A Prelude to Insurrection: How a 4chan Refrain Anticipated the Capitol Riot

Marc Tuters

Abstract


This paper looks at how vernacular practices associated with fringe web communities seem to have found their way into reactionary American politics in recent years. Combining concepts from political communication (Bennett and Segerberg 2013) and from assemblage theory (Samson 2020), the paper looks at how key elements of the Capitol insurrection narrative initially emerged on 4chan as meme about a second civil war (called "the Boogaloo"), then spreading to social media and amplified by President Trump. In an effort to make sense of this relationship between the fringe the mainstream, the paper offers both original empirical analysis as well as conceptual innovation. 


Keywords


Internet memes, post-digital far-right, assemblage theory, connective action, entryism, memetic antagonism, obfuscation, bottom-up agenda setting

References


Anonymous. May 07, 2019a. American civil war 2 electric boogaloo. 4chan/k/ thread. https://desuarchive.org/k/thread/41402903/#q41402903. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Anonymous. June 15 2019b. The boogaloo LARP is boring, can we move on yet. 4chan/k/ post. https://desuarchive.org/k/thread/41769291/#q41770046. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Argentino, Marc-André. May 18 2020. "The Church of QAnon: Will Conspiracy Theories Form the Basis of a New Religious Movement?." The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-church-of-qanon-will-conspiracy-theories-form-the-basis-of-a-new-religious-movement-137859. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Barkun, Michael. 2013. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Belew, Kathleen. (2018). Bring the war home: The white power movement and paramilitary America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Beran, Dale. (2019). It came from something awful: How a toxic troll army accidentally memed Donald Trump into office. New York: All Points Books.

Bernstein, Michael S, Andres Monroy-Hernandez, Drew Harry, Paul Andre, Katrina Panovich, and Greg Vargas. 2011. "4chan and /b/: An analysis of anonymity and ephemerality in a large online community". Barcelona International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, 5 (2011, Spain).

Bennett, W. Lance and Segerberg, Alexandra. 2012. "The logic of connective action". Information, Communication & Society, 15(5): 739–768.

Brunton, Finn and Helen Nissenbaum. 2015. Obfuscation: A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Certeau, Michel. 2011. The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Conger, Kate. Jan. 11, 2021. Twitter, in Widening Crackdown, Removes Over 70,000 QAnon Accounts. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/technology/twitter-removes-70000-qanon-accounts.html. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Deleuze, Giles and Felix Guattari. 1993. A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Department of Justice. April 28, 2021. "Federal Grand Jury Returns a Superseding Indictment Adding New Charges in the Conspiracy to Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer"

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/federal-grand-jury-returns-superseding-indictment-adding-new-charges-conspiracy-kidnap. Accessed May 20, 2021.

Evans, Robert and Jason Wilson. May 27, 2020. The Boogaloo Movement Is Not What You Think. Bellingcat. https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2020/05/27/the-boogaloo-movement-is-not-what-you-think/. Accessed May 20, 2021.

Fielitz, Maik, and Nick Thurston. 2018. Post-digital cultures of the far right online actions and offline consequences. Berlin: Transcript Verlag.

Guattari, Felix. 1992. Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kang, Cecilia and Sheera Frenkel. 20201. An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination. New York: Harper Collins

Keulenaar, Emillie, Marc Tuters, Cassian Osborne-Carey, Daniel Jurg and Ivand Kisje. forthcoming. "A Free Market in Extreme Speech: Scientific Racism and Bloodsports on YouTube". Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.

Levin, Bess. February 4 2021. Marjorie Taylor Greene: I Only Believe Some of What QAnon Says About Dems Being Satanic Pedophile Cannibals, Okay? Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/02/marjorie-taylor-greene-fake-mea-culpa. Accessed March 1, 2020.

Literat, Ioana and Sarah Van Den Berg. 2019. "Buy memes low, sell memes high: vernacular criticism and collective negotiations of value on Reddit’s Meme Economy". Information, Communication & Society, 22(2): 232–249.

Marres, Noortje. 2018. "Why We Can't Have Our Facts Back." in Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 4: 423-443.

Munger, Kevin, Phillips, Joseph. 2020. Right-Wing YouTube: A Supply and Demand Perspective. The International Journal of Press/Politics. 21(2)

Neiwert, David. 2017. Alt-America: The rise of the radical right in the age of Trump. London: Verso.

