Both the amorphous anti-feminist movement Gamergate and last month's extended leak of a huge cache of private celebrity nude photographs—the two biggest internet-based stories in recent memory—have served as coming-out parties for a small set of anonymous, uncensored image boards that function like 4chan's raggedy stepchildren. Who are these new kids, and where did they come from?
In 2010, trolls congregated on the infamous anonymous message board 4chan to mercilessly bully Jessi Slaughter because of a dubious rumor that she was romantically linked with the singer of a popular emo band. Since then, 4chan has taken small steps to prevent further harassment and tame its most vitriolic boards and members.
But the misogynistic hordes haven't stopped—like the weary travelers leaving their kingdom in the Gamergate meme above, they've just spread to new, grosser boards. Both Gamergate and the celebrity leaks, different though they may be, have served as maypoles around which angry, anonymous young men can dance out their anger against women; here are three particularly noteworthy boards where those rituals are now taking place.
The swarms of angry Sonic the Hedgehog fans who make up Gamergate's diehard center congregate in two places. The first, a conspiratorial Reddit board called r/KotakuInAction, is a relatively civil venue for chatting and trading links—cynical Breitbart stories about how Gamergate is actually winning its battle against the "terrified" liberal media, or screenshots of tweets from the internet personalities that have become their de facto leaders. These are people who truly believe that they are fighting for an ethical video games media. (The rank-and-file posters, at any rate. r/KotakuInAction shares a moderator with r/BreakFeminzais, a violent rape-fantasy subreddit that focuses on feminists, including game critic Anita Sarkeesian.)
If r/KotakuInAction is the kitchen table, where gamers talk respectably, knowing that their parents might be in earshot, 8chan is the Cheeto-scented basement clubhouse. Here, the ethics-crusade facade is dismantled to reveal roiling anger over indie game developer Zoe Quinn and the so-called "fucklist"—the result of the misogynistic, disproven rant of a spurned ex-boyfriend that started the movement. On 8chan, Gamergate's opponents are "unbearable faggots."
On 8chan, Gamergate supporters battle against raging feminists and "social justice warriors." Like horny, teenaged Rush Limbaughs, they lament the media's penchant for "blaming whites for all its problems" and adorn unrelated posts with images of balloon-chested anime babes.
The board that serves as Gamergate's headquarters within 8chan, called /gg/, is just one subset of 8chan itself. Like 4chan, the site has forums devoted to a number of nerd-friendly topics, like My Little Pony, anime, and furries, and also hosts lurid boards like /younglove/ ("pedophile support and discussion") and/hebe/, for so-called hebephiles, who are sexually attracted to pubescent children.
Known as "infinite chan" to its users, 8chan was technically launched last year, but truly came to life because of Gamergate. In August, after the blog post falsely accusing Zoe Quinn of exchanging sex for positive media coverage, but before the codification of Gamergate as a movement, users of 4chan's video gaming board allegedly hacked into websites and personal accounts belonging to Quinn and her supporters as retaliation for the perceived slight. Citing a violation of the site's "no personal information/raids/calls to invasion" rule, 4chan founder Christopher Poole began removing Gamergate threads shortly thereafter, and users, upset that their unalienable right to act like assholes had been trampled upon, were left looking for a new home.
8chan founder Fredrick Brennan saw an opportunity, and launched a fundraising campaign positioning his site as a "free speech friendly"4chan alternative. Now, he receives $1,159 per month to run the site from Patreon donors, and 8chan's faithful community of geeks and pedophiles has a spiteful new name for its old home: "half chan."
Consider the apparent values of Gamergate and the celebrity nude hackers—that video games are cool and women are scary unless they're posing naked, safely behind a computer screen—and then picture the type of person who might hold those values. He's almost certainly male, and he might be a teenager, or if he's an adult he's socially stunted. And there's a pretty good chance he's a virgin.
