online culture wars pt. 1

Raid mentality is a leitmotif of Western online culture and connects seemingly distant phenomena such as zoombombing and the alternative right movement (Alt-Right).
The online raid is, broadly speaking, the mass spamming of content on a site or platform in order to disrupt its normal usability. During the demonstrations for the killing of George Floyd, there have been episodes that recall the modus operandi of the raid, but with paradoxical causes or effects.
I’m thinking, for example, of what happened to the instagram feed during Black Lives Tuesday, when many of the protest materials, which should have had maximum visibility, were literally obscured by black squares.
Similar in appearance to the black square of Russian suprematism, but politically opposed to white suprematism, the symbol of Black Lives Tuesday was for many the consequence of an impulsive action, with the involuntary result of compromising the media resonance of the event.
Its sharing was probably dictated by a desire for atonement, and then liquidate the situation with contents from which only vanity and irrelevance were apparent.
As an icon, the black square is the perfect example of the tendency towards unique thinking and sectarianism of many of those who have taken part in this and other protests, whose way of speaking, arguing and reasoning has the effect of sterilizing rather than stimulating discussion. A Manichean rhetoric, summarized in the politics of “either you are with us or you are part of the problem” that does not admit ideological nuances, gradients of thought and multi-faceted realities.
An emblem of unique thinking, the black square should, if anything, suggest that total black does not exist. It is one of those rituals that lead to a canyon of self-legitimation and victimhood where everything is dark, where ideology sodomizes art.
The problem is not common to the entire Black Lives Matter movement, as other examples from the first days of protest in America show. This is the case of some American k-pop fans who boycotted – this time intentionally – the hashtag #whitelivesmatter and, in addition, clogged the channels that the Dallas police had created to receive reports of illegal activity during the protests. 

The raid culture took hold as a form of free transgression in the community of 4chan, a site born in 2003, initiator of the psycho-lulzy [1] style that has then had a great diffusion reaching the borders of the mainstream.
To give an idea of its importance, it’s enough to say that 4chan (that was the cradle of Anonymous) and the Alt-Right, perhaps the two most representative movements of political activism on the Internet that always played an important role in the international media scene during the protests against racism, are standing at opposite poles of the barricade.
To appreciate the role that 4chan plays in e-geopolitcs and the impact it has on offline culture, it is useful to retrace its genesis to understand the history.
4chan is the result of the collision between two cultures: the western tradition of textboards and the eastern tradition of imageboards. In the 1990s, in Japan, Internet culture began to form around communities of nerds, geeks and hackers, eager to share their enthusiasm for digital technology. There are also many users in these communities who are dedicated to the exchange of child pornography and other kinds of illegal pornography.
Towards the end of the nineties the 2ch (or futaba channel) website was born, becoming an obsession among young Japanese people, transforming the Internet from a tool for study and work for a few, to a subcultural phenomenon in rapid and overwhelming expansion.
The culture of 2ch is mainly oriented towards video games, manga, anime and Shift-JIS art, a form of expression that involves the creation of ideograms using keyboard characters. 

The central element that decreed the success of 2ch in Japan was the possibility to use the site without identifying or creating a username. Discussing it anonymously, the users have been able to free themselves from the clichés of Japanese sociality, in which the obsession with the good manners have always repressed the free expression of thoughts and moods. The possibility to discuss without filters has been a counterbalance to the local imperative to adopt a private personality, and a public one, according to the idea that the personal opinions can only be expressed at home or with trusted friends.
In the same period, overseas, Something Awful was born, an American site marked by the slogan “the Internet makes you stupid”, summarizing the propensity of its visitors to treat every topic in a demential way. The users of the page posed as bullies, to increase their online reputation and demolish that of others, action that allowed users to talk openly about themselves and their tastes. In addition, moderators banned any content that does not conform to the site’s netiquette. Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse, a subforum of Something Awful dedicated to manga and anime, turned out to be particularly difficult to handle, as discussions almost always fell on pornography or other obscene material (lolicon, furry, ero guro, etc.).
Surfing the web, regular Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse visitors have discovered the 2ch site, being bewitched by Japanese Internet culture and the possibility of unfiltered discussions about what seemed like a nerd emporium you don’t want and can’t get out of. The only obstacle for regular users of Something Awful was Japanese language.
In 2003 Chris Poole, a 15-year-old user of Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse, created the 4chan site, whose name is an obvious homage to the 2ch site, from which he had copied the source code. Poole chooses to use the pseudonym Moot, which translated into Italian means “questionable”. A curious detail, if we consider that Poole – it is not known how consciously given his young age – gave birth to a culture that would become famous for its controversial nature.

