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<nettime> How to Herd your Critics into Fake Communities and Waste their
morlockelloi on Thu, 2 Jun 2016 11:06:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> How to Herd your Critics into Fake Communities and Waste their Time

Kudos to JY for discovering this, an unwritten mission statement for
nettime :)


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(Part 1)

OK, this is one of our absolute favorites here at the Consent Factory.
For our money, in terms of distracting and rendering harmless
any serious critics of your corporate-controlled global empire,
this is definitely one you want to go with. Herding critics into
fake communities and wasting their time is not only essential to
maintaining your full spectrum dominance of virtually every aspect of
people’s lives, but, given the technology available these days, once
you get the infrastructure in place, it pretty much runs itself.

Now we’ve divided this into three parts, partly to make it easier
to follow, but mostly to hook you into coming back to our blog over
the next couple weeks to read the second and third installments
and increase our click count. In Part One (i.e. this part), we’ll
briefly discuss the origins of herding people into fake communities
and wasting their time and quickly review why this is an absolutely
essential component of any modern capitalist system. Then, in Parts
Two and Three, we’ll take a look the two main models that have
revolutionized this growing industry during the last twenty years or
so: (1) the Social Network; and (2) the Comments Section. So let’s get
started …

It is generally acknowledged among the disinformation community that
herding critics into fake communities and wasting their time became
a necessity somewhere around the middle of the 18th Century, as the
transition to modern industrial Capitalism was taking place, and
the former mostly agrarian workforce was being transformed into an
urban industrial workforce, and people were beginning to realize
how miserable and pointless their lives were becoming, and how
completely exploited and screwed they were. Without getting into
all the specifics — which would lead us off on a series of tangents
that would get us lost in all kinds of historical and philosophical
arguments we don’t want to have to speak to — it is important to
note that this transition to industrial Capitalism (whereby the
masses of former peasants, artisans, craftspersons, and the like
were forced to leave the countryside and move into overcrowded and
disease-ridden cities in order to work ten hours a day seven days a
week at soul-crushingly monotonous jobs in the factories that were
springing up everywhere) was accompanied by a sudden and inexplicable
interest among elements of both the intellectual and working classes
in certain “socialist” and “democratic” ideas — ideas that would
shortly thereafter lead to the formation of the first modern trade
unions, and on to Luddism, and Chartism, and Marxism, and ultimately
to the scourge of Communism, which President Ronald Reagan finally
eradicated at the end of the 20th Century … except for China, which
doesn’t really count.

But let’s not get side-tracked by the Evil of Communism just yet … the
point is, right around the same time that industrial Capitalism begins
replacing aristocratic/oligarchical Despotism as the preeminent power
structure, and improving everyone’s standard of living by transforming
them from de facto agrarian slaves into workers/consumers, the need to
start herding certain people into fake communities and wasting their
time arises. This is no mere coincidence, of course, but rather, is
one of the many structural adjustments required when navigating the
transition from a formerly despotic configuration of power to a modern
capitalist one.

Simply put, once you do away with Despotism (i.e. kill all the kings
and queens and their families, and as much of the landed aristocracy
as necessary, which you need to do in order to get the whole
Capitalism thing going), and adopt all kinds of pseudo-democratic
social structures (which you also need to do in order to trick people
into believing they’re free) … well, you can’t just beat and murder
people into submission anymore (or not on a regular basis anyway).
No, you need to start using much subtler means of controlling and
manipulating them.

