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How 4chan and 8chan fuel white nationalism, inspire violence, and infect politics.
The internet has transformed the ways we think and act, and by consequence, our politics. The most impactful recent political movements on the far left and right started with massive online collectives of teenagers. Strangely, both movements began on the same website: an anime imageboard called 4chan.org. It Came from Something Awful is the fascinating and bizarre story of sites like 4chan and 8chan and their profound effect on youth counterculture.
Dale Beran has observed the anonymous messageboard community's shifting activities and interests since the beginning. Sites like 4chan and 8chan are microcosms of the internet itself—simultaneously at the vanguard of contemporary culture, politics, comedy and language, and a new low for all of the above. They were the original meme machines, mostly frequented by socially awkward and disenfranchised young men in search of a place to be alone together.
During the recession of the late 2000’s, the memes became political. 4chan was the online hub of a leftist hacker collective known as Anonymous and a prominent supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But within a few short years, the site’s ideology spun on its axis; it became the birthplace and breeding ground of the alt-right. In It Came from Something Awful, Beran uses his insider’s knowledge and natural storytelling ability to chronicle 4chan's strange journey from creating rage-comics to inciting riots to—according to some—memeing Donald Trump into the White House.
About the Author
DALE BERAN is a writer and artist whose work has been published in McSweeney’s, Quartz, The Huffington Post, The Daily Dot, The Nib, and The Baltimore City Paper. His recent article on Medium, "4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump", became a sensation that was shared and recommended by JK Rowling and Marc Maron, among many others. He has a BA in classics from Bard and a JD from Fordham. He lives in Baltimore.
“I’d be tempted to call Dale Beran a wizard of prose, able to turn the dredges of the internet into a riveting, sparkling narrative—except, in the world of this book, a ‘wizard’ is a lifelong virgin. Instead, I'll say that not since Hunter Thompson got his ass kicked by the Hells Angels has a writer turned a subculture so confoundingly foul into a book so fine.” —Baynard Woods, syndicated columnist, author of Coffin Point
“If you're a normie who can't quite wrap your head around exactly why so many Internet goons have anime girl avatars, or how popular online political action shifted from occupying Zuccotti Park to mass trolling actress Leslie Jones and the female reboot of Ghostbusters, then Beran's book provides a good overview of Internet culture. But he also gets at the undergirding feeling behind all these actions…a convincing argument that we're all caught up in simulations of political change rather than actually affecting it.” —Andrew Limbong, NPR
“Any page of It Came From Something Awful would be the most shocking page of most books. Reading Dale Beran’s chronicle of 4chan, the anonymous imageboard where some of the internet’s worst scandals have been fomented, feels like scrolling through the forum itself…Beran explores the psychology of young, disenfranchised masculinity that 4chan represents and the sociopolitical context that molded its minds.” —Emma Grey Wallis, Wired
"Beran recounts 4chan.net's history as a social media platform for disaffected, socially awkward, deliberately offensive white man-boys steeped in nihilistic trolling and jokey memes like the now-infamous Pepe the Frog. 4chan’s mutating ethos, he contends, married the victim culture of its self-labeled low-status 'beta males' to the alt-right’s prescription of white nationalism, patriarchy, and fascist power politics as a salve for the grievances of dispossessed men, culminating in a half-sincere, half-cynical embrace of Donald Trump." —Publishers Weekly
"Beran begins with a basic premise: to examine how certain obsessive pastimes have evolved into the development of internet sites such as 4chan and Reddit, which still incite much of the alt-right's violence and trolling today...the author's coverage of neo-fascist movements is chilling, though peppered with clever cartoons that explain certain aspects. It's a blow-by-blow study of the devolution of American culture, especially during the past few years: the rise of the radical "proud boys"; the use of the word "cuck" to insult liberals; the proliferation of offensive memes; the seemingly endless racist, inflammatory rhetoric; and the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was hit by a car driven by a white supremacist in Charlottesville in 2017—an event that prompted Donald Trump to say there were good people on both sides." —Kirkus