The feature that has favoured the popularity of the site, since its birth, has been, as for the Japanese model, anonymity: neither a registration process nor the creation of an account was foreseen. Soon the rumor spread that on 4chan you could discuss and post practically anything, including the most obscene content, because moderation, unlike the restrictive Something Awful, was almost non-existent. 4chan offered the possibility to explore every interest, curiosity, impulse without feeling judged. It is not difficult to imagine the kind of culture that anonymity and the high level of permissiveness generated on the site. 
In order to ensure that the main board was not constantly clogged with nerdy pornography, Moot created the /s/ (sexy beautiful woman) and /h/ (hentai) boards, which however led to other problems, because users themselves considered their perversions as a disturbing element. Therefore, a series of other dashboards dedicated to more specific, aberrant and atypical fetishes were created and within a few months, 4chan became a sort of online pornographic atlas, able to attract constantly more users.
It must be said that the pornographic component, although very present, was only one of the vent valves among those present on 4chan. The whole community that came from Something Awful brought with it an aggressive and extreme legacy, venting into idiotic and nonsensical behavior. The most influential legacy imported by Something Awful users was the style of communication characterized by catchphrases, in-jokes and macro images, elements that in those years and on that very site were giving rise to the meme phenomenon of the Internet as we know it today.
The whole point was to do and say things that would have never been possible IRL (In Real Life) or in any other virtual place, raising the bar of the allowed limit each time.
After a first year of constant attendance, changes to the source code to optimize the usability of the site and user confidence, from 2004 to 2006, takes place what is remembered as the golden age of 4chan
Once 4chan‘s culture has stabilized, its key points have become clear: hatred, anonymity, sincerity, elitism, pointlessness. The users who populated the site in its first three years of life are remembered as oldfags. They are mostly middle class nerdy teenagers with few friends and a fascination for the Internet more than for everyday life. Moot himself corresponds to this stereotype, and it’s amusing to note that at the time he created 4chan he wasn’t legally allowed to enter his own community.
Between 2004 and 2006 the atmosphere on 4chan was dominated by a kind of sick irony, a taste for the disturbing and the myth of sociopathy, all of which led to the creation of some of the most iconic meme in Internet history. The process leading to the creation of a new meme had taken on a rather structured form: once someone made a crazy joke, other users created dozens of variations of that same joke.
One notice board in particular was given the nickname meme factory. It was the notice board /b/ (random) which, besides being the most extreme, was also the most prolific. The members of the other bulletin boards saw the /b/ bulletin board as a community of unstable fools, and therefore began to refer to them as the /b/tards.
Nothing can better describe the cult of depravity, violence and psychopathy of /b/ than the following comment posted by an anonymous user:

/b/ is the guy who tells the cripple ahead of him in line to hurry up.

 /b/ is first to get to the window to see the car accident outside.

/b/ is the one who wrote your number on the mall’s bathroom wall. 

/b/ is a failing student who makes passes at his young, attractive English teacher. 

/b/ is the guy loitering on Park Ave. that is always trying to sell you something. 

/b/ is the one who handed his jizz-drenched clothes to Good Will. (…)

 /b/ is a ho tincest dream that you’ll try to forget for days.

 /b/ is the only one of your group of friends to be secure in his sexuality and say anything. 

/b/ is the guy without ED who still likes trying Viagra.

/b/ is the best friend that tags along for your first date and cockblocks throughout the night the decent girl you’re trying to bag walks out on the date. 

/b/ laughs and takes you home when you’re drunk, and you wake up to several hookers in your house who /b/ called for you. 

/b/ is a friend that constantly asks you to try mutual masturbation with him.

 /b/ is the guy who calls a suicide hotline to hit on the advisor.

 /b/ is nuking the hard-drive next time someone knocks on his door.

 /b/ is the one who left a used condom outside the schoolyard. 

