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@DotPolitics Weekly: The Internet goes to court

Will the real Dread Pirate Roberts please stand up?


Aaron Sankin


Posted on Jan 23, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 5:08 pm CDT

On the occasion of its 10-year anniversary in 2013, the Daily Dot called 4chan the “most important site you never visit.” It’s a description that truly captures 4chan’s very essence. The site is a terrible place full of the worst stuff imaginable; an online message board packed with weird anime tentacle porn, over-the-top racism, and, well, one time a 4chan denizen hacked Trayvon Martin’s personal email account. At the same time, 4chan is everywhere. The deeply moral hacktavists of Anonymous, the quirky grammar of LOLcats, the subtle humor of an artfully executed rickroll—all of it started on the site. 4chan is the Internet’s horrible, brilliant, pulsating id.

We’re making it sound interesting, which it is. But—and we can’t stress this enough—do not actually go there. Right now, the first post on the site’s most famous message board is someone looking for the picture of the “young woman [who] killed herself after a guy took a photo of himself penetrating her while she vomited from a car window, and the image went viral.” Below that: people posting pictures of their guitars. Below that: people listing their sexual conquests. Last year, a dude murdered his partner and posted photos of her corpse to 4chan. Seriously, don’t go there. You’re going there, aren’t you?

This week, 4chan founder and essentially sole administrator Christopher ‘moot’ Poole stepped down. Poole founded the site when he was only 15—an age when boys are all id. A dozen years later, Poole decided that he’s done and is handing management over to a new team. 4chan will undoubtedly continue to be 4chan, but Pool’s departure seems like a metaphorical turning of the page on an era when the Internet was also all id. A moment when the online world starts to act like it’s run by adults and consequences will never be the same.

Not really, actually the Internet is going to be overrun with terrible children until it becomes sentient and murders us all while we’re trying to pick the most meaningful Instagram filter. The government is just sending a bunch of Internet people to jail. Don’t worry your pretty little heads, everything on the Internet will still be dumb bullshit forever.

The government’s trial against the alleged Silk Road mastermind begins. In retrospect, determining the identity of someone going by the name “Dread Pirate Roberts” was never going to be simple.

The government would like you to believe that Roberts was the handle of Mr. Ross Ulbricht, a Texas native turned San Francisco transplant whose radical libertarian philosophy drove him to create the Silk Road, a massive online marketplace for the sale of drugs, fake IDs, and other illicit goods. It turns out the only thing you couldn’t buy on the Silk Road was protection from getting arrested. Also: love.

Daily Dot reporter Patrick Howell O’Neill has been covering the trial’s daily grind (and if you’re interested in what’s happening you should really read his articles on the subject). But, since we know you’re busy choosing Instagram filters while the Internet plots your demise, here’s the TL;DR:

Ulbricht admitted that he founded the Silk Road, but maintains he quickly gave operational control over to another person, who later tricked him into coming back on just as the law enforcement noose was tightening. Ulbricht alleges that other person was Mark Karpeles. Karpeles is something of a controversial figure in the world of Bitcoin in that basically everyone even tangentially involved to the world of Bitcoin hates him with a passion equaled only by being forced to briefly have a conversation not about Bitcoin. Under Karpeles’ watch,  the Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox managed to lose over half a billion dollars worth of pretend Internet money, which was a very sizable percentage of the world’s total supply of pretend Internet money. Fingering Karpeles, who maintains that he had nothing to do with the Silk Road, makes a lot of sense for the defense because it’s like blaming Hitler for stealing the cookie out of the cookie jar. Not only does everyone already hate Hitler, but, according to Godwin’s Law, every online discussion eventually mentions Hitler and we felt like this one has gone on long enough without it.

How does O’Neill, who has attended every day of Ulbricht’s trial so far, feel about this? Well, he gave a bunch of Redditors the opportunity to ask him anything about Ulbright, most notably: “He’s f**ked, right?”