While maleness and virginity may be de facto characteristics of your average 8channer, at Wizardchan, they're de jure. It's right there on the site's front page: "Wizardchan is a Japanese-inspired image-based forum (imageboard) for male virgins to share their thoughts and discuss their interests and lifestyle as a virgin."
Yes, Wizardchan is where the internet's adult virgins go to let it all hang out. The site's name stems from a Japanese meme stating that if a man maintains his virginity beyond age 30, he becomes a wizard with magic powers, but its users—whose favorite topics include the sex they're not having, the evilness of women, and their own loneliness—sound more like frustrated 13-year-olds than white-bearded Gandalfs.
In a post from this week, a user earnestly asked his compatriots whether they thought growing up with a sister might help men better understand and communicate with women as an adult. A few of the responses he received:
"Are women humans?" reads one image macro, posted in defiant response to a user who confessed sympathy for the victims of pick-up artists. The answer, obviously, is no. Another, particularly disgusting post proposes that "the real reason women hate rape" is that it "ignores their princess status."
Do you really have to ask what a bunch of angry, sex-obsessed virgins have to do with Gamergate?
As a woman working within gaming's culture of ingrained misogyny, Zoe Quinn has been dealing with threats and abuse since long before right-wing hucksters turned this particular brand of adolescent male rage into a hashtag and a cottage industry. In December of last year, after completing development on Depression Quest, a text-based game about struggling with depression, Quinn submitted it to Greenlight, where games are considered for distribution on Steam. It wasn't long before the wizards found it and took offense.
"Of course a woman could never relate to anyone here," reads the screencapped Wizarchan post below. "She would never be with a truly depressed person. Can someone mail her a rant or a link to this thread? God i hate that cunt."
The fact that I can't do something simple like put a game on greenlight without shit like this (1/2) pic.twitter.com/8nd8JGM7xB
— Khaleesi of SJWs (@TheQuinnspiracy) December 12, 2013
More: "All females are sluts and have no right to be depressed. They can just go out onto the street, lie down with their hole open, and have any man come and solve all their problems. But they would still be depressed because they're all stupid whores."
(2/2) happening while people say "oh it's not REALLY sexist here..." makes me sick with rage. pic.twitter.com/tl28TB2utz— Danny Treshoujo (@TheQuinnspiracy) December 12, 2013
According to Quinn, after the call to harassment, she received threats, packages at her home, and phone calls in which men on the other end of the line told her they were masturbating. This insane, rambling Imgur post—though it claims to "prove" Quinn is lying—does a pretty good job of detailing the campaign against her.
On 4chan and 8chan, one could theoretically log on and have a real dialogue about music, sports, or any number of other topics. AnonIB harbors no such pretenses. Users of the anonymous image-sharing board—whose name literally means "anonymous image board"—want just one thing: to jerk off to stolen pictures of naked women.
AnonIB's salad days were August and September 2014, when new photos of celebrities in compromising positions were being released every week. The site was at the center of the leak—where enthusiastic masturbators came to share the nudes they'd hoarded through iCloud ripping and swapping with likeminded thieves. If a new photo made its way to Reddit, or was reported on Gawker, there's a good chance it passed through AnonIB's grubby hands first.
Like 8chan, AnonIB started life after a 4chan rebellion. Back in 2006, after an incomprehensible series of events (see the Encyclopedia Dramatica entry on "/b/-day" if you'd like to give it a shot), Christopher Poole announced that posting child porn, "jailbait," or personal information on 4chan would henceforth result in consequences for the users involved. The horror! Just as they did this year, users left the site in droves, and AnonIB was there to scoop them up. As Encyclopedia Dramatica puts it, it was "the final cesspool for all of the shit generated by 4chan and its rivals."
Over the following years, the site underwent a number of changes before emerging in its current, nude-centric permutation. Now that the flow of stolen pictures of naked famous women has slowed to a trickle, users are back to doing what they did before Celebgate: posting stolen photos of naked non-famous women.