Mass shootings like that of El Paso show the grave consequences dangerous narratives circulating on the Chanosphere can be.
The imageboard 8chan shut down after the El Paso shooting, but its users did not lose hope that it would reappear. Rumours were rife on Twitter that 8chan would be reincarnated as 8kun. The Qanon conspiracy theory received a boost, and many believed that the elite-run deep state had killed off 8chan to stop free speech. The QAnon narrative has proven contagious despite its empirically false claims, producing hashtags such as: #TheGreatAwakeningWorldwide, #FreeSpeech, and #8kun.
The Great Awakening is a social media movement, and there is also a book written by 12 anonymous conspiracy theorists who are believed to be influential on the deep web and in the virtual conspiracy landscape. The book explains its goal as to putting power in the hands of ‘We the People’ (p. 2) and devising a ‘plan to save the world’ (p. 3) from the so-called global cabal of a Satanic deep state.
One Twitter user exclaimed: ‘Stop allowing the elite rule you; it’s time we the people unite and rule’. Meanwhile, Chan sites and message boards are mushrooming all over the internet, such as Endchan, Bunkerchan, Spqrchan, and 16chan.
An appeal to unite the Chanosphere.
If we take a closer look, Endchan is an imageboard with a serious enough background. It has a message: ‘This is the End’. It anoints itself as ‘the imageboard at the end of the universe’. The site offers several categories where users can create message boards such as: Art, Advice, Anime & Manga, Entertainment, International, Politics, and Tech.
Endchan counts only the unique IP addresses of its visitors, which are only a handful. Still, like many other similar sites, site users connect via the anonymous Tor browser to conceal their IP addresses. Endchan has hundreds of thousands of posts, but the site is still below the performance rate of 8chan before its closure. Among Endchan’s top functioning boards are: QAnon Research (/qanonresearch/), Politically Incorrect (/pol/), and Q Research Bunker (/qrb/). These boards host narrative conversations of their users.
This article focuses on the key thematic narratives on Endchan, analysing them at their semantic and latent levels. Semantic examines the surface meaning of what is said, while the latent level inquiry goes in-depth to understand underlying ideas and context to see why it is said. Endchan narratives are born out of the social convictions of its users. Without looking into the beliefs that underlie these narratives, it’s difficult to understand their real strength and impact.
Endchan seems to be the best platform to host apocalyptic narrative themes. It naturally attracts doomsayers by offering a hyperbolic ‘end of the universe’ space. However, such exaggerations seem not to reduce the credibility of Endchan narratives. Its narratives are grounded in a context and are part of a wider worldview and an accompanying belief system. Any careful examination would reveal that every single narrative is a thread of a masterfully crafted tapestry: a story of a current peril, existential crisis, and hope for finding the path to redemption.
For example, a thematic narrative reveals the mindset of the so-called ‘civilisational collapse’. In the real world, the collapse of civilisations is interlinked to the factors that are vastly beyond human control, such as cataclysmic environmental events, pandemics, wars, and long-term irreversible damage to agriculture. Current civilisation faces these same challenges, perhaps on a greater scale, due to environmental degradation. However, the narrative of ‘civilisational collapse’ propagated on Endchan devises a different story: the collapse of the civilisation has been long underway, but people were oblivious to it.
The narrative tries to show how the civilisation is collapsing from within, due to reasons such as LGBTQ, hedonism, media indoctrination, mixed-race couples, open borders, climate propaganda, end of segregation, and immigration. Behind this narrative is a socially developed worldview, with a clearly defined existential crisis: racial identities face extinction due to race-mixing, threatening ethnic groups, their traditions, and cultures of the past. This narrative is fixated on maintaining racial differences to a point where diversity is seen as the end of civilisation.
With this existential crisis at hand, the next step is finding the culprits who are responsible for creating such a crisis in the first place. The Endchan narrative has a somewhat simplified explanation regarding culprits that are singlehandedly to blame for cultural erosion. The culprit is the ‘agenda of the Semites’ to destroy nations through ‘subtle subversion’. The Endchan narrative oversimplifies complex social transformations that occurred due to rapid developments on the frontiers of information, transportation, and global trade that brought the world and its cultures closer; instead, it blames the Semites.
With having someone to blame, the next step is finding ways to stop this culprit from inflicting further damage. The narrative brands the Semites as ‘the most dangerous organism to our people’ and, as a response, encourages Endchan users to think about the greatest threat to the Semites.
Here, the narrative comes up with another readily available solution: national socialism is the greatest enemy of the Semites. National socialism leads to ‘hold[ing] providence over your land, and taking care of your people’. Endchan narratives promote this idea quite assiduously. Even the message board, Politically Incorrect (/pol/), rules that ‘insulting National Socialism […] will result in an immediate ban’. With a well-defined existential crisis, identified culprits, and a logically argued solution, the narrative is now a complete ideology, positioned in a real-world context.
The next step is devising an action plan with an achievable goal. The action plan is explained as an ‘ethnic reclaiming of land’ with a fitting slogan: ‘equality for all, land for everyone’. The goal is about ‘supporting every race’s right to their own homeland’ or ‘ethnic separation’. The idea is based on the French New Right’s (Nouvelle Droite) concept of ‘ethnopluralism’. Despite having no empirical viability, this idea made its way into contemporary far-right circles with devastating effect. For example, the El Paso shooter explains the best immediate path of action in his manifesto: ‘creating at least one territory for each race, granting racial self-determination over their respective territories, and physical separation of races’. The mass shooting in El Paso shows how potent such narratives can be with grave consequences in the long run.
Dr Chamila Liyanage is a Policy and Practitioner Fellow at CARR and a Researcher/Content Developer at Radical-R: Radicalisation Research. See her profile here.
© Chamila Liyanage . Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).
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