Not too long ago, Evan did a Shame Day about 4chan’s semi-joking attempt to wreck a Taylor Swift radio contest by getting some random 39-year-old voted rated as Swifts “biggest fan”. The original post declaring 4Chan’s intentions stated that “Charles Z.” was only in it for a chance to “sniff Swift’s hair” (I can’t speculate on whether or not that’s meant to be a joke) and that it was a chance to crush the dreams of thousands of “whiny teeny boppers.” The campaign was overwhelmingly successful. Charles Z. shot to the first place with a mile-wide margin and the radio station wound up cancelling the whole event.
In spite of Evan’s comments that this was generally a lousy move and a tacit endorsement of sexual harassment, I’m going to have to disagree with him. Firstly, I’m not taking the whole “hair-sniffing” thing as being all that serious, and secondly, I don’t think this really had much of anything to do with Charles Z. or even Taylor Swift for that matter.
It was about sincerity.
Maybe you’ve been in this kind of situation, readers. You’re sitting somewhere- maybe at work, maybe at school- and some manic public speaker rushes out on stage and tells you “good morning!”. Polite and courteous citizens that you are, you respond in kind, but he or she keeps telling you that the talk isn’t moving forward until you say it with some heart.
If you’re a human being, you’re reaction isn’t one of glee but of irritation (if you don’t jump straight to murderous rage). There’s nothing in this world quite so angering as being told to be happy.
Or enthusiastic. Or excited.
That’s really the point. We live in a world of constant advertising. Our senses are under assault from every direction on a daily basis.
And you know what? We tolerate that. We take all the attempts at manipulation in good stride, but there’s limits to what a guy can cope with. When companies get self-righteous or start acting like whatever product they’re shilling is somehow the key to true happiness and inner peace, we snap.
That’s what we’re reacting against. Insincerity. We can smell BS from a mile away, and when it starts getting shoved in our faces, we flip their own tools on them.
Look at the “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” campaign.
Last year, Mountain Dew attempted to “involve fans” by having them name a new drink through an online contest. 4chan (again) raided the site and ensured that “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” got to, and stayed in, first place (along with a list of other heinous puns and slogans). Mountain Dew naturally ended the contest as the scrambled to perform damage control.
Now did the people who voted for “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” actually believe in that statement? Of course not. It’s a statement so offensive and false that there’s really no way to take it other than as the mocking joke that it is. Once again, the point here is a reaction against the utterly condescending PR campaigns that the general public is assaulted by. A similar campaign was (successfully) waged in July of the same year. Rapper Pitbull, entangled in a painfully corporate sponsorship deal, agreed to participate in a contest to perform at any Walmart in the US. Naturally, a movement was formed to send Pitbull to a remote town in Alaska.
Unlike the Taylor Swift or Mountain Dew contests, Pitbull actually did go to Kodiak, Alaska. In fact, he was such a good sport about it, he actually won quite a bit of respect in the process (as begrudging as it may have been). It’s speculation, I’ll admit, but had Pitbull not entered the contest on behalf of corporate giant Walmart and something called “Sheets Brand energy strips,” I do doubt there would’ve been as much of a turnout to exile him to the great white north- though lest you imagine it’s just some anger at the corporate world, there is a movement to hit back at insincerity on an individual level.
If you’re involved in any kind of social media, chances are you’ve run into something like this:
just girly things is a tumblr that creates images of stereotypical female activities played off as being “simple pleasures.” Recently, people have been on a kick of taking these pictures and stitching on another to reveal just how vapid, selfish, and shallow they really are.
Again, it’s an issue of insincerity. An issue of an utterly false, egocentric, commercialistic portrayal of the world. I won’t try to argue that the parodies of the faux-wisdom or the hijacking of the condescending marketing are anything noble– there’s just so much anyone’s intelligence can be insulted.
Myself? I take comfort in that. We don’t always head the better angels of our nature- perhaps we never will. But at least we still have a gag reflex.
While I certainly can’t find fault in the desire for sincerity in this day and age, looking for like-minded individuals in large-scale 4chan pranks is not the most fruitful endeavour.
The main issue being that the pranks played on Taylor Swift, Pitbull, and Mtn Dew [yes, that’s technically its name in the US now] were done because the outcome was funny. Or, at the very least, those involved thought it was funny.
They’re not comparable with a speaker asking you to be excited, because people know they’re not the target audience for Taylor Swift or Pitbull concerts. Heck, as far as the former is concerned the radio station hosting contest the contest was in Boston. I see this as being far less “this is what you corporations get for being so in our faces” and far more “this is what you corporations get for putting this in our hands.”
4chan users will act the same way when asked by someone to name their band as they will when presented with the opportunity to use internet votes in any kind of contest- they will attempt to do what’s makes them laugh the most. The site and its users have done good, noble things in the past concerning truthfulness and sincerity, but your examples are not among them.
The reason its so funny to name Mtn Dews soda ‘Hitler Did Nothing Wrong’ or ‘GRANNY GUSH’ is entirely because their marketing, talk about, and behavior regarding their cheap soda is so full of shit. 4chan would react the same to a request for a band name, but its way funnier in the case of the soda company. In one part because they’re big, but in another because of everything the OP says.
Mountain Dews marketing gets so bad it’s a meme. What the blog post said is relevant to the dub the dew affair. Even though it is true that the simplest, most basic reason for the raid was that the outcome was funny.
Cant speak about the taylor swift or the rapper with any confidence, though.