4chan, the anarchic Internet messageboard, appears to be experiencing an identity crisis. Whereas terror campaigns against tweens were once planned amid stomach-churning images, a strong streak of do-gooderism has taken hold. In fact, 4chan is being downright nice these days.
Most recently, 4chan's /b/ messageboard rallied to cheer up an old man. Someone posted a flyer they spotted in their local grocery store: "Wanted: People for Birthday Party." The old man in the ad, 90-year-old WWII veteran William J. Lashua, looked sad, and /b/ was touched. With the same blinding efficiency once applied to the harassment of 11-year-olds, they sent a raft of cards, flowers and well-wishes to the American Legion Hall in Massachusetts where the party will be hosted on Saturday.
The whole board is still collectively cooing over Lashua, posting pictures of the cards they're sending him and generally patting each other on the back for being such a good faceless Internet horde. Wrote one user:
For once, /b/ has warmed up my heart out of proportions..
I feel bad for just hearing about his birthday today. I can't really send a card now, as it'd get like 1-2 weeks to late due to how far I live away.
could you possible put my name on the card as well, with this note?:
"Happy birthday William. May you live the rest of your life the way you deserve to. You're not forgotten."
(Lashua's grandson, meanwhile, has spoken out on the link aggregation service Reddit, thanking people for cards, but explaining that Lashua has more than enough family and friends coming to his party without any random Internet people showing up, thanks!)
This feat of niceness comes on the heels 4chan tracking down a British woman and a Bosnian girl who were filmed abusing a cat and adorable puppies, respectively. Seemingly overnight, 4chan has turned into the comments section of Good Housekeeping Magazine's website.
It's a strange look for a board whose users pride themselves on their image as a vengeful "Internet hate machine." 4chan's traditional aversion to niceness is evident in the fact that users have no less than three derogatory terms for people who show any trace of benevolence on the Internet: "moralfags," "white knights," and "Internet good guys." [Yours truly has been named both a "white knight" and an "Internet Good Guy" by 4chan's wiki of record (NSFW).]
What's responsible for the sudden turn towards light? It could be that users realize the media attention drawn to the site by good deeds is preferable to the hatchets that come out whenever they bully random kids. One user wrote: "Everybody send him nice cards it will be pretty cool not to mention 4chan could use some pure honest good publicity." Or it could be that coverage of previous good deeds have attracted a softer user, traditionally known on 4chan as "the cancer." Or, it could just be some elaborate prank meant to sicken us with its earnestness. (Seriously, 4chan? Helping an old person?)
But the old /b/-tards who get their kicks posting kiddie porn and ultra-violent images are still hanging around, no doubt incensed by 4chan's new niceness. One of them had a not-nice idea for a present for old man Lashua: "I sent him a dead cat lawl lol ol lol."
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