On Monday night, November 23 2015, five “Black Lives Matters” protesters were injured in a shooting allegedly perpetrated by frequent users of 4chan’s /pol/, and /k/ boards. While no one was killed, and the three men involved were arrested the next day, the incident is just one of the latest whereby young people who participated in fringe communities on the internet took part in acts of ideologically motivated violence, and one of the most notable instances originating from /pol/, a hub for white-supremacy, antisemitism, racism and xenophobia on the internet.
The most famous of these shootings in the United States include the ones perpetrated by Elliot Rogers, who frequented “Pick-up Artist” (PUA) related and incelb (involuntary celibacy) sites and forums, and Chris Harper-Mercer, a user of 4chan’s /r9k/ board. The PUA and /r9k/ communities are ones primarily composed of young men, many of whom are virgins and are sexually frustrated with their lives. They are the young men who, having been abandoned by mainstream society, western neo-liberalism, and feminism, have retreated to the farthest corners of the internet to express their discontent without fear of judgment. Where the two communities differ is that while /r9k/ revels in their resentment and rejection of women and mainstream society, the PUA communities attempt to solve their problems by adopting cheap tricks and facade-like personalities to be accepted by women and mainstream society, even though the resentment remains.
But this alienation which created the fringe communities of PUA forums and /r9k/ can take more complex, more troubling forms, for example, the form of /pol/. Seeking an explanation for why society has failed them, and indeed, why society is so troubled to begin with, these young men try to find an all encompassing answer. The culture and ideology of /pol/ is one that presents the blacks, the Muslims, the Jews and the liberals as the primary cause of all these woes, feeding off the more tribal instincts of their userbase and embracing identity politics in doing so.
They are following in the tradition of the innumerable right wing movements born out of anti-capitalist populist sentiments, movements which while capable of seeing that there is a problem with the current system, take the easy rout of misidentifying the cause of these problems as a foreign “other” and its agents instead of the system itself. A simple analysis of /pol/’s spooky enemies reveal the true nature of the problem.
Why do they hate blacks? The racist way they refer to them, as “Dindus” short for “Dindu Nuffin,” provides some insight. They view blacks as criminals, and thugs responsible in part for the degradation of society. Something that completely disregards the amount of wealth exploited from African-Americans first under institutional slavery and then with the cheap labor they provided under American capitalism, keeping a disproportionate amount in poverty among other things.
Why do they hate Jews? This previous article explains it well, even if I don’t agree with its conclusion. But in short antisemitism is often a method that blames the greed of those in the financial system on the “inherent vice” of the Jewish people instead of correctly revealing the inherent greed required for success in an economy driven by the profit motive.
Why do they hate Muslims? As much of the debate in the mainstream media shows, there are many who conflate Muslims in general with the fascist and often cultish terrorist groups causing so much instability and death across the globe, as well as viewing the mass immigration from the region to Europe as an invasion meant to subvert European society. Not to mention, it is often combined with xenophobia for Arabs in general, with /pol/ often referencing their skin color in derogatory descriptions of them. Once again, this hatred completely disregards what caused the alienation which fuels terrorism and instability in the region: that being capitalist imperialism.
And finally, why do they hate liberals, even if they are a part of same identity /pol/ so virulently “defends.” The term “race traitor” comes to mind. More ideological speaking, they view the “anything goes” except the “politically incorrect” mentality as merely a way to justify these minorities attempts to vie for power, and that members of their own identity are merely drinking the koolaid of this dangerous school of thought. But this simply doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation. Like conservatives, liberals fundamentally believe that the system works, that if you work hard you are rewarded, and the reason this doesn’t always happen must be because of some interference. Except, instead of this failure being the result of some inherent failure of character, as conservatives often do, liberals believe it is due to the racism, sexism et alia of the majority of society. After all, if they are to accept that their friends of different identities are good people, and they are not some bizarre exception in this regard, they must also accept there is something wrong with the people of the majority identity to explain away the inconsistencies in crime and wealth of the average of a given identity group.
Frankly, it is also the easy choice. To just believe that everything would work if we just change the way we live a little! To just get people to stop being prejudiced! There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the system! It’s just the work of some nefarious group, working against us! Against the common good!
All the while, those with actual power love it. They profit and get more power because of it. Donald Trump, a hero for the unironic users of /pol/, is going to make millions of dollars off of this identitarian hatred!
But don’t worry, they’ll say, “he’s working for us!”
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Don’t you dare mention capitalism!”
Even the community of /r9k/ is more conscious of the connection between capitalism and their alienation than these right wing reactionaries, even if they don’t realize it in its entirety, as many of them are NEETS (Not In Employment, Education, or Training) and consequently at the very bottom of any given place’s social hierarchy.
/pol/ itself will no doubt defend this incident by claiming the shooters acted in self defense, trying to distract from their provocative intentions. Not too dissimilar from the Israeli tactics at the height of the Arab-Israeli conflict, whereby they’d run a tractor in the Golan territory by the border with Syria, moving progressively closer and closer until the Syrians had no choice but to respond. And when the Syrian troops would fire on the “poor farmer’s” tractor, the Israelis would use this as justification to conduct cross-border raids, acting like the victim the entire time.
The intentions of these shooters was to ultimately stoke conflict. The exact kind of conflict which justifies their reactionary ideology, satisfying their world view.
But of course, it won’t change anything. Racial violence will continue. These shootings will continue.
The liberals may try, for their part, to stop it as well. They too will be unable to understand the root of the issue. Perhaps, if they are so fraught by these killings, they will attempt to purge these far reaches of the internet. And of course that won’t change anything either.
The truth is, for as long as we permit this alienation, there will be bloodshed.