Dale Beran

384. Memes, manifestos and 4chan — making sense of a toxic online culture

Dale Beran first heard about 4chan around 2005, when he began seeing referrals from the website to a first-generation web comic he was working on. Later, he encountered some of the people behind 4chan at the Otakon anime convention in his hometown of Baltimore.

“Back then, they were talking about stuff like ‘memes’ and “trolling collectives,” stuff that by 2016 we all know leaked down into popular culture. But then, it was just confined to this weird little anime subgroup.” said Beran, a writer and artist whose work has appeared in publications ranging from Quartz to HuffPost to The Daily Dot.

From its humble roots as an anime fan site, 4chan would go on to spawn Anonymous, GamerGate and the online alt-right movement that helped to elect Donald Trump.

To try to make sense of it all, Beran tracked 4chan’s evolution over the years and penned the 2017 article for Medium — 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump. In his new book, It Came from Something Awful — How a Toxic Troll Army Accidentally Memed Donald Trump into Office, he examines the toxic online culture that came out of 4chan and how it’s impacted the real world.

“The book came out of a sense of necessity where I’d written the article and everyone was like, ‘Where’s the book?'” he said, laughing. “That’s really what happened. They were like, ‘Tell us more.'”

It’s All Journalism producer Michael O’Connell interviews writer and artist Dale Beran about his new book, It Came from Something Awful — How a Toxic Troll Army Accidentally Memed Donald Trump into Office. Beran tries to explain the toxic online culture that sprang out of a website created for fans of Japanese animation and how it’s impacted the real world, including the 2016 presidential election.

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