4chan’s /pol/ boards have, for much of the 2016 campaign, felt like an alternate reality, one where a Donald Trump presidency was not only possible but inevitable. At some point Tuesday evening, the board’s Trump-loving, racist memers began to realize that they were actually right.
“I’m f—— trembling out of excitement brahs,” one 4channer wrote Tuesday night, adding a very excited Pepe the Frog drawing. “We actually elected a meme as president.”
The first threads for collecting examples of genuinely upset “libtards” and Hillary Clinton supporters to meme, mock and bombard them on Twitter began shortly after that. On 4chan, a night that even a lot of 4channers thought would be a meltdown turned in a celebration filled with schadenfreude, Internet-savvy racism and frogs.
4chan has, over the course of Trump’s ascendancy to president-elect, watched in delighted astonishment as its little fringe of Internet life made its way repeatedly into the mainstream conversation of the elections. This is, after all, the decade-old Internet forum whose beloved Pepe meme caused a weeks-long national panic — and a denunciation from the Clinton campaign — in September because of its new popularity among white-supremacist Trump backers.
The notorious message board has a long history of offending, harassing or “triggering” its enemies — mainly but not exclusively liberals, minorities and establishment Republicans — for its own amusement (i.e. lulz). The Trump movement was the perfect pathway for a wider audience of targets.
The “4chan vote” was not the crucial voting block that swung the election to Trump, but that sentiment — the belief that 4chan had actually contributed to or straight up caused Trump’s win — was everywhere on the boards for most of the night. Just hours earlier, the boards were filled with much sadder Pepes and anxiety about the then-positive results for Clinton, along with insults directed at the journalists who, they knew, expected to watch the live collapse of the alt-right on the boards there all day long.
Around 8 p.m., the chaos of ironic and genuine hand-wringing posts about /pol/ members having trouble voting and accusations of voter fraud began to slowly give way to images of Florida.
Florida was a “must-win” state for Trump, everyone had said, and /pol/ documented every fluctuation there. Soon though, panicked images of a blue Florida gave way to red ones. One thread filled up with hundreds of Pepes to help meme Florida over to Trump, as if their energy could help Florida stay red.
“WE WON THAT,” one thread began as Florida’s red shade held. “HOW DO YOU FEEL GUYS. B—- IS GOING TO JAIL,” in reference to Clinton. Wrote another 4channer: “Holy s— I just cant believe (((they))) are allowing this.” The triple parenthesis are a racist meme meant to signify that someone is Jewish.
Disbelief soon gave way to impatience and conspiracy for some. “CNN and NBC are up to something,” one person wrote. “Neither of them have reported on Florida being won by Trump, both are reporting Hillary is in the lead. I feel they’re holding off waiting for the Dems to meddle with the votes.”
Another encouraged those in states where voters were still at the polls to “Use EVERY weapon in our meme arsenal to turn Blacks & Hispanics away from Hillary.” The post re-upped a bunch of 4chan’s “vote by text” hoax images and various other anti-Clinton memes. “WHATEVER IT TAKES (legally) TO MAGA! Push like your life depends on it (it does) SHARE AND MAGA!”
By about 9:45, 4chan had noticed that the New York Times’s real-time predictions on the election’s outcome had suddenly started favoring Trump, after starting off the day heavily favoring Clinton. The board became a typically chaotic mess of celebrations, threads urging “meme magic” for other swing states — particularly Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia — and speculation about the Trump presidency that, as the hours ticked on, became all but certain.
“I should be sleeping, work tomorrow will be tough — but the morning will be a glorious one,” one post reads.
They discussed which mainstream or liberal news coverage was the best to watch for potential journalist freak-outs as Clinton’s path to victory disappeared. (The consensus was: The Young Turks, although one 4channer speculated that if any mainstream journalists “had handguns theyd be offing themselves right there on live tv”) Brexiters joined in the celebrations, and one 4channer rewrote a popular post from the board’s celebration of Britain’s referendum to leave the European Union to be about Trump:
Finally, by about 2 a.m., the anxiety had disappeared from the boards, as the calls handing Trump the presidency began to roll in. By 2:30, a moderator had stickied this video to the top of the boards:
And /pol/ reflected on how it good it felt, to them, to be right:
- A call to action for journalists covering President Trump
- Trolls turned Tay, Microsoft’s fun millennial AI bot, into a genocidal maniac
- A traumatic campaign produces a shocking ending, with Trump victorious