/b/ is the voice in your head that tells you that it doesn’t matter if she’s drunk.

 /b/ is the friend who constantly talks about your mom’s rack.

 /b/ is the only one who understands what the hell you saying.

 /b/ is someone who would pay a hooker to eat his ass, and only that.

 /b/ is the uncle who has touched you several times.

 /b/ is still recovering in the hospital, after trying something he saw in a hentai. 

/b/ is the pleasure you feel guilty of when you tried playing with your anus during masturbation.

 /b/ is wonderful.

The users of /b/ were the first to perceive their collective identity and to establish a feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood between them. As cadets of a military college, the strange experience of having the same pseudonym (anonymous) accompanied by a self-generated figure and no further personal attribute, helped to cement the idea of a uniform, nameless army. These aspects would shortly afterwards contribute to the birth of the anti-leader poetics and legion myth of the politicised hacking movement Anonymous
Despite the anonymity, it was easy to understand whether a /b/ user was a veteran or a novice, because the /b/ culture was extremely coded. In other words, it was impossible for a layman to follow the thread, since information was exchanged mostly using a nerdy slang. The massive use of slang had nothing to do with speeding up communication, the underlying intention was to affirm an aristocratic distinction from all others.
Although /b/ was based on stupidity, depravity and black humor, its aggressiveness towards outsiders began to eclipse everything else, becoming the hallmark of the community. Soon an attack dog mentality spread among /b/tards: every user could turn everyone else against someone or something. This gave rise to a tradition of raid, doxing [2], DOs [3] and OPs [4]. This is a period, around 2006, when 4chan and /b/ became known as the “butthole of the Internet” [5].
The first raid, which took place in the Habbo virtual community, is remembered as the Great Habbo Hotel Invasion of July 2006 and consisted of filling Habbo’s hotel with black characters dressed extravagantly, for no apparent reason. Just for the lulz.
Excited by this event, the /b/tards went completely out of control. The operations that have been going on since then are many and very different, in a troll spectrum that goes from leaking personal information of feminist journalists to getting beliebers to shave their hair to zero. The community of /b/ has also used its collective strength to carry out actions without destructive intentions. Famous, in this sense, what is remembered as Operation Birthday Boy: softened by an advertisement of an old man saying “friends wanted for a birthday party“, the users of /b/ have sent him hundreds of greeting cards, birthday cakes and other gifts.
With the same ease, the /b/tards could undertake operations in bad taste and demonstrate glacial cynicism, for example by organizing raids on forums for the disabled. Another emblematic example of this insensitivity is the RIP Trolling consisting of trolling memorial pages dedicated to dead people and their loved ones.
Because of this tendency to raid other places on the Internet, some 4channers claim that in 2007 there wasn’t left unexplored any corner of the Internet, in the form of a meme or raid. Most of the Internet culture was generated from its cradle: 4chan had become the nerve center of Internet culture.
A symbol of the delirium of omnipresence and the omniscience of the /b/tards network is the list of Rules Of The Internet they have drawn up:

