Digital cynical romanticism: Japan’s 2channel and the precursors to online extremist cultures

In the West, the concern surrounding the rise of online harassment, trolling and other malicious and antisocial behaviors tend to be hyper focused on websites like 4chan, 8chan and reddit. However, the rise of online hate culture that laid the groundwork for movements like Gamergate and the alt right has a precedent in Japan – specifically, the culture that was borne out of the 2channel text board, which was the inspiration for the American 4chan. As society decayed around many Japanese in the 1990s (an economic recession, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, to name a few events), the Internet came to prominence in the form of Bulletin Board Systems. Despite its lasting impact and influence on digital culture more globally, it is understudied and ignored in larger discussions around trolling, harassment, and online hate. Using a case study of the anti-Korean manga Kenkanryu and through the lens of Cynical Romanticism, this essay examines the ways that 2channel and the netto uyoku (the Japanese extreme far right) created a digital subculture that has had a lasting impact on global online hate. Though the netto uyoku never achieved significant successes in terms of actual societal and political change, what they did leave behind is a blueprint for online reactionaries.

Tags: 4chan, 8chan, Gamergate, Japan, Kenkanryu, netto uyoku, Reddit