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How An 80s Breakdancing Movie Became Right-Wing Code For Civil War

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 17: FBI agents gather near the Earle Cabell Federal Building on June 17, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The shooter, identified as 22 year-old Brian Isaack Clyde, was shot dead after opening fire on the courthouse. No one else was injured in the shooting. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 17: FBI agents gather near the Earle Cabell Federal Building on June 17, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The shooter, identified as 22 year-old Brian Isaack Clyde, was shot dead after opening fire on the cou... DALLAS, TX - JUNE 17: FBI agents gather near the Earle Cabell Federal Building on June 17, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The shooter, identified as 22 year-old Brian Isaack Clyde, was shot dead after opening fire on the courthouse. No one else was injured in the shooting. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 18, 2019 12:04 p.m.

When a 22-year-old man, Brian Isaack Clyde, was killed by law enforcement Monday after opening fire outside of the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas, I began looking at his digital footprint to find out more about his worldview. What I found fit into a rough pattern of internet-immersed, radicalized men who distrust the federal government and are obsessed with guns and violence.

Among the years of published posts on the shooter’s Facebook page, one caught my eye. Above a video clip of a 1998 episode of “Power Rangers In Space” that features a crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a caption reads: “When Libertarians and NatSocs meet on the battlefield during the Boogaloo.”

NatSocs is short for National Socialists, or Nazis. “The Boogaloo,” believe it or not, is a reference to both a hypothetical Second Civil War and the ’80s breakdancing movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.”

The meme lineage actually isn’t as convoluted as you might think. But it may shed some light on Clyde’s motivations for attacking a federal building and, in essence, committing suicide by cop.

The movie, “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” was released just a few months after the original picture, “Breakin’.” Perhaps due to its hurried release and poor reception, “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” became synonymous with mediocre sequels. The show “Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” for example, titled a 2016 sequel episode about the absurd drinking game Chardee MacDennis, “Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo.”

For many — including a 2007 New York Times campaign wire — the meme ends here. “2: Electric Boogaloo” refers to any sequel, especially a hasty or poorly executed one.

But for some, apparently including the Dallas federal building shooter, this is where the insurrection talk begins.

Writing “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” or just “Boogaloo,” among other similar constructions, has become one way to frame a fight against the U.S. government in jokey, ironic language that makes the proposal digestible for internet communities in which the boundaries between unserious “shitposter” and committed future murderer are kept purposefully undefined.

There are myriad references around the web to this usage.

One Urban Dictionary user (and the hundreds who voted their agreement) defined “Electric Boogaloo” as “The inevitable sequel to either the Civil War or the Revoultionary [sic] War in which the gun owners will rise above and kill either the government or the soy boys and Make America Great Again. That librtard isn’t ready for the civil war pt 2 electric boogaloo.”

Responding to a question about the meme in April on AR15.com a couple weeks after the shooter posted his meme about “the Boogaloo,” one user said: “Stems from the ‘Electric Boogaloo’ meme that went viral a few months back. EB references a shitty, over the top sequel. Started with 1776 part 2 or Civil War 2 jokes, the meme hits, those morph into ‘1776/Civil War part 2: Electric Boogaloo’ memes, ‘boogaloo’ on its own sticks cause it’s perfect. BOOOGGGAAALLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO motherfuckers”

On 4chan Monday, someone who identified as a first-generation American asked: “Do you think we have a place in white America? I support the constitution and would gladly fight for the republic. If y’all boogaloo can I come senpai?”

Someone else responded: “No one is gonna boogaloo. This whole site is just a LARP [live action role-players]. We are all here for the jokes.”

H/t Rick Perlstein

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