MSM view: A site for right-wing domestic terrorists to congregate and plot their shootings, cheer each other on, and upload their blood-thirsty manifestos about The Great Replacement, a “venomous refuge” of “extremist hate.”
Quote:“There is no reasonable argument in 2019 for 8chan’s continued existence on the internet,” Mashable.
ALSO ON RT.COMSecurity provider drops imageboard 8chan used to distribute El Paso & Christchurch manifestosIn reality: Firstly, it’s not an al-Qaeda training camp, just a free-for-all public message board, with most of its posts comprising low-effort reactions, memes, and pictures of naked hentai women. More broadly, an outlet for saying the unsayable, whether in good faith because one’s opinions are no longer acceptable in polite society, or for the sake of being edgy, and attacking cultural sacred cows.
Toxicity rating: 7/10. Often ugly and sophomoric, but an inevitable vent for free speech in a society where the space for open discussion is shrinking.
MSM view: A five-year campaign of online harassment by “manbabies” and “internet trolls” scared that feminists would come and spoil their computer games. A gateway to far-right extremism.
Quote:“It is now impossible not to see Gamergate as a foreshadowing of a disease that has since engulfed political and public life,” the Guardian.
In reality: A petty allegation accusing one feminist game writer, Zoe Quinn, of benefiting from cronyism in the games industry back in 2014 that has grown into an all-encompassing political argument, turning Twitter and every gaming forum into a culture war arena (8chan is, not coincidentally, considered the spiritual home of anti-feminist Gamergaters). Much of the rancor is a natural reaction to the rapid and predominantly left-wing politicization of computer games.
Toxicity: 3/10. The death threats and doxxing overshadow what is likely to be a key social debate as games acquire ever-greater cultural significance.
MSM view: “Involuntary celibates” are bitter, entitled misogynists banding together online to carry out acts of violence, a la California shooter Elliot Rodger and Toronto van attack perpetrator Alek Minassian.
Quote:“What incels want is extremely limited and specific: they want unattractive, uncouth, and unpleasant misogynists to be able to have sex on demand with young, beautiful women. They believe that this is a natural right,” the New Yorker.
In reality: A justifiably pitiable subset of men without value in the sexual marketplace that is becoming increasingly competitive, as the nuclear family breaks down, and dating turns into an online sport with top-heavy rewards.
Toxicity: 5/10. Mostly just a bunch of very unhappy people complaining to each other on Reddit, 4chan and 8chan. Though sexually frustrated, socially maladjusted or mentally young males often make the most dangerous recruits for crime and terrorism.
The Donald subreddit
MSM view: A hive of racism, homophobia and misogyny that has been justifiably “quarantined” on talk site Reddit, meaning its posts will not be seen elsewhere on the site, and potential visitors are warned away. Possibly contributed to Hillary Clinton losing in 2016.
Quote:“Reddit’s commitment to free speech has meant allowing a deeply toxic community to actively undermine the general spirit and tone of the site,” Vox.
ALSO ON RT.COMReddit ‘quarantines’ popular pro-Trump forum hours before 1st Democratic debateIn reality: A bustling community of the most unashamed fans of Donald Trump, giving an internet culture flavor to the president’s pronouncements and policies. Sometimes witty in its memes, other times cringy in its immature echo-chamber sycophancy.
Toxicity: 1/10 If you want to ban the Donald, you’d have to ban the elected president of the US himself, which is probably the actual aim of the forum’s detractors.
MSM view: A sinister right-wing conspiracy theory capable of mobilizing violence, driven by a shadowy puppet master, Q. Focused on defending Donald Trump from the “deep state” and ushering in the mysterious Great Awakening.
Quote: “Anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories very likely motivate some domestic extremists, wholly or in part, to engage in criminal or violent activity,” according to a recent Phoenix FBI report concerned with QAnon.
ALSO ON RT.COMConspiracy theories cause extremism, FBI document claimsIn reality: Appealingly ambitious yet completely unsubstantiated social media thriller/hoax/prank that feeds on the very real alienation between the elite and ordinary citizens with a penchant for cryptic clues and apophenic thinking.
Toxicity: 2/10. QAnon is no more harmful than Moon landing and flat Earth conspiracy theories, and should be treated as online entertainment. Not hard to imagine unintended consequences of using state security apparatus to suppress it.
By Igor Ogorodnev
Igor Ogorodnev is a Russian-British journalist, who has worked at RT since 2007 as a correspondent, editor and writer.