With the US election cycle over, the anonymous user of 4chan’s /pol/ (politically incorrect) board are antsy for something new to occupy their time. Last night that new target was confirmed as ISIS.
It began as the tweet above by bunk economist and men’s rights activist Stefan Molyneux, whose website was described in the The Times of London as a “cult.” The tweet became the focus of a /pol/ thread yesterday wherein it was agreed the infamously regressive imageboard would take up Molyneux’s challenge.
Though some were quick to point out to Molyneux the well-worn modus operandi of the site (“not your personal army”) enough were bored, amused, or new enough not to care.
At first glance, punching up at a globally despised group of fundamentalist terrorists is almost a throwback to the early days of 4chan. The Church of Scientology and the Westboro Baptist Church were among the many targets of the then-nascent and now largely inactive hacktivist collective Anonymous which formed within 4chan’s ranks. Anonymous, though never codifying any sort of working philosophy, tended to poke at the powerful and the zealous. The clearest indication of how much the site has changed is this new campaign’s rallying cry: “deus vult.”
Historically, the phrase “deus vult” (translated as “god wills it”) is associated with the first crusades. But a memorable line in the 2012 video game Crusader Kings II allowed it to become a meme of sorts.
There’s nothing wrong with trolling people who regularly engage in beheadings. But doing so while invoking the crusades, following the words of a cultist moron, and referring to practitioners of Islam as “mudslimes” is clear evidence that there’s more at work ideologically than getting a rise out of the people most deserving of it. What was once a pretty dumb joke from a minor video game is now being used to encapsulate much of the anti-Muslim sentiment found among Trump supporters on 4chan’s /pol/ and the_donald on Reddit. In the year of our lord 2017, deus vult has come full circle as the completely unironic catch phrase of a burgeoning internet holy war.
How will this anti-Muslim jihad manifest? With more than one “official” playbook it’s hard to say. Deus vult threads on /pol/ have put forward a plan to turn ISIS’s homophobia against itself, trending #ISISgay in the process. Meanwhile, a deus vult Discord chat for this new campaign was created and instead plans to trend #anklesforallah in order to “flush out...ISIS social media accounts.” Currently, neither is particularly popular on Twitter, and the plans themselves are incoherent at best.
Even if /pol/ is able to agree on some sort of game plan, Molyneux’s hypothesis that the site could “take down ISIS” in less than seven days is patently ridiculous—a self-aggrandizing ploy to further solidify Islamophobia on the corners of the internet his fan club occupies. Come next Wednesday, lets see how what sort of mental gymnastics are required to explain that terrorism can’t be stopped with a fucking hashtag.