The Weird, Dark History of 8chan and Its Founder Fredrick Brennan

The Weird, Dark History of 8chan and Its Founder Fredrick Brennan

Fredrick Brennan is a vivid dreamer, and toward the end of his time running the notorious website 8chan, one sequence would play out in his mind night after night as he slept.

Brennan, wheelchair-bound from a genetic disorder, dreamed that he was being hauled away by police and locked behind bars while dressed in an orange jumpsuit. “In my waking life, I could rationalize that that would never hap­pen,” he says. But at night, in his dreams, denying the risks of operating the site he built and obsessively defended for years through a combination of slippery deflections, free-speech absolutism, and personal attacks was “getting harder and harder.”

Brennan, 25, is telling me about the days he spent running 8chan while living in a small studio apartment some 20 stories above the sprawl of Manila, far from New York where he began building the site as he came down from a psyche­delic mushroom trip in 2013.

Brennan was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly referred to as brittle bone disease. His arms and legs are severely bowed from the condition, which, he says, also afflicts his mother and younger brother. He has, by his own tally, suffered dozens of broken bones over his life.

Brennan, photographed in New City in 2014.

Todd Heisler/The New York Time​s/Redux

Many of the photos of Brennan found online are screenshots pulled from a documentary made about him, a portion of which was filmed when he was 19 at his then-home while he was dressed in bright blue and red Super Mario pajamas. A lava lamp and a stuffed Mario mushroom in the background, he appears considerably younger, barely a teenager.

But when Brennan’s wife opens the door to his apartment on an afternoon earlier this year, two small dogs pinging excitedly across the tiled floor and around his electric wheelchair, he looks far older. A pair of glasses sit slightly crooked on his face. He jokes about the weight he has gained since moving to the Philippines in 2014, where he lives in part because of the cheaper cost of living compared to the United States.

Brennan split fully with the current owner of 8chan last year, but even in this new phase of his life—wife and dogs and all—his role as the gatekeeper of one of the internet’s most controversial sites remains etched on the public record. That association catapulted him into the international media spotlight again and again, most recently last weekend in the wake of two mass shootings in the US—one in El Paso, Texas, the other in Dayton, Ohio.

The El Paso shooter posted an anti-immigration manifesto on 8chan minutes before he opened fire on people in a WalMart not far from the US-Mexico border. Its customers are largely immigrants, people of Hispanic descent, and visitors from across the border. Twenty-two were killed and more than two dozen wounded. In Dayton, nine died and 27 were wounded.

Cloudflare, the internet infrastructure company that provides content delivery services and protection against denial-of-service attacks across the internet, cut service with 8chan on Sunday, following the attack. The company’s CEO, Matthew Prince, said he was nervous about the decision, but that the site was considered a “problematic user,” for a long time.


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After Cloudfare’s decision, 8chan briefly found refuge with another provider but was quickly offline again. The site’s current administrator, an American named Ronald Watkins, said in a string of tweets that he was working on getting the site back online. “We have mitigations going up and strategies are being developed to bring services back online. Doing my best to #StayTheCourse,” he said.

Ronald Watkins’ father, Jim Watkins, who owns the site, on Tuesday addressed 8chan’s recent troubles in a YouTube video. Speaking in front of an image of Benjamin Franklin, with taps playing in the background, Watkins denies that the El Paso shooter uploaded his manifesto to 8chan and says it was posted by another person.

He goes on to complain that 8chan is being treated unfairly. “It is actually sinister behavior,” Watkins says of being kicked offline, a decision he attributes to Cloudfare’s upcoming IPO. “Ours is one of the last independent companies that offer a place you may write down your thoughts free from having to worry about whether they are offensive to one group or the other.” He ends by calling Cloudflare’s actions “cowardly” and “not thought out.” (After some preliminary emails, Watkins declined to be interviewed by WIRED.)

Also on Tuesday the House Homeland Security Committee sent a letter to Jim Watkins demanding that he appear to answer questions about 8chan’s extremist content.

For his part, Brennan was delighted to see that the site he created had been knocked off line. He hopes it’s permanent. “If this is not the end, maybe there will be another shooting and that will be the end,” Brennan told me in an interview Tuesday morning. “I just hope that they give up and throw in the towel. It is time.” He continued, “The only people that are really going to suffer are mass shooters that wanted to post on 8chan because they knew people would archive their stuff. So they will have to find another way. Boo hoo.”

Fredrick Brennan founded and, until 2016, served as the administrator of 8chan, which has provided an anonymous digital safe haven for the type of discussions that made many of its users unwelcome elsewhere on the web: abhorrent racism, violent misogyny, and rampant anti-Semitism.

It has continuously tested the limits of acceptable online discourse, and in its early days served as a safe haven for the most fervent proponents of the GamerGate controversy, which centered on an online harassment campaign targeting women in the videogame industry. But from that small community it has grown in prominence and notoriety, apparently serving as the inspiration for some of this year’s most heinous acts of mass violence and raising questions about the role sites like it play in online radicalization.

When the 28-year old Australian shooter stormed into two New Zealand mosques in March, camera strapped to his head, and opened fire, users of 8chan were among the first to know. The self-professed white nationalist, a frequent user of the site, posted his rambling diatribe and plans there and found a cheering squad of other nameless, faceless 8chan users like him. “It’s time to stop shitposting,” he wrote—a reference to the ironic, misleading, and provocative content that is a hallmark of 8chan discussions, designed to lead less familiar users astray—“and time to make a real-life effort post.”

Slightly over a month later, a 19-year-old took to 8chan, posting a goodbye note beginning with a nod to the people he considered his tribe: “It’s been real, dudes.” A visitor to the site noticed and called the FBI. But by then, armed with an AR-15, the poster had entered a San Diego synagogue and fired on worshippers.

Together, the gunmen took the lives of 52 people, 51 of those in the two New Zealand mosques and one in the synagogue. Meanwhile, 8chan, their online sanctuary, reached peak mainstream notoriety. After the New Zealand attacks, the site was blocked by internet service providers in Australia and New Zealand.

Now it appears that the freewheeling days of 8chan in Manila could be at risk. Jim Watkins and his son have long argued that the site’s US-hosted content only need abide by American laws, which extend generous protection to online speech. For them, Manila was a kind of safe haven. But Jim Watkins has set up a string of business entities, employing Filipinos and (according to immigration records) a handful of expats on Philippine work visas. This appears to make 8chan subject to scrutiny by Philippine law enforcement.

And, indeed, Philippine law enforcement authorities are growing increasingly frustrated with 8chan’s presence in the country. One high-ranking agent told WIRED that they are investigating the website with the help of US counterparts.

Those involved with the site, most notably Jim Watkins, have taken on an air of extreme paranoia. Watkins has accused documentary filmmakers of attempting to break into his house, filming a disjointed speech chastising journalists who sought to contact him and comparing himself at different points to a Jew being pursued by Nazis and his site to Facebook.

But it all started with Brennan: the programmer who dreamt 8chan into being. Now—after what Brennan calls a bitter falling out with Watkins, an intense period of nihilism, and some tinges of guilt—he has become increasingly conflicted about his brainchild and his role in modern internet history.

His misgivings began long before the horrific events in El Paso last weekend. In the days following the New Zealand shooting, Brennan began fielding numerous requests from the media looking for insight into 8chan and its users. Instead of the full-throated defense of the site tinged with a hostility toward the media that he’d served up in the past, Brennan began offering more introspective comments. He questioned the direction the website had taken and claimed the administrators were too slow to remove violent threats.

Most startlingly, he said he didn’t care if the site, once his defining accomplishment and identity, was shut down. “Since the time I resigned, I sometimes wonder whether creating 8chan was a good thing. I sometimes wonder about the things that I said in the past while I was being its admin,” he told me in April, less than a month after the New Zealand attacks. “Sometimes I think I should have been harder on violent threats. I think maybe I should have worked much harder to improve the moderation systems.”

But while he was running 8chan, Brennan fiercely defended the site as users exposed the personal information of and launched harassment campaigns against those who challenged it. One member of the media who reported on the site said the blowback was terrifying, as users shared the personal information of the reporter’s parents, whose identities were later stolen. The reporter’s publication eventually contacted the FBI for assistance.

As the debate grows over how to address extremist speech online, Brennan is grappling with questions about the site and its impacts himself. He now compares 8chan to a cult, but it was one that he nurtured and remained at the center of until his departure in 2016.

