Dramatica drama down under

Encyclopedia Dramatica, a bizarro-world Wikipedia that aims to amuse and offend, has few peers in the internet outrage game. With almost nothing off-limits, the content runs from parody to ax-grinding, and anyone can join in. No surprise, then, that it's at the top of authoritarian governments' censorship hit lists: accused of being a laundering shop for libel, racism, homophobia and other shitcockery, its moderator explains the idea. Says owner Joseph Evers: "Here's to the hidden costs of freedom." [Ninemsn. Thanks, Weev]


  1. It is painfully clear that we here in Australia are being governed by people who have no idea what it is they’re trying to control. This is not the first instance of this sort of thing here – we actually have politicians who think that distant, far-off countries should obey our laws irrespective of their own.

    Recently the minister in charge of telecommunications – the one hell-bent on censoring the internet here – formally asked Google to censor their search engine for Australians because “they do it for China, why not for us?”

    If any of these politicians and other do-gooders stop and think for just a second about what it is they are asking… If the US were to miraculously bow to our whim and shut this site down and prosecute the publisher – even through everything published on the site is protected by US law – Australia (and other nations) will be expected to do the same for all other “crack-pot” regimes. Suddenly Australians will be tried and prosecuted for publishing what we consider innocuous material but is regarded as offensive on foreign soil. What kind of can-of-worms will that open up?

    I haven’t visited the site in question, and by the sounds of things I wouldn’t want to, but one of the downsides of living in a free and democratic society is that there will be people who say things you don’t agree with. That’s the price of freedom of speech, and every once and a while you have to pay it.

    The really sad thing here in Oz is that this is the “progressive” political party! Evolution help us…

  2. It should be noted that Encyclopedia Dramatica is specifically a reference for and maintained by the community of 4chan.org, and is entirely through the skewed prism of /b/.

    1. That’s not exactly true. ED started out documenting the dramas of LiveJournal and covers the internet in general along with anything that will generate lulz. /b/ just contributes so much that people believe it’s another outlet for them

    2. Rules 1 and 2, good sir, rules 1 and 2. Also I’m sure somethingawful and fark have their hands in keeping up encyclopedia dramatica as well and probably a dozen other smaller sites (micro communities, made up of members and/or cast offs from all three sites).

    3. As one of ED’s finest editors, I can confirm that ED is not maintained by those of 4chan. From what I have read from the owner, there are absolutely no admins that are chan users. If anything, the better editors on ED look down at 4chan. Granted that ED documents 4chan memes, it was originally made to document drama (on livejournal) only.

  3. So I’m reading this interview and our esteemed moderator says:

    et us talk epistemology for a moment. The minute there is a hidden limit on speech, it is no longer free. Free speech with limits is not free speech under any circumstances.

    The fawning interviewer is clearly impressed by his interlocutor’s unexpected intellectual prowess, but unfortunately I don’t think either of them know what ‘epistemology’ means. In philosophy, epistemology is the study of knowledge: what it is, how we come to know things, when are we justified in our beliefs, and so on.

    There might be an interesting epistemic defense of free speech (and I was kind of hoping for something like that: unrestricted discourse is more likely to stumble on things; the outcome of censorship is stagnation on local epistemic maxima because we can’t explore around, etc.).

    What’s being done here is instead some kind of naïve conceptual analysis of the words ‘free speech’: “it’s not free if it’s restricted! QED!”. Yeah, thanks for that contribution.

    1. Iopha,

      You probably already know this, but for the benefit of others who may not – if you want to see a real epistemic defense of free speech, read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, especially Chapter 2. Wikipedia or any decent search engine will give links to online versions of the text, and there is also a good discussion on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, especially these two sections:

      I have my worries about Mill’s account – in particular I fear he underestimates the way in which people of ill will can corrupt and subvert nominally free and open forums of speech in ways that put truth at substantial disadvantage. (See, e.g. talk radio and mainstream political discourse, at least in the U.S.) Nonethless it’s a great read and a powerful defense of free speech.

  4. I do not support what they are trying to do, but at the same time if their was a website to be blocked on the internet…

    The internet is the holy grail of information freedom, and a lot of the success is due to that. To start locking it down, would be going in the wrong direction.

  5. 4chan, ED, and associated Horrible Places are the dank, fungus-ridden underbelly of the net. They’re also the free-association, dreamstate subconscious of the intertubes which spit out drivel, nightmares, and occasional brilliance. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go there, but they serve a terribly important creative function in the noosphere.

    Posted anonymously for the lulz.

