Butt Hash Rising: Argument Edition
September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
One of my great fears with all this lulzy trollshit is that I’ll end up with a pile of amusing but ultimately worthless Internet Anecdotes. Not that storytime can’t be fun for the whole family, but that’s not what I’m shooting for here. In conclusion, here’s a bit of theoretical framing for zee Jenkem intro. Note the references to “this chapter,” due to that’s what I’m in the process of writing. MAGNETS MAGNETS EVERYWHERE.
(picking up precisely where I left off yesterday)
Jenkem thus wears a number of hats. First, it perfectly illustrates the limitations of online verifiability, what I like to call truth: Wikipedia style. As Wikipedia itself is quick to concede, even as it advocates precisely this criterion of inclusion, just because something can be “verified,” that is to say “linked to,” does not mean that whatever linked or referenced thing isn’t also somewhat questionable, outright bogus, or as the Jenkem story shows, comically inaccurate. Indeed, the story first broke because the Collier County Sheriff’s Department relied on a criterion of verifiability as opposed to truth. They searched for Jenkem, and Google, which like Wikipedia wasn’t programmed to care about truth, did its job. Unfortunately for the person conducting that search, patient zero had been kidding. The further down the rabbit hole the story got, the more this detail mattered; by that point, however, there was more evidence (read: citations, and therefore precedent) supporting the existence of Jenkem than the actual fact of the matter.
Secondly, and on a related point, the Jenkem saga embodies the world-building impulse characteristic of so much trolling. One person adds a detail here, another person adds a detail there; it doesn’t matter who creates what, or where the content originated, or how the story evolves — it’s that these details do coalesce into something tangible and therefore reworkable via the same amorphous, anonymous forces. Of course, these emergent worlds are much more interesting when the media joins in on the fun, often supplying the sturdiest raw materials upon which memetic additions are built.
This brings us to our last and most important point, one that will animate the remainder of this discussion. Namely, that trolling behaviors are necessarily and inextricably linked to the media that feeds, and is fed by, individual trolls. The success of one guarantees the success of the other, placing trolls and the media in surprising, and as I am inclined to describe it, inoculatory congress. In this chapter, and drawing inspiration from Gabriella Coleman’s analysis of big-A Anonymous in relation to Scientology, I will focus specifically on the link between /b/ and Fox News. Unlike Coleman, however, I will not advocate an antipodal framing of little-a Anonymous and Newscorp’s hivemind. Instead, I will argue that one functions as a shadow of the other. They are not perfect comic book nemeses, in other words. They are different sides of the same coin. The difference inheres within the respective deployment of the term “success.”