Brennan was born in February 1994 in New York state. His parents divorced when he was 5, and Brennan lived with his father and younger brother in Craryville, along the state’s Route 23. His family was, Brennan says, poor. The rural location made life isolating, and boring for someone with a severe disability. “What am I supposed to do? Like, I would sometimes sit by a tree and read. But it’s not like I can climb up a tree or play on a swing,” Brennan says. “It’s not like I can chase down frogs or do any of this stuff kids do.”

The internet offered much of what Brennan was lacking: entertainment, a way to socialize—and, crucially, anonymity, a great equalizer for a kid in a wheelchair among judgmental peers. Brennan played online games, keeping a virtual pet on the cartoonish Neopets site, but ran up against the limitations of the internet of the day. When his father would kick him offline to make a phone call, Brennan would continue to tinker on the computer, enraptured and determined to discover how the machine worked.

His interest grew when his aunt gave him an old laptop in need of constant maintenance. With no computer shop nearby, Brennan began repairing the machine himself. As his interest in computers grew, he also continued to play video games.

His introduction to image boards, and the eventual founding of 8chan, would not have happened without the videogame character Sonic, the anthropomorphic, super speedy blue hedgehog. A group of fans of Sonic Adventure 2 used an online message board to swap tips and cheat codes. The board, of which Brennan was an active member, was raided by users from 4chan’s /b/ board. As a 2014 Washington Post explainer put it, /b/ is “a kind of catch-all/release valve for all the rape porn, self-harm pics, and creepy drawings of scantily clad children that aren’t allowed” in other 4chan forums.

During raids, /b/ users flood another site, hijacking the ongoing conversation and upending the existing community. Brennan, then 12, watched the raid unfold on the Sonic message board. 4chan users involved in the raid, Brennan says, broke their own rule, boasting that they came from the /b/ board. It was a blunt introduction to the brash, monkey-wrenching world of 4chan. Brennan’s curiosity was piqued, and he soon began visiting 4chan daily.

Two years later, according to Brennan, his father, whom he speaks of with contempt, placed him and his brother in the care of the state. As he bounced through New York’s foster care system, Brennan says he was isolated. He would return to 4chan for hours, hacking the wireless routers at his foster homes to gain internet access. “I don’t want to sound like a victim, but it really dominated my whole life and my whole childhood,” he says of 4chan. “Especially for somebody with a disability like me, being anonymous on there gave me a way to feel like everyone else.”

At 16 Brennan was released into the care of his mother, a telephone operator at the Caesars casino in Atlantic City. Though he loved being reunited with her, Brennan has few kind words for Atlantic City. What New Jersey marketing materials call “America’s Playground,” Brennan remembers as “the most depressing place on earth.”

Upon turning 18, Brennan began looking for work, taking small jobs via Mechanical Turk, the online crowdsourcing marketplace run by Amazon. He graduated a few months later from Atlantic City High School. A program for the class of 2012 notes he attained a GPA of 3.0 and had no final mark lower than D.

He eventually made his way from New Jersey to New York, finding work as a programmer. By this time, Brennan was totally immersed in the world of image boards, logging hours a day on the sites. In addition to 4chan, he frequented alternative boards, or “alt-chans”—smaller, more niche image boards catering to any number of peculiarities.

He briefly owned Wizardchan, a site for male virgins, but was forced to give up the position after having sex for the first time with a fan. “It wasn’t fair to the users for me to lie and pretend that I was still one of them,” he says of the decision.

During this period, Brennan was becoming increasingly upset with the founder and administrator of 4chan, Christopher “moot” Poole. Poole started 4chan in 2003 at the age of 15, modeling the site on the popular Japanese site Futaba Channel. By the time Poole’s identity as the founder of 4chan was revealed by The Wall Street Journal five years later, the site was well on its way to establishing itself as a “cultural juggernaut,” as academic Whitney Phillips described it in her 2015 book This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

Poole, speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City in 2010.

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

4chan spawned countless memes that would make their way into the main­stream. It was also the launchpad for the hack­tivist group Anonymous. Poole cemented himself as a much-sought-after diviner of internet culture, mixing with tech’s biggest names at the industry’s highest-profile gatherings—including giving a keynote speech at South by Southwest in 2011.

At first, Brennan says, 4chan looked like the Wild West. That was part of the attraction. With its stripped down, no-frills look, 4chan was the antithesis of a Twitter or Facebook. As a result, it can be baffling for first-time users—“new fags” in the site’s lingo—and veteran users delight in singling them out for harassment.

This culture of abuse, says Patrick Scolyer-Gray, an associate lecturer on cybersecurity at La Trobe University in Australia, whose PhD research focused on 4chan users, is simply an aspect of 4chan’s ethos. “Being mean to each other is just part of operating on 4chan,” he says.

As he logged more hours on the site, Brennan became perturbed by the power held by Poole to remove content and ban users, decisions he says he felt were undertaken arbitrarily. This Wild West had a sheriff.

Fueled by a dose of psychedelic mushrooms and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of anger toward Poole, Brennan began building 8chan in October 2013. (He dubbed it Infinite Chan, using the sideways 8 symbol for infinity. That eventually morphed into a regular 8.) “What was important to me was unseating ‘moot’ in any way I could,” Brennan says, referring to Poole by his 4chan handle. “I don’t know why, it’s just so weird. But I was like in this very competitive spirit, like, I want to be the top imageboard in the world, and it didn’t really matter to me how they got there.”

Brennan advertised his new creation in his old haunts on 4chan, touting features like the ability for users to create their own boards. The goal was to give the communities using the boards more power over them and thus more of a personal stake in the site’s success.

The pitch, for all its idealism, fell largely flat. A few foreign language boards migrated to 8chan after being shut down elsewhere, but Brennan says, it was “basically nobody for months.” He estimates the site got around 10 posts a day. He continued to work his day job, improving 8chan on the side.

The boost Brennan was looking for would come thanks to his nemesis, 4chan founder Poole. In 2014, GamerGate—the intense battle over sexism in the videogame industry—was spreading from chat rooms and Twitter posts to the front page of The New York Times and the pages of The Atlantic. GamerGate, coupled with the dumping of hacked nude photos of celebrities on the 4chan /b/ board starting in August 2014, created the biggest crisis in the site’s 11-year history.

Poole decided in September 2014 to ban the GamerGate discussions from 4chan for violating the “no personal information / raids / calls to invasion” rule, he wrote in a statement. Incensed users accused Poole of selling out, going against the ethos of the site he had created.

When some of these disenchanted, angry users decided to head for another digital home, Brennan was waiting, parroting the ever-shifting defenses of GamerGate and promising extremely limited oversight. “I was the only administrator that just took it and was like, ‘Hey they got to go somewhere. Why can’t it be my site?’” he says.

His new site would offer the kind of freedom that 4chan’s users now perceived they no longer had. They would be constrained only by 8chan’s global rule, “Do not post, request, or link to any content that is illegal in the United States of America and do not create boards with the sole purpose of posting or spreading such content.” (The wording of the rule was tweaked slightly in May 2017.)

Copyrighted content and child pornography ran afoul of this rule and were supposed to be policed by the mostly volunteer moderators, but that didn’t always happen. Boards on pedophilia and “doxxing”—releasing someone’s personal information like home address and phone number, which often led to online and offline harassment—were allowed, as were legally gray-area images like softcore pictures of kids.

The migration to 8chan was huge. By the fall of 2014, posts spiked to around 5,000 an hour from around 100 a day, Brennan estimates. “So yeah, it really got crazy there,” he says. With 8chan’s popularity growing, Brennan increasingly poured more hours into the site, quitting his work as a programmer to focus on it full-time.

Almost immediately, though, he ran into financial issues. Image boards are expensive to run, due in part to the large amount of data they use. And as Poole had learned earlier, advertisers were not lining up to risk having their products showcased alongside photos of things like dismembered bodies. Brennan turned to crowdfunding site Patreon to solicit much needed donations but was booted off the platform in December.

While Brennan was building 8chan, his offline life briefly became the subject of interest from the media. The difficulty of living in New York was detailed in two profiles in The New York Times in 2014. One was published in mid-January after Brennan was robbed and then left to find his own way home in a snowstorm after police officers dropped him off at a subway station. The second was a follow-up piece in late March on the police department’s efforts to correct its mistakes.

