Are you sick of the fake news establishment? Are you tired of hack journalists falling for online outrage hoaxes? Do you detest making political extremists appear as bigger boogieman than reality? If so, online critics of the mainstream media should turn their focus on independent journalists such as Tim Pool, the “partisan centrist” YouTuber for Timcast and Subverse Media, who recently peddled fake news about a 4Chan hoax nobody believed.
Last week, The Daily Dot reported that members of 4Chan, the internet’s most toxic online forum, proposed a new “troll campaign” aimed at converting the hashtag into a white supremacist symbol known as “the fashtag”. In the “politically incorrect” message board /pol/, anonymous users began joking how mainstream media would be so inept, they’d be able to spin a media narrative that harms Twitter’s infrastructure and furthers the perception of alt-right power.
“We must start using # to represent the swastika on memes and social media,” the user wrote. “It will be a perfect win-win situation. Either Twitter will have to accept blatant Nazism on its forums or it will effectively have to find a way to get rid of the site’s core mechanics.” This soon began their fake campaign “Operation Bash the Hash”, an obvious parody of the anti-fascist activist term “Bash the Fash”, seeking to either smear Twitter as either a platform for white supremacy or a censorious tyrant enabled by a gullible outrage media. It appears nobody was outraged except for Pool himself.
In one of his latest videos, “Media Takes 4Chan Bait, Runs Hashtag Hoax Story”, Pool frames the site as having fulfilled the alt-right’s wishes by merely covering the story, claiming they’re “generating outrage” and “advancing their political goals” by giving the hoax any credence. This couldn’t be further from the truth since the article outright informs readers the campaign is a “hoax”, citing how it’s similar to their co-opting of the age-old OK hand gesture and laughing at the absurd “battle of ideas” on display.
While there’s no disagreement on the facts, Pool is the one harbouring outrage by their choosing to debunk the fiction, which is ironic given Pool’s continued portrayal as a fake news debunker. If reporting the hoaxes as hoaxes is somehow “taking the bait”, as opposed to simply believing the hoaxes as truth, Pool was caught hook, line and sinker no different than the mainstream establishment he criticises. In reality, alt-right wanted the media to run with the story uncritically, using their “slew” of propaganda posts and memes to try and frame their campaign as a grassroots co-opt.
This motivation can be proven through a recent article from Hoax Alert, an anti-fake news website, which found a barely viral post on r/The_Donald where users photoshopped a CNN segment supposedly covering the hashtag as a legitimate “hate symbol”. Thanks to writer Maarten Schenk, it was revealed the screenshot was actually taken during S.E. Cupp’s segment on cries of sexism between White House advisor Kellyanne Conway and the current House Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The post was soon removed for being “misleading or inaccurate.”
The peddling of fake news didn’t stop there. Since this screenshot, the article found trolls began creating a “slew” fake leftist accounts spreading fake interpretations of the symbol. The narrative ranged from the symbol secretly being a “HH” with 8 lines and 8 gaps, suggesting this is a direct reference to the number “88”, both of which standing for “Heil Hitler”. These trolls do make a convincing case for how it can project Nazi symbolism, but that’s a damn with faint praise if there ever was one. The cited tweets, all of which obviously run by the trolls, can be viewed down below.
Outside random Twitter leftists with no money and no power, prominent voices never actually bought into the meme as a credible hate symbol, but this doesn’t exempt its usage entirely. Nevertheless, the story was pushed by several reactionary YouTubers, from a centrist like Pool to rightwingers in Martina Markota and Mr Dapperton, who conveniently leave no cited examples. Ignoring the blatant anti-free speech irony where the meme could have gotten the hashtag removed, it’s important why did the trolls risk this liberty by trying to give the symbol to the alt-right?
It’s not unlike 4chan users to create supposedly “ironic” symbols parodying white nationalism to actually signal white nationalism, but it depends on how it’s used. Regarding the OK sign, anti-hate groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement calling on individuals to consider the context behind its use.
“Has the simple thumb-and-forefinger ‘OK’ hand gesture become a common white supremacist hand sign?” the group asked. “Not quite, but it has become a popular gesture used by people across several segments of the right and far right — including some actual white supremacists — who generally use it to trigger reactions, or what they would describe as ‘trolling the libs’.”
We can’t be distinction deniers when a symbol is used by Richard Spencer, a legitimate white supremacist and ethnostate advocate, as compared to when it’s used by an anti-racist politician like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The same individualist principle must apply for those pushing fashtag, where one’s ironic “owning the libs” laugh is another’s chance to bring white nationalism into the light. Irony, after all, is meant to convey a witty message against its subject. When a campaign tries to cause more censorship through fascistic material, it’s hardly an anti-censorship message.
When Pool denies the misuses of OK, Pepe, Kekistan, Clown World and even Fashtag, which are continually rolled into innuendos for Jewish conspiracies, black crime demonisation and genetic superiority, whether deceptively or otherwise, it’s to deny any underlying meaning being misused. Isn’t it fair to question when edge turns genuine? When irony is used to gaslight true internal beliefs? Why these messages are spread if we should otherwise avoid them entirely? Some memes are more than just surface layer laughs. It all depends on the beholder, and the members of 4Chan aren’t conceding ground to progressive politics anytime soon.
So, do we just ignore the thoughts behind this mock alt-right? As glibly ignored by Pool, who declared the alt-right a “tiny fringe” nobody seems to believe there is new research from the University of Alabama, published through UVA’s Institute for Family Studies, which suggests that around 11 million white Americans have similar thoughts and policy positions to the alt-right while classifying themselves as more traditional ideologies. This doesn’t mean they’re lost forever, but it does show people can be receptive to dogma if given the right messaging.
It ties into the comments made by Ezra Klein, the editor-in-chief of Vox, who notes there is a noticeable “shift” being made within modern politics. Thanks to the online world, old-school liberal positions on gay marriage and legalised pot mean little when you’re holding hands with a united front against critics of racism, sexism and how memes are a powerful tool for propaganda, leaving the vulernable to weaponised humour. If Trump can get elected on such “meme magic”, it’s easy for voters to fall under such a spell. After all, when one’s irony is meant to be taken seriously, for the sole purpose of deceiving the population, opting silence over questions is unbecoming of a journalist.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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