To listen to Facebook the last two years, you would have thought that any group espousing the murder of law enforcement would have set off a hundred alarm bells on the platform and been quickly snuffed out by content moderators. But, in fact, Facebook seems to be learning about these fringe groups along with the rest of the country in the wake of several violent incidents — including two fatal shootings in Oakland and Santa Cruz, allegedly by the same Boogaloo adherent who practically announced his intentions on Facebook.
Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo, 32, was charged in federal court Tuesday along with an accomplice, 30-year-old Robert Alvin Justus, Jr. of Millbrae, in the May 29 killing of 53-year-old federal security officer David Patrick Underwood — as well as the attempted killing of his partner. And the national news media on Tuesday evening was ablaze with the story of Carrillo's connection to the loosely affiliated Boogaloo movement.
The movement, such as it is, has apparently been seeing a noted uptick of activity on social media during the last few months of pandemic quarantine. As the New York Times reports, while no single ideology seems to drive self-professed Boogaloo followers, they seem to share a common interest in libertarian ideas and violent defiance of local and federal authority.
This has translated, for extremists like Carrillo, into some sort of hatred toward so-called "Alphabet soup boys," or "soup bois" — a shorthand for members of various government agencies from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to Homeland Security (HSA), to the FBI.
Those who share this animosity toward the U.S. government and other authorities, and who believe a civil war is coming when the "duopoly" of the two-party system will be overthrown, have formed Facebook groups. And they've apparently been fomenting rage about the pandemic lockdowns — and whatever else — for several months as some of the more angry and mentally unstable among them have decided to act out offline to get the revolution in motion.
Carrillo appears to be one of those who wanted to use the cover of Black Lives Matter protests to enact his own agenda.
When Facebook decided back around Super Bowl time to launch a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign focused on Groups, maybe this wasn't what they had in mind?
As CNN Business reports, as of Wednesday, Facebook is banning use of the term "Boogaloo" altogether, as well as affiliated terminology including "Big igloo" and "Big Luau," at least "when they are accompanied by images or statements depicting armed violence." The Verge reported on June 5 that Facebook was beginning to become aware of extremist content flying under the Boogaloo flag — that was the day before Carrillo allegedly killed Santa Cruz Sheriff's deputy Damon Gutzwiller, and shortly after the FBI had arrested three self-identified Boogaloo dudes in Nevada for an alleged violent plot against police there.
Facebook says it has removed the groups that both Carrillo and Justus belonged to, and it is investigating other Boogaloo-affiliated groups that may exist on the platform. Regarding the two shootings that Carrillo allegedly participated in, Facebook says in a statement, "We designated these attacks as violating events and removed the accounts for the two perpetrators along with several groups. We will remove content that supports these attacks and continue to work with law enforcement in their investigation."
As of this writing, a Facebook group called Boogaloo Memes appears to have been taken offline, but another group titled "Electric Memes 2: The Revolutionary Boogaloo" is still active, with members posting things like this:
And here's another from a group called "Boogaloo Memes That Are Just Jokes, I Swear."
Carrillo made multiple statements on Facebook in the days leading up to the shootings which perhaps should have been reported to authorities.
As CNN reports, Carrillo said in one post — regarding the George Floyd protests the week of May 25 — "If it kicks off? Its kicking off now and if its not kicking off in your hood then start it. Show them the targets," and he added, "Go to the riots and support our own cause. Show them the real targets. Use their anger to fuel our fire. Think outside the box. We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage."
The Boogaloo adherents, some of whom are reportedly current and former military, appear to exhibit some combination of adolescent video-game bravado, an anarchist bent built on anger at the failures of the U.S. government, disdain for law enforcement, and the deeply coded, in-joke humor of 4chan, Reddit, and elsewhere. It may not make much sense unless you, yourself have been fomenting rage in the internet's libertarian and male-dominated corners in recent years. But as history professor Kathleen Belew, who is the author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, tells the Times, "This is a very violent movement even if they are wearing Hawaiian shirts and using funny memes to try to soften what they are doing."
"Boogaloo" itself is an in-joke for Gen Xers, referring to the 1984 sequel to the break-dancing movie Breakin', titled Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. The joke is that like the Breakin' sequel, the sequel to the American Civil War will be a near carbon-copy of the first one.
Only this time, I guess, there'd be better guns and a lot more of them.