  1. Do not talk about /b/
  2. Do NOT talk about /b/
  3. We are Anonymous.
  4. Anonymous is legion.
  5. Anonymous does not forgive, Anonymous does not forget.
  6. Anonymous can be horrible, senseless, uncaring monster.
  7. Anonymous is still able to deliver.
  8. There are no real rules about posting.
  9. There are no real rules about moderation either — enjoy your ban.
  10. If you enjoy any rival sites — DON’T.
  11. You must have pictures to prove your statement.
  12. Lurk Moar — it’s never enough.
  13. Nothing is Sacred.
  14. Do not argue with a troll — it means that they win.
  15. The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt it.
  16. There are NO girls on the internet.
  17. A cat is fine too
  18. One cat leads to another.
  19. The more you hate it, the stronger it gets.
  20. It is delicious cake. You must eat it.
  21. It is delicious trap. You must hit it.
  22. /b/ sucks today.
  23. Cock goes in here.
  24. You will never have sex.
  25. ????
  26. PROFIT!
  27. It needs more Desu. No exceptions.
  28. There will always be more fucked up shit than what you just saw.
  29. You can not divide by zero (just because the calculator says so).
  30. No real limits of any kind apply here — not even the sky
  33. Desu isn’t funny. Seriously guys. It’s worse than Chuck Norris jokes.
  34. There is porn of it. No exceptions.
  35. If no porn is found of it, it will be created.
  36. No matter what it is, it is somebody’s fetish. No exceptions.
  37. Even one positive comment about Japanese things can make you a weeaboo.
  38. When one sees a lion, one must get into the car
  39. There is furry porn of it. No exceptions.
  40. The pool is always closed due to AIDS (and stingrays, which also have AIDS).
  41. If there isn’t enough just ask for Moar.
  42. Everything has been cracked and pirated.
  44. The internet is not your personal army.
  45. Rule 45 is a lie.
  46. The cake is a lie.
  47. If you post it, they will cum.
  48. It will always need moar sauce.
  49. The internet makes you stupid.
  50. Anything can be a meme.
  51. Longcat is looooooooooong.
  52. If something goes wrong, Ebaums did it.
  53. Anonymous is a virgin by default.
  54. Moot has cat ears, even in real life. No exceptions.
  55. CP is awwwright, but DSFARGEG will get you b&.
  56. Don’t mess with football.
  57. MrSpooky has never seen so many ingrates.
  58. Anonymous does not “buy”, he downloads.
  59. The term “sage” does not refer to the spice.
  60. If you say Candlejack, you w
  61. You cannot divide by zero.
  62. The internet is SERIOUS FUCKING BUSINESS.
  63. If you do not believe it, then it must be habeebed for great justice.
  64. Not even Spider-Man knows how to shot web.
  65. 65.Mitchell Henderson was an hero to us all.
  66. This is not lupus, it’s SPARTAAAAAAAAAA.
  67. One does not simply shoop da whoop into Mordor.
  68. Katy is bi, so deal w/it.
  70. 70.Also, cocks.
  71. This is a showdown, a throwdown, hell no I can’t slow down, it’s gonna go.
  72. Anonymous did NOT, under any circumstances, tk him 2da bar|?
  73. If you express astonishment at someone’s claim, it is most likely just a clever ruse.
  74. If it hadn’t been for Cotton Eyed Joe, Anonymous would have been married a long time ago.
  75. Around Snacks, CP is lax.
  76. All numbers are at least 100 but always OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAND.
  77. Hal Turner definitely needs to gb2/hell/.
  78. Mods are fucking fags. No exceptions.
  79. All Caturday threads will be bombarded with Zippocat. No exceptions.
  80. No matter how cute it is, it probably skullfucked your mother last night.
  81. That’s not mud.
  82. Steve Irwin’s death is really, really funny.
  84. Rule 87 is true.
  85. Yes, it is some chickens.
  86. Bobba bobba is bobba.
  87. Rule 84 is false. OH SHI-
  88. If your statement is preceded by “HAY GUYZ”, then you are not doing it right.
  89. If you cannot understand it, it is machine code.
  90. Anonymous still owes Hal Turner one trillion U.S. dollars.
  91. Spengbab Sqarpaint is luv Padtwick Zhstar iz fwend.
  92. Disregard Bigmike, he sucks cocks.
  93. Secure tripcodes are for jerks.
  94. If someone herd u liek Mudkips, deny it constantly for the lulz.
  95. Combo breakers are inevitable. If the combo is completed successfully, it is gay.
  96. I am a huge faggot. Please rape my face.
  97. Shit sucks and will never be stickied.
  98. Bricks must are required to be shat whenever Anonymous is surprised.
  99. If you have no bricks to shit, you are made of fail and AIDS.
  100. ZOMG NON

