4chan and Reddit Trolls Are Your New Gods; “Alt-Right Memes Could Do More Damage to Democracy Than Fake News”

4chan and Reddit now have more power than CNN does in shaping national discourse. That’s the real reason the media are losing their minds. And if truth be told, you will frequently learn of breaking events FASTER from 4chan (sometimes days faster) than you will on CNN.

In November, shortly after the election, the New York Times published a profile of the subreddit calling it, “one of the most influential communities within one of the most significant websites on the internet.” The Times reported that according to its moderators, The_Donald was “the largest, best and closest thing to an official campaign subreddit for Donald Trump 2016.” Analysis of its posts showed that it was “home to copious Islamophobia, trolling of liberals and near constant bashing of Hillary Clinton.”

This week saw President Trump cross yet another line in his use of his Twitter account.  Trump tweeted a meme of himself symbolically beating up CNN.  While to some it might have appeared to be a funny way to epitomize Trump’s feud with CNN, to many the meme was aggressive, immature and inflammatory. CNN took the attacks seriously and released a statement stating, “It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.”

There are lots of questions to be asked about the tweet, not the least of which is what it tells us about the judgment of the president and those who work with him.  But the real story here is not about Trump; it’s about the increasing power and presence of alt-right communication on various social media platforms, from Twitter to YouTube to Reddit to Facebook.

What is interesting is the way that rants and memes and other alt-right tirades have major success in shaping public opinion. And while there is a through line between these outbursts and fake news, it is important to point out that the rants are likely far more influential than fake news in shaping political perception.

This means that the real lesson for CNN and other mainstream news outlets is not that the president is immature enough to share a stupid meme attacking the news but rather that their focus on fake news has distracted them from the real story: the rise of emotional, aggressive, inflammatory, bigoted communication on social media and the power these posts have had in shaping the ideas of the Trump-supporting alt-right.

Well beyond the problem of fake news, which at least tried to pose as news, these posts are pure opinion, outburst and excess.  There is nothing about these posts that even remotely compares to news reporting — and that’s why they are popular. At a moment in U.S. history where trust in the news is at a record low, we are seeing the growing power of individuals outside of traditional media circuits who have built a following by suggesting that their voices are more authentic and more accurate than those of the so-called liberal, elitist, majority-silencing news.

The key to the story is the connection between Trump’s tweet and its original source. As Vox reported, the source “was discovered to be a Reddit forum known for Islamophobia, racism, and frequently violent hate speech.” It was originally posted on Reddit’s largest pro-Trump community.

The Reddit user HanAssholeSolo released the original GIF version of the clip used in the president’s tweet, posting it to Reddit’s  r/The_Donald. As Vox reports, the Reddit community known as The_Donald is both a huge and hugely controversial part of Reddit. It gained in popularity over the course of 2016, as Trump’s presidential campaign gained momentum.

  • robins111

    One very amusing thing is, that I’d be astounded if a single autistic clown on 4-chan ever studied journalism or was interested in the subject. But are essentially manipulating the entire MSM by simply pointing out in their boorish fashion every mistake, bullshit article, outright lie and entertaining themselves doing it

    When the enemy (MSM) is reacting to their meme attacks, instead of either ignoring them or coming up with a strategy to take them out they will lose

    Interestingly they (the MSM) have tried to use trolls to swamp the board with nonsense and are found out as soon as they post. Its quite hillarious watching the shills for the left get thumped when they try.

    • UCSPanther

      I had one such shill block me when I asked him point blank if he was getting paid for his posts. I guess I got a little too close to the truth for his comfort…

  • andycanuck

    The Revolution can’t come soon enough.

  • kkruger71

    When I look at someone that believes something I think is false, my first thought is along the lines of “What could have happened in their lives that would make them think this way?”, then I look to what outside influences might have helped shape and support that narrative. Like if they buy into the “rape culture” theory, I wonder if they were raped or abused, and therefore have a reason to believe all men are evil, etc.
    It still astounds me when I see and read so many left wing analysts, commenters, etc. that don’t just dismiss the idea there might be a reason for someone to believe a right wing concept, but the thought there might be a real reason doesn’t even cross their mind. It HAS TO be that someone has tricked them, lied to them, manipulated them into thinking it. There is no reason, right or wrong, that someone might come to those conclusions on their own.

  • simus1

    My theory works along the lines of the MSM and leftist hangers on being the brain altered products of multi generation family trees of legal and illegal hard drug abuse with elevated pot consumption providing the icing on the cake.

  • Gus Armstrong

    What Salon calls democracy is closer to a more totalitarian Soviet style communism than anything resembling freedom. The globalist noose is tightening around our throats and we’re failing to listen to what our gut is telling us.