I suspect that about half of my readers know the “Navy Seals copypasta” by heart. If you don’t, here is a brief introduction — but even that intro requires some grounding in what is called Extremely Online Culture, so hold on for a moment if you’re just a normal person who doesn’t deal in “memes” and “copypasta”.
The above video is the “Navy Seals Copypasta” fed through a computer program which mimics the distinctive style of Frank Sinatra’s rather relaxed late-period vocal performances. Why is this funny? Danger Girl didn’t think it was funny; she’s not wired for Fordite layers of irony. Let me take a shot at explaining the humor.
Internet culture has been hyper-violent and hyper-confrontational since the earliest days of NetNews in the Eighties. This is not, as some people theorize, entirely due to Anonymous Cowardice. NetNews not only required that you disclose your identity, it also required that you disclose your employer and method of access to the Internet, along with making it trivially easy to snitch you out to The Powers That Be. Nevertheless, some bizarre personalities and behaviors emerged in the early days before America Online and widespread Internet access. There were many threats of violence. Some were carried out.
I think the unpleasant nature of online discourse is largely because human beings are so bad at communicating via plain text. We rely on facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical posture for a majority of cues when we are attempting to understand someone’s intent. Absent those cues, we should simply take the most neutral reading possible — but instead we tend to interpret plain text with our feelings and concerns of the moment. Consider the sentence
Do you think you can possibly manage to avoid doing that?
and the many ways in which someone could interpret a text containing only that sentence. From your loving and normal parents or spouse, it’s genuine concern about something which might cause you trouble. From an angry girlfriend, it’s passive-aggressive. From someone you don’t know on the Internet, it’s condescending, hateful, mocking. Or at least those are the default filters you’d apply.
The Internet was invented by young men, who were also its first customers. They set the tone for the interactions which has prevailed to this day. It’s no wonder that discussions which would be perfectly cheerful in person become hateful online. Which inevitably leads to the phenomenon of the Internet Tough Guy, or “ITG”. The ITG solves every disagreement with the promise of violence. Virtually everyone I know has occasionally succumbed to the ITG impulse, self included. Even if the ITG is capable of doing what he says he’ll do, that doesn’t mean he would actually make the decision to do so were he to meet this person IRL (in real life).
Copypasta is a hipster Internet term for something which is written once then copied-and-pasted in all sorts of inappropriate or potentially hilarious situations. Nobody knows who actually wrote the “Navy Seals copypasta”, but it’s been used as a response to various personal insults online for a decade. It goes like this:
What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo.
There’s a whole subreddit devoted to alternative versions of the copypasta, but the true joy of it isn’t rewriting it — it’s using it in an online argument where pretty much everyone is in on the joke except the person who is the target. Then you and your friends can laugh at the target as he tries to argue back:
At this point, everyone is laughing at the fellow in the red box. He’s an outsider. So you can think of “Navy Seal copypasta” as a secret handshake of sorts in the Extremely Online community. And yes, I used it on fellow autowriters multiple times during the middle of the past decade. I’m pretty sure that I almost didn’t get my Road&Track gig because a senior Car and Driver person didn’t get the joke and thought I was going to kill them in one of seven hundred ways…
Assuming humanity survives COVID-19 and its mutations in some form, I have to think that much Internet Culture of this era will be completely incomprehensible to posterity. The “memes” and tropes of the culture evolve much faster than any virus, and much of it isn’t documented anywhere with any permanency. Will the archaeologists of the Twenty-Third Century recognize this video for what it is? Or will they figure that Ol’ Blue Eyes finally went off the deep end, right before the rest of us did?
For Hagerty, I wrote about the danger of clean-sheet designs.
Brother Bark wrote about a fellow who didn’t buy a Corvette, at least not yet.