While mainstream media news outlets like NBC love to brush 4chan off as nothing more than “a far-right message board” (despite them having to admit in the same 2019 report that 4chan was the first to learn about Jeffrey Epstein’s death) the internet message board is more than just the ostensible birthplace of the modern meme as we know it. The group has managed to pull off some of the greatest and most elaborate pranks of all time.
One of those 4chan pranks was conducted in 2012, when the online image board managed to amass 5.6 million votes to have Time Magazine name Kim Jong Un appoint their “Person of the Year” award to the North Korea dictator – which they decided to abstain from officially doing since they learned “members of Internet forums like 4Chan…launched a campaign to manipulate the results.”
In 2014, 4chan managed to get some of the most gullible iPhone users to microwave their iPhones – alleging through the use of a hilariously official-looking Apple advertisement graphic that new iPhone users could charge their phones via sticking them in the microwave – touting it as an innovative iPhone feature.
Having a panache for attacking internet polls, 4chan set their sights on a 2012 promotion where pop star Taylor Swift teamed up with Papa John’s Pizza, where online users could vote for Swift to perform at a school that received the most online votes. Considering that 4chan’s brand of humor is unique, to say the least, they managed to have Horace Mann School in Allston, MA become the contest winner…which is a school for the deaf and hard of hearing.
While Taylor Swift didn’t perform at the school due to the conundrum of the demographic, she did send $10,000 to the school alongside numerous other businesses and organizations associated with the contest.
Another infamous online poll hijacked by 4chan was held by soda company Mountain Dew in 2012, where they had online users vote on their “Dub The Dew” campaign to name and subsequently vote on their then-latest Green Apple flavor. Prior to Mountain Dew disabling the campaign, among the top-rated soda flavor names were “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong,” “Diabeetus.” and “Moist Nugget.”
But perhaps the greatest of all 4chan pranks occurred in early 2017, shortly after Donald Trump was elected president.
At the time, 4chan had adopted a sort of curious infatuation with poking fun at actor Shia LeBeouf – who at around that time had garnered an odd reputation between public perception and Hollywood in general.
And LeBeouf also was on the anti-Trump train at the time, having erected a flag that was connected to a clandestine livestream camera, with the flag being emblazoned with “He Will Not Divide Us.”
With 4chan having seen this flag that was then purported to be livecast to YouTube via livestream for the entire four years of Trump’s presidency, it served as a call-to-action – 4chan was being challenged to a game of capture the flag.
And by God, 4chan won.
With some users of 4chan reviewing LeBeouf’s social media accounts at the time of the livestream on YouTube going live, while others monitored the livestream to observe any plane contrails while cross referencing those trails with flight patterns and noting evening constellations – 4chan homed in on Greenville, Tennessee.
Other 4chan users noted that they could hear what sounded like the croaking of frogs on the livestream, suggesting the flag was erected near a body of water.
After flight patterns were confirmed, a social media post showing LeBeouf had been flyfishing in the Greenwood area at the time the flag was erected, one 4chan user hopped inside of a vehicle and started driving by the bodies of water while honking his horn – waiting for someone to alert him that his horn could be heard on the livestream.
Bingo – it was a hit.
For context, the “He Will Not Divide Us” flag was secretly established on March 8th, 2017 and was discovered by 4chan on March 10th, 2017, being taken down and replaced by a MAGA hat and a Pepe the Frog t-shirt.