Archive for 4chan

Facebook between Anti-Semitism and Breastfeeding

Posted in Postmodern 2.0 with tags , , , , , , on May 11, 2009 by Bonni Rambatan

The Real of Facebook

The Real of Facebook

Recently Mike Arrington of TechCrunch posted a polemic of Facebook’s policies. So it turns out that Facebook does not ban denials of Holocaust and yet they ban pictures of breastfeeding women. This predictably disturbs many people, and has lead to paranoiac suggestions that Facebook is actually anti-Semite, anti-feminist, and so on.

Especially interesting here is the juxtaposition of the two taboos, positioning them from the start as a case of mispositioned censorship — one that should be but isn’t censored, and another that should not be but is in fact censored. This proves to be more problematic the closer one looks at it: of course, people would still get angry even if Facebook does not censor breastfeeding (both not censored), while probably they would be content if Facebook censors both. However, this problematic only rises when there is a displacement of censorship, as is the case at the moment.

Which leads us to a more interesting perspective: what do Jews and tits have in common? As Žižek noted, Jews are the anti-Semites’ embodiment of the malignant object-cause of desire, while breasts are of course one of the forms in which the object-cause of desire appears, according to Lacan. The appearance of anti-Semitic comments on Facebook discussions brings into obscene light this object-cause of desire, while breastfeeding, supposedly through its context, arguably does the opposite: it desexualizes the breasts into  a non-sexual, family-friendly object.

The excuse for the latter’s censorship is of course the usual one: “We knowthere is nothing sexual about breastfeeding, but nonetheless people have warped fetishes,” while the excuse for having no ban of Holocaust denial is, presumably, that all opinions are allowed and must be respected. Of course, the hate speech shown on TechCrunch’s screen-caps are already against Facebook’s TOS (which obviously leads to the rash conclusion that everyone who denies the Holocaust are anti-Semites), but it seems that the core problem is not so much the hate speech as the space for denying the Holocaust whatsoever.

It is here (and not only on 4chan!) that one encounters the Real of the Internet. We start off wanting to promote “safe content” and end up censoring arguably trivial things such as breastfeeding, which recalls the proverbial paranoia that nothing is safe on the Internet (how about pictures of feet and socks, or of children at all, should Facebook allow them when after all people can just as easily take them off of facebook with a few simple clicks and use them as a means of warped public masturbation on another site?). The obverse is also true: we start off wanting to encourage discussions from all perspectives, and end up encountering the hard limit of our so-called postmodern tolerance (every historical account is relative and its truth is questionable, except the Holocaust, the truth of which must be maintained at all costs to keep ourselves from the resurgence of anti-Semitism!).

Youd think it was really easy to moderate a group

You'd think it was really easy to moderate a group

Mike Arrington ends his article with a comment, “Yes, Facebook, this is the side of the line you’ve chosen to stand on,” and posted an obscene image of child victims. I would say that Facebook, being the “sixth largest country,” is fated to continue to find itself in dangerous situations on the other side of the line (remember Facebook’s privacy polemic several months back?) — why? Because Facebook is becoming more and more like a government rather than a system (like Wikipedia, Twitter, or 4chan, which are really more public places than a governed home). And the obscene image, what is it but a symptom dedicated to an innocent Other’s gaze for which the truth of the Holocaust must be maintained?

Accommodating society with their own postmodern paranoia and micropractical ethics is a tough, if not impossible, job. There is a line, a primordial split constitutive of society, which looks different from different sides. In some ways 4chan (especially /b/) is luckier, since it embodies nothing but this split itself. Facebook tried to be careful as it always does, but it looks like once again they got back their message in an inverted true form.

Marblecake, Also the Game

Posted in Postmodern 2.0 with tags , , , , , , , on April 29, 2009 by Bonni Rambatan

The Message

That was the message encoded in TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2009 by none other than Anonymous. These 4chan netizens jumped into action and hacked the poll, not only making sure that moot, the founder of 4chan, tops the list, but also being careful to arrange the order of winners up to the 21st so that the list would read, “mARBLECAKE ALSO THE GAME”. TIME already made the list official — epic win for moot and Anonymous — but completely denied the hack. You can read the details of the hack here.

Here is an excerpt from Mashable regarding this piece of news:

The Internet has different rules. The folks at Time just learned about it in a very amusing way, as their third annual poll for the world’s most influential person was topped by moot A.K.A. Christopher Poole, founder of the legendary memebreeding forum 4chan. And, though the results of the poll are obviously skewed, the list is now official nonetheless.

Remember, it’s not Barack Obama, not Oprah Winfrey, not Pope Benedict XVI, but moot. He received 16,794,368 votes and an average influence rating of 90 (out of a possible 100).

The Internet does play by a very different set of rules indeed. Who is moot? I am not asking about who he really is in real life, his personal history, and so on, but what can the existence of this 21-year-old founder of 4chan who became this year’s most influential person on Earth tell us about the culture we are living in?

moot has been quoted to say, “My personal private life is very separate from my internet life. There’s a firewall in between.” It is very interesting to note that moot did not use the phrase “real life” to denote his “personal private life”. That alone I think is really telling — clearly, moot, like many of us, has an online life more real than his private life.

4chan has been described as the “Wild West” of the Internet. The rawest of lands and coarsest of media, the home to Internet vigilantes as well as the most homophobic, misogynist, and racist users, often with amazing hacking skills, 4chan represents the face of posthuman subculture today. And I am not even trying to romanticize it as we often romanticize a Wild West — go to 4chan today to /b/, the random bulletin board, and you will see what I mean, if you haven’t. There is nothing romantic about it, save perhaps the total assault they do on culture on a daily basis.

The growth of a subculture, a raw resistance of any kind at all, always presents us with the Real of antagonisms of the culture we are living in. 4chan is the antithesis of Facebook, and moot is the antithesis of Mark Zuckerberg. When we discuss the Internet, we often forget today about 4chan, about the nameless, faceless commons that is Anonymous, about the glorified Master signifier that is moot. When we discuss cultures, we often forget about their breeding place, the Wild West, the grafitti brick walls of the anonymous crowd.

The TIME 100 hack tells a lot about the times we are living in. In a way, we can even say that TIME ultimately got what they wanted — they decided to do an online poll, and online, moot is indeed the most influential person. Invisible he may be, but one only needs to see the number of memes penetrating our Internet lives today, from Rickrolls to LOLcats but also “epic” phrases — indeed, 4chan can take any meaningless thing and imbue it with the object-cause of desire because they themselves embody the faceless gaze of the commons — to see how true this is. Because our times are heading towards that critical direction again: where culture can no longer be dictated, when minds can no longer be censored, and when a handful of people can turn a historical media cultural event upside down.

Slavoj Žižek says that in order for our times to grow, “maybe we just need a different chicken [fetish object]”. The problem so far regarding democracy is that “we know the system is corrupt, but does the system know it is corrupt?” — in other words, we continue to do it because we know it works even if we don’t believe that it works. I think the recent message-encoded TIME 100 hack proves otherwise — the system itself knows that it is corrupt, and it is only the big media companies that are losing and continue to pretend everything is OK. And fortunately, the technological apparatuses that be no longer serves them but the faceless crowd.

I’m going to have a marblecake and celebrate.


mARBLECAKE (not mine)