The initial New York Times piece generated considerable interest in Brennan’s hardships. In a video filmed at the time, Aaron Parnes, the CEO of Razor Clicks—a company Brennan was then working for—says the outpouring of donations to help Brennan purchase a new wheelchair was restoring Brennan’s “faith in the good of humanity and his courage to continue doing his best for himself and others.” (The news network Al Jazeera America also covered Brennan, producing a short documentary “The Other America: Fredrick Brennan.”)

But just a few months after Parnes, who is Jewish, was appealing for help for Brennan, Brennan was soliciting advice from 8chan users for a piece he was planning to write for the neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer. He posted a list of potential article ideas on 8chan, a list that was accompanied by images of beer cans dressed as members of the Klu Klux Klan attending a lynching.

One idea was “shitting on ‘moot’ and 4chan,” but he ultimately settled on writing about his support of eugenics for people like himself with genetic diseases. The article, which was published four days later, ran under the headline “Hotwheels: Why I Support Eugenics.” (Brennan used Hotwheels as a handle online.) He says he wouldn’t write for the The Daily Stormer again, but he stands by the article’s content. (The article argues that people who can pass serious diseases on to their children could be offered money not to reproduce.*) “Was it smart to be in a Nazi newspaper? I have no idea. Probably not,” he says. “But if you actually read the article, it’s very tame.”

Keeping 8chan online continued to be a struggle as it exceeded bandwidth limits and was kicked off by hosts for offensive content. A lifeline came in the form of an email from a stranger named Ronald Watkins. The son of current 8chan owner Jim Watkins, Ronald, who did not respond to requests for comment, told Brennan that he’d seen the Al Jazeera documentary. In short order, Brennan agreed to let Watkin’s company, N.T. Technology, host 8chan, while Brennan maintained the domain and continued as the public face of the site.

Under the agreement, N.T. Technology gave 8chan space in its data center and agreed it would not shut down the site over abuse reports unless they were not quickly acted upon. N.T. did not charge for its services, agreeing instead to receive 60 percent of any profits 8chan made while it was 8chan’s hosting company, according 8chan’s own site history.

Brennan says he did not even know how to spell Philippines, but as part of the deal, he moved in October 2014 to Manila, where Watkins is a longtime resident. Brennan set about running 8chan much in the same manner he’d operated the site from New York, but now in a different time zone and from cushier accommodation, a large condominium in Manila provided by Watkins, according to Brennan.

In January 2015, after the site, then hosted on a .co domain was kicked offline, Brennan decided to “make the marriage to Jim permanent,” transferring the site to its current domain maintained by Watkins. Jim Watkins now owned the servers and the domain.

Jim Watkins, 55, has built his second career and family business exploiting and monetizing the loopholes of the internet. He’s currently petitioning to become a naturalized citizen of the Philippines with a hearing scheduled for October. A notification of his petition published in the English-language Manila Times newspaper in February says Watkins was born in Dayton, Washington, a town with a population of just over 2,500 in the state’s southwest.

In a video entitled “Meet 8chan,” filmed after the Christchurch attacks—during which Watkins answers questions from a Filipina host such as “Are you a Jew?” and “How do you feel about Muslims?”—he says he grew up next to a Boeing airlines factory. The factory was surveyed by his father, he says. His mother later worked there, he says. Watkins served in the US Army for 16 years, where he got his introduction to computers, he said in a 2016 interview with the news site Splinter. He left the service, he told the publication, in 1998.

His early internet success came through a streaming porn site called Asian Bikini Bar. The company thrived, Tom Riedel, a longtime business associate and friend of Watkins told Splinter, by working around the strict regulations Japanese authorities imposed on pornography in the late 1990s. Their solution: host content outside of Japan. “The work we did in the following years was really just marketing uncensored Japanese content to users in Japan,” Riedel told the site.

Watkins arrived in Manila on October 2, 2001, according to his naturalization petition, and married a Filipina woman that same month. The couple have a child together. Over the next few years, Watkins began establishing businesses in the Philippines, according to incorporation documents and company records filed with the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission and obtained by WIRED.

These include at least two technology companies, an organic food company that ran a now shuttered restaurant in a mall, and a property firm. Additionally, Watkins’ naturalization petition notes land holdings outside Manila—likely the location of a pig farm that he has posted about on 8chan.

Watkins’ Instagram account has not been updated since last year, but much of it is dedicated to documenting his travels and his interest in yoga. 8chan, while recently the most notable and certainly the most scrutinized of Watkins imageboard sites, is neither the only one he owns nor the largest.

After hosting 2channel—a hugely popular Japanese bulletin board—on N.T. Technology servers for years, Hiroyuki Nishimura, the current owner of 4chan, launched into a lengthy domain dispute with Watkins. Watkins wrested control of 2channel from Nisihmura in 2014 in a disagreement that drew considerable attention and speculation among imageboard users. Nishimura did not respond to request for comment.

Philippine company documents illustrate the web of companies Watkins has established to run his online properties, including 8chan. Brennan worked on a business visa granted by one of Watkins’ companies, Race Queen, documents from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration obtained by WIRED show.

Race Queen operates from an office on the 23rd floor of a dated, drab building in Metro Manila where a torn paper sign “Software Development and Outsourcing Company” is taped to a dirty frosted-glass door. The company is owned primarily by Watkins’ wife, though Watkins is named in its most recent financial filings as chairman and treasurer.

Race Queen was listed as the employer on the Philippine work visas of at least four foreigners in 2015, including Brennan. Johann Oskarsson, an Icelandic computer pro­gram­mer whose visa was granted in 2015 and was subsequently renewed until March 2020 said in an email that he had “nothing to do with 8chan” and there was no reason to interview him. After that he stopped responding to further questions.

Two Japanese nationals were also listed as being employed by Race Queen, according to the 2015 documents. Neither could be reached for comment. Employees at Race Queen also wrote Softserve, 8chan’s self-serve advertising system, according to the site’s history, and worked on 2Channel-related projects.

Brennan says he got along well with Riedel and Ronald Watkins, but he was never particularly fond of Jim Watkins. Brennan was unimpressed with the elder Watkins’ computing skills and felt that many of his suggestions were “’90s technical advice.” Brennan attempted to undertake a major upgrade of the site, an effort that ultimately failed and is a continued point of contention with Watkins, who Brennan claims never fully supported the project.

Publicly, Brennan was the face of 8chan, granting interviews and partaking in debates to defend the site. One of his most popular defenses was likening 8chan to the phone company or the postal service—just providing the conduit for the messages. “It’s not our fault that these people are using our service like that,” Brennan says of the excuse now. “If you don’t say that to yourself, you are not going to want to keep going in your job. You know you’re going to want to quit, you’re going to want to just throw up your hands and say, ‘Oh my God this world is a terrible place. Lord Jesus come quickly,’ is what you’re going to want to say.”

At the same time, Brennan says many people were unaware that Watkins owned the site, a situation he believes Jim Watkins encouraged. “Most of the world genuinely believes that I was the owner of 8chan and that I could shut it down whenever I wanted,” he says. “When the truth was, he’s the owner.” The stress pushed Brennan to relinquish his role as administrator of 8chan in 2016, handing the position to Ronald Watkins. Brennan continued to work on the Japanese site 2Channel developing new features.

Brennan says his relationship with Jim Watkins was damaged beyond the point of repair in the autumn of 2018. Brennan had grown increasingly unhappy working for Race Queen, which he says lacked direction and operated at Watkins’ whims. According to Brennan, when he requested time off from the company, Watkins appeared at Brennan’s condo and berated his employee. Brennan, who says he was naked when this incident occurred, felt vulnerable and afraid. “Because I had a really awful childhood, it kind of put me back in that mode,” he says, “of just dealing with an angry parent or foster parent.”

Brennan severed ties with Watkins in December of that year, leaving behind not just a job but a virtual world that had consumed years of his life. He quickly lost any sense of purpose. “I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself anymore,” he says. “I kind of felt like either I’m going to try to find religion or I’m going to commit suicide. It was getting really serious. Because I just didn’t see a reason to continue.”

Brennan found community in a Baptist church where he met his wife. The two married on Valentine’s Day. “I found some peace in the Bible and in believing in Christ,” he says. “To me it doesn’t really matter if it’s technically true. It just really helps me get through the day.”

