Back in year nine, while borrowing the hard drive of an old friend (a veteran of 4chan’s famed music board) I found a supposedly notorious folder, plainly and innocently named “Information Library”. Passed around from user-to-user, it was a repository of informational images, offering infinite power to those who perpetuated it.
The subjects varied. Ninety per cent of the thing was benign, covering subjects from animals, to arts and craft, to recipes. The other ten percent was pretty eye opening and extreme. It included guides on shoplifting, making bombs, and counterfeiting benjamins. Beyond detailed tutorials for would-be teenage thieves, the labyrinth of folders contained deeply troubling content on how to, for example, argue with, blackmail, and even “physically defend yourself against” women. So much of the collection was indescribably inflammatory and offensive, beyond 4chan’s usual routine racism, homophobia, and misogyny.
This was more than a vault of catalogued information, it was a tool for clever, entitled young males (like me) to gain the power we felt we deserved. It was an oasis for refugees displaced by society’s slow move toward progressive values. It felt like being inducted into a digital crime family—an online mafia for cheezel-dusted, lanky and pimpled dorks with nothing better to do.
About a week ago I thought I would revisit the archive and actually try a few:
“How To Jump From A Bridge Or Cliff Into A River”
This first one, a simple guide ripped from some kind of military handbook, detailed how to slow down your velocity when it hits a body of water. The advice is to spread into a starfish pose when you hit the surface.
I headed to my area’s hangout for unruly adolescents, atop a cliff 10-15 meters, aptly named “jump rock”, a place I had never been in my days ruled by highbrow egotism (I was too busy being on the Internet). I found myself surrounded by cool, shirtless teens who were probably puffing on weedsmoke before I had arrived.
I made the jump that my younger self wouldn’t have and, far from the horrific bodily injuries you might expect to suffer, given the dizzying height that I had leapt, I was, rather than maimed, mildly amused as I hit, and then exited the water. This was a victory for the dark tome.
“How To Hotwire A Car”
There are many guides to Grand Theft Auto in the Information Library. But many involve complicated tools and an alienating degree of professional knowledge of things like power windows, and ignition. I went for one that seemed simple.
The guide had not, however, banked on my dad’s beat up, 1997 SAAB 900. I could find no piece of plastic “containing all the wires” nor were any of the wires that I did find the right color. My dad’s SAAB was a differentbreed of automobile, featuring headlight wipers and heated seats. Swedish autos are not beholden to traditional criminals, coming from a country where theft hasn’t been invented. Despite feeling like superspy Bruce Willis underneath a steering wheel, breaking hearts and crossing wires, I was defeated.
“How To Ruin Your Life: Selling Your Soul Made Easy”
Having lost my appetite for the earthly, I turned to a guide that would instead place the most tremendous occult powers at my fingertips.
My previous failures were easily forgotten as I gathered the exotic materials named in the guide on how to sell your soul to Satan (or, their earthly approximates: the guide said to use leather strips arranged in a circle. I decided on some belts instead, and hoped the prince of darkness wouldn’t mind).
After a short opening prayer to Emperor Lucifer [sic], after which neither he or his proxy were summoned before me, I finished with the guide’s closing prayer to the dark lord and swept up the chalk I had scattered across the basement.
Like everything else in the library, it proved to be nothing more than light entertainment for edgy fourteen year olds, unaware of the immense social power that they already wielded.
Everything within the Information Library proves either useless or obvious. Instead of empowering white male nerds with its shadowy secrets, it was really just a waste of time that we idly browsed while we could have been doing anything else with our youth. We clung to worthless .pngs that furthered our insularity and unfounded sense of elitism, predicated on our “untapped” “genius” “potential” (potential that we proudly squandered on fantasising about hotwiring cars, leaping from cliffs, and summoning satan).
It is a sad, if unsurprising, indictment that the most worthwhile how-to in the entire collection of over one gigabyte of images is a game of Guitar Hero played with smarties on toilet roll. The Information Library, far from a trove of instructional counterculture, could only provide what the internet provides best: moderate amusement and idle entertainment.