The internet is responsible for many terrible things, which the world tolerates as long as these terrible things stay on the internet.
But some internet memes become so popular they spill out and infect the real world in ways that simply cannot be tolerated. Such as ...
In 1998, a Canadian art student began a site dedicated to her pet hamster, which features four .gifs of hamsters and a nine-second loop of an irritating song that was basically the aural equivalent of pubic lice. The popularity of the site remained blissfully small until January 1999, when it inexplicably shot up from around 4 hits a day to 15,000 thanks to a campaign of emails, early blogs, bumper stickers and what must have been a worldwide drop in taste and sanity.
Where it Crossed the Line:
By the end of 1999 Hamsterdance.com was drawing an estimated 250,000 daily hits. Worse still, a band called The Cuban Boys released a song called "Cognoscenti Versus Intelligentsia," which consisted mostly of that irritating Hamster Dance sound loop and high pitched yodeling you might recognize as the sped up voice of Satan. As you can guess, the experience was similar to having feces injected directly into your eardrums.
Before too long, versions of the Hamster Dance were being released in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the tune was featured in 2001 film See Spot Run and the 2005 film Are We There Yet? (presumably a chilling trip into the human psyche in which a sadistic father drives his family around on an endless journey, blasting the Hamster Dance tune until they beg for the eternal silence of death).
8All Your Base Are Belong To Us
The meme began in 1998, with an innocent animated .gif on a video game website. It was taken from the opening cutscene of a Sega Genesis game called Zero Wing, in which a villain called Cats appears on a space craft's monitor and says "How are you Gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us. You are on the way to destruction!"
If you've never seen the whole thing in context, here it is:
This one line, which existed purely because game companies back then couldn't afford translators, spread across the internet like ... man we hate to keep using the pubic lice analogy, but when the irritating contagion fits.
Where it Crossed the Line:
We're thinking right about here:
And by the end of 2000, it had international media attention--we're talking mentions on Fox News, the BBC and articles in Time magazine. Or course, by the time the rest of the world had jumped on the bandwagon, use of the phrase would earn you instant rebuke from the daylight-dodging denizens of internet gaming forums.
But that didn't stop it. In 2003, as an April Fool's joke, seven teenagers placed signs bearing the slogan all around the town of Sturgis, Michigan. The joke backfired when the town's residents got worried that it was an act of terrorism, Sturgis being widely regarded by its residents (and no one else) as one of al-Qaida's next likely targets.
To this day you can find several t-shirts bearing the slogan.
Those shirts are all probably being worn ironically at this point, since internet memes age in dog years. One irony that's probably lost on the makers of Zero Wing: More money has probably been made off of their inadvertent catch phrase than they ever saw from the game.