INTERNET — 4channers have recently astroturfed several false hashtag campaigns targeting feminists — campaigns which stand in stark contrast with 4chan’s usual targets in celebritydom. A false hashtag campaign is one which purports to be a grassroots movement, but is designed to divide and disrupt those it falsely represents. Examples of false hashtag campaigns originating with 4chan include #freebleeding (burn your tampons, ladies!) and more recently #endfathersday, but #cut4bieber represented Justin Bieber fans mortifying their flesh in order to draw Bieber away from his hedonistic pot-toking lifestyle. The false hashtag is a marketing tool picked up as a continuation of 4chan’s collective and ongoing hoax efforts, but these efforts have only recently been aimed at diminishing the power of feminists.
Hoaxcraft is something that few 4channers grasp even as they occasionally succeed, but it seems increasingly inspired by impossible ends — the expressed intent to guide conversations about women on the internet. This is not to say that there are no political consequences of a hoax, but they fall very far from the mark.
Narrative has an internal power, a power which reproduces itself, and the special power of the hoax is in the peculiar perplexity it creates — “Can this be real?” It is not worth telling for its deceptive, truthful-looking quality but rather for striking a seemingly contradictory balance between real and bunk. The misunderstanding that the hoax can somehow divide or disrupt a conversation about feminism is naive. This is maybe as simple as the mistake that the meaning (or effect) of an act is reducible to the author’s intentions.
The hoax will be read at face value and also immediately dismissed by some — this is not a division created by the hoax, and those who are fooled are anything but a symptom of stupidity endemic within a certain group. Anyone can be hoaxed at any time, given a certain narrative. Where the perplexity evaporates and its meaning falls either to true or false, the hoax loses its power, and this always happens. Hoaxes are incredibly transparent, especially ones which can only be injected into the collective consciousness by the combined power of a large group of people. Those who remain fooled haven’t been mind-controlled by the hoaxers any more than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion created anti-semites or HAARP hoaxes cause people to line their bedrooms with grounded Farraday Cages.
No matter how the hoax is read it does anything but devalue or divide feminism. This misunderstanding is maybe as simple as the common mistake that a multitude of meanings somehow constitute an absence of meaning. These hoaxes bring color, fun, something silly, something fruitful to talk about on an otherwise boring day despite their more sinister intentions.