It's an age-old tale of good versus evil — downtrodden arbiters of truth rising up against the powerful corporations who spread hateful lies intended to oppress and censor them. This is the story of brave warriors, the oppressed white men of 4chan, waging battle against the seemingly unstoppable goliath that is the fake news media. Or at least that's how they see it.
This past week, over 1000 people working in media — writers, editors, etc. — were fired. HuffPost cut seven percent of its staff removing its entire opinion section. BuzzFeed cut 15 percent, wiping out all their national news writers, their health writers, most of their entertainment writers, and all but one of their L.G.B.T. writers. The technology, politics, and investigations teams have been kept in tact.
Officially, BuzzFeed claims these cuts are intended to lower costs and maintain corporate growth — BuzzFeed has decided their L.G.B.T. section, for instance, isn't as cost-effective as their technology section. But on 4chan, this is more than just layoffs. This is a long-awaited reckoning. This it the first step towards the "day of the rope."
The "day of the rope" refers to the public hanging of "race traitors." The concept was first presented in The Turner Diaries, an explicitly racist dystopian novel from 1978 about a race war that ultimately results in white nationalist rule (presented as a good thing), and has become a popular saying amongst white nationalist and alt-right circles. On 4chan, the phrase is most commonly invoked towards journalists, as journalists are seen as the greatest arbiters of liberalism, feminism, and everything else that radicalized white men in extremist bubbles view as a threat to their identities.
Naturally, BuzzFeed's and HuffPost's recent layoffs are cause for celebration on 4chan. Countless threads have sprung up on their /pol/ ("politically incorrect) board sharing tweets from fired writers and journalists, encouraging users to directly engage with them. As a result, the fired writers have been flooded with harassing messages, not just on Twitter but through e-mail and even Paypal.
Most of these messages have been mean, gloating memes. One popular refrain is "learn to code," a suggestion meant to denigrate writers' chosen career path. Alt-right darling James Woods has taken up the cause too, which seems weird considering he pursued a career in entertainment (in fairness, he did go to MIT for poli-sci, but chances are he has no idea how to code either).
#LearnToCode https://t.co/1tWCaOpZNu— James Woods (@James Woods)1548618611.0
Some of the messages have been
far scarier, mentioning the "day of the rope," sharing pictures of hanged corpses, and even outright threatening murder. Threats like these are par for the course for many writers and journalists, but they're usually sent in response to specific articles that trigger 4chan users, as opposed to general threats sent to multiple people. Imagine losing your job through no fault of your own, as the result of financial cuts made by your employer, and waking up to an inbox flooded with death threats.
Perhaps there really is a battle between good and evil — just not the one 4channers think. Perhaps the good guys are the writers and journalist following their passions, writing about their interests, and reaching hundreds of thousands of people every day with their words. And perhaps the angry dudes coordinating harassment campaigns, sending death threats, and screeching about white supremacy are actually the bad guys — extremists who nobody takes seriously, trapped in their own bubble, pretending they have impact by screaming into a void.
Then again, maybe us writers are screaming into our own voids too — ours just happen to have more reach.
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