Here's to you, George.
I love the Internet…it’s my teacher, my job, my lover with a thousand vaginas…so I want to talk about the Internet, and especially words on the Internet. Because besides pictures, movies, numbers, sounds, and flash animations of people dancing in silhouette about their APR, words are all we really have on the Internet.
We use them to tell people how we feel--usually about them--we use them to converse with people from all over the world about why their country is so shitty, and in general, we use whatever words we want. It’s liberating, right? “Fuck this!” “Gayyyyy.” Posts are padded with pricks and forums are filled with fucks. Not literally of course, that would require a lot of video embed.
But we say what we want, don’t we? We say things you can’t say on TV. Things George Carlin only said offstage, and that’s saying something. And we start to think that we can say anything, because really, who cares? It’s the motherfucking Internet. It’s not like school, not like the Internet can go “Hey! Who said that? Which one of you little snots called me a bowl of menstrual soup?”
BUT…there are those words. Those words that almost guarantee you’re going to spend the next eight hours getting death threats in your private messages folder. Things you say out of anger, when you’ve spent your lunch hour systematically deconstructing the arguments of a 14-year-old fuck who thinks he knows so goddamn much about the Spiderman mythos.
So unless you get off on hitting refresh all day, then there are words that you kind of…stop using on the Internet. Because let’s face it: unless you’re browsing through pornography, and that’s only about sixty percent of the time, there’s still a bare level of human decency that most people seem to expect. And there are seven words you just can’t post without risking becoming the one-man figurehead of the losing side of a flame war. You want to know what they are?
Nigger, cunt, faggot, Sieg Heil, Scientology, baby-rape and meh.
Nigger and cunt I understand. They just hit the brain wrong; racism, sexism, it’s like a perfect matching set of intolerance. And even though it’s a well-rehearsed fact of Internet life that we’re all white nerds with (albeit tiny) penises living in our parent’s basements, you try calling someone a nigger cunt online and see how many black women there suddenly seem to be surfing at four in the morning.
But that’s understandable; these are two oppressed groups, people get kind of touchy when you start picking on the oppressed. You can even keep the ironic approximation of black language, just not the word, at least if you want to get in and out without having to fabricate a history of civil rights activism to prove you’re not a Grand Wizard.
Faggot’s a slippery one. You can say “fag” all day, and no one seems to mind. I guess if you’re stupid enough to care what two guys do with each other’s butts or jealous that you can’t get anal sex and they can, people kind of disregard your opinions anyway. But “faggot?” Uh-oh. Now we’re in hard consonant territory. You don’t fuck around in hard consonant territory.
If the “faggot” gauntlet has been thrown, you can bet someone in this conversation is hunched over their keyboard, mashing it with all their angry might. It must be that “got” at the end that does it. As if you’re angry because they’ve taken over. “Oh no! The fag got me! He used to just be there!”
Sieg Heil, that’s your Hitler reference, which you still can’t whip out without some backlash. That’s impressive staying power. I mean five, six decades on and he’s still the world’s number one symbol of evil. Imagine that. He’s like the Mickey Mouse of evil. Except Goofy is Goebbels and Minnie is on fire in a ditch.
It’s more than Manson can say, that slacker. He even tried to ride on Hitler’s coattails with that swastika on the forehead; come of it Charlie, we all know you ain’t the guy. So Hitler’s out…probably not coming back into vogue any time soon, unless it’s ironically or because brown stirrup pants and red armbands make it big.
Speaking of ironic: baby rape. Again, not a bad sounding phrase. Almost sounds like “baby grape,” which is actually kind of pleasant. Even switching the words isn’t as bad: “rape, baby.” I mean, still inappropriate, but it sure sounds a lot cooler.
But baby rape is usually deployed ironically nowadays. Really the whole pedophilia domain. Many people like pulling it out as the “shock card” in forums. Baby eating, puppy killing, they’re all good. And of course you’ve got rape, which is right up there with AIDS in terms of shit you’re not supposed to joke about. So every smart aleck online simultaneously thought: “Jesus, you know what’s hilarious? The thought of forcing myself, sexually, on a baby.”
Of course, that thought has to be translated into a wry joke first. Just post “I’d like to force myself, sexually, on a baby” and you’re going to feel the full force of the Internet shouting you down and may even receive a friendly visit from some men who work for the government and would like to examine your hard drive. After all, everyone likes fucking with people and feeling good about it at the same time, and there’s not a lot more satisfying that fucking a baby rapist. Or maybe there is, but only the baby rapist and the ancient Greeks know for sure.
As for Scientology, they’re kind of in the Bill Cosby class of words, insofar as just mentioning them isn’t a killer, but do it enough and…they’ll be watching. And you can even get away with it, as long as you only frequent forums that their lawyers don’t bother checking out. I doubt many Scientologist figureheads are lurking in 4Chan threads; the Rickrolls alone would make it a futile effort. But mention them in less-than-glowing terms on Youtube or any other major site, and you’re in for something that makes Internet flame wars look tame: a cease-and-desist letter. Oooh.
Post enough passionate diatribes against that particular cult and next thing you know you’ve lost your social security number, your last eight tax returns are being audited, and way more people than usual stop you on the street to ask “what your crimes are.”
Now I know what you’re saying: what’s wrong with “meh?” It sounds like the sound made by an adorable imaginary animal. But no. The sound of meh is the sound of the person who thinks so little of your input, they can’t be bothered to type “gayyyy.” The person too lazy to articulate their thoughts beyond a monosyllabic interjection, and yet so confident in their opinion that they will casually cast judgment on your entire being. Don’t bore me, they warn. And when faced with that kind of ultimatum, there’s really only one answer:
Well, seven actually.
NOTE:The author would like to admit to two grievous errors in the preceding piece, in the (foolishly naive) hope of keeping people from harping on them in the comments section. Firstly, in the audio track, I confused Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer, which just goes to show that they aren't quite as memorable as Hitler. And secondly, I omitted the words "God" and "abortion" from the list, although if you'd like interesting takes on those topics, I suggest you look here and here, respectively.
When not blogging for Cracked, Michael pours forties on the curb as head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!