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Race Guy is a spin-off series of Rage Guy comics intentionally designed as a protest against clothing retailer Hot Topic’s sales of t-shirts featuring the Rageguy mascot. In order to get the shirts pulled, 4chan users launched Operation: Black Rage, an online campaign that involves creating and proliferating racist versions of Rage Guy comics, coupled with a media blitz targeted towards “sensationalist news outlets” to make it appear as if Hot Topic supports racism.
On November 17th, 2010, American retail chain Hot Topic introduced a new t-shirt design featuring Rage Guy, a stick figure character from the popular internet cartoons that had its beginning on 4chan in late 2008.
Titled “FU Meme Guy T-shirt” and categorized under “Pop Culture” section, Hot Topic’s open venture into internet memes were met by heavy backlashes and angry reactions from online communities 4chan and Reddit. Some called for a boycott, while others began planning for a strike back. Within the first hours of Hot Topic’s announcement, Reddit user iamerroneous posted a thread informing others that Hot Topic is selling t-shirts with Rage Guy designs, which quickly drew over 300 comments within the first 24 hours.
Operation: Black Rage
Later on the same day, Hot Topic began receiving notifications via Facebook that Rage Comic carries a racist connotation. A smear campaign dubbed Operation: Black Rage was launched by users on 4chan and Reddit who sought to taint Hot Topic’s brand image by forging and proliferating racist versions of the original Rageguy comics. Several black propaganda tactics were employed in the process, such as spreading disinformation and baiting news media with sensationalism.
Hot Topic’s Response
On November 17th, 2010, Hot Topic inititally responded to the accusations of racist jokes with an apology and a follow-up post via Facebook announcing that the Rageguy t-shirt will be discontinued after its first week of sale:
However, the company reverted its decision to stop selling the shirt the next day, citing news sources and other online merchandise sites with similar t-shirt designs in stock:
A little meme update for you all. The whole “race guy” was a hoax. Period. People need to get a life.
We refuse to cave to bad people doing bad things. Any other negative comments on our fans’ posts will be deleted.
The last Facebook status update from Hot Topic announced that Hot Topic will resume sales of the shirt:
After many hours researched and many communities identifying this as a hoax, we’ve made the decision to continue carrying the “Rage Guy” t-shirt. It is NOT racist.
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