Barrett Brown sentenced to 63 months in prison. Journalist and Anonymous associate Barrett Brown was sentenced to over five years in prison for some combination of sharing a link to hacked documents, threatening an FBI agent in a YouTube video, and getting his mom to hide his laptop in an oven. Brown’s case has become a cause célèbre for Internet freedom activists, who saw the government’s prosecution of Brown, which initially wanted to imprison him for over a century, as potentially stifling to free speech.

While Brown is likely looking at another two years in jail, he’s already served two years awaiting trial—and he knows how to find a silver lining in bad news.

You probably don’t care about the State of the Union—and neither does Obama. We didn’t care about the State of the Union. You didn’t care about the State of the Union. Obama didn’t care about the State of the Union. We are all robots going through the motions on a ship that is slowly sinking into a bubbling sea of whatever. Obama gets it. That’s why he’s paying for everyone to go to community college and proposing taxes on rich people that the rich people in Congress will never let happen because rich people don’t let mildly inconvenient things happen to other rich people because it’s rude.

Every January, just over one-third of Americans celebrate MLK day by not going to work. The other two-thirds commemorate the life of the civil rights icon by going to work and then either tweeting comparisons between themselves and Dr. King or heaping scorn on the insensitive jerks making those comparisons.

There’s a knee-jerk reaction to slam people who compare themselves to King, and it probably comes out of the statements effectively serving as the opposite of Godwin’s Law (see above). “Your arguement is wrong and you’re a bad person; the worst person with the wrongest argument was Adolf Hitler; therefore, you’re Hitler.” The King comparison is effectively the inverse. “I’m a great, self-sacrificing hero; Dr. King was the greatest, most self-sacrificing hero; therefore, I’m Dr. King.” There’s an instant revulsion at the comparison not only because whatever bullshit the speaker is patting themselves on the back for is almost inevitably less meaningful than what Dr. King had for breakfast on a day he spent in bed with the flu, but also because it comes off as blatantly and lazily egotistical.

Right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza tweeted that he was like Dr. King because he believed he was targeted by someone whose name could be written (First Initial) (dot) (Middle Name) (Last name).

D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud last year, is saying that his experience getting caught for illegally reimbursing his friends’ contributions to a GOP Senate candidate, was just like when the FBI sent Dr. King a letter trying to get him to commit suicide. This not only tells us how highly D’Souza thinks of himself (a lot), but also isn’t quite as bad as what the Seattle Seahawks did after their stunning second-half comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.  

At least D’Souza’s tweet kept Dr. King in a political context. King’s own politics were diametrically opposed to those of D’Souza, who capped off a stellar week of saying ridiculous crap by telling Fox News that Obama never had the “African-American experience.” But at least that tweet doesn’t remove King from the world, effectively turning him into a collection of bland bromides about togetherness. This was a man who who, at the end of his life, was pushing for a $30 billion anti-poverty program that included full employment and guaranteed minimum income for all Americans. Those are real political issues, not just generic inspiration from a sports franchise whose home city didn’t even know they had a football team until three years ago.

There’s a lot of Seahawks gear in Seattle, all of it brand new. Just saying.

Maybe the only reason people think the Patriots cheated by using deflated game balls is because Bill Belichick wears a hoodie. That’s profiling, you guys, and it’s wrong.

Ship Your Enemies Glitter just sold for a sparkly buttload of money. Grandpa, your annoying, ungrateful grandchild will ask, what was the tech scene like in 2015? “Well Kanye,” you’ll say because in 2065 all children will be named Kanye regardless of gender, “the tech world in 2015 was a depressing place where privileged 20-somethings came up with dumb business ideas that immediately got loads of undeserved media attention. They would quickly grow bored of those dumb business ideas and then sell them to grown-ups with too much money who should know better.”

On a completely unrelated note, someone just bought the site for $85,000.

On an even more completely unrelated note, the url for is still available. If you’ve ever wanted to start a business disrupting the market for sending copies of the 2001 Mariah Carey bomb to people with complicated relationships, now’s your chance.

Are you a Patriots assistant coach reading this email through spyware covertly installed on the computer of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll? Click here to sign up for the weekly @DotPolitics Newsletter.


Aaron Sankin & The Daily Dot Politics Team

Illustration by J. Longo.

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*First Published: Jan 23, 2015, 11:41 am CST