Perfectly Rectangular February
Read to the end for “gamers in Paris”
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4chan-Speak Finally, Truly, Has Hit The Mainstream And May God Have Mercy On Us All
Know Your Meme puts the first use of the word “tendie” around 2014. That was the year that users of 4chan’s /r9k/ board started writing tendies greentext stories and building out the idea that all members of the board were violent autistic shut-ins who only ate microwaveable chicken tenders. This was during an era where 4chan, as a community, was changing how it perceived itself.
Instead of being Guy Fawkes-wearing hacktivists and underdog nerd-pranksters defending the world from corporate greed, the NSA surveillance state, and the religious right, 4chan became fixated on its hatred of women — a la Gamergate — and what it perceived as an overbearing liberal and progressive establishment. We now know that there was a concerted push from both white nationalists and Men’s rights activists around this time to infiltrate the influential message board, radicalize it, and use it as a recruitment tool. And that wasn’t a particularly hard thing to accomplish because he site was always pretty comfortable with racism and misogyny.
Part of this radicalization process, between 2013-2015, was the reimagining of what a typical 4chan user was like. The site always had an intense self-deprecation, a holdover from its roots as a spill-over site for banned Something Awful goons. But before 2013, a 4chan user was a smart, but awkward pervert who liked anime and had an encyclopedic knowledge of all the best gross memes and filesharing sites and hatred authority. This started shifting before Gamergate, but after Gamergate there was really no going back. Instead of a Star Wars cantina-style waystation for rough, but reasonable internet addicts, 4chan rebranded itself as a hub for psychotic white supremacist spree killers.
A quick scan of a few tendies greentext stories reveals that they’re all basically just variations of that one scene from the 2006 South Park episode about World Of Warcraft where a morbidly obese Cartman shits himself in his gamer chair. They remix the same common elements, such as:
The OP lives at home with their parents — or more commonly a mom and her boyfriend
The OP is usually morbidly obese
His mom is extremely frail and terrified of her adult son’s violent anger
The OP has piss jugs in his bedroom
His mom uses “good boy points” as a way to reward OP for not attacking her
And the OP loves chicken tendies
These stories are also where the onomatopoeic phrase “REEEEEEEEE” comes from, which is used as a way to write out the sound of a 4chan user’s “autistic screeching”.
Tendies stories are a useful way to spread the idea that a 4chan user is not just shunned from society, but they are physically and mentally incapable of ever reentering it. If you convince enough of users that they are no longer part of the world, it’s much easier to get them to dehumanize others. To be clear, no one single person did this. 4chan is completely decentralized. There’s no one in charge, including the people over the years who have literally tried to be in charge. The only way to shift its culture is via memes.
And the tendies meme, though unquestionably silly, was one of the ways this new 4chan-user-as-a-school-shooter-in-waiting archetype was created. You are fat disgusting mentally ill loner who pees in jugs while playing video games all day and your mom occasionally stops having loud vigorous sex with her boyfriend to microwave some awful chicken nuggets for you to eat. Ok, now that you’ve accepted that, here’s why it’s ok to murder women or people of color. See how this works?
Most of 4chan’s cultural touch points — Pepe the Frog memes, referring to yourself as autistic, violent misogyny — have been embraced by Reddit. Over the years, the community has had a tremendously hard time divorcing its own culture from 4chan’s. Sometimes 4chan is in charge, sometimes Reddit is in charge. But the two are inextricably linked and when they align, they can achieve a devastating level of network effect. This happened during Gamergate when 4chan’s /b/, /pol/, and /vg/ boards began working in tandem with Reddit’s r/KotakuInAction. This happened when 4chan’s /r9k/ board started working with r/incels and r/mensrights. This happened when /b/ and /pol/ worked with r/The_Donald during the 2016 election. And this is sorta-kinda happening right now with r/WallStreetBets and the GameStop pump, though it’s not as nearly well-coordinated as it has been in the past.
