Majority of psychological and social experiments say that we cannot exist without communication and information consuming. For example, remember the experiment when young people were left in the room without their gadgets or internet-access. They still could read, exercise or just sleep. But in some hours they started to feel badly, and some of them even had suicidal thoughts until they have got their smartphones back.
I have also felt this painful anxiety, as very many of my friends in Kyiv, in days and nights of Maidan (December 2013 – February 2014). We get up every two-three hours at night to check our Facebook feed, if there is no any new assault of Maidan protestors’ camp. From day to day we followed our social media to have updated information on what is going on in the center of Ukraine and in government offices. What to expect tomorrow?
I have noticed that this phenomenon repeats when some events that threaten us somehow are happening. This thing takes place even disregard of the reality of the threat but, just by spreading of information about it in social media.
For example, last most disturbing events in Europe (Paris attacks, refugees’ crisis, Cologne “sexual assault”) obviously lead to the popularity of right wing parties in European countries. In the same time, according to Swedish sources, NATO experts have found out that xenophobic hysteria is spreading in Europe by the “third party”.
That means – people can be manipulated by those, who uses information channels and real or fake events to change people’s mind on certain things. Italian scientist Walter Quattrociocchi has also made numerous researches on how people can be manipulated by different types of media. He says that public opinion depends a lot on media we deal with.
Lately, Russian TV-channels have told the story about little girl that was raped by migrants in Germany. According to Latvian-based Russian media Meduza, this story seems as a second part of the widely known in Ukraine Russian “fairy tale” about so called “crucified boy”. But, actually, this is a “sequel” to a very popular Russian “show” from 2011 with Irina Bergseth (Frolova).
It was then back in 2011 when Russian information space adopted very popular in Russia meme – “Gayropa” (from “gay” and “Europe”). After Irina Bergseth accusations to the Norway authorities in connivance to the sexual assault of her 5-years son, the idea of so called “decaying European values” (connected by Russian media with pedophilia, homosexuality and incest) was multiply shared in Russian-speaking information space. Approximately 6 months of these memetic technologies in 2011 have made homosexuality and incest firmly associated with the European Union and constituted as a threat to Russians.
Implantation of ideas is the ancient willing of humanity. Perhaps only for this the religion was created, not to mention things like hypnosis, NLP or “black PR”. The main charm of implanted ideas is that the “object of implanting” considers these ideas as his or her own. And that’s why they have such a devastating effect. After all, people are often willing to die, and more often – to kill for their beliefs. This destructive force is shown in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”.
The idea, some opinion or set of opinions are imposed on man and squeezed his own. The more adapted and more powerful they sprout like weeds through his own experience. This concept of ideas competition and “natural selection” moved from the biosphere to noosphere level and became the new scientific discipline – memetics (by the analogy with genetics). Memetics studies the evolutionary models of cultural information transfer through its “units” memes. The meme “Gayropa” is the perfect illustration of the power of this kind of manipulative effects. Not surprisingly, this researches could find a “military use”.
Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from the popularization of Richard Dawkins’ 1976 bookThe Selfish Gene. The meme, analogous to a gene, was conceived as a “unit of culture” (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is “hosted” in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself, thereby jumping from mind to mind. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen as an idea-replicator reproducing itself in a new host. As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian interpretation, a meme’s success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host.
Naturally, the most “powerful” and adapted to the environment memes survive. This fact brings us to the idea that if we can shift the organisms genetic material by environmental conditions manipulating in biosphere, so we can change the noosphere and bring new leading ideas as a result appropriate to us, which will change the people’s behavior.
Richard Dawkins himself says: “Strictly speaking, the idea of parallels in the evolution of language and of living organisms was first expressed by Charles Darwin in the 14th chapter of his “Origin of Species”
Memetic weapon: uncovered threat to democracy
Investigating the use of memetic technology in the modern world, I came across the phrase “memetic weapon” in Irina Lebedeva’s article (Russian anti-American publicist) on the site of “Strategic Culture Foundation” (Russia). Back in December 2011 Lebedeva says that Gene Sharp (known by his “colored revolutions”) and his colleagues participated in the development of memes, aiming to achieve regime change in Russia.
Technology of “combat memes” can be considered as the most powerful. Therefore, it is the creation of memes like “Banderovtsy”, “Gayropa”, “Ukrainian fascists” that built a structure of information space in which we live now. Memes and similar messages have viral and self-reproductive properties, and, in the terms of other powerful forces absence, they occupy all available information space. Therefore it is useless to fight memes. This does not mean that they cannot be defeated, but the amount of resources that are required for it, is not correlated with the results.
In the end of the day Stratcom Centers with their expert reports have become the same “media” as others. And we have to admit that, in fact, we have only two ways of how to deal with national or international information space.
First is to control the means of delivering of information (TV channels, newspapers, internet), and actually to follow Polish practice, that was broadly criticized by European speakers.
Second is to develop our influence on the people’s culture codes and their evolution with the help of memes and ideas. The best practice of it is described in one of the last NATO Stratcom Center Researches on information warfare of DEASH.
I’ve been researching information manipulations since 2010. And in my opinion there are always two types of people: those, who produce content, and those, who consume content. Regarding this fact, those, who consume, will always be much more vulnerable than those, who produce. This is why I’m not considering European and NATO Stratcom Centers (in Brussels and Riga) as effective force to defend our noosphere from poisoning. And this is why I have come out with idea of developing and research of positive aspects of postinformation society.
So, what is the easiest and natural way of how to become less vulnerable if you are one of those, who consume content and information?
Firstly, is to understand why you are doing this – consuming the content? And the answer is simple. Because by consuming the information we defend ourselves from the threats by trying to prepare ourselves to them. Even when they are not really threatening us, but when we feel them very close with the help of modern media world.
Secondly, the easiest way to become less vulnerable from consuming content is to start to produce the content. That means to express your point of view on what is happening around us. If person has his own point of view on events, it’s much more difficult to impose a point of view, which is advantageous for somebody.
Naturally, that to have our personal viewpoint on something we have to investigate it, to have some arguments to stand it. And the more we get information from investigating the question we’re interested in, the harder it is to manipulate our view on it.
To fulfill this big aim, the Institute for Postinformation Society with the help of the EED has started the project of journalists, bloggers and activist educating (those, who produce and share the content) methods of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), that have been successfully used by different European and Ukrainian journalists’ and activists’ teams.
When person has OSINT skills, he or she can go deeper in questioning what has happened, why, what was the reason for it and who has benefits from it? Answering on all those questions and sharing these answers on his or her blog of social media page, these people defend themselves and their close ones from the threat of manipulating their world. And the more people can do this, the less power media have in our information addicted world.
Despite the fact that it is vitally necessary to fight for the territorial integrity of the country, a key task of the whole of human civilization, is the protection of its essence in the noosphere, production, and distribution of strong senses to fight anger, hate, intolerance, and seize the harmful effects created by our opponents’ senses.
Only in this way can we hope to win over the anger and hatred that is produced by the enemy, in order to facilitate its task to manage the situation. And only by using this path, we can move closer toward civilization security of all humanity.