Jeff Alvarez collects himself and speaks. “I mobilized the group to protest your house by getting them to react to you. I called your writing misinformation and psychological warfare. I made them hate you. I flung personal insults at you and got a laugh out of them. I made them love me. The idea to protest your house spontaneously generated after that, with me as leader, although I did not lead.”
“The violence came from somewhere else though,” I explain, “because it seemed to infect all the mask wearing Anons simultaneously. The idea that Anonymous is so vulnerable to a purely violent meme is not surprising though. All this propaganda lately, it really has that tone of pure hatred.”
The countryside peels away into suburbia and apartment complexes begin to glom into what is called NoVa, slang for Northern Virginia. Me and Jeff really start to tease apart what a meme is and how it works. When a set of individuals have the same source for information and generally similar backgrounds, they build similair thought patterns. The consequence is that they often make the same conclusions at the same time. Sometimes it takes a little coercion and sometimes it doesn’t. Coercion comes in the form of symbols and propaganda. Symbols like the hammer and sickle, the empty suit, or the Guy Fawkes mask simplify ideas and speed their transmission. The Guy Fawkes mask is really more than a symbol though, it is an identifier. Wearing it makes a person a part of a group. It makes a person feel socially accepted, an emotion that is endlessly exploitable. Propaganda emotionally manipulates this weakness by associating the group identity with ideology, which are false promises of a better future. This process builds an artificial framework for thought patterns on a large scale. The framework is the base for the memes to self-generate from.
“It’s like the red hats, from the French Revolution!” Jeff exclaimed, “but they’ve got something more sinister inside of them, some kind of evil technology that made me so blindly accepting of new memes that I didn’t even realize I was trying to kill you.”
“Yeah, I haven’t worn one, but I’m guessing it normalizes thought patterns among those who wear them. It builds a mindset for which there is only one final conclusion. Violence. But to be fair, the French Revolution didn’t even need sinister technology to turn into a bloodbath.”
We both think in silence about our next move. I presume Jeff is thinking on the idea that struck us during Barrett Brown’s speech. We must infect Anonymous with our own meme. It seemed pretty cut and dry when it had dawned on us, but this conversation proved that it isn’t.
Still silently plotting, I decide to stay at an old friend’s apartment in Nova. Better not to rush straight to D.C. just yet.