The 4chan website states that it “is a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images”. Uploading content onto a 4chan board does not require a user to register; in fact, registration is not even an option. A key feature of the sight is its insistence on anonymity. The hacktivist group Anonymous was actually founded on a 4chan board. Christopher “moot” Poole, the site’s creator, contends argues in his TED Talk “The case for anonymity online” that despite the websites notoriety, it has been able to accomplish some incredible things. Similarily, Whitney Phillips speaks of the power wielded by the site in her essay titled The House That Fox Built: Anonymous, Spectacle, and Cycles of Amplification. Phillips exams the most popular board of 4chan, /b/, and cites posters as tending to be likely white American males between 18 and 30 years old. 4chan is a melting pot of different, often offensive, styles of humor (rage faces, LOLcats, memes, etc.). Phillips focuses on the act of ‘trolling’. Trolls are Internet posters that intentionally engage in arguments with the goal of upsetting other users.
Phillips uses Anonymous’ war with Fox News as a platform for her discussion of trolls and corporate media. She argues that despite their reciprocal contempt, trolls and corporate media have similar aspirations. Both seek to manipulate a certain audience reaction, their method of doing so is simply adjusted to their target demographic. Phillips writes, “Anonymous grew stronger, and the media vacillated between feeding and decrying its hideous progeny” (502). Fox News acted as a platform for Anonymous to gain enough public attention to be considered a subculture. Since the art of trolling has not only received recognition, but integrated itself into popular culture. Phillips notes parallels between trolling and Guy Debord and Gil Wolman’s definition of détournement. Détournement involves the decontextualization of cultural objects to create new meaning. Trolling, according to Phillips, is a “textbook example of détournement” (507). Trolls must analyzed with consideration put towards their relationship with popular culture and consequently media corporations. Phillips argument is reminiscent of Henry Jenkins’ theory of convergence culture. Fox News seems to represent old media as it collides with 4chan, the new media.
Phillips, Whitney. “The House That Fox Built: Anonymous, Spectacle, and Cycles of Amplification.” Television & New Media14.6 (2013): 494-509. Print.