The violent threats that proliferated after the New Zealand shooter posted his manifesto should have been quickly removed, but would Brennan have taken down the video of the shooting if he were still in charge? Probably, he told me this spring, but he isn’t exactly sure. “Maybe not. You know? And, that’s why I don’t want to be an admin anymore. Because I don’t want to be making these decisions anymore. It’s too hard on me,” he said. “I just don’t have the stamina to make them and defend them anymore. Sorry, I just don’t, you know. I’m only 25, but I’m worn out.”

A far simpler, and easier, reason to justify shutting down 8chan is that the site does not make money and, Brennan contended, never will. “If I was like, miraculously given control of the 8chan domain, I would shut it down for economic reasons, so that I don’t have to think about the moral reasons,” he said. “Because there are definitely moral reasons, and I see the arguments. But if I was trying to explain to someone why I shut it down, I would always go to the economic reasons. Because I feel like it’s too difficult for me to go to the moral reasons. Even though I feel them, I really do.”

After the El Paso shooting, Brennan’s views appeared to have evolved, and he was unequivocal. “The reason 8chan should be shut down is because the owners don’t care at all that people use it to incite violence,” he said Tuesday. “They don’t care, and that is the problem. You see it is not really free speech to post that you are going to go kill a bunch of people. Even if you don’t do it, that is not free speech.”

Watkins has tried to monetize 8chan and the brand created around it. He appears to have had some success. Following the Christchurch shooting, a new feature with the anti-Semitic-tinged title “King of the Shekel” was unveiled on 8chan. The feature allows users to pay for their threads to appear at the top of the site.

Payments are made through Susucoin, a cryptocurrency developed in part by Ronald Watkins. Development of Susucoin, according to a press release, was taken over last year by the Japan-based Shinoma Co. Japanese business records list Ronald Watkins as the president and representative director of the company.

The most ambitious project to capitalize on 8chan’s notoriety came in 2017, when Watkins launched a news site called the Goldwater, with the seemingly contradictory tagline “Banned, Biased, Honest.” Watkins, who appeared in early Goldwater videos under the name Jim Cherney wearing thick-rimmed glasses, described the outlet as “a public service to provide news to the 8chan community.” He told Buzzfeed in 2017 that he had 15 million visitors to his various websites and wanted to create a place where they could get their news.

The idea was to post the Goldwater videos and stories to 8chan’s political boards in an effort to drive traffic to the news site. Watkins sometimes awkwardly joined a cast of Asian women, most prominently a host who goes by Diana Printz, a pseudonym which is perhaps a nod to Wonder Woman’s alter-ego. She did not respond to requests for comment.

Printz and the rotating cast of characters appear in disjointed, rambling news videos that often run for over an hour. Major James Burdock, the name used by the site’s editor-in-chief, appears frequently, often wearing sunglasses and a baseball hat, his face sometimes streaked with black and green camouflage face paint.

The two are regularly joined by Tennessee native Philip Fairbanks, who was often a writer on the site’s “PedoGtate Section,” dedicated to conspiracy theories about pedophilia, a popular topic among the alt-right. Fairbanks, after initially agreeing to an interview, backed out and stopped responding to messages. Burdock, too, declined to be interviewed on the record.

The Goldwater’s deepest foray into actual reporting came when Burdock and Fairbanks were accredited to cover the historic summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hosted in Singapore in June 2018. They were among the 2,500 journalists who were granted press credentials to cover the highly secure and stage-managed event. “Accredited like a boss,” Fairbanks boasts in one of the multiple videos the duo filmed at the event. Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information declined to comment on the accreditation process, saying only that it was an “internal process.”

The coverage the two provided is decidedly amateurish, punctuated by bumbling mishaps. They struggle with their camera equipment; at one point, while attempting a lengthy livestream tour of the sprawling press center, the picture freezes while the audio continues. The problems don’t dampen the duo’s enthusiasm.

Ronald Watktins, in an email sent to Buzzfeed in 2017, said the Goldwater “seems to be gaining more and more momentum each day.” Whatever momentum there may have been was short lived: The Goldwater is currently on hiatus, according to a statement on the site. Watkins has pivoted to a business called, which produces audio versions of books. The recordings are sold on Amazon. Many of the people associated with Watkins’ other businesses—among them Printz, Fairbanks, and Watkins himself (though under the name A.J. Watkins)—have provided voice-over services for the recordings.

The company behind is TGW Enterprise, which is registered in Nevada, where business records list Jim Watkins as the president and director and Riedel as the treasurer. When reports about Watkins’ connections to the narration company were first published in May, he reacted angrily and said the business had been damaged. A post on the Goldwater referred to the story, published by the Daily Beast, as a smear. The report claimed that is a main funder of 8chan, but that seems unlikely given its upstart status and the relatively small number of books that its narrators have voiced.

But a key asset of Watkins, and a likely moneymaker, is 2Channel, now called Nishimura, the site’s former owner, told WIRED in 2008 that 2Channel brought in around $1 million a year. Alexa currently ranks the site as the 44th most popular in Japan, one spot below Yahoo. The site is owned by Loki Technology, a company Watkins incorporated in the Philippines in August 2017; Watkins and his wife are its majority owners.

Those in charge of running 8chan have maintained that because N.T. Technology is a US company and the data center is located in the US, American laws are the only ones applicable to 8chan. A warning at the top of the site telling users of potentially offensive or adult material posted to some boards carries a disclaimer reading, “In the interest of free speech, only content that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) or other United States laws is deleted.”

Any DMCA takedown requests received by the site are posted on a dedicated board. Additionally, the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which laid much of the groundwork for online free speech, gives immunity to internet service providers and webmasters for content created by users.

Victor Lorenzo, chief of the Cybercrime Division at the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation, has a decidedly different read on the situation. In an interview this spring, Lorenzo apologizes for the disorganized state of the bureau’s headquarters. An earthquake shook Manila in late April, badly damaging the building, and he was preparing to move into temporary offices set up in the gymnasium.

Lorenzo’s desk is cluttered with figurines of comic book crime fighters; a silver Batman stands tallest among the crowd. Lorenzo joined the NBI in 1992, before, he notes, the “I Love You” virus, created by two Filipino computer programmers, churned through email lists globally causing billions of dollars in damages and leading the country to begin treating cybercrime as a serious threat. Lorenzo became the head of the Cybercrime Division in 2018.

8chan was a site of interest to law enforcement prior to the Christchurch shooting, Lorenzo says, and that interest only intensified after the massacre. About a month after the attack he was contacted by what he describes as his counterparts in the United States who were interested in 8chan. He declined to name which law enforcement agency reached out to him. But the NBI has a close relationship with the FBI, which maintains a field office at the US Embassy in Manila.

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to request for comment. The FBI declined to comment. There is an active investigation into 8chan, Lorenzo says. “The investigation is ongoing and definitely we will approach them, but we haven’t formulated a specific plan yet. Some government counterparts are already coordinating with us on this and we are working with them.”

While Lorenzo says he believes the site is used to promote violence—and he is concerned about that problem—he says the bureau needs to focus on a specific violation of one of the Philippine’s laws to take action.

To do this, he says, the NBI’s investigation is targeting the alleged prevalence of child pornography on the site, which would violate the country’s Anti-Child Pornography Act. “Considering that the Philippines was tapped as the epicenter of child pornography materials, we are interested in this issue,” he says. “If you are going to visit his site, he is actually trying to promote, or catering to, child pornography, and it is a serious offense here.”

Asked about the Watkins’ longstanding position that they only need to abide by US laws, Lorenzo is unmoved. “Considering that the registration is here,” he says. “We have jurisdiction.”

*Correction at 7:38 am on 8/11/2019: Due to an editirng error, the article mischaracterized an element of Fredrick Brennan’s Daily Stormer article. He did not write that people who could pass on serious diseases to their children should not be allowed to reproduce.

Timothy McLaughlin (@TMclaughlin3) is a freelance investigative journalist based in Hong Kong.

More Great WIRED Stories

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A far-right party just made big gains in eastern Germany days after reports one of its leaders marched with neo-Nazis in 2007

A far-right party just made big gains in eastern Germany days after reports one of its leaders marched with neo-Nazis in 2007

DRESDEN, Germany — Germany’s leading far-right populist party made significant gains in elections in two eastern states on Sunday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and her governing partners suffered losses but kept hold of power.

The surge of the Alternative for Germany party cements its power in the formerly communist east, where anti-immigrant sentiment, economic inequality, and a historical rift between East and West have thrown German politics into turmoil over the past several years.

AfD’s electoral gains come just days after the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that one of the party’s leaders, the Brandenburg politician Andreas Kalbitz, participated in a neo-Nazi march in Athens, Greece, in 2007.

