The Dank Charisma of a Hitler Image

While looking at the list of often reposted images on /b/, collected and presented by fgts.jp – an awesome 4chan archive, I noticed a picture of Adolf Hitler that didn’t seem to be modified by users in any way (superimposed text, image manipulation, animation). I was curious about how it came to 4chan and how often the imageboard itself was the source of the image before it was reposted again.

129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg
129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg

I scaled the search based on the image’s hash value to all boards archived by fgts archive. Hash value of a file is usually used for checking its integrity, but it is also convenient for searching for duplicate files, or, in this case, image reposts. The search didn’t look for even the slightest variation of the image, even though the name of the image could be different (because it is a reference to the file, not a part of the file’s content). This was perfect for tracking posting and reposting of a single image.

I was interested only in dates and image names. I needed dates in order to present rises and falls of the Hitler image on a time line. As for image names, while 4chan preserves original names of uploaded images, it does so only in text linked to images. Actual images are given unique ID numbers when they are uploaded to 4chan servers in order to prevent overwriting of files. Thus when someone saves an image from 4chan, it is offered to them with the name it is associated with on the server. This can be used for tracking the spread of a meme image from post to post. For this analysis, we can separate image names in posts into 3 types:

  • original name from another online source.
  • – name given by 4chan, a sign of the imageboard as the source.
  • – unique and human-readable name – the image was downloaded either from 4chan or another source, but it was probably renamed on the poster’s computer (during downloading or later).

Note that in the last case the poster’s computer becomes an unique source which can be traced by following posts containing the same combination of file hash and image name. Everyone who downloads the image from their post is, again, given a choice to either save it under its 4chan ID name or to rename it. Of course, multiple users could be renaming the same image the same way, but if the name doesn’t seem too simple or generic (the difference between “hitler.jpg” and “HitlerDidItFirstAndItWorked.jpg”), you can easily spot the same poster.

Initially, I was also interested in boards on which the image was posted, as it would give us a sense of conquered space on the imageboard, but the image doesn’t seem to be posted much outside of /b/ (at least not according to this archive).

 

All the young Hitlers

The earliest post with this exact image in fgts archive appears on April 18, 2015 (2 days before Hitler’s birthday, by the way), the same date the archiving of /b/ started. In this research all 4chan data was obtained from this archive. From April 18, 2015 to March 24, 2016, the Hitler image was posted 805 times using 132 different names. 21 (15.91%) of names matched 4chan’s image naming format, meaning they were downloaded from the imageboard. These were repeated 33 times in total (4.10% of all reposts).

Here is a pie chart of the most common names of this image file:

Names of the Hitler pic.

Top 15 names for the Hitler image, sorted by number of occurrences, are the following:

  • 503 129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg
  • 52 hitler.jpg
  • 13 image.jpg
  • 12 Hitler.jpg
  • 9 day16.jpg
  • 9 adolf.jpg
  • 9 129958-004-C9B8B89D[1].jpg
  • 9 1442033119491.jpg
  • 8 Idontlikeblack.jpg
  • 8 adolf-hitler-129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg
  • 8 129958_004_C9B8B89D.jpg
  • 5 me.jpg
  • 4 hit.jpg
  • 4 My an hero.jpg
  • 3 literallyhitler.jpg

The next chart shows the image’s presence on the imageboard. These represent the numbers of threads over time, because there can’t be two files with the same hash value in a single thread:

United Hitlers of 4chan.
United Hitlers of 4chan.

Notice the sharp peak of Hitler image posting in the summer of 2015. If something Hitler-related didn’t happen at that moment, it was just regular summer activity. The whole figure seems to confirm the hypothesis that high school and college students increase shitposting level during summer. This is all based on reposts of a single image, but one that doesn’t appear too often in constructive comments.

Everything looks like shitposting when it's out of context...
Everything looks like shitposting when it’s out of context…

Now let’s see a chaotic graph with all individual names as separate figures:

Usage of individual names of the Hitler pic.
Usage of individual names of the Hitler pic.

And now a less confusing graph for top 4 Hitler image names:

Top 4 names of the Hitler image.
Top 4 names of the Hitler image.

