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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

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110 Comments

  1. Harris Syed

    Man, this is the first mass shooting in the United States to gain such massive media coverage so far. Given what has happened in Christchurch, New Zealand and Colombo and other cities in Sri Lanka and now Poway, California I can expect that there will be more extremist attacks (domestic or Wahhabist/Islamist) like this and in the case of Poway probably much more deadlier than that attack.

    Reply
      • Harris Syed

        But seriously I’ve been scrolling through stories of this shooting and everyone from Donald Trump to your local news reporter are talking about it compared to other mass shootings. Given the choice of targets (Jewish-Americans), the open letter and the connections to the Christchurch, New Zealand Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre shootings and the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Tree of Life shooting it has made this attack already infamous and well-known.

        Reply
  2. Steve

    Very limited, in this case two people, correlation doesn’t mean anything. Are people with violent tendencies simply drawn to /pol or do they actually become violent because of /pol? Until you can answer that, you don’t have anything.

    Reply
      • James

        Seems to me that the bellingcat comments section advocates for suicide. We have proof right here. If Steve commits suicide, then there will be an article about that, right?

        Reply
    • Ian

      No, until he has that he still has exhaustive evidence of /pol/’s influencd in these shootings, which is worth quite a lot.

      Reply
    • Brian Stempien

      “you don’t have anything.” is only written by people that know there’s something there.

      Reply
    • Danny V

      Steve, these two people are the *conclusion* of something that’s built up. I see a bunch of people claiming it’s all a joke and giggling like naughty schoolboys while cheering on mass murder.

      Reply
    • nfury

      Considering the whole Qanon nonsense started on 8ch, I feel it’s a mixture of both. Retards and anti-social types flock to the site, and since they’re not very smart, they buy into this nonsense.

      Reply
    • Ajax

      Steve, your on the right track, thanks for posting. I agree with you. Now John on the other hand? Not much we can do about him, can’t please everyone

      Reply
  3. Steve

    Also, there is no such thing as “Islamophobia”. Phobias are by definition irrational. The pattern of tyranny, torture, murder, and oppression, against non-muslims virtually everywhere in the world that Islam has actually gained political control is well enough established that fear of Islam, to the extent that that is even the correct term in the first place, is quite rational. I’m not talking about the most extreme examples like the Islamic state either. Go to Saudi Arabia and dare to publicly denounce Islam, publicly preach another religion or publicly preach atheism. See what happens.

    Reply
      • Ironclad

        Mike – not a thing the guy said is untrue. Unless you think Brunei is ok with killing gays and apostates ( as happens all over the sharia world) perhaps you might take a more sensible approach. Will you not denounce those that follow those “divine laws”?

        Reply
        • Whyner

          Aktualy, don’t you agree it’s more sensible to denounce our own echo-chambers and the “divine” significance our basement dwelling subculture has imbued them with, or are you okay with cheerleading horrific acts, as long as the narrator’s accent is legit? Islam (or Judaism for that matter) is not your problem or mine, check your worship of White God and the violence Western culture disseminates around the world and consider the blowback our jihad has wrought. Imperialism is not a religion of Peace. Nobody cares whither you circlejerk or wherefore, just stick to LARPing and highscore the vermin in your mom’s basement, nobody cares who you are, nobody will miss you, and the headlines will lead nowhere, “immortalized as a meme” doesn’t make you a revolutionary just because you decided to leave the house. Get some help if your mindset is truly that capital punishment in other countries is somehow less justified than in our own, or murdering people at church is a counterbalance to White genocide.

          Reply
          • Richard Mongler

            Hi Whyner, I’m not the guy you were replying to and I agree with most of what you say, but I disagree with you saying the other guy is wrong for saying that “capital punishment in other countries is somehow less justified than in our own”. Unless you are an Islamic fundamentalist then it is hard to argue that the US executing a murderer or a rapist is comparable to Saudi Arabia executing an atheist or a gay person.

          • Danny V

            ” is hard to argue that the US executing a murderer or a rapist”

            The Supreme Court made it so that a rapist cannot be executed unless someone dies as a result of his/her crimes anyway, so ti is now just ” is hard to argue that the US executing a murderer”

      • Jans Svalborg

        Hey Mike have you ever considered not being such a treasonous POS promoting degeneracy and the destruction of Western Culture. Go live in the Third World traitor.

        Reply
        • Danny V

          Jans, have you ever considered that committing mass murder on worshippers is being treasonous towards white people and western culture?

          That Nazis are being treasonous towards western culture just as much as ISIS?

          That white people who punish both ISIS and Nazis together have the real white pride?

          Reply
    • josh

      i mean some have the audacity to burn the flag and american “christians” believe they should be deported or even killed. id say thats a comprable level of extremism.. how come we dont have muslim extremist violence in america now that muslims are gaining political power, its almost as if your fear or islamic violence is irrational.. maybe even phobic. but thats just my interpretation i guess.