Kalbitz, who previously acknowledged attending a neo-Nazi camp in 2007, reportedly joined members of Germany’s extremist National Democratic Party in the Greek march. A German police report noted that the NPD marchers hung a swastika flag from the balcony of a hotel.

Alternative for Germany’s top candidate for the Brandenburg election, Andreas Kalbitz, reacting to the first exit polls for the Brandenburg state election in Werder, Germany, on Sunday.
Reuters/Axel Schmidt

Last week, the German broadcaster RBB reported that Kalbitz, 46, also attended a neo-Nazi youth-movement camp in 1993.

Kalbitz dismissed the reports and called critics’ claims that the AfD was an extremist party “hysterical.”

“The AfD is a democratic party and clearly distances itself — as I do — from right-wing extremism,” he said, according to Die Welt.

“Everything else is the almost hysterical attempt of the political competition to cover up material deficits with an artificial enemy image.”

The AfD rose to political power in 2017 on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment following Merkel’s decision to welcome over a million refugees into the country in 2015. Serving as the main opposition in the federal parliament, the AfD has since made xenophobic nationalism its central message.

Read more: Germany’s leading far-right populist party is poised to surge in the formerly communist east 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall

A rainbow formed over Dresden as polls closed Sunday evening.
Eliza Relman/Insider

The party doubled its share of the vote in Brandenburg on Sunday — jumping from 12% in the 2014 elections to 24%, and nearly tripled its support in Saxony — climbing to 28% of the vote from 10% amid a surge in voter turnout.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party maintained its position as the most popular party in Saxony but sank nearly 7 points from the 2014 elections.

The party lost nearly 8 points in Brandenburg, the largely rural state that surrounds the German capital, Berlin. And the center-left Social Democrats eked out a plurality in Brandenburg with 26% of the vote — 4 points ahead of the AfD.

Notably, the AfD did remarkably well among young voters.

It beat out its competitors among voters under 30 in Saxony and came in second — just a point behind the Green party — among 18- to 30-year-olds in Brandenburg. The Green party came in second in Saxony.

The under-30 vote illustrated the broader movement of German voters away from the traditional centrist parties to the insurgent parties on the left and right.

An Alternative for Germany Party tent says “Complete the revolution,” referring to the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Eliza Relman/Insider

Despite its electoral surge, the AfD will be shut out of the governing coalitions in both states, as the major parties have refused to form a coalition with the right-wing group.

Kalbitz and other AfD leaders celebrated the party’s gains Sunday night.

“Many said at the end of the election campaign, they are happy when this is over,” Kalbitz told reporters. “Nothing is over. Now it really starts. We have done a good job. We have every reason to celebrate tonight.

“We will form a very strong opposition.”

A campaign poster for the Christian Democrats promising 1,000 new police officers for the eastern state of Saxony.
Eliza Relman/Insider

Merkel’s party regroups

The CDU state premier of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, expressed satisfaction with the night’s results as his supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief at the party’s election-night celebration on the roof of the Saxony parliament building on Sunday evening.

Still, several CDU supporters Insider spoke with at the event were alarmed at how well the AfD did in both states.

“It’s a good day, but there’s a lot of work to do,” Carsten Schröter, who works for the Saxony government, told Insider.

He added that the results were evidence of a deepening cultural and economic divide between Germany’s east and west. “When I speak with my friends and people I know in West Germany, they often don’t get the problems,” he said.

Jan Jassner, the general manager of the German underwear company Bruno Banani, said Sunday’s election bought the CDU time.

He put the surge in AfD support in the east of Germany down to Merkel’s immigration policy, rather than local issues, and said the party should work to convince voters that it still held conservative positions on issues like national security.

Jana Gratias, who works for a CDU member of parliament representing the eastern city of Chemnitz, said she was surprised by the AfD’s surge.

Gratias argued that the party’s supporters were motivated by exaggerated news reports and political rhetoric concerning immigration. She defended Merkel’s decision to welcome the wave of migrants and refugees in 2015 as a necessary move for humanitarian reasons.

“In Saxony there is no problem — there aren’t many immigrants,” she said. “They just see it and hear it in the media and everybody’s pushing it.”

Eliza Relman is reporting from Germany on an Arthur F. Burns fellowship through the International Center for Journalists.

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How Fender Guitars Are Made | The Making Of

How Fender Guitars Are Made | The Making Of

  • Fender was founded in 1946 in Fullerton California.
  • The name has since become synonymous with some of the electric guitar’s greatest players.
  • We visited their facility in Corona, California to see how they create their iconic electric guitars.

The following is a transcript of the video:

In the span of over 70 years, Fender has become a household name to musicians all around the world. Here’s how they make their iconic electric guitars.

The process starts with wood selection. Typically, the bodies are composed of ash or alder, but could be made with others, such as maple, rosewood, ebony, or mahogany, depending on the specific model. Certain models come from a single block of wood. For others, two or three blocks are glued together before cutting. An additional piece of wood is glued on top of the neck portion. This will eventually serve as the fret board.

Specialized cutting machines cut the shape of the body and neck with extreme precision. Throughout the process, the guitar goes through a series of critical rest periods in order to ensure the wood doesn’t split.

Ed Magee: Wood is an organic material, so, you know, one of the big lessons is you’ve got to respect the wood, and then you have to cut with precision, and just managing the wood, you know, from the process of tree to guitar and staying at guitar.

Narrator: To create the frets, wire is cut by a machine and then pressed into place on the neck by a technician.

Next, the cut parts go through a series of sanding. This process is done with a blend of handwork and automation.

Magee: If you take a look at a lot of the work in the factory around grinding and polishing, I mean, there’s a lot of hands and a lot of shoulders and a lot of leaning into the processing equipment. So, what we try and do is really balance, and look for innovative ways to make it safer for the employees to work more comfortably but also maintain the craftsmanship aspect of guitar manufacturing.

Narrator: Once the bare wood has been properly sanded, it’s off to get coated in lacquer and paint, the process of which the company considers to be a trade secret. However, some of the color selections can be linked to the early days of the company.

Magee: The guitar is reflective of the culture of the time, right? So, you know, in the early ’50s, we were just taking cues from the colors and, quite honestly, a lot of the paints and paint materials. The original materials are very similar to what the automotive industry used.

Narrator: The parts go through a process of building up layers of paint, then eventually get buffed and polished to reveal the final finish. Throughout this stage, the sections are hung to set and rest above the factory floor, for anywhere between three and 11 days, depending on the type of paint.

Once the neck is attached to the body, the guitars head to final assembly, where it receives its strings and electrical components.

The pickup is a series of electromagnets that convert the sound waves of the string into an electrical signal, which can then be played through an amplifier or modified with effect pedals, similar to how a microphone senses signals from our vocal cords.

Magee: The guitar is a tool for telling stories, and I think what Leo did was he listened to artists, right? So, then what he was doing was, you know, he was looking at different ways to create different instruments for artists to, you know, to kind of expand their sonic palate.

Narrator: Fender continues to innovate with new models, like their Acoustasonic series, and their ever-growing artist signature series.

Magee: You know, when you walk into the custom shop, you see some of the guitar heroes. Everyone from, you know, Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan. But it’s not just those guys. You know, we want to make sure that we are serving all of the folks who are, you know, are buskers and emerging songwriters, and just across the board with great instruments, great quality, and let them do what they do best.

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6 ways to be antiracist, because being ‘not racist’ isn’t enough

6 ways to be antiracist, because being ‘not racist’ isn’t enough

Ibram X. Kendi is a black man and an award-winning scholar who’s studied the history of racist ideas. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that Kendi, by virtue of his identity and life experiences, couldn’t be racist himself. 

In his latest book, How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi doesn’t just upend this assumption — he obliterates it with an unflinching examination of the racist ideas and beliefs he previously held, before embracing antiracist values and views. 

He writes about once believing that education and hard work would “uplift” black people, no matter the policies that specifically made such success improbable for many black Americans. He confesses to internalizing racist ideas about black youth behavior as a teen, only to realize that the “mind can never be antiracist” when it thinks there is something wrong with an entire racial group. 

Kendi’s surprising, arguably risky self-critical approach illustrates how easily racist thoughts take root and how they’re linked to policies that create harmful social, economic, cultural, and political disparities. One reason racism persists is because most of us cannot see as clearly as Kendi how the mind — and body politic — casually harbors racist ideas.  

