not been difficult to find calls for violence. On Monday, March 25 of this year, I ran across evidence of anons translating the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto into other languages in an attempt to inspire more shootings across the globe.

This tactic can work, and today’s shooting is proof. The Poway Synagogue shooter directly cited the Christchurch shooter as his inspiration, saying he decided to carry out his attack roughly two weeks after that shooting. On /pol/, many anons refer to the Christchurch shooter, Brenton Tarrant, as “Saint Tarrant,” complete with medieval-inspired iconography.

In addition to talk of inspiring and carrying out mass shootings, many anons engage in what is called “siege-posting.” This is a reference to the book Siege, which is a collection of writings from American neo-Nazi James Mason. Siege was a major inspiration for the terrorist group Atomwaffen, among others. It urges autonomous terror attacks by individuals as a way to bring about the fragmentation and eventual destruction of American society. The goal is to spark a civil war that will allow for the violent realization of white nationalist/neo-Nazi goals.

Many anons on 8chan mock “siegeposting.” Others spend hours in detailed discussions about how to acquire explosives and artillery in order to better participate in what they believe to be the coming race war.

In his manifesto, the Poway Synagogue shooter, much like the Christchurch shooter, noted that he hoped his attack would inspire new gun control measures which would in turn spark a civil war.

Where Shitposting Stops

The Poway Synagogue shooter claims that Felix Kjellberg, the YouTuber PewDiePie, funded his murderous “operation.” This is an obvious lie, and appears to be a way for this shooter to tie himself to the Christchurch shooter, since that person began his rampage by saying “Subscribe to PewDiePie.”

The sheer density of in-jokes and references to obscure aspects of “channer” culture in both manifestos leaves one with the question: What can we take seriously?

The Nazi stuff. Take the Nazi stuff seriously.

This is a cropped version of a jpg of Tarrant I found on /pol/. The original included a quote from the Christchurch shooter, which I’ve removed. Nazism is the constant background noise on /pol/. The Poway Synagogue shooter’s manifesto was peppered with dumb jokes, but also included lengthy, detailed and deadly serious anti-Semitic raving. Conversations on /pol/ tend to go the same way.

In the wake of the Christchurch shooting, I was interviewed about 8chan by ABC Australia. The documentary they produced became a topic of discussion on /pol/. Some anons attempted to deny any white supremacist or neo-Nazi leanings on their site. Their fellow anons immediately put the lie to this.

Literal Nazi propaganda is outrageously easy to find on /pol/. Some of it has been updated for the internet age, and dressed in the garb of modern ironic fascism.

But a lot of it is classic OG Nazism (original Nazism), including a thread I found on April 3 of this year, that was just a long, in-depth discussion of which translations of Mein Kampf were best.

There are, of course, numerous other topics of discussion on /pol/. When Jussie Smollett’s charges were dropped, there was predictable outrage. When the Notre Dame cathedral burned, there were instant conspiracy theories that Muslims or Jews had been behind it. But no matter what else is discussed, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, hatred of LGBT individuals, and a desire to commit murder under the swastika are constant through-lines.

On Friday, March 29, just under a month before the Poway Synagogue shooting, I found a post from an anon who suggested several of the members should abduct a “known child sex predator who has connections to many other high level people who abuse kids.”

The first response to this idea was: “Shoot up a Synagogue. Be a hero.”

What Happens Next

When I began looking through /pol/ right after the Poway Synagogue shooting, I came across several claims that the shootings had been a “false flag” aimed at making the message board look bad.

When Bellingcat tweeted out a warning about shitposting and the shooter’s manifesto, in the immediate wake of the attack, probable anons even commented on the Tweet in an attempt to deny that a channer had been behind the attack.

This is a recognizable pattern that occurs in the wake of any crimes committed by members of the board. While the initial response to the Christchurch shooter’s massacre thread was riotous glee, in the days after the shooting many anons began to claim the attack had been a false flag. This actually sparked significant division and debate between the members of /pol/. In the below image, a user mocks other anons for being unable to “believe something in your favor is real.” Another anon responds, “As the evidence comes out, its [sic] quite clear that this was a false flag.”

In his manifesto, the Poway Synagogue shooter even weighed in on this debate, accusing other anons who called the Christchurch and Tree of Life Synagogue shootings “false flags” to merely have been scared: “They can’t fathom that there are brave White men alive who have the willpower and courage it takes to say, ‘Fuck my life—I’m willing to sacrifice everything for the benefit of my race.’”

There is no central organization behind 8chan’s /pol/ board, and barely even any moderation. But the community acts in certain predictable ways to defend itself during times like these. The pattern is regular enough to set your watch to. For example, when the ABC Australia documentary in which I discussed 8chan came out, some anon put a 15 bitcoin “bounty” (roughly $60,000) on my head.

