Helpful Explanations: Understanding the Gawker v. 4chan Thing


Now, I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this is the internet, and beating a dead horse is an Olympic sport around here. So for those of you seemingly out of the loop about this Gawker v 4chan nonsense, here’s a bit of context.

It all started with the innocent (except, you know, not) trolling of an 11-year old girl with the internet handle “Jessi Slaughter.” (That site, Know Your Meme, is a really good 4chan documenting resource, as well as a great place to explain the Internet to you in general). That isn’t her real name, and although other people have published it, we won’t. She had internet videos about going to Wal-Mart, she put pictures of herself on Tumblr, she talked shit about haters.

It was also perfect for fodder for 4chan’s anonymous army-4chan is an all-anonymous message- and image-board. (Fun fact: Gawker and 4chan launched in the same year, 2003. And look at them now!) Our tween friend became an object of their wrath, didn’t stop poking the bear and issued a strange denial of a romantic relationship with a member of the hilariously named band Blood On The Dancefloor. (One of the levels on which that is strange is that she is eleven.)


This is already horrible. However, things got even dicier though, when, in what will probably go down as the exact moment that child psychologists of the future will point to as the ultimate disaster for parenting on the internet, Jessi Slaughter’s parents stepped in.

In one glorious, terrible swoop of not understanding the internet, Jessi Slaughter’s dad started screaming via webcam at the trolls filling the comment section of YouTube, making vague and confused threats about internet police, “backtracing”-and wrapped it all up nicely by inventing a catchphrase. Perhaps you’ve seen the meme generator. I was watching it happen at the time on /b/ and I think some people (can we really call them people?) were probably blown away at the sheer perfection of it all.

It was only later that her mother took to the Internet as well to explain things. That didn’t go very well either.

Now, at this point, the uninitiated need to know how the internet has operated for a long time. In the same way that beneath New York City live hideous morlocks that climb out at night and mess up the place, or like the underground psychic hivemind from the movie Dark City, they actually kind of run the place. They’ve messed up TIME magazine polls, pressured children into committing suicide, tried to help Zach Anner with that Oprah contest… well, they do a lot.

Finally Jessi Slaughter got a court-ordered ban from the internet and police protection around her house. (Also, it may turn out that that fellow from Blood on the Dance Floor might be charged with statutory rape elsewhere? That’s a little fuzzy still.)

Now that brings us all to the present. What does all this have to do with Gawker? Gawker put out two pieces: “How the Internet Beat Up an 11-Year-Old Girl” and “11-Year-Old Viral Video Star Placed Under Police Protection After Death Threats,” both written by Adrian Chen, and last night’s hilariously ironic “4Chan’s Sad War To Silence Gawker,” written by Ryan Tate, about how 4chan was going to shut down Gawker with a denial of service attack but failed… yesterday. Not so much today. (And an obvious note: links may not work, LOL, but it does look like the site is back).

Gawker seems to be having a tough time being above the internet, because if you head over to /b/ (which is pretty much NSFW if you are old and/or have a job), you will clearly see that most people wouldn’t choose to shake a stick at 4chan.

Still, the most important lesson of all this remains: 20-year olds shouldn’t be involved in schoolyard e-bullying. (Secondarily, 11-year-olds shouldn’t be going unsupervised on the Internet probably.)