Kendi argues that without the capacity for honest self-reflection and critical thinking, we’ll remain a nation of Americans who, like President Trump, swear they “don’t have a racist bone” in their body all while racism and white supremacy persist unchecked, destroying communities and lives. 

“I wanted to convey that this sort of striving to be antiracist is an ongoing journey.”   

As the public searches for fresh answers about how to define racism, in the wake of the El Paso massacre and Trump’s denials of his own racist behavior, it should turn to Kendi’s book for essential insight. Using his own personal evolution as a guide, Kendi lays out the steps we can all take toward confronting the racist ideas we’ve held and what’s required of us to become antiracist instead.

“I think first and foremost I wanted to convey that this sort of striving to be antiracist is an ongoing journey,” says Kendi. “I realized that in many ways my sort of story or journey, tracks the journey that many people have gone through or are going through … I wanted to model for people what each and every one of us can do and should do in terms of how deeply critical we need to be of ourselves.” 

Below are six steps you can follow: 

1) Understand the definition of racist.

Conversations about racism often suffer when participants can’t define the meaning of the word. Merriam-Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Few people would admit that definition reflects their views but nevertheless consciously or unwittingly believe in or endorse racist ideas. 

Kendi goes further, defining the word racist as: “One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.” This incisive definition forces the reader to hold themselves accountable for their ideas and actions. 

Racism is death. Antiracism is life.

— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) August 4, 2019

An antiracist, writes Kendi, is “One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.”  

2) Stop saying “I’m not racist.”

It’s not enough to say, “I’m not racist,” and often it’s a self-serving sentiment. Kendi says people constantly change the definition of what’s racist so it doesn’t apply to them. If you’re a white nationalist who’s not violent, says Kendi, then you might see the Ku Klux Klan as racist. If you’re a Democrat who thinks there’s something culturally wrong with black people, then racists to you might be people who are Republicans. 

By reflexively defining yourself as not racist, or beyond racism’s firm grip, you’re making it impossible to see how your own ideas, thoughts, and actions could be indeed racist. Moreover, being antiracist means moving beyond the “not racist” defense and instead embracing and articulating decidedly antiracist views and beliefs.

So, for example, if you’re a white liberal who considers herself “not racist” but you refuse to send your child to a local public school because the population is predominantly African American, that choice is racist. The antiracist position would be to at least consider enrolling your child and/or learning about the disparities and inequities affecting that school in order to fight them. 

3) Identify racial inequities and disparities. 

Racism yields racial inequities and disparities in every sector of private and public life. That includes in politics, health care, criminal justice, education, income, employment, and home ownership. Being antiracist means learning about and identifying inequities and disparities that give, in particular, white people, or any racial group, material advantages over people of color. 

“What an anti-racist does first and foremost is identify racial inequities.”

When Social Security was created in 1935, for example, it excluded domestic and agricultural workers, the majority of whom were black. While the Social Security Administration denies racial bias was a factor in that decision, it still meant that black workers had less opportunity over the course of decades to accumulate savings and wealth compared to white workers. Other policies that disproportionately provided “tax-funded wealth-building opportunities” to white Americans produced similar results for black Americans.

“What an anti-racist does first and foremost is identify racial inequities,” says Kendi. 

So a racist analysis would ascribe poor or worse outcomes for black Americans to the group’s behavior or characteristics. An antiracist analysis would make clear that the problem is not the group, but the policies that put racial groups at a distinct disadvantage. 

4) Confront the racist ideas you’ve held or continue to hold. 

Once you’ve begun identifying racial disparities, examine whether your own views, beliefs, or voting patterns have justified racial inequality. 

If you’re the parent who won’t send a child to a predominantly black school, consider how that choice influences your views on discipline policies and charter schools, policy issues that are deeply intertwined with race and racism. Do you vote for school board or city council candidates who don’t want to address educational disparities or actually work against local advocates trying to increase educational equity? Do you know that funding policies affect how resources are allocated to schools and why those practices can create racial disparities? To many people, these realities probably seem disconnected from whether or not they’re racist, but Kendi argues that remaining ignorant about them, or declining to change policies that produce disparities, is not an option for someone who wants to be antiracist. 

Kendi’s own journey demonstrates that people can hold racist ideas without realizing they’re biased — and while they embrace ideas that are antiracist. If you don’t know whether your beliefs or views are racist, listen to frontline racial justice advocates, activists, and organizations that have outlined antiracist positions and policies. Let that listening prompt deeper reflection about why you’ve believed in certain ideas. 

5) Understand how your antiracism needs to be intersectional. 

Kendi argues that racist ideas and policies target many different people within racial groups. A policy that creates inequality between white and Native American people, for example, also yields inequality between white men and Native American women. If one believes that black men are superior to black women, then that person won’t be able to see how certain ideas and policies disproportionately affect black women in harmful ways.  

Because race intersects with multiple aspects of people’s identities, including their gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, it’s imperative to use an intersectional approach when being antiracist. 

6) Champion antiracist ideas and policies. 

One cannot strive to be antiracist without action, and Kendi says that one way to act is by supporting organizations in your community that are fighting policies that create racial disparities. You can volunteer for or fund those organizations. Kendi also recommends using one’s power or getting into a position of power to change racist policies in any setting where they exist — school, work, government, and so on. The point is to commit to some form of action that has the potential to change racist policies. 

“If a person does nothing in the face of racial inequities that are pervasive, if they don’t challenge them, what are they doing?” From the @nytimes, a profile of #NBAwards Winner Ibram X. Kendi, whose new book, HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST, comes out 8/13.

— National Book Foundation (@nationalbook) August 8, 2019

Kendi realizes the risk of openly discussing one’s own racist ideas or beliefs, and knows that vulnerability can be weaponized against someone. He also has a unique vantage point on this question.  

“As someone who studies racist ideas and upwards of 500 years of people weaponizing racist ideas … no matter what antiracists say or do, racists are going to figure out a way to weaponize their words and their deeds against them,” he says. 

When racists criticize America—namely people of color + our spaces—racists call it preaching facts. When antiracists criticize America—namely racist policies and ideas—racists call it preaching hate.

They say, “love it or leave it,” as they refuse to love us or leave us alone.

— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) July 28, 2019

Given that inevitability, Kendi believes in the power of being vulnerable as an antiracist, because it gives the listener an opportunity to be similarly capable of self-critique. 

“There are many Americans who believe sincerely that they’re not racist,” he says. 

Kendi’s hope is that they’ll be open to recognizing the ways in which they’re racist if others around them show them what that looks like.  

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Churches at mercy of lead thieves because of rules around modern roofs

Churches at mercy of lead thieves because of rules around modern roofs

St Peter's at Stourton has now had its lead roof stolen twice  
St Peter’s at Stourton has now had its lead roof stolen twice  

Churches are being left at mercy of lead thieves because of rules which prevent parishioners using modern materials to replace stolen roofs, it has been warned.  

A Grade I listed church in the diocese of Salisbury had its roof stripped for the second time after planning rules meant the warden was banned from using composite materials instead of lead after the first theft. 

It took St Peter’s in Stourton four years to raise £160,000 to replace the stolen metal and repair the water damage that had occurred in the meantime and work was only completed last year. 

The latest crime comes as the rising price of metal has seen thefts from church roofs increase by a third over the past two years, with incidents now averaging 37 a month.

St Peter’s is not the first church to have found itself at the mercy of repeated thefts and the situation has led to calls for planning officials both within the church and local councils to be “realistic”. 

Cristina Fearon, who has been the church warden at St Peter’s for more than a decade, said that the insistence that lead is replaced like-for-like is “putting churches at risk”. 

She said that alongside the risk of repeated theft it took years to raise enough money to cover the huge expense of replacement and in the mean time damage was being done to the buildings.

“There has to be a bit of realism about this”, Mrs Fearon said. 

The restrictions on what can be used to replace stolen roofs are particularly onerous on listed churches, of which there are more than 13,000 across the UK. 

St Peter’s Church pictured before the theft

St Peter’s church, which dates from 1290, is a Grade I listed building and has a number of listed memorials from the Hoare banking family, which bought the estate in the 1700s.  

Mrs Fearon said that she understood the concerns about preserving the character of churches, but with some modern materials the differences “you can’t tell the difference”. 

“I wish that the diocesan advisory committees would put all of their energy into choosing a material that would be good as a replacement,” she said. 

Any changes to churches have to be approved by the local Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) and if they are listed the local council planning department.