Newhouse, Alex and Nate Gunesch. May 30, 2020. The Boogaloo Movement Wants To Be Seen as Anti-Racist, But It Has a White Supremacist Fringe. Middlebury.edu. https://www.middlebury.edu/institute/academics/centers-initiatives/ctec/ctec-publications/boogaloo-movement-wants-be-seen-anti-racist-it. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Newton, Casey. June 30 2020. "Facebook is removing a network of accounts linked to the violent ‘Boogaloo’ movement." The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/30/21308572/facebook-boogaloo-group-network-removal-ban-civil-war-violence. Accessed January 20, 2021

Noys, Benjamin. 2010. The Persistence of the Negative. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Owen, Tess. May 29, 2020. Far-Right Extremists Are Hoping to Turn the George Floyd Protests Into a New Civil War. https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkyb9b/far-right-extremists-are-hoping-to-turn-the-george-floyd-protests-into-a-new-civil-war. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Phillips, Whitney, and Ryan Milner. 2021. You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Phillips, Whitney, Jessica Beyer, and Gabriella Coleman. March 22 2017. "Trolling Scholars Debunk the Idea That the Alt-Right’s Shitposters Have Magic Powers." Motherboard. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/z4k549/trolling-scholars-debunk-the-idea-that-the-alt-rights-trolls-have-magic-powers. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Peeters, Stijn, Marc Tuters, Tom Willaerts and Daniel de Zeeuw. forthcoming. "On the Vernacular Language Games of an Antagonistic Online Subculture" in Frontiers in Big Data, section Big Data Networks.

Rogers, Richard. 2020. ‘Deplatforming: Following extreme Internet celebrities to Telegram and alternative social media', European Journal of Communication, 35(3), pp. 213–229.

Rosenberg, Matthew and Ainara Tiefenthäler. January 13 2020. "Decoding the Far-Right Symbols at the Capitol Riot." New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/video/extremist-signs-symbols-capitol-riot.html. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Sanchez, Rosa and Alexander Mallin. February 12 2021. "FBI Arrests 2 ‘Boogaloo Bois’-Associated Militia Members, 1 Who Incited Riot on Jan. 6." ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/fbi-arrests-boogaloo-bois-militia-members-incited-riot/story?id=75845610. Accessed July 20, 2021.

Sampson, Tony D. 2012. Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Sampson, Tony. 2020. A Sleepwalker's Guide to Social Media. London: Polity.

Srnicek, Nick. 2017. Platform Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Tanner, Charles and Burghart, Devin. 2020. From alt-right to groyper: White nationalists rebrand for 2020 and beyond. Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights. https://www.irehr.org/reports/alt-right-to-groyper/. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Thompson, Clive. September 22, 2020. "QAnon Is Like a Game—a Most Dangerous Game." Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/qanon-most-dangerous-multiplatform-game/. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Tuters, Marc. 2018. "LARPing & liberal tears: Irony, belief and idiocy in the deep vernacular web". Fielitz, Maik, and Nick Thurston (Eds), Post-digital cultures of the far right online actions and offline consequences. Transcript Verlag: 37–48.

Tuters, Marc. 2020. The birth of QAnon: On how 4chan invents a conspiracy theory. Open Intelligence Lab. https://oilab.eu/the-birth-of-qanon-on-how-4chan-invents-a-conspiracy-theory/. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Tuters, Marc and Hagen, Sal. 2020. "(((They))) rule: Memetic antagonism and nebulous othering on 4chan." New Media & Society, 22(12): 2218–2237.

Tuters, Marc and OILab. 2020. "Esoteric fascism online 4chan and the Kali Yuga". In Louis Dean. Valencia-Garcia (Ed.). Far-Right Revisionism and the End of History. New York: Taylor Francis: 287–303.

Uitermark, Justus. 2017. “Complex Contention Analyzing Power Dynamics Within Anonymous.” Social Movement Studies 16 (4): 403–17.

Venturini, Tommaso. (manuscript in review) "A Sociology of Online Monsters: Online Conspiracy Theories and the Secondary Orality of Digital Platforms". Submitted to Theory Culture & Society.

Zeeuw, Daniel and Marc Tuters. 2020. "Teh Internet is Serious Business: On the Deep Vernacular Web and Its Discontents". Cultural Politics, 16(2): 214–232.

Zeeuw, Daniel, Sal Hagen, Stijn Peeters and Emilija Jokubauskaite. 2020. "Tracing Normiefication: a Cross-Platform Analysis of the QAnon Conspiracy Theory." First Monday 25 (11). https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/10643/9998.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.




Copyright (c) 2021 Marc Tuters

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 1930-014X