The Armpit of the Internet

Here’s What’s Happening on the Internet’s Most Racist Forums

By Michelle Lhooq

These days, you can call someone a cum bubble that was sharted out of a dead hooker’s crusty asshole and chances are you’ll walk away with a high five. But call someone the N-word, and you’ll be dropped faster than Paula Deen’s hottest potato. Racism really is the last taboo—and that’s a good thing. In fact, earlier this month, Slate examined the waxing and waning power of profanities over time and concluded that cuss words related to religion (“damn,” “hell”) and body functions (“dick,” “shit”) are losing their shock value, while racial slurs are becoming more and more provocative. In other words, as we become more secular, immune to gore, and open to freaky porn, we’re also becoming less OK with bigotry. Again, this is a very good thing.  

Yet, extremist lunacy has gotten louder, fouler, and more dangerous. According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups have been surging in numbers for the last decade. And a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal study found that race relations in post-Trayvon America are far worse than in 2009, when Obama’s ascendance caused us all to buy into that “hopey-changey” stuff.

As the number of racist hate groups has continued to climb, so have the vile internet underbellies where these bigots let their views run wild. Professor Gazi Islam from the Grenoble Ecole de Management, who has studied online communities extensively, said he would characterize these forums as "low constraint" spaces where “people with like-minded opinions could express sentiments that would otherwise be counter-normative.”

By “counter-normative,” Professor Islam really means, “so fucking offensive, it’s actually funny.” Take Chimpout.com for example. Chimpout’s slogan is, “A black plague is descending upon civilization. That plague is called the nigger.” Its mission is to “provide up to the minute nigger facts and news stories that are either covered up or buried by the mainstream media.” And it accomplishes this goal through posting new stories about black guys who steal 300 gallons of cooking oil, and photo-shopping nooses on Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ice Cube. There’s even an entire thread called "Movie Posters Niggerized," where scores of classic films are turned into KKK propaganda. Even The Help—which is about a white journalist exposing racism in the 60s—isn’t spared. Its tagline is ironically altered from “change begins with a whisper” to “change begins with a noose.”  

Chimpout is so ridiculous, it almost seems like the entire thing was written by people only pretending to be racist in order to ridicule how insane they really sound. But Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, insists that self-deprecation is not a factor. “They’re incapable of looking at themselves in the mirror. They’re deadly serious about evil multi-cultural elites and the literal genocide of the white race,” he said.

Given how outrageous the comments and images are on these sites, I asked Mark if these communities are just as isolated online as they are in the real world. Unfortunately, his answer was… not really. “It’s not so much that you’d see a Klansman integrated in society. But you do see their propaganda making their way into the mainstream,” Mark explained. “For example, the Arizona-based American Border Patrol group floated a conspiracy theory that Mexico has a secret plan to invade and conquer the American Southwest. That idea jumped to the Minutemen Projected, then was presented by Lou Dobbs on CNN as a fact.”

The vitriol only continues with Vanguard News Network, one of the internet’s most extreme anti-Semitic communities. VNN’s slogan is “No Jews. Just Right,” and it makes Stormfront—the internet’s first hate site and the most well-known white nationalist group—look like Pinterest. While Stormfront has women-only threads dedicated to whether you should epilate, shave, or wax your hoo-ha, VNN’s founder, the infamous neo-Nazi Alex Linder, is going around telling people to exterminate Jews like cockroaches. Linder is so extreme, he even declared that “if you have any White sentiment, your job is changing your church, not special-pleading for your science-fiction hero among White men.” Then he banned all Christians from joining.

Even though dropping in on sites like VNN, Stormfront, and Chimpout was a stomach-turning endeavor on every click, I never saw commenters try to organize acts of violence offline. Not on any of the public threads, at least. That’s because forum members know that the Constitution only protects their xenophobic and intolerant “opinions” up until the point that they meet the legal definition of a threat—then, the police are allowed to step in. And according to Mark Potok, this happens very rarely. Organizations like United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute have programs in place that aim to increase the capacity of law enforcement to report discriminatory behaviors, but the First Amendment makes censoring these commenters very tricky. Meanwhile, across the pond, France is collecting anti-Semitic account names from Twitter. But who’d want to be like those cheese-eating surrender monkeys anyway?

The Armpit of the Internet is a biweekly column exploring the most odorous and crust-ridden corners of cyber culture.

Previously: Leg Warmer Porn Is Gross

Wanna hear a racist joke? Michelle can tell you many: @MichelleLHOOQ

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