In the past week alone, CNN has moved from simply reporting the headlines to becoming headlines themselves. There was the Russia story gone bad that led to three journalists’ termination, Acosta accosting the president for a “fake news conference” in Poland, some very well or very ill-timed exposé videos from Project Veritas, to the doxxing incident of a Reddit user who provided the gif that gave CNN a “get out of news free card” for nearly 72 full hours. Some argue that the doxxing was possibly coercion on the part of the news network which would be a civil case, others have pointed to a law in 18 USC regarding hindering a person’s first amendment right to free speech and expression through threats. Regardless of the legal ramifications, #CNNBLACKMAIL eventually made it to the second trending tag on Twitter. Slate questioned the wisdom and ethics behind the move to keep him anonymous. Other sources also noted the questionable behavior and the backlash that it spawned. The Redditor, who allegedly made a racist post while “trolling” the forum, had apologized and promised not to repeat the behavior and deleted his previous posts before the CNN story ran. The initial report by Andrew Kaczynski ends with a caveat that “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
The fall out from all this is being referred to by some denizens of online community sites like 4chan and Reddit as “Meme War II”, with the first Meme War being fought (and purportedly won) during the final stages of the 2016 Presidential election. Most everyone the least bit internet savvy is aware of memes to some extent. What the average net user may not know is that many of the most famous and prized (in meme culture, the term “dank” is used) memes had their origin in the deepest, darkest pits of 4chan’s “random” board. Everything from “I can haz cheesburger” and Rick-Rolling to “epic win” and “lolcats” had their origin in the halls of 4chan. The term meme was originally coined by scientist Richard Dawkins to describe how cultures, religions, and societies propagate themselves by way of “thought virii” or memes. The official scientific study of how memes spread and evolve is known as memetics. Memetics, according to the original, academic definition, would be the means by which ideas such as Christianity, Democracy, Socialism, Capitalism, Environmentalism, etc. propagate themselves by convincing the host of the conception’s vital importance to her (and in many cases the larger social unit, perhaps even the world). Hence the concept of beliefs or philosophies worth dying for. Currently, there are no deaths reported as casualties of the meme wars yet but at this very moment, it seems we are right on the brink or just past the beginning of an ideological cold war.
Many feel that Hillary Clinton’s mention of the alt-right and Pepe (a cartoon frog character who had long been adopted as a source of meme content by the image board) was what turned a cold meme war hot. Pepe had recently begun to be used by online trolls in a variety of ways, many of them intentionally racist or upsetting in order to “take Pepe back from the normies.” Normies being just your average person, i.e. not a user of 4chan or related sites. Chan culture involves layers of riddles and a vernacular that is an evolved form of lingo with its base in 2600 Quarterly era hackers and phone phreaks. Today’s underground netspeak still bears some strong resemblances to the 1337 or leetspeak lingo that has existed in some form since the days of BBS internet access. Wielding this coded language of memes and symbols, many 4chan users attempted to sway the election in Donald Trump’s favor either because of sincere support or “for the lulz.” The success of the so-called meme war to purportedly influence Brexit, then the 2016 U.S. election, led to the introduction of a complicated theology for the Cult of Kek. Kek being an Egyptian frog god of chaos who some anon supposedly feel has been reincarnated as Pepe. True believers point to the Italo-disco song “Shadilay” by the band P.E.P.E., which bears a frog on the album sleeve as further evidence. As circuitous and random as these strands are, they have been adopted by the miscreants of the Mos Eisley of the web as a mock (or quasi-real) religious garb that has become entrenched in the calls for Meme War within large groups of several disparate web subcultures.
Anonymous, a name offered for the so-called “hacker gang,” has a history of media hacking already. In 2009, 4chan managed a precision hack of the Time 100 most influential person vote that not only made their leader, the founder of the site, moot No. 1 but used his name to spell out “marblecake, also the game.” Mass media’s previous attempts at unmasking this gang of “hackers on steroids” have been occasionally laughable. From a Fox News affiliate story that ran a demonstration of a van blowing up unrelated to the 4chan story during the piece to CNN anchors musing on whether this 4chan might be a system administrator who had previous backdoor entry to the systems supposedly penetrated.
As recently as June 27, CNN was announcing a ratings milestone, “most watched second quarter on record” and best second quarter among the 25-54 demographic in 14 years. By July 5, according to AdWeek, Fox News “posted an exceptionally large margin over CNN and MSNBC and most recently, CNN has recently been outpaced by Fox News and MSNBC but according to the Federalist, as for the week of June 27 to July 2 Nick at Nite, ESPN, and the History channel also outperformed CNN in ratings.
Regardless of all the threads that brought us to this, for now, the die seems cast or as numerous ethnic Kekistanis have put it: “Cry havoc and let loose the frogs of war.” It’s no wonder that CNN’s app managed to be down-voted to one star overnight. That’s just the kind of thing that happens when you take on “the final boss of the internet.”
[Featured Image by David McNew/Newsmakers/Getty Images]