Defenders of liberty have long battled the forces of darkness. Sometimes they fall victim to violence from cowards who cloak their identity. Until recently, the victims have had little recourse but to rely on overworked police departments who lack the resources to investigate all angles. In this era of fake news, disinformation, outright lies, and media bias, it can be difficult to find truth – even from the institutions that are supposed to be reporting it. In the last few years, however, an alternative has risen from the citizenry itself, driven by what’s called weaponized autism.
The phrase is an internet-derived one; Know Your Meme explains how it all started and defines it as “the impressive capabilities of socially awkward, tech-savvy internet users, typically associated with those who frequent [websites] like 4chan and 8chan.”
For as long as the internet has existed, there have been individuals who use it to learn about others. There have also been those who analyze information of an event and put forward various theories about it. At the beginning, these people were usually isolated individuals or small groups acting with minimal cooperation and often questionable motivation.
In 2013, the Boston Marathon bombing created the right combination of righteous outrage, a mass of data, and a motivated, cooperative community. Shortly after the attack, users on Reddit created a mini-community named /r/findbostonbombers. Thousands of Redditors subscribed. Community members scoured every available photo or video that they could find and reported their analysis to the group. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful and created several false leads. As The New Yorker wrote, /r/findbostonbombers was unsuccessful because the only footage which recorded the actual perpetrators wasn’t publicly available. This lead to some negative press about crowdsourcing and an apology from one of the moderators of /r/findbostonbombers.
Despite /r/findbostonbombers failure, the concept has not been abandoned – in fact, those who engage in crowdsourced intelligence collection and analysis have only gotten better at it, and law enforcement is taking notice. In Seattle, police are sharing information about stolen vehicles via their Get Your Car Back twitter feed, hoping Twitter users will report the locations of these vehicles.
Now, the community is incredibly large, talented, and very adept at what they do. Enter /pol/, the Politically Incorrect community of 4chan.org. 4chan is an anonymous messaging board with few limits that has given rise to the Anonymous hacker group and various internet memes. Several of its users have been in trouble with law enforcement in the past. It is not a safe space for children or adults with delicate sensibilities. /pol/ is a no holds barred community within 4chan where political discussion is encouraged and government leakers sometimes look for help. Users are almost all right-wingers, including a fair number of racists and trolls posing as racists, likely due to the forum’s anonymous nature. What seems to bind this motley band together is an absolute disdain for leftist thought. /pol/ became influential in the 2016 election as an incubator for pro-Trump internet memes and alt-right actions.
Shortly after the 2017 inauguration, /pol/ users became focused on an anti-Trump art project by actor Shia LaBeouf. First, LaBeouf installed a live stream camera in New York City, which was intended to stay running for four years, and leftists were asked to chant into it, “He Will Not Divide Us.” /pol/ readers trolled the camera with alt-right symbolism and speech. Eventually, LaBeouf had an altercation with one of those trolling the project, leading to his arrest. The museum hosting the project later shut it down due to concerns about violence. Another museum hosted the project for a short while and shut it down for similar concerns.
LaBoeuf then created a live stream of a flag at an undisclosed location which read “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US.” Within one day, /pol/ users, working in concert with users from the Reddit /r/The_Donald community, found the flag and replaced it with a green frog and red MAGA hat. /pol/ users triangulated a rough location by plotting stars and commercial airline contrails visible in the live stream. Then they dispatched someone to drive around honking his horn until /pol/ members heard the horn on the live stream. The further narrowed location allowed /pol/ users to isolate the exact location of the flag using star maps, and someone was dispatched to replace it. Laboeuf then moved the flag to a well-guarded museum roof in England. /pol/ users removed it shortly after. Since then, LaBeouf has given up on physical installations and replaced the live stream with a digital image.
After their success in the LaBoeuf campaign, the /pol/ intelligentsia have focused on Antifa violence in Berkeley, California. After several incidents of large scale Antifa violence against conservative rally and speech-goers in which Berkeley police stood down, as reported here on Liberty Nation, conservatives scheduled an April 15th free speech rally in Berkeley. People from across the country, including OathKeepers, were in attendance to provide security for rally goers. Several incidents occurred which drew the interest of /pol/. The most heinous was that of an Antifa thug in a mask who struck a peaceful rally attendee on the head with a bike lock, drawing blood. /pol/ members got to work and analyzed images and video from several incidents in which this thug attacked people. By looking for similarities in height, facial structure, clothing, accessories, and social media, they found what appears to be a match, and have released their findings to the internet at large. Several Twitter feeds indicate that the victim of the attack has turned over the information to law enforcement in hopes that charges are forthcoming, but this is unverified.
This drama is ongoing, and the list of players on this stage is growing. It is undeniable that as leftist violence continues to escalate, groups like /pol/ will find ever more reason to jump into the fray, outing those who would do violence under the mask. And if law enforcement continues to sit on their hands, /pol/ might eventually possess the motivation and opportunity to coordinate with other groups like Oathkeepers, who are dedicated to physically defending the right to free speech. When this happens, terrorist groups like Antifa will have their masks yanked off either physically or virtually, and they will have to choose between reverting to civil discourse or radicalizing their methods even further.
Like me, you may not like every philosophy espoused by the extreme right corners of the internet, but free speech is for everyone, including those who have opinions that we consider repugnant. And for as long as law enforcement refuses to do their jobs, the power of weaponized autism employed in defense of free speech is undeniable. The ability of these open source analysts in places like 4chan, Gab, Voat, and many more groups to find and disseminate information is nearly unmatched, and as the conflict between various political factions widens, they may become one of the only places actual truth can be found.