Before 27-year-old far-right extremist Stephan Balliet tried to shoot his way into a synagogue in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, killing two people with homemade weapons nearby, he uploaded a manifesto to a now-deleted general-purpose discussion thread on an obscure message board called Meguca.
Meguca, though an independent website, is loosely affiliated with 4chan’s anime board. It shares the name of a popular meme making fun of the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica and hosts similarly toxic free-speech free-for-alls. “[M]eguca.org has not received any gag orders and there's no Patriot Act here. Sucks to live in a third world police state like the US,” a note on the homepage reads.
In his Wednesday post on Meguca, the Halle gunman interrupts a discussion about video games, politics and anime to announce that he has been building improvised weapons. “For all of you, who live in no fun countries, this may be of interest. Over the past years I build and tested different improvised weapons,” the post reads. “Of course, there are dozens of improvised designs out there, so what’s special with mine? Simple, I prefer live testing.”
The post included a link to a channel called “spilljuice" on the popular livestreaming platform Twitch — the channel from which gunman would later stream his attack.
In the Meguca thread viewed by BuzzFeed News, users spend about 10 minutes sharing pictures of Balliet’s homemade weapons before they realize that Balliet is carrying out a terror attack on his Twitch channel. “Godspeed anon, I'll stay with you if this is it,” one Meguca user writes. “Quick, how do I save a broadcast in progress?”
After the gunman’s 35-minute stream ended, users scrambled to record it. “Saving now, its about a gig and 30 minutes and my connection is slow, but steady. Will make immediate backups,” one user writes. “I hope he's okay, and succeeded.”
Twitch, in a Twitter thread Wednesday, said the gunman only had a live audience of five and approximately 2,200 people watched the recording in the 30 minutes before the video was flagged and removed from the platform. According to this Meguca thread, however, it appears many followed along and many more joined afterward, looking for recordings of the attack. Some complained about spoilers as they sought out download mirrors of the rampage.
The manifesto the gunman posted to Meguca before his attack is 16 pages broken up across three PDF files. It includes an obligatory namecheck of 8chan, a gag featuring a giant picture of an anime girl with cat ears, his list of improvised weapons, and an appeal to “View the live-stream to find out more.” Balliet’s ideology, expressed in a section called “The Objectives” is terse and matter of fact:
1. Prove the viability of improvised weapons.
2. Increase the moral [sic] of other suppressed Whites by spreading the combat footage.
3. Kill as many anti-Whites as possible, jews preferred.
Bonus: Don’t die.
The manifesto concludes with a deeply unsettling list of “achievements,” presented like video game level-ups: “Chosen to die - Kill a jew,” “Midnight Genocide - Kill 3 niggers between 11pm and 1 am,” and “Think of the children! - Kill a kikelett.”
The Halle gunman’s social media rollout was nearly identical to that of the Christchurch shooter’s eight months before and shows how much social networks continue to struggle to keep up with the virality of extremist violence. Even though he chose an obscure message board to announce his attack on, people across larger platforms like Twitter, Telegram, and message boards like 4chan were able to share, quote, screenshot, and make memes out of his manifesto. It also was amplified by the mainstream media. Tabloids plastered his face on their front pages. German TV played a video taken by a bystander of him stalking the streets of Halle in his body armor.
A Twitch spokesperson said they were working with law enforcement and have a zero-tolerance policy against hateful content.
"We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected," a Twitch spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "Any act of violence is taken extremely seriously.”
Twitch’s removal of the video did little to slow down the trajectory of the video, though. According to Megan Squire, a senior fellow at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, two Telegram channels forwarded versions of the video to 15,625 other accounts on Wednesday. Before Twitter intervened later in the day on Wednesday, thousands of LiveLeak links to the video were also being shared across the site.
"We are actively removing perpetrator-created content related to the attack, hashing it and placing the hashes into a shared database for Hash Sharing Consortium members, to prevent its viral spread across our services,” a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Meanwhile, the video and manifesto continue to travel across non-mainstream social networks. On one popular radicalized message board, people have been excitedly following gunman news coming out of Halle all week. But users are mostly upset that the shooter couldn’t figure out how to make his homemade weapons work properly.
And, similarly, on a 4chan thread about the attack Thursday, users were also disappointed in the body count. One user linked to an article saying the gunman was being heralded as a hero and saint among far-right internet users.
“Which one of you faggots called this failure a ‘saint,’” the user asked.
Other users have been calling the gunman “doorcuck,” referencing his inability to get the door to the synagogue open.
During a hearing on Friday, the gunman admitted to a far-right, anti-Semitic motive. Prosecutors said it’s unclear whether he had any accomplices or belongs to a specific far-right group.