GamerGate has had some obvious consequences, but one that seems to go largely unnoticed is how it has contributed to dragging people from chans out of the deepest, darkest corners of the internet and bringing them into the mainstream. This (not surprisingly) has resulted in some less than welcoming attitudes from “normal people”, most of whom have never visited a chan in their entire lives.
This divide has led to a rather interesting argument regarding “chan culture,” one that (ironically) has been more ad hominem riddled statements rather than actual arguments:
Chans obviously don’t have a reputation for being friendly places. It can be hard to feel welcomed when you’re being called out on your bullshit (or called a faggot, depending on the thread).
However, as everybody’s favorite cartoon representation of an infectious disease once told me, “If you get angry when you collect all of your most well thought out arguments into a post, only to be called a faggot, you are not ready for true anonymity.”
With all of the screenshot examples of people being “mean” on chans it’s not surprising that the “chan culture is toxic” statement is a common one. Some people have even gone as far as to try to take away the livelihood of 8chan’s creator, Hotwheels. For fucks sake, the man welcomeded in GamerGate and /b/tards, without him we would have had to invade the “regular” internet! They should be thanking him for serving as containment.
In the case of GamerGate it seems that when a lot of people hear the word “chan”, they inevitably think of the infamous Brianna Wu/Zoe Quinn threads. “Chan culture” being what it is, these threads were comprised almost (I’m looking at you, namefags) entirely of Anonymous posters with no clear connection to GamerGate other than their presence on the board. Sometimes, even the people who are supposed to understand “chan culture” best can get butthurt when the spotlight is on them
If the “chan argument” gets passed the salty stage it inevitably boils down to freedom of speech. With social media (think Google+) trying to “streamline” all aspects of communication into one seamless timeline of what you had for lunch, anonymous image-boards are quickly becoming some of the only places where people are able to speak their minds without worrying about their grandparents seeing it. It seems to me that the pro-GamerGate argument against “chan culture” is misguided, if not deeply hypocritical; in my mind the idea of journalistic ethics is inextricably tied to freedom of speech and freedom of expression issues.
While this topic is extremely complex my opinion is that it’s important to remember this axiom, “nothing is perfect”. In a setting with absolute freedom of speech there are bound to be unpopular opinions, or statements made which (to some) are offensive. However, if you really believe in the concept, it becomes necessary to accept this as an inherent part of free speech.
In fact, the biggest argument against chans (or anonymous culture) can also become its greatest strength. This sort of unfiltered setting is one of the reasons people go to chans, to have novel experiences, to hear ridiculous shit, to have largely irrelevant arguments and shitpost about it after. Most importantly, if you can have a sense of humor about it, it’s hilarious. In the words of 4chan (yes, I know moot sucks):
Everybody is going to form their own opinions about chans, as they should, but I would just like to point out there is more than one side to this story. This is a concept that should not be surprising for anybody involved in GamerGate. While at any given time, /b/ may have thousands of examples of excellent shitposting.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find the occasional “baw thread” as well.
Ultimately, while it’s easy to judge chan culture for being “too offensive”, if you spend the time to try to understand it, sometimes it isn’t all that bad.