On Sunday, reports emerged that Brandon Scott Hole, the 19-year-old who killed eight people, including four members of the Sikh community after opening fire inside an Indianapolis FedEx facility on Thursday, April 15, before turning the gun on himself was obsessed with "My Little Pony."
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Hole's social media profiles were taken down by Facebook at the request of the Indianapolis police and according to an internal memo, Hole's social media activity focused mostly on the children's animated series.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic isa cartoon television show about friendship, compassion, and a group of magical horses with names such as Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy who live in a fantastical land called Equestria.
Who are 'Bronies'?
Hole wasa member of the "Bronies" community — a group of mostly adult men who are extreme fans of the cartoon. A mashup of "bro" and "ponies," the community is notorious for having elements of "far right and white nationalist extremism," as reported by the WSJ.
Less than an hour before the shooting, Hole posted a photo of one of the cartoon's characters, a pony named Applejack, along with the caption, "I hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her."
Links to White Supremacism, Nazism
The motive behind the shooting is not yet known but a June 2020 article in The Atlantic by Kaitlyn Tiffany sheds more light on the far-right tendencies associated with the cartoon.
According to the article, the "Bronies" community mainly consists of white men, including vocal white supremacists. The brony subculture originated from internet forums such as 4chan in the early 2010s in which fans of the animated series shared their own cartoon drawings of the show's characters and uploaded it to image boards.
One of the popular websites the images were shared on is called Derpibooru, a combination of a "Derpy," a character's name, and "booru," a common term used for image boards. The website hosted millions of My Little Pony artworks, many of which are simple tributes by some adults who are genuinely fans of the show and its characters. However, a significant number of them were extremely violent and graphic in nature.
The images showed characters performing lynchings and beheadings of cartoons meant to represent marginalized communities. In the wake of the George Floyd protests that erupted across the country last year, My Little Pony fans started mocking the protests with racist fan art, with images mocking Black Lives Matter being upvoted by users while images supporting the movement were downvoted on Derpibooru.
Here are some examples:
Derpibooru even listed "racist" as a searchable category with hundreds of artworks under the tag. The website has since changed its policy and placed a ban on "racist" artwork. The links between Nazis and the Hasbro-owned My Little Pony franchise were so obvious at one point that there was even an online petition to declare the cartoon as a hate symbol.