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Singer Justin Bieber performs at Z100's Jingle Ball 2012 presented by Aeropostale at Madison Square Garden on Friday Dec. 7, 2012 in New York. (AP)
Singer Justin Bieber performs at Z100's Jingle Ball 2012 presented by Aeropostale at Madison Square Garden on Friday Dec. 7, 2012 in New York. (AP)

What misogyny looks like: Pranking Justin Bieber fans to cut themselves Add to ...

The chantards are at it again, doing it for the lulz. If you don’t know what those things are, then you are probably not in favour of them.

The anonymous people who post shocking images and racist jokes on the Internet image board known as /b/, which is a part of the Web community known as 4chan, contain among them a few who enjoy malicious pranks, such as publishing Sarah Palin’s private e-mails or the intimate pictures of someone else’s girlfriend, and those unscrupulous few are known as chantards. If you ask them why they do these things, they say, “for the lulz,” which basically means “for the pleasure of causing pain.”

The wags at /b/ created quite a successfully nasty Internet meme that crested in popularity, then died, on Monday afternoon. Several media outlets picked up on it before it was revealed to be a prank: You may have seen the reports circulating that teenage Justin Bieber fans were cutting themselves with razor blades and tweeting the gory pictures.

The idea was that they were trying to convince their singing idol to give up marijuana, following the publication of some snapshots of him apparently smoking a joint. About a half a dozen gruesome pictures of arms and razor blades were posted, along with pretty convincing teenage user names and photos and earnest messages for the Bieb.

The whole thing was pretty convincing, actually – it’s exactly the kind of incident one can imagine happening in an age of hysterical celebrity-following, conservative anti-drug propaganda and the adolescent fixation with self-harm. All those things seemed to combine into one powerfully sad reflection of contemporary mores. But it was actually nastier than that: It was an attempt by some Internet trolls to get young women to cut themselves for real.

We still don’t know if it worked or not. We don’t know for sure if all the images posted were part of the hoax or if anybody eager for an excuse to publicly cut jumped on the bandwagon.

The same thing happened with an earlier stunt pulled by 4channers: They were the ones who started a rumour, last October, that Bieber had cancer and that fans were shaving their heads out of solidarity.

The tweets fooled a few media outlets for a few days. There too, most of the posted images of shaved heads were part of the prank, but who knows who else fell for it and played along?

One of the most troubling things about the prank is that a lot of people are trying to take credit for it. There is another message board, called 9gag, usually full of mildly amusing photos and cartoons, where users are claiming responsibility for inventing the #cutforbieber hashtag. This is a bit like all the self-styled terrorist groups who claim responsibility for every bomb. These guys take great pride in causing harm.

Are they all guys? One can only guess. Guessing is not hard, given the relentless stream of porn pictures that are posted on /b/. One famous screen-grab from the image board shows a few answers to the question, “/b/, how do you get your women?” The first answer was, “Right mouse click > save image.”

There are many apologists for /b/. They argue that because no registration is required, it offers true anonymity, which allows for whistle-blowing and other forms of activism without recrimination. Attacks on Scientology, for example, under the name Anonymous, have been associated with 4chan. Users were also involved in shutting down a white supremacist’s website with denial-of-service attacks. If anyone tries to remove any image from the Internet, you can be sure that 4channers will distribute it as widely as they can. The users of /b/ in particular like to think of themselves as crusaders for Internet freedom.

But why would a crusader for Internet freedom hate Justin Bieber so? Because all unattractive men do. They hate Justin Bieber because teenage girls love him. It must be terribly frustrating: The more you call the guy a “faggot,” the more girls he seems to get.

Make no mistake: The “Cut For Bieber” prank is simple misogyny. It is not directed at Justin Bieber; its target is teenage girls who don’t like the sort of guy who spends his day uploading porn pics and racist jokes on anonymous websites.

If she won’t go out with you, of course it makes sense to try to get her to hurt herself and then laugh at her for it.

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