Using the Power of the Media to Subtly Manipulate People (which we
introduced earlier, and will revisit later) is one of the essential
ways to do this; however, given the level of sophistication of the
public these days, it is not enough in itself. Unfortunately, no
matter how many people your media operatives are able to successfully
manipulate, deceive and/or confuse into a state of harmless
resignation, there is always going to be a small but significant
minority of people who recognize what you’re doing, and feel compelled
to point it out to others. These are the potential critics you want
to herd into fake communities and waste as much of their time as

Now we realize it’s tempting to decide to simply ignore this
negligible minority of people who are actually paying attention,
but the danger in doing that should not be underestimated. Despite
the overwhelming military superiority you and your network of
transnational corporatist associates currently enjoy by more or less
controlling the governments of most nominally sovereign countries, you
need to remember that the millions of people you’re working to death
in high-tech sweat-shops somewhere in Asia, or are gradually sucking
the all the joy of life out of by enslaving in debt and keeping in
a constant state of fear, are (i.e. these millions of people are),
still, the majority of people on the planet, and could, if they ever
organized and rose up against you … well, we don’t even want to think
about that.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty of herding these critics into
fake communities and wasting their time. What we want to achieve
here is deceivingly simple — remember, we’re not trying to silence
or otherwise repress or curtail the speech of these critics (we’re
not despots after all). No, the aim is simply to herd them all into
a simulated “commons” where they can shout their criticism back and
forth at each other in a completely open and uncensored way … a way
that will have absolutely no effect on anything, other than allowing
them to blow off steam in a fake environment you control and are able
to infinitely sub-divide into ever smaller environments in order to
further marginalize any real troublemakers, which there are always
going to be a few of those.

We’re not going to have time or space to present an exhaustive survey
here, but we do want to note that there are probably numerous examples
of the employment of this strategy since the shift from monarchical
Despotism to industrial Capitalism began. However, the really exciting
stuff doesn’t get going until the Internet comes online … unless you
want to count the 1970s, when the majority of American “radicals”
abandoned any idea of revolution and retreated to remote rural
villages and communes to explore a vast assortment of non-violent
spiritual practices and alternative lifestyles, or decided to try to
start the revolution in the Humanities departments of universities,
or otherwise work “within the system,” after they realized that
the police and soldiers you and your corporatist friends employ to
maintain your wealth and stranglehold on power were going to shoot
them. But we’ll have to leave all that stuff for a later series, as
we’re going to focus mainly on the Internet … which is where all the
real “action” is these days.

All right, that’s it for Part One. Stay tuned for Part Two, where
we’ll take a look at the mother of all contemporary ways to herd
people into fake communities and waste their time … social networks.

(Part 2)

A long time ago, before there was the Internet, if you wanted to herd
your potential critics into fake communities and waste their time,
one of the only ways to do that was the church. Although a rather
primitive system of control by today’s standards, the church (i.e.
organized religion, of any variety) was, for well over a thousand
years, the primary means of dividing people up into arbitrary groups,
filling their heads with all manner of alternately frightening and
comforting nonsense, and tricking them into hating each other for a
variety of ridiculous reasons that not even the clergy that invented
them ever completely understood. So, before we get into the Internet
and social networks and all that stuff, we want to take a quick look
back at the original means of unplugging people from the material
world and plugging them into a totally made-up ontological simulation
that renders the majority of them harmless and compliant.

Now, organized religion, in one form or another, has been around
since pretty much the dawn of human civilization, but the kind
of sophisticated operation we’re talking about (i.e. herding
people into fake communities and wasting their time, as opposed to
simply brainwashing children into identifying with their parents’
ethnic/cultural groups) doesn’t get started until 313 AD, so with
the Edict of Milan, and Constantine, and the beginning of the Fall
of the Roman Empire, and all that. This is the time when organized
Christianity merges with the already disintegrating Empire, and is
deployed as the primary means of brainwashing and manipulating the
masses, once the Romans have begun to lose their ability to intimidate
and oppress everyone with brute force.

This is a key point, because, as we noted in Part One of our series,
as long as the whole despotic social structure thing is still working
for you (as it was for the Roman elites during the heyday of the
Empire, so 27 BC to around 180 AD), you don’t really need to worry
about herding critics into fake communities and wasting their time,
because, well, basically, you can just kill them, and nail their
mutilated corpses up on big wooden crosses alongside the road into
town, or impale their severed heads on spikes, or feed them to the
lions or whatever, as a warning to any other potential critics.

