Against The Egalitarian Canon
Why Something Awful ruined the internet
Everything before November 16, 1999 was innocent.
The 90’s were special. People once used the internet as a niche communication device. Bulletin board systems were an adventure into no man’s land, and GeoCities was considered high-tech for its time. Blogs were becoming more than personal diaries. A young student by the name of Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka created his first blog, “Something Awful.” What was supposed to be a joke blog became a community of isolated fans, known as “goons,” who would construct an entirely new language around irony and technology.
2001 saw the introduction of YTMND.com, a website hub that allowed users to juxtapose images, sound, and text together to create “YTMNDs,” or personal websites of their liking. The creation of 4chan followed in 2003. In this early period of visual culture, the English language broke down into incoherent and nonsensical vocabulary based on retardation, irony, and humor. Paul Dochney, otherwise known as “dril,” came from the Something Awful forums and took his “Weird Twitter” brand into the mainstream. The obnoxious, pretentious, and ridiculing nature of dril’s writing is a farce because it relies on a previous understanding of the syntax before the reader begins. This anti-humor is trying to coat nothing as special, and its arrogant nature that it is somehow “satire” is a psychological operation engineered by the liberal elite. What is funny to one niche must be funny to everyone. The constant argument that the internet language from Something Awful, YTMND, and 4chan, is somehow a genius “meta” innovation is a sham. Something Awful ruined the internet because it created a universal language that can’t comprehend anything outside of it.
The universal language around an “internet culture” is an advocation for the egalitarian canon. This egalitarian canon assumes all the arts belong to one community, that every one of the generation or current zeitgeist knows each other as virtual pen pals, and that influence is constructed through one internet influence. The “mutuals” or followers on my “social media” accounts might influence them in ways I have never known who they are or met them in person. Every internet user is undergoing a parasocial relationship between digital letters and the mind. Even with virtual spaces or the podcasts recorded, no one meets in person or gets anything done. The liberal state prefers it that way so no one can get together and form a resistance against society.
Worse, is that someone may assume that I am “friends” with a fan, associate, or follower simply because they may follow me, have replied to me, or I have “liked” one of their images. This is all a part of the egalitarian canon, and why liberalism can’t allow opposition in its ranks. No one is allowed to disagree anymore because everyone must be on the same team. Everyone must respect the same boss, celebrity, idol, or user, or else face the consequence of isolation. Anti-liberalism is an action, and if an egalitarian form of the “alternative right” or “post-left” joins together to stop a common enemy, they too will be commodified by the state. It’s these terms of belonging to one colored team over the other, and yet having very similar beliefs of resistance against the hegemonic culture that irks me. Alt-right to post-left, they both needed egalitarianism to function and its intersectionality of many causes into one that feeds into liberalism; and how it controls everyone and everything on the internet.
I am forced to get along with an “ally” on a fellow cause and told that I have to stop “in-fighting” over the internet. Everything revolves around the internet, parasocial relationships, and esoteric debates with people who only care about themselves. To everyone who is involved with the “culture war” over the internet, how is this different from the anti-liberal graffiti happening over at Something Awful, 4chan, or YTMND? Are they really fighting a culture war too? The subculture of Enclyopedia Dramtica considers everything an advocation for the ironic “lulz,” and they are only interested in documenting all queers on the internet.
Millennial Woes isn’t influencing culture with his annual Star Wars Christmas special convention of grifters and “white nationalists” who enjoy black metal and European history. It feels like Something Awful was correct to say that everything on the internet should not be taken seriously. Rather, we will be looking up the latest what Millennial Woes is doing on KiwiFarms, and make fun of him for his queerness. No culture war is happening. It’s a “lolcow” trying to interact with bored and isolated internet trolls. As for those who still hang on to the Star Wars Christmas special, it asks the question if it’s one big Ponzi scheme; with newly corrupted startups to promise you the world and to sell you something.
A market is a market. Markets may be dictated by trends, or create them. Always someone new comes in, gets 50k views on a YouTube video, gets to speak at nerdy events, does some petty drama, and then leaves. This cycle has happened repeatedly since the conception that YouTube benefits the pump and dump model. The fraudulent language of being on the same team is equivalent to the notion one belongs in the same data graph of potential consumers. The same tactics of “fear of missing out,” peer pressure, and mimesis are used to influence the bored American out in nowhere Kansas. Meanwhile, the managerial state continues as people get rich by creating fake personalities in their remote cubicle homes in Brooklyn. Markets are not bad, but their ignorance of them tends to dissuade the culture warriors and internet users.
You are the target product, whether you like it or not.
The frequent updates I write on my Substack or Twitter give them meaning. I become a product for them and for everyone else. We are not apolitical and driftless consumers, but confused and ignorant products. We naturally select who we produce for, and who supposedly wants us. This should make any culture warrior realize that all of it is a ploy and that there is no political shake-up happening anytime soon. There is anti-liberalism, yet the anti-liberalism is being contained to be a passive product, something like an obscure internet hobby.
