4chan Is What Free Speech On The Internet Looks Like

Meditation: If there are true things that no one is allowed to say, how will you know them?

Where there are humans,

You’ll find flies,

And Buddhas.

—Kobayashi Issa

Friend, I have a confession. I like 4chan. Whenever I see someone call 4chan the cesspool of the internet or disgusting or whatever, I shake with excitement. I’ve found the King of Fools! At long last, I can kill him and the Fool people will scatter forever.

Woe. It’s never the case that I’ve found the king of fools because — sometimes only minutes later — I stumble across a still greater fool, and I wonder if I’m the King of Fools for believing that I’ll ever find His Fooliness.

You see, friend, if you cannot see the redeeming value of 4chan, I weep for you. It must be difficult to live without eyes. If you think you are Mr-oh-so-sophisticated, I ask you: where do you think memes come from? Yes, friend. Memes come from 4chan. All of them.

But it’s more than memes. 4chan is a place where people can say whatever they please, or at least the closest to such a place I’ve yet to find on the internet. There is no one pretending to be offended in order to score points on the I’m-the-most-offended game.1 On 4chan, if you are a racist, a woman-hater, a man-hater, a fascist, a communist, a Jew or an anti-semite, you can be you. There is no Cathedral,2 no social-hate-machine poised to vilify you for speaking your mind. On 4chan, if you wish to spew hate, spew hate, and if you wish to spew love, spew love.

Forced anonymity is an amazing medium. People can be real with you in a way that they can’t in any other venue. I have shared and received support from anons on different 4chan boards — people with no reason to give a fuck about me, people I will never knowingly interact with again. This, more than anything, ought to be evidence of some capacity for human decency.

1. There is another game people like to play. It’s called I’m-a-good-person-sleight-of-hand. Whoever has the most virtue points wins the game. To score virtue points, you need to convince other people that you’re a good, moral being without lifting a finger to improve the world. I have written about this before here.

2. A term coined by Mencius Moldbug, representing the self-organizing consensus of society as a whole — through the media and other institutions. Specifically, that part of society which condemns opposing ideologies as evil.

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