  6. Freedom of expression is independent of the content of the expression.

    Only prior limits on speech need to be justified.
    The exercise of speech needs no defense, at all.
    But the consequences of this exercise of rights to expression, this expression, this speech: the reactions to such by and from others, are another matter entirely, are they not? There are limits to those, yes?

    Can one object to speech if it is using a language the content of which is indecipherable to the listener?
    And what difference does it make to this exercise, that one thinks one knows what the meaning of the expression is?

    1. Jeez, that’s garbled. I’ll try to be clearer:

      A person has a right to do anything they want to do.
      And other people have a right to punish them therefor.

      The justice of the situation, varies with the particular circumstances of each situation: and the situations are infinitely varied.

      When it comes to speech: puffs of air, lines of ink or contrasting electrons – well, the response ought to stay on the the same “plane”, in general and in the vast majority of situations. No need for muscle.
      But there are imaginable situations, where after the fact, speech is in fact worthy of punishment: and so it does happen, from time to time, that one’s words will get you in front of a Judge.

  7. So now I’ve gone an read an article that I would not have otherwise read. Was it THAT bad? Not really. It was a bit long and repetitive, but on the whole quite a funny parody. I loved the aboriginal flag. I didn’t consider it hateful, but I can understand why the aboriginals were offended. However, much of the content is not a lot different to the parodies that other nationalities and cultures accept.

    In his diaries (yes I’ve read them) the much revered Capt James Cook descibed the aboriginals as the most ugly and backward people he’d ever encountered (and he met a few). Not sure if Australia want to erase that from the history books too?

    It seems political correctness means you can’t stereotype somebody with brown skin, but if you’re white and Irish/Scotch/Aussie/Kiwi/German etc nobody gives a shit.

    Anyway, if this is the kind of stuff that Australia intend to block a huge chunk of the Internet is soon going to disappear. Any sane person knows censorship of this kind is a can of worms best not opened.

  8. This site just creates entropy. I hate it. I don’t care if it gets censored, or not censored, or if its creators live or die, or some people think it’s funny or if other people don’t think its funny.

  9. anyone can join in

    And probably have their edits promptly reverted by wikignomes. Especially if they’re the unhappy subject of a page full of “epic lulz”.

  10. I have permanent psychological scars (cysted over, but still present) from a long-ago casual perusal of ED. Yeah, some “speech” is rightfully illegal.

  11. I go to ED whenever I encounter some meme on the internet that I’m unfamiliar with, and sure enough, it’s usually from 4chan so I’ll get an explanation there. Sometimes I’ll stumble upon some article that disgusts me or makes me mad. Then I click away from that article. The end.

  12. (Full disclosure: I have made a few point-edits to ED, though never to anything truly important to them.)

    ED is a fascinating take on the low points of humanity, including itself. I recommend reading some of it, mostly to harden your emotions against the genuinely outrageous things out there. It’s also a recorded account of modern trolling (including trolls trolling trolls) which remains largely intact, unlike the transitory nature of imageboards and the highly moderated nature of forums.

    @ Egypt Urnash: See “BLANKING IN PROGRESS”. Most of the time, it’s the butthurt subjects or their butthurt fans/defenders.

    @ FuriousGeorge47: Enough EDiots would disagree with you. They seem to be the kind who fled 4chan long ago for other, related imageboards due to the perceived Cancer which has overrun /b/.

  13. The ED website has not been “banned” or “filtered” in Australia.

    The particular entry on Aborigines is the subject of complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

    I have read the entry and it is nothing but vile, KKK hatespeak.

  14. How do we know the journalist didn’t get trolled?

    Then again, trolls are often this exact kind of self-important ass-hats. Who knew ED was SERIOUS BUSINESS?

  15. Inevitably, the first offensive material to be censored is humor. ED is the exact same thing today as Lenny Bruce was back in the day. I’m not saying ED isn’t dangerous… satire always is. Satire and irony have the power to illuminate truth more than a bald, bland statement of fact does. By defining the outer edges of acceptability, ED shows us who we really are, not just who we want to think of ourselves as.

  16. The irony here is that most non-Aboriginal Australians I’ve met or spoken to online have at least a few similar stereotypes or hatred of Aboriginals as the ED article laid out, and yet publicly the nation adores them.

    1. Oh I don’t know if that is true that the nation adores Indigenous people. A lot of non-Indigenous Australians have negative attitudes to Indigenous people, and these attitudes are frequently borne out in mainstream media. But most of the time Indigenous issues are just ignored.

