Intrusive Viral Memetics and the Alt Right


Our modern, socially mediated world has grown to increasingly rely upon specific networking platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, TwitX, and of course, everybody's darling... TicToc. This reliance now dictates our social interactions. Add in the various dating apps like Tinder, and every essential facet of our social relationships have moved on-line. In seeking meaningful social interaction, many hop from app to app... connecting with friends and lovers.

It is useful to consider these various social media platforms, taken as a whole, as a media ecosystem, where popular memetic trends hop from platform to platform... virally infesting the digital environment. In this ecosystem, we are not just interacting with friends... we are interacting with content. And if egregious or hateful content is removed by any given platform that may have a civic integrity rule, it will hop to another, less scrupulous platform, thereby spreading and persisting throughout the ecosystem.  

The mechanism that entices us to follow content across our media ecosystem, is the meme... defined on our lexicon of terms page as...  A contagious information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern (term coined by Richard Dawkins... by analogy with genetics' "gene"). Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. Any specific idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. Hence, all transmitted knowledge is memetic in nature.

As a community service, Tek-Gnostics Media has followed and commented on the rise of memetic activity, across the internet. We suspect that like us... you, dear reader have noticed the prolific rise in the use of memetic technology over the last decade. Nowhere has this rise been more apparent than within the political arena. Such proliferation reached a critical mass in the 2016 U S presidential election cycle.

In 2015, nefarious memetic content mushroomed within the afore-mentioned social media platforms, disseminating what has come to be known and considered mis-information or dis-information... or more commonly known as... Fake News. Such propaganda black-ops were spread on platforms such as TwitX (then known as Twitter) by bad actors such as the Russian disinformation group known as “Secondary Infektion” reportedly linked to the GRU. Much of the fake content was shown to be automated activity... ie: generated by non-human AI algorithmic actors.

So there's that...

Interestingly, while a majority of “fake news” came from pro-Republican and pro-Trump accounts in the month before the election, smaller but still substantial amounts of fake news was spread by liberal or Democratic-identified accounts. After the election period, left-leaning fake news decreased much more than right-leaning fake news. This begs the question, why can't liberal progressives meme? A large part of it has to do with the fact that memes that are particularly sticky tend to be very transgressive and even cruel. And that isn't something that you can use as a weapon on the left very easily. The left is much more squeamish and must contend with political correctness.

Joan Donovan, along with  Emily Dreyfuss and Brian Friedberg are the authors of the 2022 book "Meme Wars: The Untold Story Of The Online Battles Upending Democracy In America." The book examines the online spread of right-wing media political conspiracy theories. Their findings are that the Alt-Right is much more effective in their use of fake news, than their counterparts on the Left.

In that book, the authors found that the rise of fake news developed in tandem with the rise of the Alt-Right. Full disclosure, your blogger has not read the above book. However, the work appears to be most intriguing. Here is an excerpt from the Amazon description...

"Memes have long been dismissed as inside jokes with no political importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Memes are bedrock to the strategy of conspiracists such as Alex Jones, provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos, white nationalists like Nick Fuentes, and tacticians like Roger Stone. While the media and most politicians struggle to harness the organizing power of the internet, the “redpill right” weaponizes memes, pushing conspiracy theories and disinformation into the mainstream to drag people down the rabbit hole."

In recent interviews, Donovan illustrated that far Right memes such as the Stop the Steal dog-whistle got much more traction within social media than for instance the left-leaning Black Lives Matter meme. The Stop the Steal meme was popularized after the November 5th election results, referring to specific, unsubstantiated reports of voter fraud at polling stations. Leading up to January 6th, 2021, the meme morphed into a clarion call to stop Mike Pence from certifying the election results, leading to the storming of the Capitol building. 

It is no surprise to this blogger that the Alt-Right faction is much more adept at utilizing fake news. The far right is much more bare-knuckled in their use of propaganda. It is no secret that far Right actors such as Roger Stone have no problem utilizing dirty tricks and weaponizing dis-information tactics. The Right is much more ruthless and shameless in their black ops than the namby-pamby Left, who let such concepts as morality, scruples and fair play interfere with their operations.

Moving into the 2024 US presidential election cycle, the MAGA faction continues to utilize the Stop the Steal meme to great effect, driven by Trump's continued insistence the the 2020 elections were stolen. And rest assured that we can expect more shenanigans from disinfo farms and automatic activity bots in the coming year.

A report by the Knight Foundation found that more than 80 percent of accounts that repeatedly spread misinformation during the 2016 election campaign are still active, and they continue to publish more than a million tweets on a typical day. So brace yourself dear intrepid reader... for the dissemination of fake news is alive and well, moving into the 2024 campaign year... 

And while you are at it, keep an eye out for those rascally automated AI bots...

Blows Against the Empire Update: It has been widely reported that Joan Donovan, Research Director, Shorenstein Center on Media Politics & Public Policy was forced to leave her position at Harvard through pressure from FaceBook's parent company Meta. Donovan alleges Harvard gave her the boot, driven by Harvard's fear that Meta, a major donor, would pull their $500 million grant that would fund a new university-wide center on artificial intelligence at Harvard. hmmm... sounds sus - ED


Maria Rigel said…
I honestly disagree with your notion that the memetics being applied are "viral". They don't relate to the usual ideas of how a virus propagates in any way that would be helpful to deal with those memes.

If you want some of my notions about how bad ideas propagate, you may want to read my thoughts here:
Jack Heart said…
Maria... good to hear from you again! They actually do behave very much like viruses... propagating by contact. Here the contact is socially transmitted... these thought viruses replicate within each monkey brain that comes in contact with them. Some are more severally infected than others... Some are immune... as you may very well be!

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