The Church Building Council describes lead as the “the most appropriate”  roofing material and warns that there will a “stronger presumption” that the “historic appearance” will be maintained if the building is listed. They name a range of alternative materials including steel, zinc, copper and aluminium which can be used. 

In 2017, Historic England published guidance advising that “like-for-like is highly desirable” when a roof is stolen and stated that changing the material could “detract enormously from a building’s significance”.

The guidance says that they will “not support the use of synthetic non-metal materials” except in “highly exceptional circumstances”. 

Historic England advises on works is often represented at the ecclesiastical court if the original decision of the DAC is opposed.

Mrs Fearon said that after the original theft in 2012 she “begged” to use a much cheaper modern composite material for the roof but had been told that it had to be lead.

As the building started to deteriorate and water was seen running down the memorials the parishioners learnt that the only way that they could overturn the decision was to hire a barrister and fight it in the ecclesiastical courts.

Instead of wasting more time and costs they backed down and focused on raising the money a to replace the roof, which was installed with state of the art burglar alarms. Locals even spent nights in their cars watching for potential thieves.

Then, on Friday, the parishioner who opens the church every day went in to find the pews flooded and realised they been targeted again. The alarm had been disabled. 

“It is not just the cost of the lead,” Mrs Fearon said. “It is very distressing for the parishioners and it really does impact the whole community.”

It is unclear whether the church will have to cancel the six weddings booked in coming weeks as it again faces having to raise thousands for repairs.

It is not the first church to come up against the DAC, though with decisions made within the local diocese it is said they vary across the country.

Becky Clark, Secretary of the Church Buildings Council, said that “there is absolutely no presumption that lead must always be replaced with lead” and their guidance sets out a number of alternative metals which can be used. 

“Lead theft is a persistent problem for churches and the Church of England has been in the forefront of efforts to combat it including working with the police to secure a change in the law to impose tougher sentences for thieves,” she said. 

 The theft problem, which was thought to be in decline after new rules on scrap metal sales, looks likely to increase.

In its latest strategic assessment of serious crime the National Crime Agency has warned that after a decade of decline rising demand has “made metal theft one of the fastest growing crimes globally”

They add that offenders “show a growing propensity for violence if confronted”.  

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Articulated city bus toy #3DPrinting #timelapse #3DThursday

Articulated city bus toy #3DPrinting #timelapse #3DThursday

sasha19md shares:

The “flexible” part is also printed with PLA, it should allow some deformation just by its form. But if the material you use comes out to brittle, this part can, of course, brake after a couple of “usages”.

Any model improvement suggestions are always very welcome 🙂

download the files on:


Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, or even use Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for MakeCode, CircuitPython, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Join 12,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

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Stealth glider made out of special polymer self-destructs in sunlight

Stealth glider made out of special polymer self-destructs in sunlight

By Chelsea Whyte

Glider in the sky

Gliders like this could one day self-destruct

blickwinkel/DuM Sheldon/Alamy

Spies and soldiers might soon be able to go behind enemy lines using a parachute or glider made from a polymer that vanishes on exposure to sunlight.

“This started off with building small sensors for the government — microphones, cameras, things that detect metal,” says Paul Kohl at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who presented the work at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in California this week.

The idea was that these sensors could be spread across a battlefield, say, and used to collect information for the army. “But you don’t want anyone to discover it and take it apart and see how it works,” says Kohl.


That’s why he and his team wanted to invent a self-destructing material. They began with polymers that have a low ceiling temperature, which is the point at which the key bonds holding the substance together begin to break.

Lots of polymers break down slowly when they reach this temperature because many bonds have to be broken. But Kohl designed his material so that as soon as one bond breaks the whole thing rapidly unzips.

They based their polymer on a chemical called an aldehyde and mixed in other chemical additives that can either make it rigid for use in a glider or sensor, or flexible to make a fabric for a parachute.

Sunlight or artificial light can trigger the material to go poof. Or, in true spy style, a small light emitting diode can be placed inside a device to trigger the self-destruct process on demand. All that’s left behind is a residue and a faint smell, which Kohl says are from the additives that control the rigidity of the material.

Gliding in the dark

Kohl says he and his team have already made a glider with a six-foot wingspan from the material. It can only carry objects weighing about 1 kilogram, so it could only be used to covertly transport objects, not people, for the moment. The glider would have to travel under cover of darkness to avoid disintegrating in flight.

Marek Urban at Clemson University in South Carolina says the chemical reactions involved in the depolymerisation are not novel, but this covert intelligence application may be.

But he says there may be a problem with the residue left behind after the polymer disappears. “My question is, does this system leave you with some monomers you didn’t start with? This could be extremely harmful because if you don’t know what those monomers are as a result, you could create another problem,” says Urban.

Kohl says he’s tested the residue on plants, which did experience some discoloration but did not die. “If you’re out in the wild and it’s rocky and certainly in a desert or things like that, there’s very little concern about leaving a lot of hazardous materials behind,” he says.

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world building of the year shortlist: tremend studio’s metropolitan railway station in poland

world building of the year shortlist: tremend studio’s metropolitan railway station in poland

city dwellers face smog, noise, lack of water and high energy consmption, among other problems, but how can architecture solve these issues? the challenge was taken by architects from tremend studio, designing the integrated intermodal metropolitan station in lublin, poland showing the connection between architecture and ecology. their concept was noticed and honored by the jury of one of the most prestigious architectural competitions – world building of the year, accompanying the world architecture festival. the project hit the shortlist of the competition in the infrastructure category, which will be presented in amsterdam in december 2019. 

tremend design office is known for conceiving buildings catered to the environment. the metropolitan bus station was added near the train station, creating a close link between both transit hubs. the space will integrate nature to the heart of the city and create a green and welcoming environment within the city fabric. the roof garden and green wall create an environmental zone that connects the station with folk park. the project aims to revitalize the areas of the railway station and create a new urban layer that is enjoyable for travellers and residents.

president of the tremend board, architect magdalena federowicz-boule explains, ‘architecture of public places is evolving in my opinion in a very good direction. combining different spaces, open shared zones favors establishing contacts. the communication center, which is to be built in lublin, is to revive it for revitalization district and become a meeting place where people will be able to meet and spend together time in an attractive environment with green areas. the project is also a response to problems, related to environmental protection and city life, such as smog, water and energy consumption, noise. it is an image of how we perceive the role of ecology in architecture.’

the building’s mass is divided into two independent cubicles, both wrapped in an extensive glass curtain. the northern facade of one of the cubicles boasts a green wall, while the eastern facade of the inner cube is covered with concrete slabs. inside the station, all rooms are separated from the hall by a glazed surface, and in the case of the administration rooms, the glazing will be tinted. this division of space is dictated not only by visually separating the bigger area, but also as a consideration towards the environment and systems used in the station. by placing the ‘building inside a building’ it will lower energy consumption, and will enable for heating systems to rely on ground heat pumps.

the building will also include energy-efficient LED luminaries, further decreasing the electricity consumption. the degree of energy usage will be controlled by the use of motion detection, taking into account the intensity of lighting coming from outside and linking the operation of the system to the time of day, year and other external factors or signals from other building systems. depending on the type of facility, such active systems can reduce the energy demand of a lighting installation by 50%.

as a response to the increasingly widespread problem of smog, architects used an anti-smog block – a modern, photocatalytic material. it contains titanium dioxide that, when exposed to light, transforms toxic fumes into non-harmful substances. plants will also play a role in maintaining proper air quality since the project assumes planting species that are particularly conducive to the production of oxygen. water needed for watering plants will be obtained through a rainwater treatment system. in addition to all these features, tremend studio also added bicycle stands and chargers for electronic vehicles, further extending the environmentally-friendly architecture into the rest of the city.

project info:

project name: integrated intermodal metropolitan station

architects: tremend studio

location: lublin, poland

cristina gomez I designboom

aug 12, 2019

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Gore-Tex. Lycra. Could Fashion’s Next Major Fabric Brand Be Green?

Gore-Tex. Lycra. Could Fashion’s Next Major Fabric Brand Be Green?

LONDON, United Kingdom — You’ve probably never heard of Tencel, a brand of eco-friendly material made from processed trees and used by the likes of J. Crew, Allbirds and Levi’s. But if its manufacturer has its way, Tencel will take its place alongside Gore-tex and Lycra in the cultural lexicon.

