Brilliant piece. Whenever I reflexively rage against these people, I try to remind myself that that doesn’t work, because there’s nothing we can really do to harm them.
There really is nothing more dangerous than a group of angry young men, who feel spited by the world, and have decided that they have nothing else left to lose.
I think it’s also important to recognize two things. One: Only half the population is actually on the Internet, and of that group, only an even smaller portion understand how to really get the most out of it. Two: The Internet is simultaneously massively important to our society, and yet completely inconsequential on a concrete level.
These guys on 4chan think that they are utterly powerless, because in all the ways they care about, their personal lives, their bank accounts, their social circles, they are. But the thing they use to escape from reality is rapidly becoming the lifeblood of information and communication in our modern age. It’s like a team of suicidal nerds happened to all get hired to maintain a stockpile of nuclear weapons.
My dad’s a doctor, and he was taught by his mentor as a Resident, that the bulk of malpractice suits, not the malpractice itself, just the suits brought to medical professionals, are caused by doctors being incapable of saying, during a patient’s most vulnerable time, when they or a loved one has just suffered terribly, “I’m so sorry, this was my fault.”
These 4channers have grown up in a culture where apologizing is tantamount to social suicide, where literal suicide would, I imagine be praised to a greater degree, and that kind of system is only tolerable if the culture wields little true power.
They just got Trump elected president. They may only just be realizing it, but the power they wield is titanic. If we don’t figure out a way to either get these guys to own up to their mistakes and take responsibility, or limit their power by getting more and more people to actively defend themselves on the Internet, I say without hyperbole, these guys are going to end the goddamn world, and the last thing anyone’s going to hear is “lol”.
Then again, looking at the White House, maybe they already have. Fingers crossed.