Are We Supporting Mass Shooters in the Name of Free Speech?

Before taking out his AK-47 and using it to murder 22 innocent people in El Paso, Texas, alleged shooter Patrick Crusius published his “reasoning” for the crime in a place where he knew his words would be well-received—by others who shared his sentiments of hate.

“Dark web?” Yeah: a website called “8chan.” It’s an easily accessible site that offers not only free speech but complete anonymity to the haters and plotters who are unwelcome everywhere else.

And it makes me wonder: how many hate-filled, evil-inspiring diatribes did Crusius read, posted by the anonymous cowards of 8chan, before he decided that an assault rifle was the best way to express his hatred?

And how much more hatred will those evil trolls be spreading while Crusius sits in prison awaiting trial (and the death penalty), and the victims’ families bury their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters?

How many more can they “inspire” to commit murder, all while hiding in their closets and basements, laughing at the barbarous results of their hate posts?

American flag made of bullets
Image by 80’s Child/Shutterstock.com

Let’s take a look at this forum, which was so welcoming to Crusius and his vicious hate crime. Oh, not at its contents. I’m sure the owners and trolls of 8chan are already chortling with glee over the number of reporters and others who have visited the site since the El Paso massacre. No, let’s look at the “products” of the site’s unadulterated, anonymous hatred.

I remember those times pretty well, because my church was one of the targets, and my daughter received one of the anthrax threat letters that they sent to our church—complete with loose white powder enclosed.

As Ethan Chiel of Splinternews reported:

“You may not have heard of 8chan, but you’ve almost definitely been exposed to their actions. When something horrifying happens online that leads people to say, the internet is a terrible place,’ they are often talking about something that was planned on 8chan. This is the group that made Microsoft’s teen-loving bot Tay turn racist and start praising Hitler. It got a hashtag trending that suggested boycotting Star Wars because it had black and female lead actors. It was delisted from Googles search results after users posted child pornography. It has a board called /baph/ dedicated to doxing people and attacking other websites.”

8chan symbol

Awesome, huh? Makes you think of those guys from a few years back who called themselves “Anonymous” and hacked their way to fame with wonderful pranks like sending anthrax threats to religious groups they targeted and marching around with hate signs only when they could hide behind masks.

I remember those times pretty well, because my church was one of the targets, and my daughter received one of the anthrax threat letters that they sent to our church—complete with loose white powder enclosed.

Remember them—those guys that plotted their “haha” funny scary hate crimes on a “dark web” site called 4chan?

Oh, wait!

It looks like they are the same guys as the 8chan haters!

Well, maybe or maybe not. I mean, who can tell, right? After all, none of them are willing to tell you their names, post their own pictures or give you their addresses.

But I can tell you this: when the Anonymous hate speech got to be too much for 4chan’s owners to tolerate—resulting in a shut down—the hater-trolls didn’t stop spewing. They migrated.

And where did they go? 8chan.

Now, 8chan is apparently the brainchild of this guy, Frederick Brennan, who started it in 2013.

Screenshot of woman interviewing man
8Chan founder Frederick Brennan was interviewed by Australia’s 10 Daily in early August 2019.

He still runs the charming site, but he’s sold it to financial backer Jim Watkins, a pig farmer and U.S. military vet whose previous tech venture was a Japanese porn site. You can read all about Watkins here, if you’re interested.

But the haters—the hate speech—the diatribes that rail against minority religions, women and non-white races—those guys are …anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous.

In other words, cowards.

Haters who hide behind masks, all the while urging others to do their dirty work. Guys who sit in their parents’ basements in their grimy shorts, too scared to talk to a real person in public, but oh so willing to cheer when they see a white supremacist mow down innocent people with an AK-47.

At least that’s who I see when I think of members of that tiny clique of hate-mongering weirdos who call themselves “Anonymous.” 

I’m a civil rights attorney by trade. I’ve argued vehemently in favor of all of our collective constitutional rights, including the right to free speech. That viewpoint—that people should be free to express their opinions and ideas—has carried over to my personal life. My kids will tell you that they grew up in a household that didn’t practice censorship, that their parents discussed tough issues with them and in front of them, and that they were encouraged always to find their own truths and to express them.

But this? This isn’t free speech or honest discourse. This is a tiny group of hate-filled cowards, hiding their identities so they won’t be found out.

It’s time to ban Anonymous hate speech. The haters need to be made to sign their names, show us their faces and acknowledge their words as their own. They need to be made responsible for the evil actions they applaud and incite.

They need to be held accountable for the chaos that they spread.

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