JWeeks after 4chan prompted a quadruple shooting in Washington, the racist and conspiracy-driven online message board likely inspired the killing of 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo’s predominantly black neighborhood over the weekend.
A 180-page manifesto, allegedly released by the defendant along with a video of the attack, is replete with pseudo-scientific racism, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and a call to emulate his violence. The screed is mostly plagiarized by other extremists and the far right 4chan.
The 18-year-old white man accused of carrying out the massacre – before turning himself in to police at the scene – wrote that “extreme boredom” led him to 4chan in March 2020.
Payton Gendron first fell into the daily bulletin board connection when coronavirus-related lockdowns kept many in New York state indoors, according to the manifesto’s timeline. His family told the New York Post that the isolation and paranoia inflicted by the pandemic had him cracking up — perhaps insight into Gendron’s legal defense.
Gendron faces first-degree murder charges, which the Justice Department says they could pursue as hate crimes. Most of those killed were black, including Aaron Salter, a security guard who tried to stop the shooting; local activist Katherine Massey; and substitute teacher Pearl Young.
The manifesto contains hundreds of racist and anti-Semitic memes borrowed directly from 4chan’s political advice and lays out the philosophy behind the attacks: the racist myth that Democrats favor open immigration policies and high birth rates for black people in order to “replace” Republican voters and take control of America. .
This so-called rreat replacement myth, sometimes more crudely called “white genocide theory,” has found particularly fertile ground in places like 4chan.
“We’ve seen (the great replacement myth) play a bigger role in mobilizing individuals against violence because it has a somewhat unique ability to foster a sense of urgency,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, assistant professor at Queen’s University School of Religion and author. of a forthcoming book on the radicalizing power of conspiracy theories.
The manifesto details the baseless racism that underpins the philosophy, including the idea that the Jewish people secretly control the world and that genetic differences between the races make them incompatible. One particular image, sourced from 4chan, claims to show “the truth about race” – compiling a handful of debunked, misunderstood or hand-picked studies to claim that certain races are inferior to white people. The manifesto even seeks to back up its claims with the long-abandoned pseudoscience of phrenology, which studies the size and shape of skulls.
While these claims have no basis in modern biology or sociology, they are an established doctrine on 4chan, where even conversations on a cooking board frequently veer into racial slurs and unwanted race science. The popularity of these ideas on 4chan has spread to the general public.
The great replacement myth has been endorsed, in various guises, by vlogger Nick Fuentes and the neo-Nazi organization Patriot Front and by other establishment figures like Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Senate hopeful. JD Vance.
In the Discord chat logs allegedly written by Gendron, he writes, “I only really got racist when 4chan started giving me facts.” In early 2022, he explained that only 4chan – including the council dedicated to Nazi ideology – gave him the real news he was looking for. “The white genocide is real when you look at the data, but it’s not talked about in the popular media,” he wrote. He confessed to browsing 4chan daily and that he “barely interacts with ordinary people”.
4chan has also been known to praise and deify other mass shooters and white supremacist terrorists. Gendron’s purported manifesto contains ample evidence of their influence on him.
The document borrows heavily from another manifesto written in 2019 by Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Tarrant was also a frequent user of 4chan and its sister card, 8chan, according to a government report. Tarrant’s own manifesto, which was uploaded to 8chan before the attack, was in turn heavily plagiarized by Anders Brevik, who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011 in an anti-immigrant spree.
Brevik himself copied and pasted most of his manifesto directly from other anti-Islamic sources, illustrating “the larger ideas behind the replacement grand conspiracy theory have existed for some time within various anti-Islamic movements. extreme right,” Amarasingam said.
Besides Buffalo, 4chan and 8chan have become politically significant forces in the United States. Both councils helped form and foster QAnon, the far-right myth that Donald Trump is battling an elite left-wing pedophile cult. Boards of directors played a pivotal role in building the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump, which inspired the deadly Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021.
Then, last month, 23-year-old Raymond Spencer recorded himself shooting and injuring four random people. He uploaded the footage to 4chan and continued to post until he committed suicide as police closed in on him. A racist meme, popular on 4chan, was posted on the wall of the apartment Spencer used as a sniper’s nest.
The cases of Gendron and Spencer clearly show how the toxic culture of 4chan can radicalize young men, according to Amarasingam.
“You can hear it all over the Buffalo shooter manifesto — a deep sense of urgency that there is an impending collapse of white people and white culture,” the professor said. “Combine all of this with the furious nihilism, racism and angst of 4chan and it all becomes deeply disturbing.”