The Current

How 4chan and troll culture helped elect Trump: comic artist

The website 4chan, synonymous with gruesome content and roguish behaviour, may be the key to understanding the world today — and the rise of Donald Trump.
The message board 4chan with its free-for-all online culture may just be a key to understanding the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, says writer and comic maker Dale Beran. (

Read story transcript

The website 4chan is known for its anonymous, anything-goes forums, with no limits — a space for the disenfranchised and dissatisfied.

The site has been an influential cultural force that has redefined politics.

Writer and comic-maker Dale Beran has been covering 4chan for years and says understanding its users could explain the rise of Donald Trump.

He argues Trump's outsider status appeals to 4chan's predominantly male, young, and economically-constrained users.

Related: 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

 "They feel like they're outsiders, they're losers, and they want to make fun of the establishment. And part of it is saying you can put anyone up there, you can put an idiot up there," Beran tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"But the other part that's serious is that Donald Trump projects power, he projects the exact thing they don't have." 
4chan's Pepe the frog. (Dale Beran)

The site was created in 2003 by a 14-year-old in his mother's basement, and is based on a Japanese bulletin board.

"It had a peculiar format and what was really appealing was the anonymity which was later capitalized on by things like Snapchat and later on business realized 'oh, it's nice to be anonymous on the internet' but 4chan was one of the first ... to do that."

The site has become notorious for its trolling and often gruesome, disturbing images, as well as its links to the hacking group Anonymous and the so-called alt-right.

And according to Beran, 4chan exemplifies the idea of the troll, "someone who is there to disrupt communications." 

"They live literally underneath the normal passages of communication ... they're only going to come out to disrupt, to indeed mess with other people and then they're going to retreat back in there."

Beran says the people who use 4chan are generally not very successful in the real world, and as a result have retreated to virtual worlds like anime and TV.

"As they fail in real life, they have an ever more rich world of retreat into these virtual places."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith.