Amazon's boogaloo problem

The world's largest online retailer carries extremist merchandise promoting the idea that the U.S. is headed for a second Civil War.

IT BEGAN WITH A TIP… A reader of The Informant wrote in this week to point out that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has been selling merchandise promoting the so-called “boogaloo” movement. Sure enough, a quick search of the site showed an array of products, including T-shirts, patches, and ball caps that are being sold in connection to the extremist movement.

Even more troubling, perhaps, was that simply searching the word “boogaloo” on Amazon brought up a series of related search terms that show the website’s algorithms have been able to identify some of the symbols associated with the movement. The related search terms included boogaloo patches, boogaloo flags, T-shirts depicting a “big igloo,” and even Aloha-style shirts that have become the de-facto uniform of the movement. Most if not all of the products appear to be marketed by third-party sellers through Amazon’s website.

NOT TOO SURPRISING… Amazon has been caught selling extremist merchandise before. A 2018 report put together by The Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy found that the retailer was inundated with racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic products. Those products included neo-Nazi and white supremacist literature and merch. Later that same year, NBC News documented that customers would receive more than 1,000 results when searching for the term “QAnon,” which refers to a conspiracy theory that has led to violence and FBI warnings. Last year, the company was also caught selling merch based on an anti-Muslim trolling campaign, according to Media Matters for America.

AMAZON’S RESPONSE.. The company did not reply to an email seeking comment.

THE BOOGALOO PROBLEM… The boogaloo subculture is still emerging and therefore still somewhat difficult to understand. But at its core, it is based around the idea that the U.S. is headed for a second Civil War (aka “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo”). As The Informant has documented, adherents of the movement have allegedly been involved in crimes in multiple states in recent months. Those include charges of murder, terrorism and inciting riots, among other things.

THE STRUGGLE… Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been vocal about his support for racial equality, including the Black Lives Matter movement. In June, he took to Instagram to address racist backlash to his support of the movement. “This sort of hate shouldn’t be allowed to hide in the shadows,” he wrote. “It’s important to make it visible.” Yet it’s clear his company has a continuing and ongoing problem with extremism on its website, and its response to such matters is reactive or nonexistent.

There have been a number of sickening but not surprising responses in my inbox since my last post. This sort of hate shouldn’t be allowed to hide in the shadows. It’s important to make it visible. This is just one example of the problem.

And, Dave, you’re the kind of customer I’m happy to lose.
June 7, 2020

Also on my radar…

INVICTUS DENIED BOND (FOR NOW)… Augustus Sol Invictus, a white nationalist who has described himself as an emperor and a prophet, was temporarily denied the opportunity to get out of jail on Thursday during a hearing in South Carolina. Invictus has been behind bars off and on since December. He is facing charges of domestic violence and using a gun in a crime, both related to an altercation with his now-estranged wife.

A judge released Invictus from jail on bond on April 1 and ordered him to stay away from his estranged wife. Later that month, Invictus allegedly tracked down his wife in Florida. He was arrested there on suspicion of aggravated stalking and eventually transferred back to South Carolina for violating the terms of his release.

On Thursday, A judge in York County, South Carolina, denied Invictus’ motion to be let out of jail. But the judge said he will let Invictus have another opportunity to ask for release once the prosecution and defense gather more information on what took place in Florida.

Invictus was a key planner of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and he is currently facing a federal lawsuit over his role in it.

GUILTY PLEA… A man who was arrested in a case linked to the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division pleaded guilty to a federal charge of taking part in a conspiracy to launch “swatting” attacks on an array of victims. John William Kirby Kelley, who was known online as “Carl” and “BotGod,” pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. One of his co-conspirators, John Cameron Denton, who was the one-time leader of Atomwaffen, pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge last week. Each man faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

TWITTER’S QANON PURGE… Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny at NBC News broke the story on Tuesday that Twitter had banned more than 7,000 accounts that were promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. The social media company also limited the reach of 150,000 accounts dealing in QAnon quackery. The problem, as Will Sommer of The Daily Beast noted, is that the conspiracy theory has already blossomed into real world actions thanks to the permissive nature of most social media companies, including Twitter. Some violence associated with the QAnon community has led the FBI to look at its believers as a potential domestic terrorist threat.

BLUELEAKS AND THE BOOGALOO… “Inside Minnesota's Boogaloo movement: Armed and eager for societal collapse” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

THE TIME IS NOW… “We're living in a perfect storm for extremist recruitment. Here's what we can do to stop it” (CNN)

THE VIRUS… “Blood and Vanishing Topsoil: American Ecofascism Past, Present, and in the Coming Climate Crisis” (Political Research Associates)

SETTING UP SHOP… “The Asatru Folk Assembly recently bought property in western Minnesota as a base of operations for its members” (West Central Tribune)

WHY THEY PROTEST… “A 'very dark history': Oregon's racist past fuels protests against injustice in Portland” (USA Today)

GET READY… “Three Percenters plan 'boots on the ground' in Louisville to counter Black militia” (Louisville Courier Journal)

BEWARE THE BUNDY CLAN… “Man injured in shootout was part of Malheur occupation” (Lewiston Morning Tribune)

GREEN AND WHITE… “Sierra Club confronts its racist, white-supremacist past” (USA Today)

‘GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY’… “Man accused of running over Sikh man charged with hate crime” (AP)

VIOLENCE, TERRORISM, AND HATE… “Inside the UK-based site that has become the far right’s YouTube” (The Independent)

HISTORICAL HATE… “Nazi concentration camp guard convicted over 5,232 murders” (The Guardian)

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