In Defense Of Trolling

Yet another /b/-related post.

Mike Riggs of Reason reads the NYT coverage of /b/ culture with extreme earnestness. Which is surprising, given Hit&Run's usual dose of cynicism and humor. I have a feeling Nick Gillespie would have given /b/ a different verdict.

In the comments, Jennifer asks, "Why do you find trolling more enjoyable than honest debate?" Her earnest question deserves an earnest response.

Jennifer,

Because "honest debate" is inappropriate in certain situations. Sometimes humor is called for. Sometimes "honesty" is not the best policy.

This NYT article is unfortunate because it focuses on personalities at the expense of community. The beauty and genius of 4chan is what it produces, as a community of anonymous pranksters and misanthropes, and not the particular characteristics of the individuals who constitute it.

Yes, /b/ is a moral cesspool. But it is an equal opportunity cesspool. It's the difference between a stand up comic like Sarah Silverman who distributes her offensiveness widely, and one like Michael Richards, whose focus became personal and earnest, and ends up getting himself trolled by a heckler.

Sometimes pranks go too far. I certainly won't defend everything this community has done. But part of being a community made up of the anonymous is that you have to accept both the good and the bad produced by many disparate anonymous individuals. It's like the difference between being an apologist for capitalism and being an apologist for individual capitalists. One can recognize the value in the system itself while not necessarily approving of its most vocal representatives.

Like alcohol in meatspace, anonymity on the Internet lowers inhibitions for both good and ill. It leads to vicious, unconscionable pranks, but also very funny, very necessary ones.

I think there is much value to putting a name (and reputation) behind an argument, but there is also a place for anonymity. Explore 4chan and /b/ and see for yourself.

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What the hell does /b/ stand for?

I just googled it, but got nothing!
I'm curious dammit!

Try googling 4chan b

Try this:

http://www.google.com/search?q=4chan+b

You may have tried just googling "b", which would presumably get you all the lettered lists on the Internet that have at least two entries.