it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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fighting meme with meme (or) how to use narrative as a weapon.

I've been thinking for a couple of days about how I wanted to blog this, because there's something cool going down in the internets right now that makes all the little Future Detector hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Some of you--many of you--will have already seen links to Anonymous floating around. (Warren Ellis has been blogging it heavily, for one thing.) For those of you who haven't, Anonymous appears to be a viral information campaign aimed against the Church of Scientology.

I'm wondering if it will be effective.

Here are two videos:



As near as I can tell, whoever is behind it is basically trying to hack the Internets as a messaging medium for cool, and use it to spread an idea/meme. And the reason why I suspect it might work is because it's basically fighting meme with meme. Activism done syberpunk.

I can't wait to see if it works.

What strikes me about this is that it's an absolutely brilliant use of the internet, and the sort of thing that SF and comic book writers have been talking about for decades. Viral videos and manifestos. Propaganda. Meme against meme.

It consists of a lot of the same techniques that revolutionary organizations have been using for years to affect social change, but tailor-made to the internet. Because the internet loves cool. And this is cool. And the internet loves catchphrases.

We are Anonymous. We are legion. Expect us.

Yeah, you can dance to that.

The coolest thing about it is that whoever is behind it is swinging two powerful tools. One is the sowing of massive FUD* among the enemy. Who are these people? What are their resources? Is it just some whackjob in a basement with a video editing program? Or is it a lot of people?

The second is that even if it is just one guy in a basement , as the meme spreads and replicates, the fact that maybe it's a guy in a basement means absolutely nothing. Because it's not a guy in a basement anymore. It's a million guys in a million basements. Because suddenly everybody who ever thought Scientology was a little scary has a peg to hang her hat on. We are legion. She has a place to go now.

And the guy in that basement has an advantage, as leahbobet points out. Because he's the hero of the story. The narrative is on his side. He's V.

And a meme ain't nothing but a narrative.

And a religion is a kind of meme.

ETA: leahbobet on Anonymous as meme technique, with special attention to ARG tools.

*Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

I'm fascinated by this, in part because in no small part, this kind of optimizing narrative for the internet is one of the things that I really want to do with Shadow Unit. One of the things I have been saying is that before Hill Street Blues, nobody knew how to write or shoot, how to tell stories for TV. They knew how to tell stories on stages and in movie theatres and in novels, but TV is different.

Now, I'm not saying that what we're trying to do is the equivalent of something like Hill Street Blues. One, I'm not that arrogant. And two, it's not that big a deal. But I think everyone involved in the project has come into it with the understanding that we don't yet really know how to tell stories using the internet. And the ARG people have a piece of the puzzle, and the blog RP people have a piece of the puzzle, and the internet serializers have a piece of the puzzle, and the hypertext people have a piece of the puzzle, and the meme jockeys have a piece of the puzzle.

But TV is not a stage play or a movie or a Sunday serial.

So right now, we don't know how to tell stories for the Internet.

But we're learning. Oh, heck yeah.
Tags: baa baa black sheep, meme warfare, the cake is a lie

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