Last month, a notoriously vitriolic and racist anonymous forum for the New York Police Department shut down. The hate didn’t go far; now it’s moved to another anonymous online forum.
Proboards.com removed “The Rant – LAW ENFORCEMENT RANT” in November following revelations that a member with a lengthy history of racist comments was actually a high-ranking NYPD officer who handled harassment complaints, the New York Post reports. (The officer, who was subsequently been reassigned, denied it.)
In the month since, members of the forum, often shortened to "LER," have migrated to Thee Rant, an anonymous Tapatalk.com message board that describes itself as "New York City Cops speaking their minds." Since early November, multiple users have posted about LER's shutdown on Thee Rant's information page. "Get ready for a lot of cops from the other LEO rant," wrote user beachwear on Nov. 6. Another commented that numerous accounts had been reactivated following LER's closure. In the weeks since it disappeared from the web, dozens of new members have been approved on Thee Rant. As a hint to the sophistry of the discourse: New users are supposed to post nude gifs of women.
Much like LER, Thee Rant is a cesspool of bigotry with hard-right politics and conspiracy theories thrown in. Misinformation about coronavirus is rife on the page; users have referred to the COVD-19 pandemic as the "plandemic," "Wuhan virus," and falsely claim that China manufactured it. Like much of the country, lately they've been fixated on the November election, frequently repeating falsehoods about voter fraud.
The NYPD did not respond to request for comment sent Wednesday evening.
Some may be particularly alarmed by the fact that numerous members of Thee Rant espouse beliefs common to QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that the planet is controlled by a group of cannibal, satanic, pedophiles comprising Democrats, entertainers, and the super-rich.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has labeled QAnon a domestic terror threat; numerous adherents have committed criminal acts in furtherance of the belief—including violence and domestic terrorism. It's easy to see how some would consider QAnon and law enforcement a dangerous combination.
"Where's the Kraken? Where's the Storm?" user MeznoktoZ asked on Dec. 7, referencing rallying cries for President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election and QAnon, respectively. "If we lose satanic genocidalists [sic] will run the world."
The post links to an article that quotes Q, the alleged government insider whose posts on 8kun form the backbone of QAnon, and posits that the "end of the American experiment" is nigh.
A Dec. 9 post by DeOppoLib links to a YouTube video called "General [Michael] Flynn: Digital Soldiers and the Great Awakening." Flynn is a hero in QAnon circles, where the "great awakening" is shorthand for converting to the quasi-religious conspiracy theory. Many believers also refer to themselves as digital soldiers.
Numerous recent posts repeat conspiracies about the November election, such as the debunked claim that Georgia voting machines were programmed to flip votes to President-elect Joe Biden and false claims about election data being sent to and manipulated in Germany. "Put the Dominion [Voting Systems] CEO's under oath and have them repeat their lies," user SOCOM commented on the latter, referencing falsehoods about Dominion pushed by Trump and others in his circle.
Much like LER, bigotry and racism are common on Thee Rant. On a post linking to the article about LER's shutdown, one user quoted racist statements allegedly made by the NYPD officer, including calling the Bronx District Attorney "a gap-toothed wildebeest," former President Obama a "Muslim-savage," and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's biracial son a "brillohead," followed by a string of laughing emojis. Four users liked the comment.
Another wrote, "George Floyd deserved it!" followed by a dancing banana emoji.
Another recent post links to PragerU's video, "What's wrong with the 1619 Project?" referencing the New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning project that aims to reframe United States' history by centering on the impacts of slavery. "Everything," one user comments. "Exactly—all one big pack of lying lies," someone replies.
It's unclear how many members Thee Rant has. Most posts garner between a few hundred and a few thousand views. A Nov. 7 post referencing a Brietbart article about Fox News losing ratings due to conservative outrage that it called the election for Biden has nearly 5,000 to date. A decade-old post about Dave Chappelle is a notable exception—220,000 have seen it since it was posted in 2010. The NYPD has 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian employees.
As is typical with messageboards, there are a handful of extremely active users, and within them very little diversity of thought. This core group routinely posts debunked conspiracies and links to unreliable far-right sources like One America News Network (OAN), Newsmax, Dan Bongino, the Gateway Pundit, and other outlets even further on the fringe. A few deviate from the extremist opinions espoused by such users, some of whom have lately been advocating for civil war, but mostly the message board is an echo chamber.
In a 2015 article about an explosion of racist comments following the shooting of an unarmed Black man, Business Insider reported membership required a valid NYPD identification. It's not clear that remains a requirement. An administrator recently posted that some new members hailed from England, Venezuela, and Australia, according to their IP addresses—though it's possible that the users were using proxy servers, or had moved abroad after leaving the department.
Commentary on the forum indicates that at a minimum a large contingent of members are either currently affiliated or alumni of the NYPD, however. A thread discussing the promotions of several female officers betrayed insiders' knowledge of the department. Multiple users also made misogynistic allegations, direct and implied, that the women were promoted because of their gender. "The word 'rack' takes on whole new meaning," wrote user NYCTPF. "Rack" refers to medals indicating rank.
Complaints of bias and bigotry among police are nothing new. The NYPD has endured countless scandals concerning officers' racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and the like—as have departments nationwide. LER and Thee Rant essentially function as the scurrilous corners of the web do for far-right extremists and bigots. The only difference is that these individuals are tasked with enforcing the law and protecting the public.
Thee Rant may follow LER to an internet grave. If it does, users needn't worry about finding a forum for their anonymous vitriol: someone's already created an alternative LER on a new platform.