However, once your despotic social structure starts to come apart at
the seams — as it inevitably will, due to its fundamental top-down
inefficiency, and the immutable natural laws of the Market and so on —
organized religion (or something very much like it) becomes essential
as a means of brainwashing and manipulating all the millions of people
you want to ruthlessly exploit for your personal benefit, and whose
behavior and beliefs you want to control as much as possible. Which,
of course, was the main function of organized religion throughout the
Middle Ages, and right up until the Age of Enlightenment, when modern
capitalist forces started challenging all the despotic beliefs and
social structures the church and the aristocracies had been ramming
down everyone’s throats for hundreds of years.

Now, obviously, we don’t have time or space to cover the entire
history of Christianity, or Islam, or Judaism, or how organized
religion functioned hand in hand with the ever-changing balance
of power among the various medieval empires, kingdoms, fiefdoms
and the like, or during the initial transition from Feudalism to
modern Capitalism, when organized religion was losing its ability
to brainwash and manipulate the masses into docilely serving the
ruling class in this life in exchange for the promise of some form of
eternal happiness in the next (although we do recommend looking into
all that), so we’re going to jump ahead to the late-20th Century, by
which time nobody actually believed in God anymore (except for insane
religious fanatics) and the church had become more or less useless
as a means of herding people into fake communities and wasting their
time … the whole “death of God” thing also being responsible for
most of the horrors of the early- and mid-20th Century, as people
were suddenly faced with the utter meaninglessness of the pain and
suffering they were submitting themselves to in order to enrich the
ruling classes without any prospect of an “eternal reward” in heaven.
See Existentialism for further details on that.

Fortunately, during the 1960s and 1970s, while Capitalism was
experiencing one of its periodic crises, and the Specter of Communism
was still very much on the march, and all kinds of radical terrorist
groups, university students, hippies and minorities were rising up
against the System all over the world, a bunch of geniuses started
developing all these packet switched network things, which later,
during the 1980s, would become the Internet, which would lead to the
World Wide Web, and … well, here we are.

Now, the Internet and the World Wide Web are probably the most
powerful tools ever invented in the entire history of herding people
into fake communities and wasting their time. For starters, the World
Wide Web (the infinite virtual information space where documents and
other such resources are accessed via the Internet) is really just
one big fake community — a simulated global community comprising an
infinite number of ever-smaller subsidiary or subordinate simulated
communities, which are the ones we want to focus on.

This gets a little tricky as, remember, we’re not despots, so we can’t
just force people to spend hours and hours interacting with some
virtual “reality” wherein we blatantly tell them what they’re supposed
to be thinking and doing all the time. It’s not like the old days. On
top of which, due to its decentralized structure, we’re never really
going to be able to control the Internet completely, so we need to
focus on tactics like misdirection, instigation, luring, negging,
ostracization, cordoning-off, positive and negative peer pressure, and
a variety of other deviously manipulative techniques.

The good news is, by pretending to deliver people from the misery
and monotony of the material world (as the church did back in the
Middle Ages), the World Wide Web has already done half our work for
us. Getting the majority of people to forget about the completely
unnecessary pain and suffering they are putting up with so that
a small minority of elite individuals can live off everyone else
like parasites is already taken care of. All we need to focus on is
identifying your potential critics (as well as any other type of
unstable individuals who are using the Internet to preach heretical or
otherwise unorthodox ideas) and herd them into the appropriate fake
communities where we can waste a significant amount of their time.

Editors’ Note: OK, we’ve had to adjust our original installment
sequence here, as we seem to have gotten bogged down in all this
history stuff again … but we promise to get to social networks in Part
Three. So do stay tuned for that.

(Part 3)

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.

Dorsey TwitterTwitter, 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.)

zuckerberg BW 193163 skinnyFacebook 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

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.

Omidyar BW 161Now 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.

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