The anarchic stock trading community r/WallStreetBets, in many ways, doesn’t need 4chan. They absorbed most of the site’s culture and have evolved beyond it. I suspect this is because trading stocks requires a level of professionalism that is slightly beyond what 4chan is able to achieve. r/WallStreetBets uses a lot of 4chan-speak though, including the term “tendies,” which they have repurposed to just mean “making money”. Here’s how a r/WSB user defined “tendies” in a comment two years ago:
Tendies is the that warm, fuzzy feeling when you open your Robinhood app, and the graph turns green after a week of angry red, downward facing slashes. It's when your calls spike on random market events and you realized how lucky you were, while on WSB you say you had known all along. Tendies are what you would share with Warren Buffet if you ever met him, since he saved aapl.
To prove how closely linked 4chan is to r/WallStreetBets, here’s a user, in a separate thread a year later answering the same question:
“Tendies are enough to get that bitch off my back,” they wrote. “YEAH MOM! I SAID YOU! I'M A SON A BITCH! FUCK YOU! HE'S NOT MY REAL DAD! I MAKE MAD MONEY NOW! REEEEEEEEEE!”
And, now, the phrase “tendies” is in a Popeye’s Chicken ad.
This isn’t the first time that certain brands have tried to interface with 4chan culture as a way of trying to look cool online. In 2017, the Wendy’s Twitter account was widely condemned for tweeting a Pepe the Frog variant that looked like the Wendy’s mascot. The Verge headline about the incident at the time was, “Why Wendy’s tweeted an anti-Semitic hate symbol dressed as its mascot”.
Compare that to the reaction now. Per Mashable, “Popeyes has embraced the tendies meme with 'free tendies' after GameStop stock mania”. Comparing Pepe to tendies isn’t a perfect 1:1, but it does go to show you have much 4chan culture has just become culture now. It’s not dissimilar from the way 80s punks started using the suffix “-core” to delineate different sub-genres of hardcore and then it just became a thing we slap on any aesthetic that comes along. Countercultures, at least in America, tend to create what will be cool for the next generation. People have suspected this may happen with 4chan, but this Popeye’s video might be the clearest indicator I’ve seen so far that this is absolutely happening and will continue to happen. Uh oh!
Welcome to the era of #Tendies4All, everybody.
The Great Guy Fieri Tumblr Takeover
Last month, Tumblr randomly decided to celebrate Guy Fieri’s birthday. They changed their logo to a Guy Fieri-ified version of the Tumblr T and they posted a bunch of weird cryptic posts about why they were doing it. The company has literally never done anything like this before.
At the time, I tried to ask a few folks over at Tumblr why they were doing it and the response I kept getting from everyone was “because it’s Guy Fieri’s birthday.” Extremely strange stuff, but, honestly, I’m into it. The internet used to be much weirder and I miss it.
A reader named Will flagged up another development that has happened in the Tumblr/Guy Fieri saga and things have gotten much more bizarre. If you head over to the #phileri tag on Tumblr you’ll see dozens of posts shipping Guy Fieri and that weird green M&M with Dr. Phil’s face.
I had always assumed the Dr. Phil M&M was a photoshop. I figured it was the result of some pretty simple meme math. Dr. Phil (who is a meme) + the green M&M (which everyone is horny for) + the You Know I Had To Do It To Em pose = whatever this thing is. I was wrong! It’s from an official M&M advertisement from 2008.
As for the Tumblr ship, I think there’s also a dimension of this that involves the musical Hades Town, because of its similarity to Flavortown, but I’m not positive.
Shit’s weird now.
The Cracks Are Beginning To Show
Things are not looking good for the GameStop pumpers as we begin the third week of r/WallStreetBets’ assault on the stock market. As I write this, the stock is around $245.29. Make no mistake, this thing is going to go down. The big question is when and how violently.
The financial establishment is still having a complete meltdown over this though. And the hysteria is reaching incredibly high levels. A professor of marketing named Scott Galloway went on MSNBC this morning and said some of the wildest shit I’ve heard in a long time.
