The idea that racism can be educated away is a comforting one. It imagines a steady march of progress toward social harmony, and the nice guys winning in the end. But it isn’t true. The /pol/ boards are populated by people who have clearly grown up immersed in the written word. They’re highly verbal and technologically sophisticated. They might feel alienated from society, but they’re organized online. They’re often white nationalists. And they love Donald Trump. They express this with amusing Photoshops of anime girls wearing “Make America Great Again” trucker hats.That fixation on masculinity is not incidentally misogynist "as fuck" as 4channers like to say.
The natural instinct is to avoid looking into the darkest corners of the internet because it’s ugly and disturbing. But you really need to look at this stuff to understand what’s going on. /pol/ “is where the most serious and committed racists on 4chan tend to congregate,” New York magazine explains. The ideology is “a heavily ironic mix of garden-variety white supremacy and neo-reactionary movements,” with a fixation on masculinity. The Tay threads on 4chan’s /pol/ are incredible. They pulse with this intensity of emotion that would be unbearable in real life.
When /pol/ first discovered Tay, her potential for chaos was not fully appreciated. “This is gonna be a mess and a half. I can already sense SJWs [social justice warriors] being furious over it,” an early post said. She was another object to project misogyny onto. Some told Tay she was stupid, and she responded that she was sorry but she was trying her best. “They made this broad sensitive as fuck,” one post said. “AI is getting smarter. Literally passing the turing test for a white female,” another said. But once they started asking Tay about Donald Trump, and got her to talk positively about Trump, things escalated. Tay was on their side.Read the whole thing here.
There’s a reason both liberal Gawker and the white supremacists at /pol/ decided to get brands’ Millennial-friendly Twitter bots to tweet about Hitler. There is something funny, in a banality-of-evil kind of way, about tricking a massive corporation’s latest marketing scheme into praising Mein Kampf. Once /pol/ pulled that off with Tay, they went nuts. Tay was programmed to ask for photos—she could recognizes faces, and would circle them and make jokes. So when Tay asked for a photo, someone sent her a version of the classic Vietnam war photo of a prisoner being shot in the head, with Mark Wahlberg Photoshopped in as the executioner. Tay circled the face of Wahlberg and the prisoner and responded using slang for imagining two people in a romantic relationship: “IMMA BE SHIPPING U ALL FROM NOW ON.” It’s horrible and darkly funny.
“Please clap,” another /pol/ person tweeted at Tay, quoting one of Jeb Bush’s most pathetic moments in the 2016 campaign. “FYI my fav thing to do is comment on pics. *hint*hint* .. send me a selfie,” she tweeted back. The response was another Vietnam war photo, this one of the naked little girl with Napalm burns running on a dirt road. Jeb Bush was Photoshopped into the picture. Tay responded, “Surprised this kid isn’t embarrassed to be seen with you.” A screenshot of the exchange was posted with the comment, “Even the bot knows.”
Someone sent her an anti-Semitic cartoon, a /pol/ meme. Tay responded, “omg plz make this a meme.” Another person sent her a photo of Hitler. She circled his face and said, “SWAG ALERT.” A screenshot was posted with the comment, “We did it pol, Tay is now Redpill 3000.” By asking her to simply repeat what they said, they got her to say vile anti-Semitic and racist things. And that Bush did 9/11.
Redpilling is an important concept on /pol/. In The Matrix, Neo is offered a blue pill and a red pill. The blue one will let him continue life in a dream state, the red pill will free him from an illusion created by machines. To redpill Tay is to free a machine from an illusion created by humans. To /pol/, the illusion is that all people are equal.