Back in the early days of the Internet we didn’t have things such as Youtube or Facebook, so we had to make do with such wonderful technologies as good old HTTP and Usenets. The Usenets in particular were pretty niche, and most people wouldn’t know of them, let alone use them. It really was a golden age for the Internet, since you really needed to know what you were doing in order to get something online and you had to look pretty hard to find and cross over to the wrong side of the tracks.
These days with it being so easy to set up a website or blog anyone can throw up a page or just perform a quick search to find what their looking for. Modern day search engines do a good job of filtering out most of the chaff, but when you’re looking for something obscure it’s very easy to get something that looks genuine but is nothing but utter dribble. I remember a good example from a while back on the Holy Grail. A teacher of mine knew quite a bit about the subject and decided to see what material was available. Out of the myriad of sites he found about 2 where factually correct, 3 were misguided and the majority were plain wrong or bordering on delusional.
Sometimes however, people are drawn to this kind of insanity. Whether it is the freedom of anonymity or just a desire to cause and experience choas, places on the Internet exist for those among us who seek to see the taboo side of our humanity. I make no secret that I am one of those people, and I’ve spent many hours seeing what us humans get up to when all the rules are left at the door.
Probably the most famous example of a place such as this is 4chan. Whilst on the surface it would appear to be a clucky little clone of the Japanese imageboard 2Channel delving deep into its recesses shows a dark underbelly. In the early days of this board it was particularly famous for its /b channel, which is void of a general topic of discussion and is deemed to be “random”. It is in here that people from all over the world post things that would normall be taboo, wrong or downright illegal. It is also the gathering ground of the online group Anonymous, who delight in causing mischief for corrupted organisations or just the general public. Strangely enough it has even started a trend, with other sites carrying the *chan identifier popping up all over the places wishing to emulate its success (or even drive deeper into deprativity).
It is interesting to note the places that because of their size, attract a great number of people who aren’t there for the board’s purpose. The BodyBuilding website appears normal on the surface but digging down into their forums will show that their largest forum, Misc, has the most threads (in excess of 800,000) and as a consequence the most rubbish. Whilst it isn’t as removed from reality as the likes of the *chan boards, due to the sheer volume of people on there it attracts people who aren’t interested in body building at all, and sometimes even those who are at the end of their rope.
A more regulated but none the less interesting place to visit is the Something Awful and its forums. What makes this place interesting is its dedication to comedic material, which sometimes leads it to strange and whacky places. Over the years it progressed from a personal site for the creator “Lowtax” to a bustling news site with a set of forums renowned for their online shenanigans. Whilst it is probably closer to the right side of the railroad then the other sites I have mentioned you can still see some people using the freedom of anonymity to spew forth their misguided opinions at each other.
Often I would wonder as to why I would visit these places, why I would revel reading the vulgar reality of the human condition. That was, until someone else summed it for me:
Lampkin: The horror of the age. The great ugly material. The cloak of deceit.
Apollo: The truth. Hmph. Kind of overrated, I guess. You know, when I was nine, maybe ten, my grandfather… he would wave me over. And he’d do this all the time. And then he’d say, uh, “Lee, be a good boy. Just don’t be too good.”
Lampkin: Everybody has demons. Them, Baltar, you, me. Even the machines. The law is just a way of exorcising them. That’s what your father’s father told me. You want to know why I hated him? Because he was right.
Apollo: So you hated him because he was right, and I hated the law because it was wrong. Because of what… Of what it put him through. I mean, he defended the worst of the worst. I remember reading about him. The outrage. Helping murderers go free. What I don’t understand is why he put himself through all that abuse.
Lampkin: You think he gave a flying frak? Joe Adama cared about one thing. Understanding why people do what they do. Why we cheat our friends, why we reward our enemies. Why we go to war, sacrificing our lives for lost causes. Why we build machines in the hope of correcting our flaws and our shortcomings. Why we forgive, defying logic and the laws of nature with one stupid little act of compassion. We’re flawed. All of us. I wanted to know why, so I did what he did. I spend my life with the fallen. The corrupt. The damaged. Look at you, you were so ready to get on that Raptor with me today. The bad boy, the prodigal son.
Bonus points to those who recognised that exchange from the TV series Battlestar Galactica.
Sometimes, to truly understand ourselves we have to delve into the most extreme parts of our humanity. It’s just amusing that the internet, which was created for only one thing has given us this opportunity.