Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and the Stupid: 4Chan

As long as there is a group of friends, there will be an inside joke among them. Whether it's a strange sound or something that was said, the humor will limit itself to that particular group of friends. Sometimes others get it and laugh along, other times people laugh awkwardly as to avoid ridicule that they don't understand the source. One thing's for sure: if you're outside of the loop, chances are you don't get the full idea.

One group in particular has gone from a small community to an entire nation by itself. Universally, thousands of people gather to one website to discuss current events, not-so current events, and plain old weirdness. This website is known as 4chan, and only recently has it become so popular that the media has jumped on the bandwagon, not to mention all those outside the circle who don't fully grasp the concept, but laugh along because of its absurd nature. 4chan has gone from a simple image hosting forum to a world wide phenomenon, which has spread its influence outside of the virtual realm. Usually the spread isn't necessarily for benefit of humankind, but they have grown in such numbers that they are able to completely turn current events in their favor.

The church of Scientology, a massive religious group of people who believe in aliens or something, was known for its influence on celebrities and the practice of law. It was a large culmination of like-minded individuals that sought solace in the form of praise to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Throughout its existence, there had been rumors and records of mysterious disappearances, deaths, and differences in behavior among those who attended the religion. 4chan, particularly upset with the rumors, rallied into a large force which was called "Anonymous," particularly because you don't need an account to post or reply, ending up giving you the neutral name "Anonymous." Dressed in Guy Fawkes masks and parading outside Scientology churches, Anonymous was not only able to cause the church considerable worry, but due to 4chan's widespread hacker base, proceeded to infiltrate Scientology tech and alter whatever they saw fit. Illegal, but damn, it did the job.

Finally, the media got involved, as did law enforcement. Soon, one by one, celebrities and ex-believers started coming out and declaring foul play. Anonymous reigned victorious, although their job is not completely finished. Their plan is to completely wipe out the church once and for all.

Funny, sort of. Effective, very. 4chan isn't always known to provide justice for the people, as it also heckles and diminishes them. Chat sites, forums, programs, and websites were all subject to 4chan's might. When one hacker is caught, another one takes his place. It continues on and on until interest fades and a new target is sought. It's a cruel design, one of which has caused several lawsuits filed against it. How does 4chan gain so much popularity? The inside jokes. Like in any group, some people get it, other people weakly laugh along due to popularity. There is humor in 4chan in the form of "memes," or repeated inside jokes that have taken the interest of the userbase. In the right set of mind, many people can laugh along at the absurdity of it, but for the most part, it's immature imagery that people tend to become upset over.

In any group, you need to evaluate your role. Whether the group respects you or casts you out depends on how you approach it and if you can match their interests. 4chan, as popular as it has become, is not for everyone. Personally, I find most of their memes pretty humorous. I don't advocate some of the actions they take, but I think behind the Guy Fawkes masks there is more than hackers, nerds and rudeness. Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Behind this mask there is an idea.

And ideas are bulletproof.

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