The /b/ culture has reached the mainstream audience thanks to a Fox News report on 4chan anonymous hackers. The report was terribly inaccurate and sensationalistic, contained hilarious imprecisions and, above all, tried to narrate /b/ with a cringe language, using expressions that would later become iconic, such as Hackers on Steroids and Internet Hate Machine, which /b/tards themselves would begin to adopt humorously.
Because of the epic series of forays into other places on the Internet, the spread and success of the meme and the media attention received, there was an exponential growth of newcomers in the summer of 2007. This wave has significantly changed the cultural substratum of 4chan, causing a general decline in the quality of content. The drop was due to the germination of useless threads, repost and spam of the new members (newfags), who, as if that were not enough, tried to copy edginess [6] of the oldfags, but without really belonging to them.
The interest from the mainstream universe inevitably altered the subcultural radicality of the first /b/ era, making the board the equivalent of a shitty ocean in which to swim in search of a few rare diamonds.
This period is remembered by veterans as 4chan‘s Eternal September, where the expression Eternal September indicates the moment when the online community lost its cultural authenticity due to a strong migration to it.
The 2008 marks another central moment in the history of the site, which corresponds to the birth of the politicised hacking group Anonymous, linked to Operation Chanology. Originally, 4chan users had decided to vandalize the Scientology site, partly out of an aversion to the Church’s manipulative tendency, partly for fun. The attacks once again received strong media coverage, attracting new users to 4chan who were fascinated by the role of executioner masked, vaguely politicized, of the group that signed Anonymous, and then become interested in taking part. After an initial period of prosperity, an internal community conflict ensued. Consistent with the nature of the project, most of the members, the hard core, were loyal to an ideal of gratuitous, nihilistic vandalism. The new members, who came from predominantly liberal and democratic circles, on the other hand were interested in directing the site’s media potential towards new forms of political activism.
Thus the separation between Anonymous and 4chan occurred, because of this internal irreconcilability: the amoral, toxic and agnostic character of the first 4channers – those of the Internet hate machine – threw away bad light on the movement, because of the ambiguity of their political positions and intentions.
Since then, Anonymous has pursued its hacktivism path independently, organizing operations against any organization or government that attempted to counter freedom of speech or undermine the democratic nature of the Internet.
According to the closure of the Anonymous affair, it would seem that the /b/tards left the movement behind because of a categorical refusal to politicize their culture, yet, as we shall see, it was only a matter of time before a new form of political movement developed on 4chan and, strangely enough, was born out of a – apparently – non-political environment.
In 2009, the /b/tards voted in mass for Moot as the most influential person of the year in an Internet poll wanted by TIME magazine. In addition, they decided to vote the remaining candidates in such a way that the initial of their names in the ranking would form the phrase “marblecake also the game”, once again demonstrating their sophisticated organizational skills and their philosophy of free gesture, without specific goals and purposes.
At the same time, a now grown up and aware Moot began to formalize 4chan’s unique status on the Internet as a forum without signatures and without memory and in 2010 conducted a TED Talk in support of the ideals of anonymity, remix culture and the right to forget.
Moot presented 4chan as the antithesis of social media. Despite the obvious problems of the site’s communities, the idea of an anti-Social Network seemed at least intriguing when compared to the world of transparency, analysis, criticism, conformism and goodness of social networks.
Since the use of mainstream social media was mainly aimed at clout [7] and to validate one’s personal brand, the idea of doing something selflessly, just for the sake of doing it without even taking public credit for it, became more and more attractive and transgressive.
If trough social networks capitalism had reached a new level of pervasiveness, the culture of lulz and dedication to nonsense were easily associated with an anti-capitalist drive.
Deeply linked to the idea of anonymity, the 4channers hated not only the idea of persistent identity of social networks but also the attitude adopted by their users, condensed in all the nauseating drifts of the politically correct, in the generalized and systematic hypocrisy, in the fact of not being able to recognize the substantial ordinariness of their existence and the obviousness of their choices; continuing to consider themselves exceptional people and, finally, in the tendency to flaunt positive values, to give lessons, to declare a moral sense and an ability to be superior in the world.
Besides, social users weren’t surfing the Internet. Also called normies, mainstream social media users were terribly sedentary, seemed not to understand the real potential of the net. With their rise the culture of surfing the internet was dead, if a site like 4chan was constantly sending you back to other places on the Internet, social media seemed to be designed to keep you glued to them and spend as many hours on them as possible. It’s no coincidence, on the other hand, that the elastic effect of the Instagram scroll recalls that of slot machine motion graphics.
The climate of aggressive reaction towards the social, is the principle that led to the rise of the Alt-Right, despite the fact that in 2012 the culture of 4chan was still not openly political.
A first symptom of this change may be traced in what happened on /k/ (weapons) dashboard, dedicated to weapons enthusiasts of all kinds. From the dashboard emerged a general interest in the history of other cultures but, little by little, also speeches related to the use of weapons in a reactionary key, which were increasingly focused on racial issues. All of a sudden /k/ was not a dashboard dedicated to the passion for weapons, but to suicidal and murderous fantasies against specific categories, especially minorities, feminists and liberals.
Racism, xenophobia, chauvinism and the whole arsenal of fascist ideology were also spreading to other communities: an iconic example is the Minecraft 2b2t server, nicknamed Hitler’s server, because of the gamers tendency to build monuments and sometimes entire cities dedicated to Nazi and fascist aesthetics or to create black characters to perform activities reminiscent of the slave period. Even the raids were beginning to take a Nazi inclination, the targets became mainly blogs and forums frequented by Social Justice Warriors, which were bombarded with spam containing swastikas, images of Hitler and other products of the Nazi trolls.
Finally, in those years the /9rk/ dashboard is becoming more and more established. Its members are characterized by depressive, victimistic misanthropic tendencies and by a general incompetence due to the constant feeling of social inadequacy. 
Most of the users, who professed themselves to be male and anti-feminist, saw in a negative key the reversal of gender roles, blaming it on their own virginity and going so far as to conceive feminism as a symbol of the collapse of Western culture.
The problem of virginity as a forced sentence has led to a multitude of different phenomena, from school shooting to incel, from social Darwinism to pick up art, from Chad and Stacy meme yesterday to doomer today (see rule 16 and 24).
All these anti-feminist tendencies, often very different from each other, are grouped together in the term manosphere, which describes precisely that orbit of the Internet dedicated to the cult of a divisive masculism.
The hitherto separate experiences, linked to racism, white suprematism, anti-feminism, anti-politically correct and pro-possession of weapons, have merged into the /pol/ (politically uncorrect) dashboard, transforming over time into a new far-right current known as Alternative Right. Initially dedicated to news, /pol/ is now considered the media outlet of Alternative Right and is still open and navigable on the site.

