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bear by san

March 2017



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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.


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I love this one.
And it scales based on how interested you are in the particular cause. If you are frantically anti-Scientology you can actively spread the meme, but if they just bug you a bit, mentioning it, maybe posting the catch phrase here and there, all of that kind of thing, it all adds to the background noise making it harder for the traditional Scientologist methods of fighting memes (harassing people) to work. <3 the Internet. <3 the Eternal September.
What I think is also very cool and meta about this?

One can support the meme and dissect the meme simultaneously, in this totally selfconscious recursive way.

All we're doing when we analyze is giving it google juice.

I love the internets.

They are my home.

"Anonymous Steps up it war against Scientology" is listed on Google News. Which means it's ALL over the 'net. People know.
Yeah, it's getting google juice from all over. I'm wondering if it's going to *work*, however.
Oh my fuck, that is cool. Very Serenity of them.

It iz can be future tiemz nao?

"This is the Internets."

If you poke around a bit, you may find a great deal of Anonymous.






Nonlocalized guerilla Internets activism. If there's no central organization, there's nothing to fight.

It's kind of stunning. The Viet Cong goes meme warrior.

Edited at 2008-01-26 11:55 pm (UTC)
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?

Actually, they came from the depths of 4chan, who brought us lolcats. Although other sites like Ebaumsworld joined in the fun once it started. This is part of Project Chanology.

...I'm kind of embarrassed I know this.
Yeah, but you're missing my point. The thing is, the meme is unleashed.

It's a real thing now.

Want a DDOS? Ask the internets.

The thing is, though, Anonymous is more about internet drama than anything else. They're a bunch of '/b/tards' from 4chan/7chan, and this isn't their first 'raid' - the last one I remember coming to my attention was a series of coordinated attacks on feminist blogs. They're pretty indiscriminate in choosing their targets - all they really care about is the drama, and lowering the signal-to-noise ratio on the internet.
Again, you're missing the point. Once the meme is of the leash, there's no telling what happens next.

It's just a meme.

But a religion is just a meme.

I'm not saying it *will* have any effect. I'm saying it could. And the manipulation interests the fuck out of me.
Yeah. I am, right now, totally fascinated in watching what the Internets are growing up to become. I suspect we're getting bored with porn and IM, and trying to figure out what the next thing you can use a GIANT LIMITLESS SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOL FOR might be.
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.

I think there's something to this. Actually, I think this is a lot to this. As the kind of geek who will happily watch an episode of Classic Trek followed by an episode of DS9 (try "Trouble with Tribbles" back to back with "Trials and Tribbleations"), or an episode of 1960s-era Doctor Who followed by an episode starring Mr David Tennant, I think you can see this very starkly.

Even in the late 60s, when Trek was coming on the air, and videotape technology was allowing things to be recorded other than 'as live', everything still feels stagey. Of course, shows recorded in front of a live audience, as many sit-coms were, are even more obviously so, since their sets are set up more or less like a stage set would be...

Edited at 2008-01-27 12:03 am (UTC)

New media requires new narrative techniques.
It's jazz. This is exactly jazz.

Science fiction authors DO predict the future!
It's something.

It's spraypainting walls for the internet era.
There was a report that there was a DOS attack on Scientology servers and that anonymous was behind it (not sure where the report was from - sorry). Did they do it, or was it someone inspired by the meme to do it?

This seems a bit reminiscent of Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition' and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Unit' and I'm so glad that those nice friends of Tom Cruise are the targets.
I have no idea, and that's what's interesting.

But if you poke youtube a little, it kicks up this:


Monday, I will be tuned in.
I hate to say it, but these videos bore me so much I can't get through them. So, for me, not an effective meme. Will be interesting to see how it evolves, though.
Quite brilliant. I've posted these on wherever I could.
I hadn't seen anything about it until this post. It gave me chills. And you're exactly right, it doesn't matter if it was started by a 14-year-old drama ho or a guy in his basement. It doesn't, because it's out there now. Everyone who sees one of those videos and says "fuck yeah" is now Anonymous. Everyone who stops and thinks is now Anonymous.

I thought, "Heh, people will be making icons, must not give in to temptation to...wait a minute. They got me."

"You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement."
I agree wholeheartedly with everything you've said here. And you get today's Gold Star for posting lyrics from one of the best protest songs EVER.
Quotes from Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass? Cyberpunk liberation narratives? That's interesting.
Innit just?
Here's one that fascinates me, where someone took an older story and retold it via the Internet. Have you seen the Online Spoon River Anthology? It's the same kind of idea as recasting Pepys' diary as a blog, but fiction in this case - and I think it's at least equally successful, if less well known. In fact, there are so many internal links in Masters' original work that I think maybe hypertext is its proper medium, more than the original page ever was.

Funny that you mention it...

I'm working on a modernized adaptation of Spoon River Anthology using Social Networking as the medium. It's going to be the second piece of my Loose-Fish Project (www.loose-fish.com)

That site is great, and Paul has been really helpful to me personally. You'll see my comments all over his site.
This is *not* meme versus meme. This is meme versus a psychotic, criminal organization that uses lawyers as smothering weapons.

This makes it extremely unlikely that 'anonymous' will succeed. And absolutely wonderful if it does. :)
I think that the win condition (achieved by other groups in the past) is to spread the meme without being intimidated or lawyered out of existence.
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