Let's Play War: Inside 4chan’s intergroup rivalry, contingent community formation, and fandomized war reporting

Phillip Stenmann Baun, Maximilian Schlüter, Daniel Bach, Marc Tuters, Yuening Li, Wade Keye, Xin Zhou, Anunaya Rajhans, Yuru Li, Fan Xiao, Sean Ward, Carina Westling, Federico Pilati, Elena Aversa, Janna Joceli Omena, Grace Watson, Marco Valli, Beatrice Gobbo, Martin Trans

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportReportResearch


Link here: https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/SummerSchool2022chugginguhg

This project investigates two competing 4chan groups concerned with the war in Ukraine. We follow the pro-Ukrainian (/uhg/) and the pro-Russian (/chug/) threads and their fandomized war reporting. A journalistic register dominates the /uhg/ sets, and a strategic-logistic register dominates the /chug/ sets. The two threads fandomize the Ukrainian war through anthropomorphising and fictionalising nations and militaries in the form of memes. Surprisingly, there is a lack in the differential political positioning of the threads. Their sensemaking is antisemitic in nature. The differences are more stylistic than substantial. /chug/ is more conscious about the community’s identity, reflected in the abundance of logos, while /uhg/ images are more evidentiary, indicating a greater emphasis on reportage and points at original journalistic endeavours. There is a relative (in)visibility of memes to the mainstream web. The vernacularity of hyper-specific online discourse emerges through absence, especially so in /chug/, which represents a vernacular within a vernacular.

The organizational practices and structures differ heavily between the pro-Ukrainian /uhg/ and the pro-Russian /chug/ threads. The analysis methods reinforce the interest difference between the /uhg/ and /chug/ threads.

/uhg/ is more scrappy, having no discernable strategy in their aesthetic or storytelling. /uhg/ is reactionary, whilst /chug/ drives the story.

Text analysis of OP greentext showcased the lack of organisation in /ugh/ which is a more noisy and less coherent discussion forum. /uhg/ focus more on direct war reportage and external rivalry against /chug/

/chug/ is more organized than /uhg/. /chug/ community appear to have their story straight, offering a well-rounded arsenal of strategies to convince /pol/ of their authenticity and truthfulness.

Text analysis of OP greentext showcased the organizational capacities of /chug/. As a schismatic outcrop of pro-Russian segments of early /uhg/ threads, /chug/ quickly became more systematized. For example, in baking strategies and cultivation of shared intercultural iconography. /chug/ focus more internally oriented around inter-group reinforcement and performativity.

From distinct visual methodologies, we can infer that:

/uhg/ OP images present a more extensive set of evidentiary war images that might be instances of original journalism

/chug/ focuses more on establishing its identity through logo branding.

The cultural sophistication of /chug/ in relation to /uhg/ in the sense that the notable amount of non-web entities on /chug/ suggest a deeper, more differentiated visual vernacular distinct from specific labels known by the Google Vision API.

The predominance of sexualization of warfare, portraying it in terms of the trope of female sexual dominance and subjugation, or war as threatening the innocence of the female subject, who in turn need saving from it.

Methodological findings:

The shared image analysis presented a novel method for uncovering internal and inter-group rivalry and shilling, contingent community formation, grassroots reportage and a way to contextualize anomalies in the dataset.

Analysis of country flag metadata reveals the influence of a national and regional context in terms of user activity, thread partiality, and discursive input, opening up an as-of yet under-researched area of 4chan.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • memes
  • 4chan
  • disinformation
  • war


Dive into the research topics of 'Let's Play War: Inside 4chan’s intergroup rivalry, contingent community formation, and fandomized war reporting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this