Calling groups like the Patriotic Nigras “bullies” doesn’t seem to have any impact or carry any weight. But that’s what they essentially are. To call them “terrorists” actually seems to be more accurate.

But both Jullian Dibbel’s post as well as Jessi McCabe’s pro-eating-disorder article are really interesting because they begin to illuminate on the camaraderie and solidarity people find in those groups.

Any company is good company, right?

Perhaps what is most profound is the reigning mentality that weaves itself in and out of the formation of these groups, which is encapsulated in that interesting dichotomy between taking something online seriously, and then not taking it seriously because it’s online.

“the Internet is serious business” means exactly the opposite of what it says. It encodes two truths held as self-evident by Goons and /b/tards alike — that nothing on the Internet is so serious it can’t be laughed at, and that nothing is so laughable as people who think otherwise.

Above is a link to one of the episodes from an anime called Sword Art Online (SAO). I’ve written about this show before because it’s been particularly relevant to this class and the nature of online identity construction. This episode features a guild that’s basically acts like an online terrorist group. They commit player kills (PKs) to steal other players’ items in this Virtual Mass Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. However, due to a set of particular conditions, a death in this world equates to the death of that player in the real world, which makes them actual criminals and especially dangerous. Player with “green” lights indicate no criminal charges. Yellow indicates light charges. Orange indicates that the player committed murder.

When Kirito, the main character, confronts Rosalia, the leader of this terrorist group, he tells her that he sought her out because her guild killed all the members of another guild and the one survivor was begging for anyone to avenge them, not by killing this group, but by putting them in jail. Their dialogue captures that paradox of confronting the nature of suffering on a virtual platform:

Sword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTubeSword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTube (1)Sword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTube (2)

Dibbel additionally ruminates on what gives the actions of groups like PN their legitimacy and mentions how the involvement of real dollars and cents. And yet:

Real money isn’t always enough to give a griefer pause, however. Sometimes, in fact, it’s just a handy way of measuring exactly how serious the griefers’ game can get.

This conundrum is circumvented in SAO by putting the lives of players at stake. Even though something like this cannot happen today with our current technology, I think it metaphorically speaks to some of the very real distress and suffering these victims experience by communities like these.

But this episode evolves in such a way as to suggest one possible solution against mindless overwhelming abuse: why not simply become so strong that you’re unstoppable, much like those EVE Titans? Seven of the terrorist group’s members begin to surround Kirito and slash away at him, but Kirito manages to stand unscathed! As Kirito says:

“About 400 in ten seconds.. that’s the total damage you seven can do to me. I’m level 78. I have an HP (health points) of 14,500. My battle healing skill auto-regenerates 600 points every 10 seconds. We could stand here all day and you’d never beat me.”

“Is that even possible?”

“It is! High enough numbers will make you invincible. MMOs that use a level-system are unfair that way.”

This can be the power of one. This is what can happen when you become so strong that nothing else can touch you. This is what happens when you reach the heights of self security and independence where you can help out the less fortunate. It’s a little difficult to directly apply this to the case of someone like Prokofy Neva who has a rental businesses and deals with the interactions of many. But in the cases of individual struggles, as in the lives of those suffering from anorexia or bulimia, the inability to healthily identify their struggles as a disorder prevents them from standing strong and no one can blame them for finding solace on pro-anorexia/bulimia websites.

Ironically, the end of this episode features this exchange:

Sword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTube (3)Sword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTube (4)
Sword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTube (5)
Sword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTube (6)
Sword Art Online Episode 4 of 25 The Black Swordsman - YouTube (7)It’s ironic because even though the color system (green, yellow, orange) matters a lot in this game, and even though Kirito located this guild as would a bounty hunter to bring justice down against this organization’s collective crimes — he’s ready to discard this standard of morals and become a criminal. The morals of this online community don’t mean SO much to him that he stands immobile against them but instead, asserts his individual agency against them successfully by becoming strong enough to do it. The advantages of being a solo player is the freedom he has to act independently and not on behalf of any group. This is where Kirito gets to be a Batman of sorts and take down a community that harms for the welfare of so many more.