Gun Dealers Rack Up Profits By Marketing To Right-Wing Extremist 'Boogaloo Bois'
A popular 'Boogaloo' patch.Credit: Screengrab Facebook meme
July 5, 2020

Like most far-right “movements,” the so-called “Boogaloo” cult—with its built-in fetishes around guns, body armor, banners, patches, T-shirts and assorted accoutrements—is also simultaneously a big moneymaking opportunity for right-wing operatives and their enablers, eager to milk the gullible “Patriots” who flock to their websites.

Chief among the enablers have been Facebook and Instagram, who have, as BuzzFeed News reports, been raking in advertising dollars from “Boogaloo”-related merchants hawking their wares. But perhaps more ominously, chief among the people both promoting the cult on social media and offering such goods are the businesses marketing to believers the means with which to conduct the “second civil war” that is the object of their shared violent fantasy: gun dealers.

Ian Karbal at The Informant and The Trace reported this week on the profits being racked up by gun sellers tailoring their wares to a booming “Boogaloo” market online. Altogether, he found more than 35 dealers or manufacturers of firearms and associated tactical gear that have posted references to the civil war cult on social media.

Chief among them has been Fenix Ammunition, which saw its online daily sales in March rocket from 4,000 to 40,000. It also sells such “Boogaloo” items as a “Big Luau Competition Jersey” with a Hawaiian design, and a “Thin Hawaiian Line” sticker featuring the cult’s banner (black-and-white striped with an igloo and a palm tree).

“I'll be honest, it drives sales,” Fenix owner Justin Nazaroff told Karbal. “People think it's funny. People click on boogaloo memes. It’s something that gun people enjoy joking about.”

Among Fenix’s clients are at least three local police departments, a law enforcement training center, and rifle manufacturer KelTec.

“They don’t have a lot of beliefs other than they really like guns, they really hate cops, and they want some sort of revolution,” Megan Squire, a computer scientist who researches online extremism at Elon University, told Karbal. “You pretty much have to be weapons-trained and interested in weapons to be a Boogaloo adherent.”

The marketing strategies vary from company to company, but the themes and underlying violent rhetoric are consistent:

Some companies, like Fenix, sell boogaloo-themed merchandise. For instance, in February, Palmetto State Armory sold a limited run of custom boogaloo-themed AK-47-style guns, finished with Hawaiian patterns, mimicking the shirts boogaloo supporters have adopted as an unofficial uniform. They also advertise boogaloo t-shirts on Facebook. Palmetto State Armory CEO Jamin McCallum did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

Hoplite Armor, a body armor manufacturer in Kalispell, Montana, sells a Hawaiian-patterned plate carrier as a part of its “Aloha line” of products. The traditional flowers have been replaced with the bloody Bauhinia flower, which adorns the Hong Kong protest flag.

Like Nazaroff, the sellers tried to write it all off as a kind of humor.

“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.”

But as Cassie Miller, a researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center, pointedly observed: “They pretend that it’s a joke. In some ways that’s to conceal just how serious and sometimes dangerous the ideas that they’re pushing are.”

The far right’s hopes for a civil war, embodied in the spreading “Boogaloo” cult, are increasingly less a fantasy and more of a real-life, looming domestic terrorism problem. Recent incidents are making clear that men swept up in the movement are increasingly intent on making it a reality:

  • An Air Force sergeant in California who was a “Boogaloo” fan shot two federal officers at an anti-police protest in Oakland, one fatally. Two days later, after being tracked to Santa Cruz County, he shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy while being arrested. During the rampage, he scrawled the word “Boog” in blood on the hood of the car he was driving.
  • A Texarkana, Texas, man who intended to spark the “Boogaloo” by ambushing police officers, was caught by officers who were alerted by his attempt to livestream his planned killing spree. They went to his location and arrested him shortly thereafter.
  • A “Boogaloo” enthusiast who posted comments on Facebook about bringing his rifle to an anti-stay-at-home-orders protest in Denver attracted the interest of FBI agents, who upon visiting him at his home discovered a cache of homemade pipe bombs. The man openly expressed his intent to use them to kill any federal agents who tried to invade his home.
  • Another “Boogaloo Boi” planned to livestream his ambush on police officers at an Ohio national park, but was arrested by FBI agents before he could pull off the plan.
  • A trio of men with connections to Facebook “Boogaloo” groups were arrested en route to a Houston anti-police protest with a load of Molotov cocktails they intended to use to spread chaos at the event.

Posted with permission from Daily Kos.

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