It’s entirely possible this was just a joke, but jokes on /pol/ have a nasty way of turning into real-life violence. When I became aware of this I posted about the threat on Twitter. Anons then began claiming the death threat was fake, and I’d created it myself and posted it on their message board for some uncertain purpose.

Other anons did not bother with attempting denial. One included archived links to the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto, Facebook page and massacre videos. He bragged to me that, “You can’t shut this down.”

The Poway Synagogue shooting is proof that “this” has not yet been shut down. Right now on 8chan, other anons are gleefully sharing links to this most recent shooter’s manifesto, and celebrating the fact that he succeeded in wounding a rabbi. In the coming days and weeks, the Poway Synagogue shooter will enter their pantheon of heroes, and become a “Saint” like the Christchurch shooter.

There is likely to be another shooter, another manifesto, and more cheering anons.

Robert Evans

Robert Evans has worked as a conflict journalist in Iraq and Ukraine and reported extensively on far-right extremist groups in the United States. He's particularly interested in the ways terrorist groups recruit, radicalize and communicate through the Internet. He has a podcast on the HowStuffWorks network (https://www.behindthebastards.com) and you can contact him via revanswriter@gmail.com or Twitter: https://twitter.com/IwriteOK

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

Support Bellingcat

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the below link:

120 Comments

  1. WhiteHatAnon

    How many 8chan Anons are Russian trolls? You won’t hear about 8chan banning IRA accounts.

    Reply
  2. Jen

    Forget the ideology. Isn’t making threats based on another individual against the law? Just because it’s dressed-up to appear as if it’s written by a disgruntled 20-something with a poorly constructed GIF, does not make it less of a threat.

    I understand that Bellingcat’s prime directive is to uncover and disseminate info via OSINT, but now that the info is uncovered, it seems there should be associated agencies interested in giving the data a look to stop criminal behavior. I won’t say the T word, but I have never seen such a serge in hate crimes as the US has experienced in the past three years.

    Back in the late 90’s I lived in LA, on the edge of an orthodox community, so there were synagogues in the area etc. One evening someone broke into one, vandalized the interior and exterior with Nazi symbols, threats and quotes via spray paint. The entire community was mad and the LAPD was on it, till the vandals were found and prosecuted. (If I remember correctly, they stopped by a mini mart afterwards for snacks and the CCTV was how they nabbed them)

    I feel like there are so many of these incidents now, the the public has become immune, they forget they can help pressure local law enforcement into action and show support where it’s needed.

    Would be good to know all this work generated action when and where possible by the appropriate authorities, to help build cases and hold accountable those who choose to act criminally.

    Reply
  3. Ben

    Where can i view shooters footage? I can’t find it anywhere. Can u send a link?

    Reply
    • As if you dont know

      “Cant find it anywhere”?…Its effing everywhere mate…another reason these sites exist to lure the initiated into deposition…Don’t bother anyway Benny Boy….its such a B-Grade concoction with such pathetic acting and forensic faux pas you’ll understand why it had to be banned. Finding evidence of 50 odd interments would be the impossible task. The “shooting” video exists somewhere on the ethereal event horizon of show-biz with planes dissolving into steel and concrete buildings and little Weetbix spacemen driving around on the moon and throwing weighted rags into the air. Look on the bright side for the moment, before the next crop of innocents are killed in the Imperiums’ war commerce…no bloody actor wallahs were actually killed in Copper Corporate Christchurch.

      Reply
      • Craig

        Thanks for the putrid word vomit. Also thanks for signaling to everyone reading that you’re so far removed from reality that you can see through the 14D chess that is being played by faking mass shootings. But really, thanks for being a vile person who deigns to spit on the graves of the victims of hate crimes. Go back to /pol/ and spread your cancerous delusions there. Or maybe, just maybe, educate yourself and get some help.

        Reply
        • No U

          signalling – english mofo, do you speak it!?!? see, meme powers abide. you’ll never lvl up boy. don’t dare rape english language, educate yourself.
          btw, last time I found a wokened sjw gimp using (((phrases))) it turned out he had been a pedo. hm… coincidence probably. just don’t try kosher victim jokes, you cannot and you look stupid to the internets. 14D chess, how creative. *jazzhands*
          back to your bubble, fake.

          Reply
    • Sean

      That’s a good thing that you can’t find it. Stop feeding these depraved fucks.

      Reply
  4. Tracey Thakore

    The only interesting thing about the premise of this article is the paragraph. Reports and indeed incidents are prevelant like this in America. Sometimes sensationalist and at other times deeply moving and thought provoking, occurence’s like these that seem to dominate the public’s mind are few and far between. Sometimes sensationalising the crime and at others offering a “psychologist’s” perspective, these events should open the discussion for gun control. Different types of people react to life’s events in many different ways. The need to offer a solution to the problem, is to look at “the demon within,” the controlling feature if you will, that spurs a person on to commit such atrocities. Whilst the notion of “terrorising,” differs depending on the individual or organisation involved, the idea that guns can be easily purchased in America is frightening. Whilst Great Britain is not a police state, those who fight crime do not fight those who commit crime.

