A virus is a little packet of genetic material that in order to reproduce itself needs to infiltrate the reproductive machinery of a living organism. It does this by imitation of the lock-in-key mechanisms that protect the cells. It presses the right buttons and is then able to enter turning the host body into its reproductive organ.
The metaphorical viruses of the memeplex have a similar way of operation: they infiltrate by pressing the right buttons so they can then propagate through your sharing. Subtly poisonous notions can then slip in by piggybacking on something that is almost universally accepted/rejected: like the idea that children need to be saved from international pedophilia rings. Which is of course obviously true. But these memeplexes add something to it: they formulate scapegoats, and attempt to wield the rage it provokes into political reconfigurations. Projecting the hate into an amorphous cabal that is able to contain the whole spectrum of different groups that people hate: democrats, capitalists, jews, ICE, muslims, doctors, the MSM, Big Pharma, Big Everything and Big Whatever suits your fancy.
The memeplex does multiple things: first it attracts clicks making you included in the algorithms surrounding hashtags, connecting you to the other feeds that surround a certain memeplex: tricking the machines into changing your information diet. In this case QAnon conspiracies swarm around #savethechildren like a bunch of musquitos targeting everyone who is sensitive to the meme. Secondly, by punching you in the feels so hard your empathic powers are put on tilt, the more attentive and rational part of you is circumvented. Before you know it, the feeding troughs of social media are filled with the associations that have been swarming in the memeplex, and are able to enter your mind and that of your community without much resistance.
And then suddenly the yoga hippie flower children are converted to sharing alt-right QAnon conspiracy content. Suddenly the streets are filled with a strange mixture of a protest movement amorphously railing against ‘the system’, with neo-fascists standing shoulder to shoulder with antivax new agers and random angry Karens.
The viruses of the memeplex use certain information channels to slip in ideological content that is able to alter minds quite rapidly. Just take a moment to think about how your opinions have shifted since Corona, and how these alterations were introduced. And how the opinions of the people around you have changed. You think it’s by rational consideration of the facts? Or is there a more arcane process subtly shifting the associations you think you hold dear?
I suspect this metaphorical plague in the memeplex is more dangerous than Covid19 itself. The internet is turning into mental quicksand, subverting ideological associations on the double. Thus a reasonable resistance against an overbearing government can be perverted into a support for all kinds of ideological idiocy that claim to be best represent what it means to be against the system. And while everyone is arguing who the enemy really is, it is turning people against each other.
There has always been change and evolution/devolution in the memeplex. But since the internet special interests can significantly alter the pressure certain memes can exert over an entire memeplex. With botnets and fake accounts tricking algorithms into engagements which then starts pushing narratives unto people, altering their conception of the world step by step.
I am baffled by how quickly the past few months have changed some of you. Please take care to note the things that are slipped in between the lines, and how it’s putting all of our attention under siege.
Don’t let the memes do the thinking for you.