The Antisocial Network

The Antisocial Network
The Antisocial Network
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The Antisocial Network from Arthur Jones and Giorgio Angelini, paints a terrifying spectacle of how the internet spills out into real life as well as actual politics. By giving an account of an era where online spaces serve as escape hatches and mechanisms of control, the documentary persuasively argues that there’s not only a direct line that one can draw from 4chan shitposting to the January 6 insurrection but it is very much sensible.

Funny in equal parts to being haunting, this film follows Jones and Angelini’s previous documentary Feels Good Man (which was directed by Jones and produced by Angelini) which depicts Pepe the Frog’s journey from an innocent web-comic character to a harmless meme then finally to a hate symbol in disguise. The pair magnifies this notion in their latest feature, The Antisocial Network via macro or big-picture approach that links early web forums with present-day mobs fueled by conspiracies.

It starts with scenes of January 6 before introducing its main characters: many hackers and former 4chan users who grew up on anonymous image boards. These people made witnessed, participated in some way in shaping the information age for better or worse but without rose-colored retrospection on their paths.

Jones’and Angelini’s interviews were done mostly crowded personal spaces in which these subjects are surrounded by modern gadgets; dim neon lights create futuristic overtones (another). Nevertheless, cheerfulness with which they remember hanging around Japanese-style “chan” boards of 2000s quickly turns into utter regret. Their voices bear hesitation.

From edgy off-color jokes all the way through self-congratulatory mobilizations against bad actors leading to hacktivist groups like Anonymous, The Antisocial Network serves as a comprehensive look back at how cyberspace started affecting everyday life drawing out emotional forces behind it. Although this makes them appear self-aware, editing by Jones drew Blatman, Devin Concannon, and David Osit bridges the gaps between their cringing. This is achieved by weaving archival clips, ancient 4chan posts as well as even news articles about site antics together thus immediately rhythmically and amusingly relating each of these unique perspectives to their far reaching after effects. Sometimes a joke is just a joke, but sometimes it dovetails into a group Sieg Heil at an anime convention.

The Antisocial Network represents a double edged sword for both sides: The viewer is reminded of images that are barely 10 to 15 years old while interviewees confess to being ashamed of having taken part in Chan culture either implicitly or explicitly. However, some eye catching and often abstract animated sequences make this saga much more palatable. They begin with individuals at their computers but slowly morphing in imaginative ways; Sims like cartoon people put on V for Vendetta masks (like Anonymous) but are still linked by dark tendrils hanging from a digital dimension that stays just out of reach. It’s as though they’re doing the bidding of collective “big tech” by stoking outrage and fear.

However, the movie moves rapidly through the years with both algorithms and humans front stage at many points. But The Antisocial Network never divorces itself from the United States’ political trajectory: From GamerGate to Trumpism to QAnon and beyond, each modern online movement with broader implications finds itself not just mentioned, but linked to one another – the same beast in different forms.

What’s really biting about The Anti-Social Network is that it remains extremely hilarious at the same time it extensively indicts its audience. At the centre of this is a key narrative that examines how attempts of good vigilante justice can go awry and harm people due to broken systems which refuse self-correction. The urge to make things right in the world crosses all ideological lines. It often comes out as a response to helplessness and youth gone off course but tragically, it just serves to further and further split open our world from within showing a gloomy heart ready to embrace ‘edginess’ regardless of social implications.

With carnivalesque music by Martin Crane, The Antisocial Network charts the transformation of digital water coolers into gaming arcades with gamified interactions that involve swiftly changing easily mimicked slang resulting into genuine cultural shifts. This film takes us right inside this process, letting us sometimes bask in its raunchy forbidden dopamine hits before finally snapping back through what remains contemporary reality. How did we get here? has rarely been answered so absurdly or clearly.


The Antisocial Network tells a scary story in an amusing way as it documents the changeover from turn-of-the-century image boards to today’s conspiracy movements. Through affecting animations and interviews with self-aware subjects who know their place within this tidal shift, the documentary captures macro and micro consequences of un-moderated internet infiltrating real life.

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