“Music to Fight the Alphabet Bois to”
While companies like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter have recently been active in removing the pages and accounts of “Boogaloo Bois,” a movement of Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, gun-toting, Civil War 2-anticipating domestic extremists in the United States, for organizing and glorifying violence on their sites, one company’s platform is giving this movement its soundtrack.
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A search of Spotify has revealed dozens of user-created playlists that feature “Boogaloo Boi”-related titles, descriptions, and cover art memes. While many are full of rap-rock standards from your typical late-90's OzzFest moshpit or protest songs from the Vietnam War era, these playlists — labelled as “music to fight the Alphabet bois to,” “kill all alphabet bois,” and “when you ambush your local national guard patrol for their ammo” — are publicly accessible by Spotify’s nearly 300 million monthly listeners.
“Alphabet Bois” is a common Boogaloo Boi reference to federal law enforcement members from agencies typically known by three letters, such as the ATF or FBI. While some users may write that “legally, this playlist is just a joke” in the list’s metadata, these calls to violence have been taken seriously by some adherents. In June, alleged members of the Boogaloo movement were charged with the shooting deaths of a federal security officer and a county sheriff’s deputy in California.
This would not be the first time that Spotify has been called out for problematic user-generated content on its platform. In January, the Times of Israel reported on user accounts praising Nazi leadership, questioning the Holocaust, and showcasing white nationalist symbols in similar fashion.
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While the searchable content inarguably does not reach the level of obscenity of the Nazi-related content, the language and imagery of violent accelerationism, now commonly associated with the Boogaloo movement, may be in violation of Spotify’s Terms and Condition of Use which reads in part:
Don’t engage in any activity, post any User Content, or register and/or use a username, which is or includes material that:
is offensive, abusive, defamatory, pornographic, threatening, or obscene;
is illegal, or intended to promote or commit an illegal act of any kind, including violations of intellectual property rights, privacy rights, or proprietary rights of Spotify or a third party;
Below is a sample of the playlists found in my search. I don’t recommend actually visiting and playing these lists since your next algorithmically-curated Discover Weekly list might be full of Papa Roach, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the $uicideBoy$, and Linkin Park.* However, if you did search for Boogaloo-related vocabulary, within minutes, you would be able to find playlists with over 2,000 followers or be able to connect with the list creators (several users use their Facebook profile to login to Spotify.)
*Note: I’m not saying that those are bad bands — it may just be a jarring change from the usual Sufjan Stevens that Spotify forces into my recommendations.
Would a band like Metallica care that their 1991 single “Don’t Tread On Me” featured on several of these playlists? Would companies want their ads to play on a Boogaloo playlist between the Pinochet-themed song “Start Up the Rotors” and Alestorm’s “Fucked with an Anchor?” Would Spotify take any steps to remove this content? It’s not a simple answer when dealing with a movement with as much ideological brand confusion as the Boogaloo Bois, with some supporters claiming to only be playfully — and legally — supporting individual rights, libertarian ideas, and preparation for government overreach.
Spotify, musicians, advertisers, and users could raise concerns around censorship of free expression, especially as some companies like Twitter have adopted the stance to avoid removing accounts that use the term “boogaloo” — unless other community rules are also broken.
Twitter spokesman Brandon Borrman said that the company views the term “boogaloo” as a form of free expression, and would not remove accounts on their use of the term alone. However, the company had suspended many accounts associated with the term because those accounts had broken other rules, such as spam or trying to get around a previous suspension (from The Washington Post).
Even if Spotify does nothing, the increased traditional and social media attention on the movement may cause users to hide obvious signs of their affiliation. On Facebook, Boogaloo Bois continue to have a significant presence but shift to more coded language (such as calling themselves “journalists”) in reaction to page and account bans. In group discussions, members regularly debate whether they should avoid alternative social media platforms due to a desire to attract outsiders or “normals” to their Groups and Pages.
However, given the lack of organizing capability on Spotify, there are fewer benefits to promoting one’s Boogaloo affiliation on that platform. Some users’ associated Facebook profiles, found by searching by name and matching avatar photos with the ones in their Spotify profile, showed little, if any, public Boogaloo content or imagery. If one was concerned enough about visits from the “Alphabet Bois,” they might consider changing their public playlist metadata. But if you had a secret fantasy of being raided by some law enforcement’s SWAT team someday while you’re wearing a “tannerite vest with boombas” synced to AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill,” maybe there’s a reason for keeping it up after all.