Gun Companies Get In On The Boogaloo, Market To Dopes Who Want Another Civil War
Over the past month or so, multiple crimes and acts of violence have been attributed to men associated with online Boogaloo groups, including the murder of a police officer and an attempted terrorist bombing. "Boogaloo" — sometimes styled as Big Igloo or Big Luau — is code for a second Civil War, a take on the classic 1980s dance movie Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, and members of these groups are hoping to be on the front lines. Or so they say on the internet. They wear Hawaiian shirts (because "Big Luau") and hoard weaponry in preparation for this coming Civil War, which won't actually happen because probably no one is going to beg them to stay.
The movement is growing by the day, despite the many half-assed attempts by social media to put a lid on it, and gun manufacturers are getting hep to the fact that there is a lot of money to be made there.
The Trace, a nonprofit newsroom focused on gun violence, reported on Monday that many gun companies are openly marketing to Boogaloo Boys, with hashtags, memes, Hawaiian-print themed guns and other paraphernalia, and even going so far as to ask these groups to list them as "Boogaloo-friendly" companies. And it's worked. One of the biggest offenders, Fenix Ammunition, went from an average of $4,000 in sales per day to $40,000 per day, after the company — and its owner, Justin Nazaroff — jumped on the Boogaloo bandwagon.
For months, Nazaroff had been posting memes to his company's Facebook and Instagram pages referencing the "boogaloo," slang for the armed uprising that a loose assortment of preppers, Second Amendment activists, and anti-government extremists is getting ready for — and in some cases trying to accelerate.
"I'll be honest, it drives sales," Nazaroff said in April of his company's marketing practices. "People think it's funny. People click on boogaloo memes. It's something that gun people enjoy joking about."
"You can look up any firearms social media influencer and probably find them using the term boogaloo at some point in time," he added. Nazaroff cut off communication after a police department notified him of our records request seeking information about sales to Fenix and emails referencing boogaloo.
"It's something that gun people enjoy joking about," he says. Because sure, what's more hilarious than murdering a bunch of people?
Curiously, despite how the Boogaloo Boys are very right-wing, cops are among those they say they wish to murder (but in a hilarious way, of course). In fact, many of them have attempted to join the George Floyd protests, not because they give a damn that he was killed by a cop, but because they see it as an opportunity to engage in violence against cops themselves. And then, ideally, have that be blamed on Black people and Antifa, in hopes of getting that race war they're so jazzed about.
This puts companies like Fenix in a slightly awkward position, as they also supply police departments. It's also awkward that that the Boogaloo movement has a strong Nazi bent, which Fenix pretends to not know about.
In the days before the rally, members of a neo-Nazi group called The Base were arrested after federal agents said two of them discussed opening fire on the rally. An FBI affidavit claimed the group wanted to use the event to start the boogaloo, which some neo-Nazis see as a race war or civilizational collapse. There is no evidence that The Base acquired ammo from Fenix, and on June 25, Fenix posted on Instagram about our reporting, writing: "Our company wants nothing to do with anyone claiming to be a Nazi, or a white supremacist. We've banned people from our page for saying such things in the past and we'll continue to do so in the future. The Boogaloo is for everyone."
Except not, because it's supposed to be a race war.
In another post, Fenix responded to a suggestion that looters target white neighborhoods, like Novi, Michigan, the Detroit suburb where Fenix is located. The response included a picture of four high-powered guns with the comment "send bachelors."
"Send bachelors" is a popular meme on the right. The gist of it is "people are going to die doing this thing, so don't send anyone who has a family." It's pretty sickening. Earlier this year, when Democratic Governor Kate Brown of Oregon threatened to make state legislators do their job and vote on an environmental bill, Republican state Senator Brian Boquist responded by saying she had better "Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon."
Oh boy, killing people sure is hilarious. And that's exactly what these gun companies who are marketing to the Boogaloo Boys want everyone to think.
"It's literally an internet joke. It's like 'Harambe,'" said Dimitri Karras of Firearms Unknown, which sells "ghost guns," unserialized but legal firearm parts that can be assembled by customers at home. "I'm a Marine who's fought in two wars. I have a dark sense of humor. That's just who I am."
Lots of people have dark senses of humor. But if "dead baby joke" enthusiasts started actually eating their way out of piles of dead babies, we'd all start to be a little concerned that it might not really be a joke. And the fact is, this isn't. These people are literally arming themselves and they're actually going out there and hurting people, or at least trying to.
As The Trace points out, using humor to make radical ideologies more palatable to people who might otherwise be turned off by them is a common tactic, particularly on the far right. Rewind back to 2015, and we saw a whole lot of people trying to claim the anti-Semitism and racism on 4chan and other right-wing sites and message boards was just totally ironic and not at all serious. Fast-forward a few years later and they're marching down the streets of Charlottesville angrily chanting "Jews will not replace us."
It wasn't a joke. It was never a joke. It was a purposeful erosion of societal norms. Once you can actually say or even type a racial slur "as a joke," it's a lot easier to jump on the White Power train than it might have been before.
While these cafones may not actually start a Civil War — in order to have a Civil War you have to have people fighting against you, otherwise it's just murder — they are dangerous. If someone were to spend hours in these groups, joking/fantasizing about killing all of us with people who also enjoy joking/fantasizing about killing all of us, if they were to see that they were being catered to by gun companies, they're going to start feeling like it's not totally out of the realm of normalcy to want to go on a killing spree of some kind. Especially if they were a little off to begin with.
These companies may see themselves as simply taking advantage of an existing trend that benefits them, but what they're doing is normalizing an extremely violent and dangerous subculture, and making it just a little easier for someone to do something drastic.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse