As many in the more internet savvy of our nerd circles have noticed – the chans have been hitting the news more and more as nerd culture further intertwines with mainstream culture at large.
4chan, specifically, which has long been seen as a hive of scum and villainy has jumped into the media area with great acts of good such as tracking down numerous animal abusers, crowdsourcing information to prevent supposed school shootings/attacks, turning over murder evidence to police, and other assorted vigilante tasks. The motto of “not your army” warns people of attempting to rally the 4chan anons to their causes (which are randomly selected by the hive minds) is rule number one for internet justice, and often backfires on people if they post to the chans with the end-game of rallying 4chan into being their personal revenge machine(s).
At the end of the day, despite the above acts of relative heroism-those of us in nerd circles understand that the chans are meant to be taken with a block of salt. All of the various boards have their own themes, their own cultures and their own specific content; without knowing which is trollbait and which is not, an uninformed outsider might be keen on taking everything they see there as morbid, horrible truth. Which is exactly the case for a Vice writer who published a piece entitled Internet Neo-Nazis Are Trying to Build a White Supremacist Utopia in Namibia.
The long article details the motivations, views, and policies of this “group” in minute detail. I made it about halfway through before wanting to smash my face on my desk in pure cringe.
One of two glorious things has happened here – one being that the writer was so oblivious to the board’s subculture that he took a role-playing troll board as serious, or VICE has published this article to drive traffic as the rest of the internet laughs at their “misinformed” writer.
I first saw this piece perusing through /r/worldnews on Reddit and clicked through to make sure my eyes didn’t decieve me. Tom Sanders, our misguided (or perhaps genius) author comments on 8chan as “a cesspit for people who are too uninhibited in their internet vulgarity even for 4chan”.[Unbeknownst to our friend Tom – 8chan is a refuge now for 4chan anons who are leaving 4chan like a sinking ship due to Moot’s resignation and the assignment of a stricter mod team, but I digress. ]
The first thing – Tom being so oblivious to ‘obvious troll is obvious’ – is a dangerous notion to our subculture. That people who don’t understand our geeky, gamey, nerdy, or otherwise unconventional ways can be taken out of context and used to bully, mock, or otherwise harm our already alienated-at-large community from the outside. Just as Offbeat made a list of 27 “hilariously bad themed weddings” – which just looks like a bunch of people having a great time, cosplayers included – the larger conventional media is starting to dip its fingers into our groups to pull out items with no context, understanding, or even humanity. The example of Vice quoting a roleplaying chan as “news” sets a dangerous precedent and cheapens what real news is.
As all things nerdy increases in commonplace popularity – we have to prepare for the crossing of wires and social misunderstandings. We are allowing the mainstream media to build its own narrative of “us” that is horribly misinformed, without context, and often times without even being fact-checked.
Which leads me to to the second thing: viral marketing. If Tom actually did understand that he was looking at a troll board – this is all just a genius VICE marketing ploy to get everyone to talk about how stupid they are. And it’s working. On one hand it is a completely genius idea by a site that is trying to drive more traffic to its popculture division; on the other hand, its detrimental to the understanding and worldview of “nerds”. People who do not understand troll culture, chan culture, and/or nerd culture will go on with the narrative that anons are a bunch of horrible, basement dwelling monsters who eat babies and kick puppies – all because of a viral article that wasn’t answered and received no common sense response.
Either of those situations poses very negative possibilities for the nerd community at large; both further isolation and misunderstanding that borders on mistrust. We must be careful to respond to things like this when we see them rise up – and not let the wrong idea of nerds as a bunch of baby eating puppy kickers become the shaped view of the common and popular culture that is starting to accept and join us.
Shame on you, VICE. The only thing left for you to do at this point is try to call it a reverse or double troll. Lets see what happens.
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