WingerDinger Dead

In a recent article for the National Review titled “Gated or X-Rated,” Jonah Goldberg and Nick Schulz liken the internet to the Wild West, an image of almost unparalleled romance for a subsection of conservatives who get a tingle up their collective leg when listening to the recorded speeches of Ronald Reagan. The article is a decidedly naïve and typically old-media series of observations in support of Apple’s model of internet access -- heavily regimented for consumers who want their internet filtered through pre-fab applications -- and an argument for the creation of a “.kids” domain name. Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Schulz believe this to be constructive and non-restrictive way of setting up a safe zone for kids who want to enjoy the internet without stumbling into an “I’m twelve and what is this?” sort of situation.

Now, I actually like Goldberg (rote disclaimer: even though I don’t always agree with him), at least in print, and I’m not familiar with Schulz. But however much their writing entertains me with its sentimental view of the internet as a vast expanse of open information frontier that nourishes libertarian spirit, their proposal of a new domain is a really, really terrible idea.

Perhaps it isn’t as obvious to them, because, unlike me, they have real lives and don’t venture far past the right wing political blogs with which they agree and left wing political blogs to which they publicly take exception. Being more internet savvy than I would like to be, I have seen more than one instance of that Wild West encroaching like a band of cattle rustlers (or perhaps more like raiding Visigoths) into the gated communities (their terminology, not mine) already set aside for children. The Habbo Hotel raids would be a good, though relatively harmless and funny example. Less easy to appreciate are the posting of flashing gifs on an epilepsy support forum.

Less funny and more than a little disturbing is the recent explosion of interest in “Jessi Slaughter” (Google if you must) an eleven-year-old “crunkcore” fan whose antics brought her more attention than she knew how to handle -- attention that she actively sought. Not only did she taunt her online bullies (before her videos were posted to image boards, many of the online detractors were about her own age), she posted highly suggestive pictures, and is possibly involved in a scandal involving the lead singer of some shit band called Blood on the Dance Floor, who currently faces allegations of sexual assaulting a sixteen year old girl.

But that’s the internet.

So, WingerDinger Productions. This site was the subject of two previous posts, both of which covered the hopelessly silly nature of their discussion. The sight was recently trolled, its owner, Hellsing920 (Emer Prevost IRL), driven off YouTube by false DMCA notices and its community exiled to a new forum. The original site, a cheap .webs domain, was “hacked,” and was redirecting to “last measure,” then the hacker’s own YouTube channel. The bandwidth now used up, WingerDinger’s initial incarnation is gone. There were two major problems that converged with WingerDinger that will afflict any sort of .kids site that allows children to interact on the internet. The first is that kids are stupid and the other is that kids are easy targets.

It isn’t hard to figure out that WingerDinger’s userbase was comprised mostly of people under or around the age of eighteen, and like any comprised of socially awkward kids, the community was prone to navel-gazing (they wrote their own article on TVTropes), cheerful displays of ignorance, and an utter disregard for nuance, critical thought, precise expression and good humor. The website’s owners and creators of its actual content were mostly older -- Hellsing920, I believe, is only a few years shy of thirty -- but they attracted, due to the nature of their videos and webcomic, an audience of kids who were no more prudent than their online idols. Granted, imprudence is to be expected from those who have a ways to go before they’re a few years shy of thirty.

Part of the issue here is what the internet has evolved into and why a wider range of people, including kids, want to use it. Hellsing920 raised the ire of a lot of YouTube users in videos where he would spew incorrect information in as loud and obnoxious a manner as he could muster, and when people responded to correct him, he would accuse them of being petty and pat himself on the back for having gotten a rise out of them.. In a lot of ways, this is the internet equivalent of showing somebody your dick and then calling them queer. This made him a hero to a seemingly impossible number of less than clever kids.

In a brief conversation we had before YouTube finally suspended his channel, Hellsing920 told me that his internet “persona” was based on all of his “negativity and cynicism” and claimed that he was successful based on how often he “pissed off people.” He also agreed with me when I told him that his fans were stupid, but didn’t seem especially open to the idea that his videos and persona attract the sort of fan -- young, male, insecure and not especially bright -- that rewarded his ignorance with attention and praise (in his defense, I hardly stated this explicitly)..

This is the nature of YouTube, many message boards, and most social networking sites -- and practically every site attempts to “network” its users these days -- an attention whoring competition. Emer had over nine thousand (no meme intended) subscribers before YouTube banned his account; his fans equated that “success” with his “negativity and cynicism” and hoped to emulate it with their own online personas. One of the trolls, while discussing the then upcoming raid on the WingerDinger site, asked something basically along the lines of “is there anything these kids don’t hate?” It was a reasonable question given how many threads consisted of “_______ is so overrated” or “_______ needs to die.” In response to an earlier post on the subject, WingerDinger member KBMadhouse actually pointed out that the forum was overwhelmingly negative.

Between the brittle egos, the stupid videos, and the desperately negative forums, it was inevitable that WingerDinger would eventually get trolled. It just happened that they caught the attention of some unusually competent ones who worked them over pretty well.

A .kids domain would eventually attract the same kind of attention, especially one that allows any sort of interaction. There are plenty of High School Musical and Twilight fans whose eyes were assaulted by Goatse and Tub Girl over the years who can attest to that. Furthermore, even if adults, the predatory and puckish alike, could be kept off of a “.kids” domain, children would still be exposed to the stupidity of other children (do you want your kids talking to Jessi Slaughter?). Of course, one gets the impression that Jonah Goldberg and Nick Schulz think of the internet as something through which actual content is accessed. If they want to limit their kids to accessing only the sites that provide real information and keeping them away from all of the things for which people actually use the internet -- gossip, porn, and ego-wanking -- well, I hate to say it, but: there’s an app for that. Buy Apple.

But that isn’t why most kids want to use the internet. I’m not saying that WingerDinger deserved to get hacked; but that “for all intensive purposes,” it’s a great example of the role that internet plays for the kids that use it. They aren’t looking for irregular Latin verb conjugations; they're desperately seeking attention and validation, often through shared hatred or brand idolatry. The best way to prevent children from experiencing the lawless frontier of the internet will always be to keep them from playing on it.
The Last WingerDinger Image I'll Ever Post.

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