      Reply
    • SaltyDawg

      Yes, you are correct. Just today a Drudge link has a news article about increased beheading of gays in Saudi Arabia.
      Fear of Islam is justified and therefore it is rational.

      Reply
      • R

        There are Christian countries executing gay people for being gay too, as well as Christian s making a concerted effort in the USA to make their religious tenents the law of the land as well, with the ultimate goal of making it the defacto state religion. So by that logic fear of Christianity is legit as well.

        Reply
        • Dee Err

          “There are Christian countries executing gay people for being gay too”

          Which ones? There have been murders of gays in Jamaica but execution was never a formal punishment from the state for homosexuality in the 21st century AFAIK

          Reply
          • Em

            American evangelicals have exported their hate to many African nations, such as Uganda.

  4. Patrick Raw

    Sadly, Bellingcat willfully ignore neo-nazis in Ukraine because their paymasters in the Atlantic Council support that regime.

    Reply
  5. Danny V

    It all started with Encyclopedia Dramatica culture. There were claims of a satirical nature and “we’re making fun of everybody” but attacks on internet personalities (who admittedly were disagreeable, rude, and/or had mental and social issues) often turned into just antagonism. And then there was the start of “ironic racism” on that.

    Now look at what we’ve got.

    Reply
  6. blackpanter

    Every time these white supremacist murder and kill (leaves a manifesto) it is said they are alone, how long are we going to accept this BS? Start going after their organizations, start going after those who are sending death threats. Their organizations, groups are known. What are we waiting on, when Muslims and Jews start fighting back with arms, is that what you want!? How long can people sit back and let their Mosques, Churches, and Synagogues be attacked and destroyed? In the past, attacks by White Supremacists did not stop until people armed themselves and fought back.

    Reply
    • SaltyDwag

      Actually the attacks in Sri Lanka were neither carried out by white supremacists nor by white people. I believe in armed self defense.
      Those who would disarm us tend to be on the Left and they are a majority- not a fringe element like the far right is….

      Reply
    • Andrew

      Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe
      Year. Attacks. Deaths.
      2015 17 150
      2016 13 135
      2017 33 62

      Reply
  7. Dan man

    These attacks are false flag attacks in an attempt to take down 8chan and censor the internet. This article is extremely biased. /pol/ is not a gathering for neo Nazis. It’s an area for political discussion that’s uncensored. We knew they would try to point the finger at 8chan for these attacks. It will not work. We see through your plan. I’m in no way a Nazi or white nationalist. This article is missinformation bullshit. Go to /pol/ and see what it is for yourself. There are still posts that you must ignore. They are designed to make the group seem like violent neo Nazis. That’s not at all what /pol/ is about. Don’t fall for the propaganda.

    Reply
  8. Samuel Hyde III

    Kids, especially the edgy ones who never had any knowledge about 8chan or /pol/ might pay a visit to the website full of ‘evil nadzes’ and decide to stick with them instead.

    There are a lot of journalists with kids in college who post here, fantasizing about drowning their bosses and coworkers but can’t quit. They may not be full 14/88 yet, but for now they finally have a place to blow off steam having come to the same conclusions as we did about the JQ.

    Bellingcat is an excellent study of being made a patsy while seeking validation on the internet.

    Reply
    • Seldon

      If you don’t want to make your site sound like a breeding ground for Nazis, maybe bringing up “the Jewish Question” isn’t your best bet.

      Reply
  9. Andrew

    Do you not see this ‘wave’ of terrorism as a direct consequence of Islamic terrorism? We’re fed on a daily basis, the videos of terrorism in the Middle East, the subtle but disturbing rise in attacks on Christians around the world. THE VAST AMOUNTS OF IMMIGRANTS that are coming to the west from the east. The souring crime rates in the UK, US and around Europe. What do we call this retaliation? You call it White Nationalism… will you still call it that when we’re fighting the Islamic Jihad on our own soil as some already are? (people of all creeds and colours cannot be white nationalism) To fight radicalism in this age of ‘soft on crime’ policy from all these so called progressive countries don’t you think people AREN’T going to take the law into their own hands.

    I do not and never will understand the desire to destroy the West… but that’s my problem. Soon to be your problem if we don’t do something about it.

    But hey, I’m just a ‘Racist’ for having this dialogue and opinion.

    Reply
    • Richard

      I have lived in Europe (Germany and France) since the 1970‘s. There have never been so many refugees here before. The crime rate is low and going further down. The racists you try to defend are not taking the law into their own hands: they are lawless criminals. They are the exact reflection of the criminals attacking Christians and Jews.

      Reply
  10. htfcvbhtr

    The christchurch shooter wrote the manifesto in english, and the poway synagogue shooter read in english. There was no translation needed, so has much has I think what the shooters did was down to the core evil, it isn’t proof that the translations inspired more shooters.

    Reply

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