Netflix’s Terrifying Doc ‘The Antisocial Network’ Traces the Origins of QAnon to 4Chan

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Millennials love to wax poetic about the “simpler times” of the early internet in the 2000s, back when memes were harmless internet jokes and no one running for president had a Twitter account. But Netflix’s new documentary The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem—which began streaming today—will make you realize that the early days of the internet were not as innocent as we remember. Through interviews with former coders, hackers, and trolls, The Antisocial Network traces the origins of the dangerous alt-right mass delusion known as “QAnon” back to the first iteration of the so-called “edgy” online posting board, 4chan. And though some of the connections drawn in the film feel tenuous, the overall picture is nevertheless terrifying.

Directed by Giorgio Angelini and Arthur Jones (who also helmed the 2020 documentary Feels Good Man, about how Pepe the Frog became an alt-right mascot), The Antisocial Network features talking head interviews with formally notorious “internet” guys, identified not by their legal names, but by their username aliases. This includes a former 4chan user who goes by “fuxnet,” one of the more-clear eyed men (and it is mostly men) who appears in the film. “I’m just trying to clean up what I see as my old mistakes,” he tells audiences.

What, exactly, are those mistakes? Angelini and Jones breeze through a quick history of the website 4chan, an American spin on a Japanese internet forum, 2chan, launched by Christopher Poole (aka “moot”) in 2003. (Moot himself is conspicuously absent from the doc, and presumably declined to be interviewed.) The site exploded in popularity, and it didn’t long for its user base to start using the platform to spread chaos in the real world. That included, but was not limited to: White teens wearing afros and forming swastikas in public spaces, harassing and hacking the white supremacist commentator Hal Turner, and protesting outside the Church of Scientology. Some of those pursuits sound more noble than others, but almost all was done, first and foremost, in the name of “edgy” humor.

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