    Reply
  5. Some guy

    These people on these /pol chats are literally real life basement dwelling weirdos, Incels if you must. They’re on their computers for hours on end and the only type of self belonging they have is these groups with a bunch of other loser weirdos where they play make belief of us against the world and what better way to do that than using their skin color as means of relating to one another. 🤷‍♂️

    Reply
  6. Tracey Thakore

    The two mass shootings in America over the weekend add fuel to the raging fire for the need for gun control. It is time, as the former Vice-President Joe Biden wrote to, ” take action and end our gun violence epidemic.” Never a truer word said.
    Whilst playing at infant school with friends and whilst always pretending to be Princess Leila from the film Star Wars, we played and did not fight the world around us but thought we were replicating a film, or if you will, make believe reality.
    As every child I knew, I grew up watching the television and developed a keen eye for film and loved the escapism of the cinema. The ambience, the darkness, the unexpected and the sheer pleasure of it all. When leaving the cinema, even as a teenager and whilst at college, I walked out feeling as if I were in a film.
    Back in the county I grew up in, the streets are entirely different. The society is media friendly and people are aware of not only the power of creating their own identity, but fight not only for what they believe in but also against what they don’t. Gangs are prevelant not just in the films that we watch at the cinema but are always represented on mainstream channels and the end is not always as it should be.
    The Americans believe in Freedom of Information whist they censor their films more so than the British. Titles are often changed to target a different audience.
    Whilst consumerism dictates the way in which we live, films are reflective of society as a whole. Television and film, though their ideologies are repeated in cycles over the years, are reflective of the times in which we live.
    Journalism today, is “on the front line,” whilst post September 11th, the need for security is at an all time high.
    Whilst Britain is America’s greatest allie, the report of recent events is alarming and terrorfying. America is debating the need for gun control “after the event,” whilst Britain is pandering to more home grown terrorists who carry knives, regardless of open knife amnesty’s up and down the country.
    Video’s and footage online ignites a spark in everyone, whether it be from a disbelief point of view, or from a growing concern that such propaganda just plays along with the root concern.
    International terrorists sometimes put out video’s online before an event occurs, whilst so called “domestic terrorists,” used to notify, hence creating terror and panic.
    Whilst journalist’s write only what is in the public domain, what is the need to glorify a terorrist’s actions in a society already dealing with the aftermath of a fragmenting and fearful society?

    Reply
  7. Tracey Thakore

    In todays “METRO,” an article titled “Is it ok it I hand over a rocket launcher officer?” discussed the scheme to handover any unwanted or illegal firearms to the police to be disposed of safely.
    Though Hampshire and Thames Valley Police are quoted in the article, Kent Police are also mentioned.
    What is concerning more than the content of the article, is the fact that these weapons are in this country.
    With Brexit is currently being negotiated with the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the President of the United States of America Donald Trump, what is more alarming is the fact that not only are these weapons are being handed in but the fact that the police will examine a firearm if it links to a crime.
    Rather than dealing with the aftermath of a crime and disposing of the weapons once they have been retained, why don’t the authorities consider the notion of a tighter restriction on border control and deal with the fact that they are in this country in the first place.
    Whilst America toughened up security after September 11th in all airports, Britain seems to be experiencing what appears to be a surge in pre-planned terror.
    Yesterday, a flight resulted in passengers in an airplane being led to safety and the incident seems quite apocoliptic.
    Why was smoke filling the aircraft? Well the incident is obviously being investigated though the cause is yet unknown.
    Whilst amnestsy’s like the one mentioned in today’s paper, the Firearms and Ammunition Surrender, along with advertised knife amnesty’s seen in shop windows to promote a “safer” place to live, why are these weapons, obviously sold for illegal use in the hands of people who could literally use them to not only create terror but to inflict terrible injuries, in the hands of the general public in the first place?
    The recent events in America happen in a country where the need for gun control is apparently up for discussion.
    What Britain need to do is open a debate on the rise of knife related incidents, heard only this morning on the radio.
    Whilst the newspaper prints that “the truce is over,” and advises anyone who finds a firearm or who doubts where it came from to call the police, what exactly is the message the authorities are trying to convey?
    Whilst an amnesty is no bad thing, what about a discussion for tighter restrictions on boarder control, whether it be in this country or in America?
    With the security service on “red alert,” why is the problem, according to toady’s press, escalating to such an alarming level?

    Reply
  8. Tracey Thakore

    Why are you debating the issue of gun control, when laws in Australia don’t prevent the problem.
    So a countryman needs to protect his crop, just because the gun and the ammunition is locked up does not mean the holder of the firearms license could not become one day “trigger happy.”

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)