A complex, speculative murder board that probes the ascendance of American fascism.
Beran begins with a basic premise: to examine how certain obsessive pastimes have evolved into the development ofinternet sites such as 4Chan and Reddit, which still incite much of the alt-right’s violence and trolling today. The author floats the idea that right-wing toxicity is simply another counterculture, but taken together, its memorable moments are, for the most part, deplorable. The author carefully parses the origins of rallying sites like 4Chan (“another constraint that 4Chan abandoned was common decency”) and the titular Something Awful, a site that had subforums like “Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse.” But there are a whole bunch of other degenerates and less-than-savory characters to cover, too, from Steve Bannon to the trolls that threatened to kill Zoë Quinn during Gamergate to the infamously radical Milo Yiannopoulos to the infamous cartoon frog Pepe, co-opted by the alt-right as their chosen mascot. Beran also offers a surprising number of pop-culture references, name-checking, among others, William Gibson, Tom Cruise, and Leslie Jones, and he makes some questionable analogies about movies like The Matrix and Ready Player One. Regardless, the author’s coverage of neo-fascist movements is chilling, though peppered with clever cartoons that explain certain aspects. It’s a blow-by-blow study of the devolution of American culture, especially during the past few years: the rise of the radical “proud boys”; the use of the word “cuck” to insult liberals; the proliferation of offensive memes; the seemingly endless racist, inflammatory rhetoric; and the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was hit by a car driven by a white supremacist in Charlottesville in 2017—an event that prompted Donald Trump to say there were good people on both sides. God bless America?
A deeply disturbing, mostly well-crafted history of how we the people, more divided than ever, got here.