“The biggest loss of capital here will be the human capital of young men who are sitting and staring at their phone and watching the price of Bitcoin or the price of AMC,” he says in the clip. “And ask yourself would you be better off taking that one, two, or three hours a day and working out, trying to form relationships with mentors, with romantic relationships, with people at work, getting great at something so you can be the person on the other side of the trade.”
You should seriously watch the whole clip because it’s utterly bananas. Towards the end he claims that Instagram makes young women depressed and that the GameStop pump will lead to young men cutting themselves.
On the other side of the screen, there is a conspiracy theory gaining steam on r/WallStreetBets that has serious QAnon vibes to it. It was posted by u/johnnydaggers on Sunday and it has 56,000 upvotes. The post is titled, “The real reason Wall Street is terrified of the GME situation” and it alleges that the GameStop pump accidentally unearthed a massive financial conspiracy. Here’s a little snippet:
I think the hedge funds, clearing houses, and DTC executed a coordinated effort to put Game Stop out of business by conspiring to create a gargantuan number of counterfeit shares of GME, possibly 100-200% or more of the shares originally issued by Game Stop. In the process, they may have accidentally created a bomb that could blow up the entire system as we know it and we're seeing their efforts to cover this up unfold now. What is that bomb? I believe retail investors may hold more than 100% of GME (not just 100% of the float, more than 100% of the actual company). This would be definitive proof of illegal activity at the highest levels of the financial system.
The post now has 6 updates on it, including one that acknowledges a bunch of the math in the post is wrong. But this being totally wrong and based on bad math will have absolutely zero impact on whether or not it creates a massive misinformation campaign that inevitably turns into a cult or something. Excited and terrified to see where this all goes next.
Perfectly Rectangular February
R E C T A N G U L A R
F E B R U A R Y
The Green Lines Pickup Artist Guy Is Back
Heads up: The content below here is a little intense. Also, I blurred the faces of the people in the photos below because I have no idea where this guy got these pictures. A lot of Men’s Rights/Pickup Artist guys raid random Instagrams for this sort of thing.
There’s a Twitter account called @alpharivelino that occasionally goes viral for posting absolutely demented content about red pill gender theory. Last May, a thread of his got shared a lot because he argued that men shouldn’t lean in photos. @alphavirelino used green lines to demonstrate what he believed were inferior photo poses for men.
It’s all nonsense, but the PUA/MRA community has proven to be unfortunately resilient over the years.
Last week, @alpharivelino started trending again. This time for a completely new and demented idea about how men should pose in photos. Apparently, men’s pelvises should face away from a woman’s pelvis.
This all makes me wonder how much of MRA red pill theory is just the result of deeply lonely men spending way too much time staring at the Instagram accounts of healthier people in relationships and then trying to come up with pseudoscientific examples for how angry they are.
A Fun New Hobby To Try During Quarantine
A Newspaper Kills Its Comment Section
This morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced that they were removing comments from underneath the majority of their articles. I’m not totally tapped into what the Inquirer’s comment section was like, but apparently it was pretty vile.
“Why are we doing this,” the article reads. “Commenting on Inquirer.com was long ago hijacked by a small group of trolls who traffic in racism, misogyny, and homophobia. This group comprises a tiny fraction of the Inquirer.com audience. But its impact is disproportionate and enduring.”
In the late 00s, news publishers effectively made a deal with sites like Facebook and Twitter — whether it was articulated or not. Social platforms would host the discussion around articles and cover all the labor of moderating it. Instead of needing their own moderators, which newsrooms have never treated with any particular affection, editorial operations could write whatever they wanted and not have to manage their readers. Of course, as we have since learned, huge platforms like Facebook and Twitter don’t actually moderate anything in a meaningful sense. They automate as much of it as they can and then fill in the gaps with underpaid contractors.
