4chan has been an internet culture powerhouse for a very long time. The generic “meme” format of an Impact font text superimposed over a picture and the use of “reaction images” were pioneered or popularized by 4chan users as early as 2007.
Two memes one might find shared on Facebook by a grandmother
Usually when memes or meme formats leave 4chan and start getting used by “normies” (mostly non 4channers), they become abandoned by the user base and sometimes even mocked and ridiculed, like the formerly popular Rage Comics. In 2014 and 2015, a popular 4chan meme known as Pepe The Frog was starting to be co-opted by normies when Niki Minaj and Katy Perry started using Pepe and it seemed like it was time to put Pepe behind the barn and shoot him.
But Pepe has a special place in 4chan lore, having been known in the community for almost a decade as the Sad Frog. At the time, the /r9k/ board in particular was not taking the co-opting of their beloved Pepe well and interpreted it as more normie intrusion into their already marginalized and lonely lives. It was there that the idea to “poison” Pepe in order to make him seem less attractive to normies was born — a year before the Nazi Frog/Alt-Right controversy.
/r9k/’s plan of associating Pepe with scat (a type of pornography involving human feces) and gore wasn’t very successful in taking back Pepe; that job eventually fell to /pol/, the politically incorrect politics board. Surprisingly, scat didn’t turn the normies off Pepe as much as Donald J. Trump.
And the media, desperate for anything that’ll damage then-candidate Trump, pounced on it. /pol/ was so successful that an “explainer” for Pepe The Frog (with its apparent ties to white supremacy and Donald Trump) was written and published on Hillary Clinton’s campaign website.
The ball just kept rolling from there. After the election, at Shia Labeouf’s He Will Not Divide Us livestream, a group of Trump supporters drank milk in front of the camera. Again, the media saw this and ran with it. They said milk was a symbol of racism and made wild connections, claiming that the white color of milk represented the “white racial purity” that white supremacists wanted.
The guy on the far right in that picture is Asian by the way
This, at least in the opinion of this author, was when /pol/ collectively realized the power they held. Users began brainstorming new innocuous things to make racist merely by association with /pol/. Some time in late February, they settled on this; the OK hand symbol.
People began making memes advertising the association of the OK sign with “White Power,” usually passing them off as warnings to people to look out for.
The bait was set and while there were a few stories in the media about the OK sign being racist, it wasn’t until Saturday, April 29th 2017, that the mainstream media finally took the bait and ran with it. Two reporters, Cassandra Fairbanks and Mike Cernovich, had just been given White House press passes and took a picture together to celebrate while throwing up the OK sign. A journalist at Fusion saw this and claimed they were white supremacists doing the “white power hand gesture” at the White House.
Her proof for the the gesture being a symbol of white power? The exact same image /pol/ users created and spread to troll the media after the Milk and Pepe fiascos. Her tweet has since spawned multiple articles in the mainstream press strengthening the false association laid out by 4chan.
The media, in its quest to push the pearl-clutching narrative that racists are taking over in the “Age of Trump,” is eating up whatever 4chan and /pol/ put down.
4chan, and /pol/ in particular, has become so powerful they effectively own the media and control the news cycle.
/pol/ constantly rants about how “The Jews” control the media by crafting false narratives to push an agenda. Well it seems that, for now at least, /pol/ has become The Jew.