OK, we’re going to wrap up the first three installments of our How to Herd your Critics into Fake Communities and Waste their Time series with (a) an overview of social networks and (b) some nifty “cutting-edge” strategies that you can use in combination therewith.
As you may or may not remember at this point, we got a little bogged down in Part 2 of our series with our discussion of the Church, the Edict of Milan, and the whole transition to Modern Capitalism thing … so we want to try to stick to the point this time and avoid going off on any frivolous tangents. To keep things on track, we’re going to limit our discussion to the two main platforms for herding people into fake communities and wasting their time. We assume you’re familiar with both of these platforms, so we’ll just review the basics quickly, and then move on to those cutting-edge strategies.
Twitter, a free online networking service that conditions its over three hundred million users to translate any actual thoughts they may still have into simplistic one hundred and forty-character “tweets” that can be quickly glanced at, “liked” and “retweeted,” then instantly forgotten by their thousands of “followers,” was launched in San Francisco back in 2006. It’s basically an enormous, market-segmented “honey pot” that encourages consumers to self-select themselves into ever smaller market niches and generate all kinds of behavioral data that advertisers can use to try to sell them things.
Twitter is extremely popular with celebrities, and with the millions of people who worship them like demi-gods, as well as with what remains of the news media, which, due to the ongoing corporate consolidation and downsizing juggernaut, no longer have the staff to do any real journalism, and so basically just report whatever happens to be “trending” on Twitter as if it were news. (It’s also quite popular with the activist community, especially with your “black bloc” types, the importance of which we’ll get to in a moment.)
Facebook is more or less the same thing, except without the character limit. It also has a lot more users, over 1.65 billion to date. Facebook users create “user profiles,” post things on their Facebook “walls,” and accumulate legions of Facebook “friends,” who can “like” and reply to each other’s posts, share their most intimate thoughts with each other, and otherwise provide Facebook with a heretofore inconceivable amount of behavioral and attitudinal data that they can monetize and exploit in ways you probably can’t even begin to imagine.
Now we’re not going to get into all the details of how these two revolutionary communications companies have convinced people to willingly provide them with unprecedented access to their political views, sexual practices, reading lists, travel patterns, and other behavioral and attitudinal metrics (as well as the names of everyone they know), or how all that information might be useful to certain other parties in the event of some sort of “state of emergency” or “imminent threat to the nation,” because we want to focus on herding your critics into fake communities and wasting their time (which, if properly executed, obviates the need for any such heavy-handed tactics).
Which brings us to the main benefit of these two platforms. See, unlike back in the old days, when the goal was to silence (or severely censor) your critics so that no one would hear and believe what they were saying about you, and possibly start organizing some sort of armed rebellion against you and whatever despotic power system you were operating, today, Facebook and Twitter, through the magic of social networking, are effectively neutralizing your critics for you.
By luring potential troublemakers onto their platforms (which, let’s remember, are segregated into little self-selected echo chambers wherein you don’t have to be exposed to anything that you don’t already agree with) and encouraging them to digitally shout their simplistic slogans back and forth at each other (and to expose all manner of “atrocities” and “wrongdoings” that you and your friends are perpetrating) in a quarantined environment that most “normal” consumers are not even aware exists in the first place — and which those who are avoid like the plague — they’ve rendered your critics completely harmless, eliminating the need for you to censor or brutally repress them at all.
Now, we know what you’re probably thinking at this point, so we want to make this absolutely clear … the goal is not to prevent your critics from reporting “the facts” or telling “the truth.” On the contrary, we want them to tell “the truth,” and to rail against you and your corporatist friends, and all of the “injustice” and “unfairness” in the world; we want them to do this until they’re blue in the face. We just want them to do it within the confines of a simulation (i.e. a fake community) that you or your friends (i.e. Facebook and Twitter, or some other powerful corporation) completely control and can monitor closely. (We don’t want to tell them all this, of course … we want them to be able to continue to believe that they’re “striking a blow” against your corporatist empire by bringing “the truth” to the “hoodwinked masses,” who will theoretically rise up one day — presumably after they have heard “the truth” — and put an end to your global dominance by marching around with giant puppets, or peacefully occupying public squares, or signing some online petition … or whatever.)
In fact, not only do we want to encourage this (i.e. this fervor among the “activist community”), we want to ensure that it thrives and grows, which means we need to support it financially. So we need more platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and WhatsApp, and Instagram, and Google+, and all the other ones … whatever they’re called. We want to there to be as many varieties of simulated “anti-establishment” communities and “radical” websites and publications as possible: the more the merrier, the more radical the better. (Imagine all of your potential critics sitting there in front of their computers, or waltzing around with their Internet phones, clicking, swiping and typing their diatribes harmlessly into the marginal recesses of an infinite labyrinth of echo chambers that you and your friends have provided for that purpose — what could be more diabolical?) Given the “radical” left’s propensity for devolving into ever-smaller rancorously divisive sectarian splinter groups … well, you can see where we’re going with this; the opportunities for sowing discord and paranoia are almost unlimited.
All right, that pretty much covers the basics. Let’s take a look at those nifty strategies we referred to back at the top of the piece.
Now this kind of thing isn’t right for everyone … but, if you’ve got a few billion lying around, and you want to be right on the cutting edge of herding your critics into fake communities and wasting just hours and hours of their time, you may want to think about launching, or endowing, your very own “anti-establishment” platform, or online “adversarial” magazine (or hi-tech “anti-surveillance” cult), which is what all the serious players are into now. The benefits of doing this are beyond enormous, and it isn’t that hard to set these things up.
Basically, what you want to do is, get yourself a well-known journalist that everyone thinks of as anti-establishment and pay him … oh, half a million a year, say, to run your adversarial magazine and do a lot of fearless reporting that poses no threat to you at all and that probably serves your long-term interests. Other “fearless, adversarial” journalists will jump at the chance to “speak truth to power” for $1,200 to $1,500 a day (not to mention the prodigious marketing juice and other such intangibles they’ll soon accrue), so growing your staff won’t be a problem. You’ll want to invest in some up-front PR, so that the mainstream press will describe your endeavor as “bold,” “visionary,” and “reinventing journalism,” and other stuff you’ll put in your press release. Ideally, you’ll want to brand this magazine as “outside the mainstream” and “borderline dangerous,” which will help you sell it to the “anarchist” market, as well as to the larger “liberal” demographic. If you can get some “celebrity outlaw” figurehead (or mascot) to help you sell the thing, in addition to neutralizing a lot of your critics, you’re looking at a potential gold mine in terms of film rights and other spin-offs.
You could also consider crossing over (or “brand-stretching”) your “adversarial” magazine into the rapidly expanding “hacktivist” niche market, and the “whistle-blower” subculture, and markets like that. If you go that way (and we feel you should), the main thing is to cultivate this “aura of danger” around your celebrity journalists, and your government-funded “anarchist” hacktivists, so that your critics perceive them as hunted martyrs who can’t even hardly get on a plane to pick up their awards and do their TV shows without getting detained and interrogated, and so on, and who are probably under constant government surveillance. Don’t be afraid to work this too hard. Push the paranoia angle! Trust us, folks just eat that stuff up.
OK, you probably think we’re kidding, right? We’re not … we’re totally serious about this. Again, it’s not the right fit for everyone, and you’ll need to have a couple billion, or several hundred million, to get it off the ground, but when it comes to herding your potential critics into fake communities and wasting their time, this is where all the smart money’s going. Look, we don’t expect you to just take our word for it … do a bit of research on your own. Pierre Omidyar and the Omidyar Network would probably be a good place to start. We hear he’s all over this kind of thing.