News outlets, though, seemed to believe that their content was more interesting than the discussion it would inspire. Except, it turned out it wasn’t and now platforms are much more powerful than publishers. They’re so powerful, in fact, that most websites don’t have the resources to run their own comment sections anymore. And I think that decoupling community moderation from local news is one of the largest reasons why our current information landscape is so fragmented and destabilized. A city without comment sections moderated by their own local websites is the same as a neighborhood without access to fresh produce. Making things even tricker, due to the ubiquity of social media right now, it’s also impossible to get rid of comments. Taking them off your own site just moves them to Facebook or Twitter.
This isn’t to bag on The Inquirer, I think it’s good that they’re trying to make their articles less toxic, but it’s sad that the option for most mid-to-low-level publishers is either live with a broken community or lose it it entirely.
Facebook Bravely Reveals What We All Knew Already
According to a bombshell this week from the Wall Street Journal, Facebook knew that their Groups feature could inspire violence back in August 2020.
Just so we all have our timeline straight. The Stop The Steal movement started in November 2020. The Capitol insurrection was January 6 2021. And a week after the siege, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg claimed that Facebook played no role in organizing the violence in DC.
Roger McNamee and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa wrote a great piece for TIME over the weekend all about Facebook’s role in inspiring real-life violence. I don’t really have anything snarky to say here. Facebook knew and they didn’t do anything to stop it. I’m sad and exhausted by the whole thing.
This Horrifying Puppet Keeps Following Me Around Tumblr
This puppet, which is called “Bobby The Dream Dog,” has been all over my Tumblr dashboard in the last week. I have desperately tried to figure out what’s happening here and I think I have understand what’s going.
Sam Hensley is an artist who creates art, videos, and puppets in an aesthetic she refers to as “pastel horror”. According to her Patreon, her creations are a form of “interdimensional channeling”. It’s all very strange, but also cool as hell. Her puppets wiggle and vibrate and look like whimsical nightmares. The birthday party she threw for her grotesque dog thing is extremely unnerving.
P.S. here’s “gamers in Paris”.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
Awesome writeup on WSB co-opting 4chan culture. FWIW I always took the phrase "tendies" to be a play on "legal tender," as I'm sure many other WSB members do. That only further supports your point that 4chan culture is being absorbed and perpetuated by the mainstream, often without people realizing.
White nationalists (ie, the alt right) do not own "neckbeard meme culture". (This isn't a term, but I'm making it up to describe a type of meme culture where the participants revel in being social rejects and losers, like r/gamersriseup was, and r/wallstreetbets is now). White nationalist culture likes to position itself as an intellectual alternative to neckbeard meme culture. Their efforts to radicalize reddit are not found in memes, it's found in posting ragebait about false rape accusations and gangs of "thugs" beating up innocent white guys.
Think of the James Damore type. He doesn't want to see himself as retarded or a loser, he wants to see himself as holding a special truth that others are too PC to discover. This is the type of person Gamergate was built on and Gamergate catered too. And this brand identity of intellectualism is incompatible with neckbeard meme culture. If I was gonna make a big conspiracy alignment chart I'd put Gamergate, SlateStarCodex, JordanPeterson, and r/MensRights in the same sphere of influence. All of these things have a metanarrative of a hyperintellegient man using logic and reason to destroy the lies of the "SJWs".
This is in contrast to neckbeard meme culture, which is a bit too chaotic to have an overwhelming metanarrative, but if anything it's celebrating the loserdom of neckbeards from a gray-area viewpoint of jesters who may or may not be actual neckbeards. It is anti-intellectual.
People who purposefully build a subculture around being outcast young men are bound to fill their ranks with virulent racists and sexists, while the majority of the subculture looks the other way and excuses it as being ironic humor. But this is still very different in tone and in goals from the self-serious Gamergate type movements
I will literally make a diagram if you like, because I didn't spend my terminally online 20s reading too much of the "culture wars" to watch otherwise-good writers put out Gwen Snyder tier takes. Put me in coach.