 

Requesting sauce

Now let’s examine the 3 different types of names the image was uploaded with – names from outside sources, 4chan file names and custom file names.

Name “129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg” appears in 62.48% of all image uploads, suggesting a source of great online influence. The source is probably Encyclopedia Britannica, since the link to its image of Hitler with matching name and hash value appears as the main image in Knowledge Graph data in Google Search results for “adolf hitler” search query.

Google spreading Hitler pics.
Google spreading Hitler pics.

Pictures with the exact same name can be found throughout the Internet, but the name seems to follow Britannica’s file naming pattern. However, Britannica’s article on Hitler cites “Photos.com/Jupiterimages as the source of the image, which suggests that the original source of this digital image is Getty Images, Inc. stock photo agency, the owner of Jupiterimages. Today this image can be very quickly and easily found and most posters probably don’t feel the need to save it in their directories with classified reaction pictures.

Among the names of this image were names that were obvious modifications of the Britannica’s naming that happened automatically by users’ file managers, web browsers or by other websites who added their mark to it. Here is a list of them with numbers of their occurrences in the archive, grouped by pattern similarity:

  • 2 129958-004-C9B8B89D-2.jpg
  • 9 129958-004-C9B8B89D[1].jpg
  • 1 129958-004-C9B8B89D (1).jpg
  • 2 129958-004-C9B8B89D (3).jpg
  • 8 129958_004_C9B8B89D.jpg
  • 8 adolf-hitler-129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg
  • 1 tmp_14918-129958-004-C9B8B89D-100785862.jpg
  • 1 tmp_16375-129958-004-C9B8B89D938077113.jpg
  • 1 tmp_2492-129958-004-C9B8B89D938077113.jpg
  • 1 tmp_29145-129958-004-C9B8B89D1966768243.jpg
  • 1 tmp_29145-129958-004-C9B8B89D938077113.jpg
  • 1 tmp_21587-129958-004-C9B8B89D938077113.jpg
  • 2 x129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg.pagespeed.ic.R7YQoM95T_.jpg
  • 1 343x450x129958-004-C9B8B89D.jpg.pagespeed.ic.R7YQoM95T_.jpg

Second most used name is the quick, practical and easy choice of “hitler.jpg” with 52 reposts (6.46%). This is probably a common filename and the image associated with it is posted by many different users who renamed it or downloaded it from somewhere where it was already renamed this way. Take a look at the difference between “hitler.jpg” and “Hitler.jpg”:

Grammar nazis: capitalization matters.
Grammar nazis: capitalization matters.

Note how much rarer a capital letter makes the image name. I also decided to track 8 users with probably unique image names:

Unique names for customized Hitler experience.
Unique names for customized Hitler experience.

As you can see, there are visible runs of Hitler-posting by what appear to be the unique posters. Who would’ve thought that posting a Hitler portrait named “me.jpg” would de-anonymize you to some degree? If you post often enough from your collection of pictures of memes, you left your fingerprint, dank as it may be.

Pics you said you wouldn't share.
Pics you said you wouldn’t share.

Images saved from 4chan are also unique and can be traced back to the thread they were downloaded from. In 21 image names and 33 reposts that match 4chan’s file naming format, 1 name was reposted 9 times. 2 other names were repeated 2 times each and another name was reposted 3 times. Let’s see numbers of reposts and dates for the most frequent one, “1442033119491.jpg”:

  • 1 post on 2015-09-12
  • 2 posts on 2015-09-13
  • 3 posts on 2015-09-14
  • 2 posts on 2015-09-15
  • 1 post on 2015-11-15

Repeating image with ID style name could mean the image contained fresh content when it was first posted on the imageboard or that it was posted in a popular thread, but in this case 8 posts were posted in 4 days, suggesting a shitposting run of a single user. But who knows, this one is posted only 9 times.

 

Conclusion

In this post I’ve explored different names of a single image that was often reposted on 4chan, mainly on /b/. With enough data, you can follow viral spread of an image or a copypasta text and by tracking multiple images in a reliable archive you can even try to detect posting habits of single users. The former can be useful for compiling histories of various viral phenomena or for obtaining data for managing trends and the latter can be used in exposing paid shills and working towards the final solution to the question of shitposting.

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