I never thought I’d see the day when Buzzfeed would finally have some self-awareness. It took several successful troll campaigns for Buzzfeed to realize that maybe, just maybe, they take the bait a bit too much. In the past year alone, Internet trolls have convinced the mainstream media that Pepe the frog is racist, that drinking milk is a white supremacist trademark, and just recently, that the OK sign is a far right hate symbol. It seems like that last one was the final nail in the coffin, and Buzzfeed has had enough.
In an article titled “The Trump Internet Keeps Making Fake Hate Symbols, And People Keep Falling For It“, a Buzzfeed writer laments how easy it is troll the left, and how easy they keep falling for it. He suggests that the reason journalists keep falling for these pranks is because when browsing online forums like 4chan, it becomes quite hard to determine what is satire and what is serious:
…………This pattern — which has also included attempts by /pol/ and similar internet communities to turn milk (the dairy cow-produced beverage) and a cartoon dove made popular on Thai Facebook into white power symbols — most likely started with Pepe, the notorious cartoon frog. A kind of mascot for the meme-savvy Trump internet, Pepe was designated a hate symbol by the ADL in September, and the Clinton campaign subsequently added a Pepe “explainer” to its website. The move angered Pepe’s creator, the comic book artist Matt Furie, who told PRI at the time “its swift inclusion into the database is an attempt to add legitimacy to Hillary Clinton’s false claim that Pepe’s image is ‘almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists.'”
Indeed, outside legitimization is almost always the point of these campaigns; the “milk” trolling campaign received a boost when, in March, PETA declared that milk is “a symbol of white supremacy.”
The flareup also reflects the difficulty of reporting about online communities like /pol/, which often navigate the borderlands between irony, pranksterdom, and out-and-out hate speech — especially because the White House press credentialing of Fairbanks and Cernovich, two pro-Trump internet notables, means the Trump administration is comfortable allowing writers who play the same winking games as /pol/ and its ilk to cover it, which is another form of validation for these symbols’ usage entirely.
The writer even goes one step farther to find another upcoming prank in the works:
Meanwhile, perhaps encouraged by the “OK” fiasco, 4Chan has already rolled out their latest hate symbol: The peace sign.
In a surprising turn of events, perhaps for the first time ever, some Buzzfeed readers are starting to gain some self awareness too. One user, with the most upvoted comment on the thread, noted in Buzzfeed’s comment section that they were nothing more than a source of amusement for trolls at this point:
Some users asked Buzzfeed to focus on reporting more important topics, while others voiced their anger at people for believing that the OK sign was a hate symbol:
One user however remained adamant, arguing that if racists are using the signs ironically, then they, by definition, are now hate symbols.
I for one can’t wait for someone to turn the rainbow flag into a hate symbol.