4Chan, if you aren’t already familiar, is a series of anonymous message boards. The most infamous of the 4Chan boards is the notorious “/b” — commonly known in tech circles as “the a**hole of the internet” — the members of whom are known to be relentless, often dangerous pranksters. Reminder: These are the guys who brought Gawker.com to a stop after blogger Adrian Chen decided to take them on, and that’s the least of their deviousness (but a good starting point for how impressive in scale it can be).
Well, sometimes, 4Chan and its various boards — many of which are starting points for some of the internet’s most widespread memes — produce something wonderful. This is one of them.
Via SoupSoup and FloatingParticles, apparently, 4Chan members of the weapons board — yes, where they talk about weapons, war, and the like — found a photo that had been moving around the internet of a supposed World War II vet who’s turning 90, and needs people to celebrate with him:
Normally, when things like this end up on 4Chan, it gets laughed at, chewed up, and spit out as another meme, one usually involving boldfaced, large-type obscenities and/or erquiring some kind of NSFW labeling. Yet: why is this one being spread so widely, so quickly?
Because someone on 4Chan has a soft spot for people in need:
Yes, the members of 4Chan took it upon themselves to send a bunch of birthday cards to the man, whose posted address led to the Ashburnham American Legion in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. “Out of the 300 calls I’ve taken here, I’ve given them his address, Willy doesn’t actually live here,” says Linda Lehman, the bar manager of the non-profit veterans organization William J. Lashua — the one man pictured in the meme — belongs to. We asked: Does she or anyone over there know who put his information on out there? “No, but I’ve been trying to find out. There was one person who actually put it on the internet, and one internet site leaked it to another one, and now it’s on another site.”
You mean 4Chan, right? “Yeah, that thing.” What do she make of all the attention, though? How’s everyone over there taking it? Have they started to receive any mail?
“Not as of yet, but from what I understand, we’re going to be inundated. The only thing that bothers me,” she notes, “is the idea that Willy’s going to be lonely or alone on his birthday. We’re a small town, and they say you can’t swing a cat by its tail without hitting a Lashua. They’re an absolutely, wonderful, caring family.” Not only will William J. Lashua — who is absolutely a World War II veteran, we were told — not be alone on his birthday, but he’s apparently going to be receiving quite the reception for his 90th in addition to the cards: Even though Ashburnham is a small town, “We know how to throw one hell of a party,” Lehman told us. Apparently, the attention has amped up the motivation for doing so, and at the very least, will add to the festive air of Mr. Lashua’s 90th birthday, not that it hasn’t been an exciting lead-up already.
Update: It might’ve originated on Reddit, one reader Tweets. Anyone know where? Either way, this still doesn’t change the fact that 4Chan’s reputation for being completely terrifying is completely merited, but if anyone knows exactly where this originated, we’d love to hear. Sometimes, the internet does nice things, is “teh” point.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 2, 2010