I think we’re all familiar with the concept of the Overton Window, yes? That there’s a range or “Window” of viewpoints which are considered acceptable within society? Every time I’ve heard it mentioned it’s been in the context of trying to tug the window one way or the other. Example:
Things like #BoycottStarWarsVII have a definite purpose and that purpose is to normalize and make centrist the average racist and anti-feminist attitudes common on 4chan by creating a ridiculous strawman to compare it to. Making the public believe that there is a huge contingent of dopey uber-bigots out there so angry at Star Wars for starring a woman and a black guy they have to start a Twitter campaign automatically shifts lesser racist attitudes to the left.
What it does is carve out a niche where someone who honestly thinks Star Wars represents a radical liberal diversity agenda can have a cartoonish bigot to point at and say that he is nothing like that other guy. It enables someone to remain deeply uncomfortable about the increased presence of women and minorities in mainstream media, but still call himself the good guy because there is someone worse than him, even if that person is largely imaginary.
The article also mentions 4Chan doing the opposite, via #EndFathersDay. Their motive was to discredit feminism via false flag propaganda: toss out some fake “extremist” feminists to trick those out-the-know.
As a side effect, hovever, 4Chan was also tugging the window in a pro-feminist direction, making it more acceptable to hold “extreme” feminist viewpoints. That’s not just tugging, but expanding.
The good news is that feminism is increasingly normalized; the bad is that it normalizes problematic forms of feminism too. Why should someone work on removing their racism or getting better at respecting trans* people’s rights, when their “peers” take issue with something like Father’s Day? Either they’ll never hit the high standards of these “feminists,” and thus give up on calling themselves a feminist, or point to the misunderstanding and say “well if they get something wrong, why can’t I?”
I doubt this was intentional, but it’s still an effect.