Back in the mid-90s, there were text-only ASCII art “newsletters” around late BBS and IRC communities. “TraxWeekly” was one such clandestine newsletter that was around under 100kbs, and ran from 1995 to 1998, with only 119 issues and 1168 subscribers in the end. This was made during a time when the internet was for hobbyists, by hobbyists, and there was extreme prejudice against those who used the internet, and that normal people “went outside.” Today, normal people use the internet as a mandatory activity. With this kind of inflation happening every day, we forget what the internet is, how to use it as a tool, and how we understand how fragile the technology is. Once the internet goes out, we will lose a huge amount of data. But importantly, the internet shows us just how big something is. Size matters.
Take for example the length of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It is around 580,000 plus words. However, as a .pdf file, it is a size of 7 MB. That is seven megabytes the size of a raw .wav file, or any asset data file for a video game. To reduce the written novel down to a small graphic asset in a video game shows what “value” is in the digital realm: not enough. As a novelist in 2023, why bother writing, with what you are producing, which is a mere 7mbs for an ever-expanding internet with no care about those .txt words? If the 500,000 words were crunched down and formatted to a .txt file and was only around 900kb, would it even still matter? Coding is the same size. It wasn’t too long ago that a .sid code in Commodore 64 music, is only the size of 15kb or less. That’s what writing has become on the internet.
In 1990, David Harvey in his book, “The Condition of Postmodernity,” articulated an underlooked Marxist concept, which he called “time and space compression.” The speed and creation of new technologies and innovations make the older inventions obsolete and create a new culture dependent upon time and space compression. It is annoying that it takes 4 years and $80,000 to earn a pedigree in Engineering, but with time and space compression, a new institute can open up and create a single-year program worth $20,000 to get the same results as the obsolete former. New technologies at an accelerating rate will take into account how art is made as well. A new culture doesn’t demand the 500,000-word book when an AI bot can write something better in just a day. What then, is human art in the realm of the internet? The internet is being affected by time and space compression every day.
Much of what I am criticizing is also discussed in the recent 2023 documentary film, “We Ruined The Internet (And The Internet Ruined Us),” by ShreddedNerd. ShreddedNerd does a fantastic job covering how before and after 1999 is pinnacle to understanding our current social control. 4chan, created by Something Awful rejects, controls the semantics and turns us into ironic slaves for liberalism. Christopher Poole, the creator of 4chan, worked at Google from 2016 to 2021. It goes to show that 4chan this is a psychological operation in itself, made by an agent for Google.
What is to be done then?
We realize that “culture war” is a façade. Minions on 4chan or Twitter can’t change anything. The “dark money” influenced by “think tanks” are not real agents of change, but side companies for the CIA. By “consenting” to the internet, the government already knows everything about us. There is no right to remain anonymous because they already know everything about you. And by pretending to remain anonymous is futile. No gay bathhouse secret-club-ism could ever change anything. We are not Freemasons or the Secret Service. Anti-fascist-action members proclaim they have to cover their faces because of “the evil racists that would out them,” all while racial nationalists cry the same thing that “the evil Antifa are going to dox us.” Both are stuck in the mainframe of wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Privacy is the main tenant of liberalism and the capitalist system.
Being anonymous is pointless when you realize you have nothing to lose. And so it happens that everyone who now has an internet penname comes out with their real name to reap the benefit of being a celebrity with a fan donation income. No one has ever lived life in secrecy, as no murderer ever gets away with the crime. Being anonymous is a victim mentality. The novelty however of being a well-respected internet user now is hip, and everyone wants authenticity in an age of irony. We think of dril and his pointless posturing of trying to be the greatest avant-garde internet artist. It feels contrived and preplanned. There was nothing grassroots about dril to begin with. And then when new internet artists are getting dubbed as “dril clones,” when then are we supposed to say?
The internet has been compromised. There is nothing radical about it. It was better when a small niche of people used the internet for intellectual hobbies. Now everyone uses it, and everything gets dumbed down. It’s funny when rival subcultures, queers, normies, and hipsters all try to use the internet and pretend to be the intellectuals who know how it works. They become ignorant of the hacker ethic and refuse to know how a computer works. The digital reality is never questioned and taken for granted. The next generation might not even know how computers work because the technology is too advanced to understand.
What we do know is that this false reality is in front of us. Everything is a hobby and can be reduced down to that. Our goal should be to construct a new understanding of data and how it can transform the arts and intellectualism. We have to create an anti-liberal version of Eric S. Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” and go against the egalitarian canon that places us with products. We have lost the individual Anarchist behavior, and we need it back.
Don’t trust the internet. It’s a false paradigm.