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Friday, September 16, 2016

Trump's online deplorables

by digby

If you want to understand the underground culture that lies beneath the Trump phenomenon read this piece by Jesse Singal about the alt-right. It is just ... scary.

This is just a short excerpt of a longer explanatory piece:
You can’t understand this stuff without trying to grasp the Chanterculture. That’s the term coined by Joe Bernstein, the BuzzFeed reporter who explained late last year that 4chan, 8chan, and other anonymous and pseudonymous online communities traditionally peopled mostly (but by no means entirely) by frustrated young white men appear to be in the midst of a reactionary upheaval geared at fighting back against the culture of inclusion and diversity that has — in their view — infected mainstream life.

Specifically, they’ve reacted in a rather batshit manner: by acting as ostentatiously racist and hateful as possible. This has included everything from a ginned-up online campaign to “protest” John Boyega’s role in the new Star Wars trilogy, since he’s black, to a comic called “the Adventures of Christ Chan” in which the titular protagonist fights to keep her hometown of “New Bethlehem free of blacks, gays, atheists, and the fearsome Jew King. Her weapon is a katana; her insignia, the swastika.” The Chanterculture predates the rise of Trump by years (Gamergate was obviously a big moment for it), but suffice it to say that the emergence of Trump, a larger-than-life walking middle finger to political correctness, hit this subculture like a mainlined bottle of Mountain Dew — Trump is their hero, and like so much else in their online world they have rendered him in cartoonish, superhero hues.

Part of what makes the Chanterculture confusing and difficult for outsiders to penetrate is that, as Bernstein puts it, “It unites two equally irrepressible camps behind an ironclad belief in the duty to say hideous things: the threatened white men of the internet and the ‘I have no soul’ lulzsters.” That is, some proportion of Chanterculture warriors actually believe the things they say — some dedicated real-life internet Nazis like Andrew Auernheimer, a.k.a. weev, came up in chan culture — while others are just in it for the outrage. (Many channers find the idea of having an actual ideology — or expressing it online, at least — rather distasteful, with the only exception being instances in which cloaking one’s online persona in an offensive ideology can elicit lulz.)

The outrage-mongers are motivated in part by the broader, deeply nihilistic ethos of chan culture. Channers, as a group, and long before the Chanterculture emerged in its present form, have always been in it for the lulz, for the satisfaction that comes from fucking with people in general, and more specifically from riling people up into states of outrage by being, well, outrageous. Naturally, anonymous online weirdos hoping to spark outrage and one-up each other’s attempts to do so frequently dabble in, if not embrace, racist and anti-Semitic imagery and language, regardless of what’s going on in the broader culture wars. It’s not an accident that 4chan’s harassment campaigns have, according to the researcher Whitney Phillips, disproportionately targeted women and people of color.

But the point is that there’s more — or less — going on here than “just” racism and misogyny. Underlying chan culture is a fundamental hostility to earnestness and offense that plays out in how its members interact with each other and with outsiders. To wit: If you, a channer, post a meme in which Homer and Lisa Simpson are concentration camp guards about to execute Jewish prisoners, and I respond by pointing out that that’s fucked up, I’m the chump for getting upset. Nothing really matters to the average channer, at least not online. Feeling like stuff matters, in fact, is one of the original sins of “normies,” the people who use the internet but don’t really understand what it’s for (chaos and lulz) the way channers do. Normies, unlike channers — or the identity channers like to embrace — have normal lives and jobs and girlfriends and so on. They’re the boring mainstream. Normies don’t get it, and that’s why they’re so easily upset all the time. Triggering normies is a fundamental good in the chanverse.

And when channer and normie culture collide, normie culture indeed tends to spasm with offense. From the point of view of a normie, why would you post Holocaust imagery unless you actually hate Jews or want them to die? To which the channer responds internally, For the lulz. That is, for the sake of watching normies get outraged, and for recognition from their online buddies. And while channers loves to performatively bemoan the fact that their memes — many of which are legitimately clever and have nothing to do with racism or white supremacy — so often get co-opted by the mainstream internet, it isn’t hard to discern that really, channers love the attention, love the outsize influence they have on normie culture, whether the memes they are disseminating are celebrated or reviled. If they didn’t seek and relish this recognition, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to seed outrage.
There's much more to this and you should read it.

I occasionally run into people with this attitude in real life among my friend's kids. It's not pleasant. But online it's everywhere and it's an ethos that's filtering into all corners of social media. It's not surprising that a psycho like Trump would appeal to these people. He was a troll long before there was an alt right.