      Not all Australians have these negative attitudes, honest! I wish things were different, it’s embarrassing to be an Australian sometimes.

      Aside: at the moment though, the Australian Government is demonstrating an breathtaking ignorance of internet culture. Idiots.

    2. The irony here is that most non-Aboriginal Australians I’ve met or spoken to online have at least a few similar stereotypes or hatred of Aboriginals

      You must be spending all day on Xbox live with the kiddies. There are racist bigots in every country, all we can do is publicly demonstrate what assholes they are so more impressionable people can see that their attitude is neandethal and unacceptable.

      In the case of the ED article, people just need to chill out. With statements like this I dont see how people can think it is anything but satire:
      After the misunderstanding of killing most of the Aborigines was cleared up, the British achieved a mutually agreeable compromise of getting the remaining Aborigines drunk, moving them all into tiny, remote communities, and stealing their children to be raised in good households.

      Apart from the clearly sarcastic part about being mutual, this is a fairly accurate (if not simplified) description of what actually happened.

      If you are offended by the article, the obvious and only reply to this is to post a response article on ED blasting the juvenile, mullet-wearing, commodore-driving rednecks who actually think & say these things in a non-satire form. Crying to Google and the lawyers is only going to buy it more exposure and make the author happy that their mission to annoy and attract attention has been accomplished.

  17. Here’s the thing – the current government _aren’t_ the progressive ones. The current Prime Minister, and the opposition leaders are both fervent Christians.

    Many of us are fighting such things as the internet filter, but it’s a hard battle – are you going to vote for who you’ve traditionally voted for, or would you vote for real progressives?

    The sad thing about the ED page is not that it exists, but that people can understand it as a stereotype… There are many problems in aboriginal communities, and many non-Aboriginal Australians still see things as stereotypes – and through racism-tinted glasses. The current government is addressing the problems (in a sort-of way), but not the ultimate causes – really, if you’ve nothing to do all day, get a hand-out once a fortnight, what else are you going to do? Especially if it goes on for a couple of generations?

  18. I’ve actually found a lot of very usefull information on Encyclopedia Dramatica, after verifying the facts externally. Of course, I don’t take anything that is written in ED as a thruth; I don’t take anything written on Wikipedia as a truth either. It is scary how much similarities there is between EDs purposely mangled information and Wikipedias “neutral” and “verifiable” articles. For some kinds of information (personal profiles, scandals, product information, cultural trends, anthropology), ED is actually more reliable as a starting point than Wikipedia.

    And as most articles written on Wikipedia is very biased, looking up the same things on AD makes it a lot easier too see what forms that bias takes.

  19. I am honestly blown away by anybody that seriously thinks ED needs to be censored. Have people always been this thin-skinned, or are we just experiencing the pussified kids George Carlin complained about in the 70s and 80s finally growing up and reaching positions of authority?

    This is even dumber than the reaction to a kid in a Wal-Mart that said “black people must leave” over the PA. There, a state spokeswoman saying that counselling was available for anybody that needed it. Seriously? A stupid teenager with a crude sense of humour says something dumb over the PA and suddenly people are fucking emotionally scarred and need counselling in order to feel better? Grow some fucking skin!

    If we got rid of everything in the world that offended somebody, there wouldn’t be anything left. For instance, I find religion to be quite offensive, but I don’t think people should be banned from talking about it. I certainly don’t think that they should go to jail for “violating the rights of atheists” when they create Web sites that say that atheists are evil child rapists or other such nonsense, even if they do believe it. (It is clear that this article is satire. Anyone that thinks otherwise needs to be beaten with a stick. Oops, did I just commit a hate crime?)

  20. Something worth mentioning, given that these complaints were about content offending Aboriginies:

    Aboriginal culture sometimes involves heavy censorship. It’s considered offensive to mention the name of a dead person. “secret women’s business” has occasionally been claimed as a reason for halting development – a reason that can’t be told. And the Australian edition of the “Daring Book for Girls” was withdrawn by the publishers because it included a section about playing the Digderidoo (which is taboo for women).

    All of those things are voluntarily followed, some of the time, by the Australian media.

    The government is such thatI can see those things (and more) being enforced compulsorily if and when internet censorship is imposed.

    The local general media, worthless bunch of press-release-copiers that it is, has barely said a word about internet censorship and its likely implications, even though it’s relatively close to becoming law.

  21. Yes it is all fine and dandy. Thank you boingboing for about a year and half of daily wonderful things.
    I will be plugging in my brain elsewhere from this moment forward. Goodnight and goodluck.

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