Is a fact that these socially alarming or criminal phenomena have grown up in the same habitat of chan culture. 
In 2015 Poole left 4 chan, saying he regretted having created /pol/. Among other things, before leaving he had begun a stringent activity of moderation, to curb the extremist and violent drift and, for this reason, he received death threats, considered serious by the FBI. It is also true that Poole sold the ownership of the site to the founder of 2ch, at an unknown price, and was hired by Google, with unknown job and salary.
Credit must also be given to the thesis that the authors of the bloodiest shootings have found inspiration and legitimacy in the pre/Alt-Right ideology spread over 4chan, and it is to be hoped that this aspect will be the subject of further  judicial investigation.
However, the Alt-Right inspiration of these episodes is not treated by the media as a circumstantial element of a certain crime, but as part of a certain political strategy and put in the same cauldron as the meme endorsement in favor of Donald Trump, suggesting that the meme is the true inspiration and vehicle of instigation of supremacist aggression.
This interpretation is not convincing, not for political reasons – it is entirely legitimate that the party against the incumbent president should support his thesis – but for reasons that can be defined as cultural, since the real target of this parochialist campaign is not Trump, but the meme, and that Trump passes, but the meme remains.
That is to say, it remains that form of free expression in language; even before ideas, language is the real ground on which the battle between the dictatorship of single thought and the democracy of freedom of expression is fought.
In addition to this, the meme is the most obvious proof of the existence of this dictatorship, which Michel Onfray calls “voluntary servitude”: if the liberal culture is not at ease in sites like 4chan and if it fails to produce decent meme, this is due to an absurd need to move in rigidly controlled environments and the fact that it can only use that minimum percentage of the possibilities of expression allowed by politically correct.

D. M.

[1] Neologismo: termine composto da psycho + lulzy; definizione di lulzy da wikitionary.

Definizione di doxing da wikipedia.

Definizione di DoS da wikipedia. 

[4] Abbreviazione di operations.

 “4chan summary” PDF anonimo da

Definizioni di edgy da Urban Dictionary.

[7] D
efinizione di clout da Urban Dictionary.

Bibliography and sitography:

Onfray, M 2020, Teoria della dittatura, Ponte Alle Grazie, Milano. 

Nagle, A 2017, Kill All Normies, Zero Books, UK.