4chan Isn’t Sure Whether It’s Excited the Times Wrote Up Its Anti-Semitism

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Photo: realDonaldTrump/Twitter

In an article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times, Jonathan Weisman, deputy editor in the Times’ Washington bureau, explains what it’s like to be targeted by a swarm of (ostensibly) Trump-supporting anti-Semitic Twitter-goons:

The anti-Semitic hate, much of it from self-identified Donald J. Trump supporters, hasn’t stopped since. Trump God Emperor sent me the Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew. I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz, the famous words “Arbeit Macht Frei” replaced without irony with “Machen Amerika Great.” Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven, were followed by Holocaust denial. The Jew as leftist puppet master from @DonaldTrumpLA was joined by the Jew as conservative fifth columnist, orchestrating war for Israel. That one came from someone who tagged himself a proud future member of the Trump Deportation Squad.

It’s a good read, and one of the interesting things about Weisman’s story is his ambivalence about telling it. “I retweeted the choicest attacks for all to see, and with each retweet, more attacks followed, their authors gleefully seeking the exposure,” he writes. “Some people criticized me for offering it, but I argued, perhaps wrongly, that such hate needed airing, that Americans needed to see the darkest currents in the politics of exclusion animating the presidential election.” Then, a bit later: “‘Thanks to @jonathanweisman for redpilling at least 1.5k normies today by retweeting premium content. Epitome of useful idiot,’ responded one tormentor whose Twitter handle is too vulgar to repeat, even if I wanted to. Maybe he was right.”

In other words: When you’re caught in a maelstrom of that sort of internet hate, you can’t win. Either you sit there and mute and block an endless cavalcade of idiots proudly announcing their desire to send you to the ovens, or you draw attention to their awfulness and give them exactly the attention they covet. These are the cases that stretch the logic of “Don’t feed the trolls” to the breaking point.

Weismen doesn’t mention 4chan by name, but it and the other chanboards are a major source of this sort of Twitter garbage, and they are the birthplaces of many of the memes most eagerly and obsessively embraced by alt-right Trumpkins. And if this thread on /pol/, the “politically incorrect” board that serves as one of the unofficial headquarters for Trump’s anti-Semitic online army, is any indication, some channers are in fact thrilled to have gotten coverage in the pages of the nation’s top newspaper, even if their home base wasn’t mentioned by name in the article (the thread appeared shortly after the article went online last week).

HOLY FUCK IM SHAKING A WHOLE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE ABOUT US,” wrote one channer. “MEME MAGIC IS REAL,” enthused another. “We iz mainstream now,” stated another. But while it’s undoubtedly the case that some online trolls love the attention of a response or a retweet, and that an article like Weisman’s could inspire more troller, things aren’t quite as simple as “Weisman only gave these losers the attention they deserved.”

That’s because plenty of channers, in the thread on his story at least, seem to be emphasizing their common fear that 4chan will be infested by “normies” or “normalfags” — that is, well-adjusted humans who, by dint of their lack of knowledge of and experience in the weirder corners of online culture, could lower the quality of the board by posting lame jokes and memes that aren’t sufficiently dank. “REEEE shut it down! The normies know!” said one poster, for another. “FUCKING NORMIES STOP WRITING ARTICLES ABOUT MY BOARD REEEEEEEEEEEEE,” screamed another. “Every time a big news story links back to 4chan, a board is lost to newfags,” lamented a third.

One channer took something of a middle path to the question of normie-infestation:

Kek, were still save for now. The normies do not comprehend meme magic yet, they don’t take it seriously. It’s not like a bunch of internet dwellers have any real saying in the real world, right?

But oh are they wrong.

When they realize the importance of meme magic, it’ll be way too late. HEIL KEK GOD OF MEMES

Happy Memorial Day!