It’s a spectacularly slow Saturday. The latest Mel Gibson tape came out well over 24 hours ago. Even the oil took the day off. But as Rupert Murdoch taught us yesterday, every day is equally important, especially when it comes to running a media empire. Just ask Gawker staff writer Adrian Chen, who spent most of the past day baiting the internet’s most rabid, vile miscreants: 4Chan, specifically the /b/ message board. He’s certainly asking for it, but will the /b/tards bite? Is Chen hoping they crash Gawker so he gets the day off tomorrow? Is he just mad he’s not on vacation with the rest of his company? What’s 4Chan anyway? Answers (and speculation!) inside.
Here are the basics: 4Chan is an old-school online community, divided into a series of message boards filled with anonymous, often angry troublemakers. The most notable subcategory is a “random board” called /b/. Occasionally, a group of these nerds will band together to expose the secrets of Scientology, hack Sarah Palin’s personal email or elect their leader to the top of the TIME 100. In less ambitious moments, they’ll popularize a meme, like LOLcats or Rickrolling. They’re petty and disgusting, but they get shit done.
Recently, for instance, they ruined the life of an 11-year-old attention addict who goes by the name Jessi Slaughter. Gawker’s Chen chronicled the events in a post entitled How the Internet Beat Up an 11-Year-Old Girl. In the article, Chen refrained from writing too hysterically about 4Chan and did not come out too strongly against their actions. Still, he wrote, “You wouldn’t make an 11 year-old girl cry in real life; why do it on the Internet?” Wouldn’t they, though?
Fast-forward to today and Chen’s original post is blowing up, tallying well over 175,000 pageviews in barely 24 hours. Though it cannot be confirmed, we’ve heard Nick Denton only allows his Gawker writers to pee once per every 200,000 pageviews. [Runnin’ Scared blogger and (disclosure!) ex-Gawker slave Foster Kamer could not be reached for comment.] Anyway, Chen must really need to relieve himself, because today he’s back at it.
After temporarily dismantling Jessi Slaughter’s life, /b/ repositioned its crosshairs on the lead singer of her favorite band, heading an intense campaign to convince the internet that the singer raped his young fan. Chen has the details, this time in a post called “The Art of Trolling: Inside a 4chan Smear Campaign.” He writes: “This is how the Internet’s worst trolls works.”
Now, maybe Chen has to pee so badly that he can’t see straight, but from where I’m sitting, that looks like asking to be targeted by a similar smear campaign. At the end of Chen’s post, he provided a link to the chatroom where 4Chan was working out their battle plans against Slaughter and her favorite singer. I dared to follow the link and once inside, following the conversation was akin to deciphering an argument between a gaggle of toddlers from the bottom of a McDonald’s playground ball pit. But one message came through: Gawker is the new enemy.
“Adrian Chen is OUR NEXT TARGET,” someone wrote. Elsewhere, the mission title OPERATION: GAWKER FAWKER was proposed. This doesn’t bode well.
“You always hear ‘4chan did X.’ But nobody ever really explained how something goes from someone posting on /b/ to the number one Google trend,” Chen told me via email. He did a hell of a job explaining the chain of events. But sacrificing yourself, all in the name of blogging?
If it comes to war, Chen might not even have back-up. As it turns out, much of the Gawker staff (and friends!) are on a party bus to the Hamptons. But Chen insisted he wasn’t bitter about being left behind to work and he wasn’t asking to be targeted. He just wanted to expose the madness: “No one deserves the feeling that the entire Internet is out to get them. Turns out, it’s pretty easy to head off if you just shine some light and show what’s actually happening.” By tomorrow, Chen might need someone to return the favor. (Not it.)
“‘Adrian Chen raped Lady Gaga’ could very well be the number one Google Hot Trend by 5pm tomorrow,” he said. “And I’d like to apologize to Lady Gaga in advance.”
How the Internet Beat Up an 11-Year-Old Girl & The Art of Trolling: Inside a 4chan Smear Campaign [Gawker]