Shoppers are more climate conscious than ever, and brands like Patagonia and Reformation have built global businesses by touting sustainability credentials such as reduced water usage and eco-friendly materials. Now, the makers of some of those high-tech fabrics are looking to cash in on the trend as well.

That’s easier said than done for companies like Lenzing AG, an 80-year-old Austrian fibre manufacturer. The company’s products, which are made from chemically-treated wood pulp, have been a staple fabric ingredient for decades. But its marketing fire-power — such as it was — was squarely focused on business customers. That changed last year, when the company began a concerted effort to target consumers. It relaunched Tencel in a bid to build a brand with a household name synonymous with sustainability.

“We’ve completely repositioned the company; we’ve gone way beyond fibres,” said Chief Commercial Officer Robert van de Kerkhof. “We’ve embarked on a very ambitious road to establish a brand recognised by consumers as innovative and sustainable.”

The timing couldn’t be better, with environmental concerns climbing up the political and social agenda.

While fashion has historically escaped the scrutiny and criticism levelled against industries like oil and mining, it ranks among the most polluting sectors in the world; fabrics and raw materials are a particular pain point. The textile industry’s environmental footprint is “comparable to the car industry, but because it’s so fragmented, nobody really pays attention,” said Lenzing Chief Executive Stefan Doboczky.

All of these companies want to be the green lycra.

But mounting awareness of the industry’s negative environmental and social impact is pushing fashion companies to look for more sustainable solutions, and publicise these to consumers. Retailers are including granular detail about where clothes are made and the materials used to make them on labels and websites. Many are struggling to come to grips with how to modify their businesses, and are eager to latch on to products with credible solutions. That’s created a game-changing opportunity for textile and fibre manufacturers to develop an independent brand that rarely existed in the past.

“All of these companies want to be the green lycra,” said Nina Marenzi, founder and director at sustainable textiles nonprofit The Sustainable Angle. “They want to be that brand that everyone knows as sustainable.”

A new breed of products like the pineapple-fibre-based leather alternative, Piñatex, have piqued consumer interest. Earlier this year, textile-technology start-up Evrnu partnered with Stella McCartney and Adidas AG to launch a range of hooded sweatshirts made from NuCycl, its branded fibre made from recycled clothes. The limited collection was given to athletes and will go on sale to the public next year.

“We’re out there doing whatever we can to seed the market so it understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” said Stacy Flynn, CEO at Evrnu. “The whole goal is that if consumers already have resonance with the brand, there should be a built-in market.”

Lenzing is in pole position. It was established as a viscose plant in 1938, but has been investing in improving its environmental performance since the 1970s. The standard manufacturing process for viscose, or rayon, has faced criticism for the harsh and polluting chemicals it uses, as well as some manufacturers’ exploitation of endangered forests.

Today, Lenzing sources its wood from sustainably managed forests and plantations. Fibres, like those included in its flagship Tencel brand, are produced in a closed-loop system that recycles chemicals and water used in the process. It’s not perfect, but it’s cleaner than many other textile manufacturing processes.

Since Lenzing relaunched the Tencel brand in 2018, it has partnered with dozens of fashion companies to promote it. Reformation — the LA-based brand with a sustainability mission — describes Tencel as “the holy grail of fibres for fabric” on its website, and the number of products labelled as containing Tencel doubled to nearly 91 million in the first half of the year compared to the same time a year earlier. The public has begun to take an interest; Google searches for Tencel have roughly doubled over the last year.

“The branding is just crucial,” Doboczky told analysts in August.

Where successful, such efforts can give fibre manufacturers extraordinary and unusual power in an intensely competitive market. Italian manufacturer Aquafil SpA requires brands to go through an application process before they can gain access to its recycled nylon Econyl fibre.

It’s taken New York-based designer Jonathan Cohen since February to get through the process. It required the brand to send over a pitch for how it would use its Econyl-based fabric, including sketches and details of how, and in what volume, the planned garments would be manufactured.

“It’s very different,” said Cohen, who is using Econyl to create a crystal-studded cocktail dress and trench coat. “It’s not going to look like what you expect to see out of nylon.”

Companies already using Econyl include Prada, which is deploying the fibre in its shift to recycled material for its nylon bags, and Burberry.

For newer companies and materials, branding can also break the fashion industry’s deep resistance to change. While developing more sustainable materials costs significant time and money, persuading brands to adopt them remains extraordinarily difficult, notwithstanding major fashion companies’ commitments to sustainability.

It’s very different… It’s not going to look like what you expect to see out of nylon.

The challenge is that taking on a new fabric represents a significant risk. Its quality, texture and drape is unknown and designers can only guess at how best to work with it. Mills and manufacturers face similar hurdles understanding how to spin and handle a new fibre.

Before brands “make a whole new collection, they want something that has been tested, and proved, and is already available at scale,” said Morten Lehmann, chief sustainability officer at The Global Fashion Agenda.

According to Doboczky, lyocell — an unbranded form of Lenzing’s Tencel — is still considered a young fibre at nearly 30 years old, and it can easily take a decade for a new type of material to reach its maximum potential.

“It is a very conservative and complex industry,” he said.

As an established player with a product that’s already well understood, Lenzing has an advantage over younger competitors, and its branding strategy is intended to keep things that way.

“With so much greenwashing coming out and competitors coming up, you want to make sure the customer knows what the difference is,” Marenzi said. “All of a sudden, there’s such a shift in the public consciousness and they’re kind of riding that wave. They’re perfectly positioned.”

Additional reporting by Tamison O’Connor.

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3-D printable 2-D materials based inks show promise to improve energy storage devices

3-D printable 2-D materials based inks show promise to improve energy storage devices

3-D printable 2-D materials based inks show promise to improve energy storage devices
Credit: University of Manchester

For the first time, a team of researchers, from the School of Materials and the National Graphene Institute at The the University of Manchester have formulated inks using the 2-D material MXene, to produce 3-D printed interdigitated electrodes.

As published in Advanced Materials, these inks have been used to 3-D print electrodes that can be used in storages devices such as supercapacitors.

MXene, a ‘clay-like’ two-dimensional material composed of early transition metals (such as titanium) and carbon atoms, was first developed by Drexel University. However, unlike most clays, MXene shows upon drying and is hydrophilic, allowing them to be easily dispersed in aqueous suspensions and inks.

Graphene was the world’s first , more conductive than copper, many more times stronger than steel, flexible, transparent and one million times thinner than the diameter of a human hair.

Since its isolation, graphene has opened the doors for the exploration of other two-dimensional , each with a range of different properties. However, in order to make use of these unique properties, 2-D materials need to be efficiently integrated into devices and structures. The manufacturing approach and materials formulations are essential to realise this.

Dr. Suelen Barg who led the team said: “We demonstrate that large MXene flakes spanning a few atoms thick, and water can be independently used to formulate inks with very specific viscoelastic behaviour for printing. These inks can be directly 3-D printed into freestanding architectures over 20 layers tall. Due to the excellent electrical conductivity of MXene, we can employ our inks to directly 3-D print current collector-free supercapacitors. The unique rheological properties combined with the sustainability of the approach open many opportunities to explore, especially in and applications requiring the functional properties of 2-D MXene in customized 3-D architectures.”

Wenji and Jae, Ph.D. students at the Nano3D Lab at the University, said: “Additive manufacturing offers one possible method of building customised, multi-materials energy devices, demonstrating the capability to capture MXene’s potential for usage in energy applications. We hope this research will open avenues to fully unlock the potential of MXene for use in this field.”

“The unique rheological properties combined with the sustainability of the approach open many opportunities to explore, especially in energy storage and applications requiring the functional properties of 2-D MXene in customized 3-D architectures,” said Dr. Suelen Barg, School of Materials.

The performance and application of these devices increasingly rely on the development and scalable manufacturing of innovative materials in order to enhance their performance.

Supercapacitors are devices that are able to produce massive amounts of power while using much less energy than conventional devices. There has been much work carried out on the use of 2-D materials in these types of devices due to their excellent conductivity as well as having the potential to reduce the weight of the device.

Potential uses for these devices are for the automotive industry, such as in electric cars as well as for mobile phones and other electronics.

More information:
Wenji Yang et al. 3D Printing of Freestanding MXene Architectures for Current‐Collector‐Free Supercapacitors, Advanced Materials (2019). DOI: 10.1002/adma.201902725

3-D printable 2-D materials based inks show promise to improve energy storage devices (2019, July 30)
retrieved 30 August 2019

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