Stephen Parshall, Andrew Lynam and William Loomis, arrested in Las Vegas on 30 May by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, allegedly dreamed of starting a bloody rebellion. According to federal prosecutors, the three men, all of whom have military backgrounds, planned to attack a local protest against police brutality in the wake of the killing, five days before, of George Floyd. By prompting police retaliation, they hoped to provoke a violent uprising that would engulf the entire United States, allowing a far-right state to emerge from the ashes. In March, Parshall commented on a Facebook post about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic: “Start. Fomenting. Insurrection.” His profile is adorned with a swastika and a Confederate flag.
Parshall, Lynam and Loomis allegedly belong to the boogaloo movement, a loose network of white nationalists who believe a second civil war is both inevitable and desirable—and that it is their job to accelerate it. They can be a postmodern lot. The movement derives its name from the movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, a poorly reviewed 1980s dance flick whose subtitle has become internet slang for sequels. The phrase “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo” began appearing in pro-gun online forums in 2018. It spread among white supremacists, who started selling t-shirts featuring the word “Boogaloo” under the image of John Earnest, who attacked a California synagogue last year. Adherents of the movement now often show up to protests wearing Hawaiian shirts or insignia with large igloos, because “big luau”—a traditional Hawaiian feast—and “big igloo” are homophones of boogaloo.
Extremists have long found happy homes in dark corners of the internet, where they have turned cartoons, movies and various video games into symbols of hate. But crafters have worked hard to weaponise irony to attract a wider audience. The Daily Stormer, a popular neo-Nazi website, has a style guide in which it instructs blog contributors to embrace the “lulz” and “hijack existing cultural memes” to more effectively spread their message.