mwplante's review

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3.0

An interesting but non-essential framework for understanding the state of our present politics through the medium of bullshit on the internet. I learned a ton I didn't know (did you know goatse was an acronym?!) but often found myself saying "so what". Even when the books thesis did manage to feel momentarily transcendent, as soon as I would put the book down for a break I would quickly find myself back in the realm of thinking that the "death by memes" framework was not the most useful way of framing the politics emergent in our present material conditions. Still, the full extent of links between Trumpist figures like Bannon & Thiel and the message board-era internet makes for pretty fascinating reading.

Beran's theories on the left end of popular, identitarian politics frequently feel lacking in nuanced consideration of what identitarians really want. Agency is elided despite some attempts to throw it a bone, and the tumbler crowd come off as being nearly as blinkered as the 4chan nazis, which is unfair to the relative depth of historical analysis and embodied experience that the tumbler ideology represents. Nevertheless, I did find myself at times horrified and nodding along at his descriptions of how identitarian complaints are in fact ALLOWED to take up so much of the air in our political discourse precisely because they present such a small threat to the status quo.

The book ends on a hopeful note by pointing out that capitalism surely cannot survive in the face of automation, but he also mentions the twin challenge of climate change... I suppose its a question of which trend accelerates the fastest. If automation wins before climate change ramps up the precarity of the population too high, sure, we could be headed for a positive post-capitalist future. But I tend to think ecological disaster will reduce us to neo-feudalism and a slow, bleak death of the species before that day can come. I hope Beran's optimism wins out and the world (and internet) finally become "a better place".

motishead's review

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dark funny informative fast-paced

5.0

julieverive's review

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3.0

3.5 - What a disturbing progression of events that got us here.

lukewhenderson's review

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dark informative reflective fast-paced

4.5

schoofly's review

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dark informative medium-paced

3.5

ehinrichsenjr's review

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adventurous challenging dark funny informative reflective fast-paced

4.5

ksilvennoinen's review against another edition

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3.0

The subtitle of this book was initially a turn-off, because it's a very stupid argument. However, the book starts off with a great history of social internet and its forums all the way to 4chan and Reddit. The book is understandably only focusing on the US but treats the internet as mainly an American thing. This is fair to a point, considering that the forums it talks about were created and visited by North Americans.

However, the book starts to lose its footing once causes and consequences of the forums are projected on the real world. The rise of alt-right globally is more complex than 4chan and the rise of authoritarian leaders is not because of memes. Just like the book fails to imagine the world outside of the US, it also fails to consider that forces outside of the social internet could co-opt its users, that the forums were a fertile ground to existing ideologies and not a necessarily a birthplace of a new one.

One of the better books when it comes to the history of the internet and its denizens, but falls apart when it starts to explain last decades' political development to a bunch of basement-dwelling nerds. The internet has very likely been a big factor in upending the traditional political order but the book's thesis feels shaky for US and is completely unaware of the rest of the world.

annauq's review

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3.0

I loved the analyses of the Chans and Tumblr, but the global politics and social movements were treated a bit too simplistically for my liking. Good starting point for more in-depth research or reading, but I'm not sure how useful it is on its own.

kimscozyreads's review

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4.0

This book meandered a bit, and I don't know how much I agree with all of its conclusions, but it succeeded brilliantly as a recent history book that puts a ton of current events into their essential context.
I think some of the speculations about how precisely we came to the weird, sort of post modern internet zeitgeist that fostered the events described are nearly meaningless because they're just impossible to prove and don't always follow a very convincing chain of logic. I know who Marcuse is now, and roughly what he was on about, though, so there's that. However, that aside, the book was chock full of information about a phenomenon that's touched on all the time in the mainstream media, but rarely well chronicled in detail.

I was familiar with a fair amount of the material beforehand from previous reads and a plethora of podcasts produced by other journalists determined to cover this realm, but if you haven't read up a ton on this subject already, you will probably be even more engrossed. I was unfamiliar with much of the history of Anonymous; this book addressed a lot of misconceptions I had about it that seem entrenched in pop culture now. (Think Mr. Robot or literally anything made about hacktivism in the last decade.) Unsurprisingly, it's a much more complicated thing than how it's usually portrayed.
There's also a pretty comprehensive rundown of *sigh* Gamergate, which you need to know to understand the context a lot of current *sigh, again* discourse is steeped in.

Overall, it's not exhaustive, but for a relatively short book it packs a lot of important information that would be difficult to suss out on the wilds of the internet alone, especially if you haven't been terminally online since 2004.

fargestift's review against another edition

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5.0

The book is funny in the way that 4chan is funny. We can laugh at all the absurdity, but in the end, it's only to distance ourselves from the fact that it is all too real. Beran's account of how counter-culture is ultimately ground up and subsumed by capitalism, only to be repacked and sold back to you as self liberation/definition is surprisingly compelling. This readability might come at the expense of complexity, as Beran paints a narrative that is one-sided and definite, but the general thesis, in addition to tracing the history of 4chan, makes me apologetic of any shortcomings the book has academically. Read it with a critical eye, and it's something of a tragi-comic masterpiece for people who have wallowed too much amongst the internet meme-factories but still retained a flicker of hope.