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Republican Devin Nunes appeared (knowingly or not) to use a 4chan meme to mock journalists Thursday night on Fox News’ Ingraham Angle.
Nunes appeared on appeared on the program, hosted by Laura Ingraham, to discuss Rep. Adam Schiff’s continued actions regarding the Russia probe. “This is clearly an investigation again, without a crime. We’ve looked for two years — didn’t find anything, at all,” said Nunes, referring to the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, which, until recently, held a Republican majority.
Nunes was describing his take on media coverage of the ongoing meetings when he said the key phrase.
“What was amazing was that we haven’t seen the press people around that much—because there’s been a whole cottage industry of press people that are in the Capitol now,” Nunes started. “So for the first time, we show up to our business meeting just to organize, and there must have been 15 cameras down there and 30 press people. I’m thinking ‘what in the world are these people doing here?’ Well, we found out because [Schiff[ announced at the business meeting that he was reopening the Russia investigation. I don’t know what these people are going to do, this cottage industry of press people. They’re going to have to go learn code or something.”
If you’ve paid any attention to the widespread layoffs happening at media companies like BuzzFeed, Vice, HuffPost, and Gannett newspapers, and you’ve spent enough time on social media, the phrase “go learn code” will ring a bell. It refers to a harassment campaign against journalists that started on 4chan, and Nunes, perhaps unintentionally, amplified that effort.
More than 1,000 journalists lost their jobs, and when the conversation took to Twitter, numerous trolls took the chance to tell those laid off that they should learn to code. Other responses to journalists included variations on “MAGA,” “learn code you useless bitch,” and “LMAO journalists are evil wicked cretins. I wish you were all jail [sic] and afraid.” Here are a few examples, but be warned, the images are jarring:
According to a New Republic report from freelance journalist and former HuffPost columnist Talia Lavin (via The Verge), that campaign originated on 4chan’s politics board, /pol/, where users noticed the layoffs and formulated a plan to increasingly distress the now-unemployed journalists. Lavin, smelling a ruse, simply went to 4chan’s /pol/ board and found a thread of users coordinating the effort.
“Learn to code is what should be spammed over and over. Fuck these elitist c****,” wrote one user, according to Lavin.
Elsewhere, many of the “learn to code” messages were infused with anti-Semitism, racism, and hate for the media.
Lavin’s entire piece is worth reading, if for nothing else than how it effectively links Gamergate, a similar harassment campaign that roiled the video game industry and media, to the more widespread alt-right trolling campaigns that have infused themselves into broader American politics.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson also ran a segment discussing the “learn to code” phrase, comparing it to past headlines about American industrial workers or miners being offered coding classes as a fallback during layoffs. Carlson called journalists who wrote such pieces “self-satisfied,” and said that “someone on Twitter came up with a pretty brilliant piece of advice for all those laid-off journalists.”
It’s unclear if Nunes intentionally parroted 4chan’s harassment campaign, but 4chan and alt-right internet culture have infused themselves into American politics in deeply disturbing ways over the past few years, from helpingshift presidential debate polls in Donald Trump’s favor or turning the Pepe the Frog meme into a hate symbol.
Joseph Knoop is a gaming writer for Daily Dot, a native Chicagoan, and a slave to all things Overwatch. He co-founded the college geek culture outlet ByteBSU, then interned at Game Informer, and now writes for a bunch websites his parents have never heard of.