Internet memes are the backbone of online pop culture. They're those little phrases and concepts that take the Internet by storm, one IM at a time. They're like viruses, propagating throughout the collective consciousness of all those who "lol." But they've got to start somewhere.
Don't know about 4chan? As the Time article puts it, "You may not realize it, but 4chan has probably touched your life. Possibly inappropriately." If you've heard of lolcats or if you've ever been Rickrolled, you've been touched by 4chan. If you've herd about mudkipz, you've been touched by 4chan. If you've noticed radical and vocal opposition to Scientology in recent months, you've been touched by 4chan. Says the Time article:
4chan is also very profane. A phrase from Star Wars comes to mind: It's a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Spammers don't even bother to spam 4chan; Google started searching it only six months ago. But it is the wellspring from which a lot of Internet culture, and hence popular culture, bubbles.
The articles covered 4chan in a much less sensationalized way than a Fox affiliate did last year. In fact, I'll say they both did a good job in covering such a strange, strange community.
It was revealed in those articles that "moot," the man behind 4chan, was 15 years old when he started the site. (This means that moot himself was breaking his own "no minors" rule on several boards. This also means that he's younger than me. Weird.)
But really, the biggest bomb was the revelation of moot's real name, which had been a well-kept secret all this time. Lev Grossman , the author of the Time article, put it thus:
Towards the end of the piece I mention moot's real name: Christopher Poole. I figure there's about a 5% chance that Christopher Poole is in fact not moot's real name but some incredibly filthy 4chan inside joke. I took the chance because in person moot/Poole comes across as a really nice guy, and if he was playing me he was doing a hell of a good job. But it turns out the Wall Street Journal has the same story -- had it shortly before we did, I think -- so if we're going down, at least we're all going down together.
Me? I'm taking it all with a grain of salt. This could easily be part of an elaborate trolling, and I think it speaks to the quality of Grossman's work that he, too, is treading lightly on it.