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round 2005 or so a strange link started showing up in my old webcomic’s referral logs. It was a bulletin board, but its system of navigation was opaque. It was an offshoot of a different message board which I also knew from my referral logs, “Something Awful”, at the time, an online community of a few hundred nerds who liked comics, video games, and well, nerds things.Counter intuitively, you had to hit “reply” to read a thread. But unlike boards with similar content, Something Awful skewed toward dark jokes.In the beginning I didn’t pay all that much attention 4chan.I knew they were a group of teen anime fans who met to party awkwardly like so many other teens at nerd-themed conventions.To answer it, we must look a little closer at 4chan’s system of values.
The week before that neo-Nazi Richard Spencer pointed to his 4chan inspired Pepe the Frog pin, about to explain the significance when an anti-fascist protester punched him in the face.As a nerdy teen growing up in Baltimore in the 90s, I had wandered into Otakon much like I had later wandered into 4chan, just when it was starting.I also attended Otakon in the mid-aughts when 4chan met there, likewise to promote my webcomic.As someone who has witnessed 4chan grow from a group of adolescent boys who could fit into a single room at my local anime convention to a worldwide coalition of right wing extremists (which is still somehow also a message board about anime), I feel I have some obligation to explain.This essay is an attempt to untangle the threads of 4chan and the far right.