“…if natural-gas safety precautions were so poor that entire city blocks could explode via broadband modem, we’re certain the guys at 4chan would have done it by now.” -Cracked.com
There have been a lot of rumours going around about this group called “Anonymous” that set up a world-wide protest against the Church of Scientology. I’ve been trying to figure out just what Anonymous is and what’s the deal with their internet home, “4chan”. There are media reports, articles on wikipedia, but just like the film “The Matrix”, no one can be told what 4chan is. You must experience it for yourself.
Actually no, you shouldn’t. The Random Image board of 4chan.org (also known as /b/) is not for the faint of heart nor the faint of gut. 4chan is a place where the only rule is that there are no rules. It is an internet image bulletin board system that has the unique distinction of not requiring a log-in of any kind. In an age where social networking sites collect personal information the way some old ladies collect cats, it’s refreshing to come to an on-line community that asks for your opinion but not your social insurance number.
The highest valued commodity on 4chan is laughs or “Lulz”, as 4chan users call them. Any expectation of taste, truth and accountability is promptly punted into orbit for the sake of ‘Lulz’. Board members call each other “fag” the way communists call each other “Comrade”. A common thread subject would be “Laugh and you lose” where users post the funniest images they can find. 4chan is a source of a great many internet fads or “memes”, the more popular of which being the “LoLcats” meme where funny pictures of cats are given captions in pidgin English. Other popular thread topics include matching pictures to a specific caption, “Dear Anonymous” advice columns, and one thread where Sinistar was eating through the webpage, flying around your browser and screaming “I LIVE!” It’s possible to use 4chan for mere entertainment purposes. It’s kind of like fishing. You may find yourself wading through many a proctologist’s nightmare to score that one picture of Batman riding an elephant.
So there you have it. If you see some protesters with “Anonymous vs. Scientology” signs out there, I hope I’ve shed a little light on where they come from. While there’s no doubt some of those Guy Fawkes look-a-likes are out there on good intentions, I’ve got my own theory about why the denizens of 4chan are out on the picket line. There are religious organizations that are much more dangerous than Scientology, but the legacy of L. Ron Hubbard has a certain flavor of Wacky that the pranksters of the Anonymous want for themselves. Convincing celebrities that they’re infested by dead aliens is a prank of sublime proportion. If it’s not done for the Lulz, it shouldn’t be done at all.