“The storm” on the Capitol is the result of a new kind of networked conspiracy – a potent brew of disinformation and rumor enabled by platforms, emboldened by politicians and influencers, and defined by a total lack of trust in the news.
While those who stormed the Capitol seem to come from all walks of life, one faction of older white people stood out, aided by a viral image of Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas, sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s desk. Online they are called the “boomerwaffen”, a pejorative name for the boomers and normies radicalized by cable news and AM radio, likening their potential for rightwing violence to that of Atomwaffen terrorists.
The boomerwaffen showed up cloaked in Trump gear from head to toe, they gave testimonials parroting the claims of their favorite YouTubers and podcasters, referencing QAnon, and describing a conspiracy to steal the election from Trump. Eschewing the risks of the pandemic, they believed 6 January was the last day they could pressure Vice-President Mike Pence and Republicans to reject the results of the election.
The boomerwaffen occupy an area of our media ecosystem where Trump still has a chance, QAnon is still leaking privileged government secrets, and Rudy Gulinani is a good lawyer up against a rigged system.
Creating and maintaining the boomerwaffen universe requires an incredible amount of resources. Trump’s disinformation campaigns are a media spectacle involving a stunning array of political operatives, media pundits, lawyers, and influencers who day-to-day create, publish, and share a cascade of lies and speculation across webspaces, cable news, and radio all at once.