On July 4, 2022, at least one gunman opened fire on an Independence Day parade in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing at least seven innocent revelers and injuring dozens of parade-goers. During the active manhunt for the perpetrator, later identified as Robert Crimo III, misinformation and rumors were rife on social media, with many users on mainstream platforms and fringe sites alike speculating about the identity of the shooter and the nature of the incident.
Extremists on platforms including 4Chan, Telegram, Gab and other platforms reacted to the shooting as the story unfolded. Many users attempted to share breaking news updates as well as intentionally spreading misinformation about the event. Some claimed that the shooter was black, a leftist, Jewish, transgender, or Asian, whilst others espoused conspiracy theories claiming that the event was a "false flag" or perpetrated by the government in order to advance a gun control agenda.
After police identified the likely shooter, extremists continued to speculate on the motivations for the shooting. Many users asserted that Crimo is Jewish, was funded by George Soros, is a member of Antifa, or is a federal agent.
Other users speculated about the location of the event, noting that the area surrounding Highland Park is affluent and has a large Jewish population. Many users celebrated this, expressing hope that the victims were either Jewish or black. Others celebrated the attack as a victory for the accelerationist cause, with many arguing that the event will contribute to growing social unrest in the United States.
The following report highlights early reactions to the Highland Park mass shooting from extremist users on 4Chan, Telegram, Gab, and other platforms.
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Extremists Celebrate The Shooting, Call For Accelerating Societal Collapse
A neo-Nazi accelerationist Telegram channel posted a call for more mass attacks and the acceleration of societal collapse. The post stated: "No matter the why or how, it happened.... with or without a newly inducted saint, it happened..... with the only fact at the time being a mass casuality event, still means it happened!!!! Acceleration events may happen from all sides. All events should be considered a foot up for the accelerated collapse of this society. It's up to individuals now to decide where to go from here. Do you cuck or do you help everyone around you see the degenerative state that our Nation has become? Voting will not change things, Voting will not remove them. Acceleration is the right solution! ///"
In another incel thread, a user stated: "Good we need more of these."
Claims Attack Was 'Staged' Or 'Planned' By The Government, Jews
The de facto leader of a Canadian accelerationist movement posted a thread on his Twitter account, stating: "Hmmm now who in the world would want to have a 4th of July parade shot up... Yes, they do hate you this much."
A neo-Nazi Telegram channel posted a link to a Twitter thread and alleged that the shooter was a "leftwing extremist," stating: "Robert Crimo liked and retweeted hundreds of leftwing extremist accounts demanding Jan 6 protestors be arrested."
On Gab, a white supremacist in a prominent white supremacist group declared: "Totally staged."
A Canadian militiamember and antigovernment Gab user commented: "100 % programed ...listen to this ...."
On an antigovernment militia forum, a prominent user created a thread titled: "Breaking his youtube video update parade suspect was he soros paid? /identified Robert E. 'Bobby' Crimo III, 22/ DID he have HELP?" The user posted several links to articles about the shooting.
On a neo-Nazi forum based on 4chan, users asserted that Crimo was Jewish, paid by George Soros, and a member of Antifa. A South African user commented: "One of Soros's many Antifa Inc. Infiltrators. Look how many were exposed among the MAGA 1/6 protest with there FBI handlers." Another user posted an image of Crimo with the text: "Who NOSE what his motives were," implying that Crimo is Jewish.
On a different neo-Nazi forum, a user created a thread and stated: "So this is Robert 'Bobby' Crimo III, the likely Highland Park shooter. Before he was identified they said he was white. Not so white to me, a bit spicish. Antifa? Edit: After seeing several pictures of this guy I can say without hesitation that he is a loser."
Other users commented on the thread, with one stating: "Looks like a gypsy to me." Another commented: "He looks like a suboptimal Jew to me."
On Gab, a white supremacist posted a screenshot of a Tweet with alleged eyewitness descriptions of the shooting, and commented: "How many of you think this is probably other case of an angry loner that was probably contacted by the FBI within the last year?"
Claims That Mass Shooting Was Expected, Part Of Regular Life In The U.S.
A neo-Nazi Gab user wrote: "mass shootings are part and parcel of living in diverse society."
On his Telegram channel, a Swedish white supremacist posted about the recent shootings in Copenhagen and Chicago, writing: "New mass shootings — Yesterday in Copenhagen, today in Chicago The leading cause of mass shootings is neither gun laws nor extreme political or religious views. They're symptoms of a dysgenetic society, a polarized society without a common identity, without a common idea of neither history nor future. Political changes are good, but what is truly needed is a cultural renaissance and a return to ethnic homogenous societies. That's no quick fix, those don't exist, but it's necessary if we want to build something robust, safe and prosperous again."