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I never pictured Twitter as a place for in-depth, insightful analysis, but:

[4Chan] boards, even good ones, are a perpetually frothing angry mob. Everyone is poised to attack anyone for anything they dislike.

But it’s all a joke. Everyone’s anonymous, so you can just join the winning side. Hell, you can play both sides if you want.

Consensus emerges in a decentralized way, and ideas mutate in an organic way. Channers are often very protective of this process.

This doesn’t work very well if anonymity is compromised. If you’re identifiably the creator of something, it doesn’t belong to everyone.

“a_man_in_black” does an excellent job of introducing 4Chan culture, which should set off a few lightbulbs about its bastard child GamerGate. They come across as the human equivalent of the Borg; a collective that denies all individuality and leadership, satisfied only in conquest.

There are a few problems with that explanation, though. Christina Hoff Sommers is a very visible name associated with GamerGate, yet she’s adored by them. Even a dive into the infamous chat-logs reveals no shortage of praise:

Jagos: https://twitter.com/CHSommers/status/505890788753301505
BenedictArnold: @CHSommers: “A splenetic,male-averse 3rd wave feminism has marched unopposed thru the academy, journalism,politics.Maybe it will take gamers to stop it!” (https://archive.today/O9uSc)
Jagos: Based Sommers is based
Thidran: Hahahahaha
Thidran: This gal’s so based.
zahlman: >sple·net·ic spləˈnetik / adjective: 1. bad-tempered; spiteful.
creativeCoder: You learn something new every day.

Herpderp: Daily Reminder: Christina H. Sommers has joined the game

Drinky_Kraw: dis woman, how do we all marry her at once
Drinky_Kraw: what are US regulations regarding mass waifuing

OperationDunk: Fine, egalitarian feminism, like CHSommers
OperationDunk: She’s a real asset, btw. Totally blowing people out
OperationDunk: Make sure to thank her for being fucking great
Usui: chsommers is pretty cool lady, she smart and doesn’t afraid of anything, i’ll give you that

WillMcAvoy: Thidran: what do you think if asking Sommers’ to help getting some big help for us would be good idea?
Thidran: She’s already on our side.
Thidran: But we can use every moderate we can get.
WillMcAvoy: I mean isn’t he part of think tank?
WillMcAvoy: *she
Thidran: Okay, gotta focus.
blueanon: she is very controversial, and has made too many enemies in the media, politicians hate her because she make their narrative about women invalid
blueanon: to ask her for help would make GamerGate a anti feminist issue

There are exceptions, though, which can be illuminating.

zahlman: I mean I’m kinda skeptical for the same reason I’m skeptical of this Aurini guy
morc: Skeptical is good, but there’s little reason to be overly critical of someone who’s on our side and otherwise disinterested in the topic. Sommers is an outsider, but she’s not trying to hijack this for fame, she’s a published author.
zahlman: ‘hijacking for fame’ is not what I’m worried about
zahlman: I’m worried about whether I can agree with her viewpoints personally, and about whether her politics will get in the way of the message
morc: Retweet whatever she says that is 100% agreeable. If she goes into retard territory, we can disavow her. But she has some credibility, and that’s useful to an amorphous blob of anons.

That, right there, suggests an alternate explanation of 4Chan culture: they are meme mongers.

Consider E = mc2, which has remained one of the most famous equations out there. It was first published about 110 years ago, and has had a longer lifespan than the person who drafted it. This has given Einstein some immortality and power over the world, even long after his death.

What if you too wanted that sliver of immortality? The odds of you inventing a revolutionary idea are pretty slim, though, let alone permanently altering physics. But how about becoming the next Star Wars Kid? Or creating the next Troll face? Intelligence and hard work are not much of a factor when crafting cultural artifacts, usually, it’s more often a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

This might seem like a strange way to go about it. Einstein is famous and well-recognized, after all, yet Ghyslain Raza is almost the opposite. I’m willing to bet you never learned of E = mc2 from Einstein himself, though; the staying power of a meme has more to do with the work of a huge largely-anonymous army of people propagating it, not the original creator. Not being known has its advantages, too, as no-one can learn you slept around or wasted half your life trying to craft a doomed theory of everything while you bask in the growing popularity of your creation.

The utility of an idea is no obstacle, either. Few people know E = mc2 typically describes the relation between an object’s mass when at rest in an inertial reference frame and the potential energy said object possesses, and fewer still can apply that in a calculation. All that really matters, for the purposes of immortality, is that the idea lives on.

This lens removes the contradiction of a faceless collective with faced leaders; instead, the most visible people are worshiped in direct proportion to their ability to propagate your ideas. They get uppity or slack off? Punish or toss’m, they won’t help your quest for immortality. This makes 4chan the ideal place for bigots to hide out and try to steer the conversation, and it encourages false-flag ops almost as a matter of course. You get to bask in reflected glory for helping popularize an obscure meme, but earn little from being one of a billion Rick Rollers; as a result, 4chan remains in a perpetual froth as people try to create then discard memes, all the while hoping to make or promote that one which escapes into the wider culture.

Empathy? Not part of the equation.

In some ways, this picture is the opposite of the Borg: individual gain is paramount above all. it’s just that the nature of the system encourages anonymity. Only your ideas live on, but that’s kind of the point of it all. Shed that lumpy, out-of-shape thing you call your body, and reach for the stars.

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