I don’t usually re-print other author’s materials on my blog. However, this will be a worthy exception.
Dmitry Zolotukhin is one of Ukraine’s leading researchers on Russian cyber- and media warfare. In the article below, he focuses on Russia’s use of “memetic weapons” to brainwash its home – and cross-border – audience. The article is so thorough that I decided to reprint it, with the author’s permission, rather than interpret it myself.
Memetic weapons as a threat to civilization security
by Dmitriy Zolotukhin
For decades, science fiction writers and Hollywood screenwriters show us mankind self-destruction sad possibility. Time after time, the authors describe threats to our existence that come from us. Serious scientific works on civilization security issues and survival of mankind in terms of threats that we ourselves create are also talking about it.
These threats are environmental problems, the shortage of resources on the overcrowded planet and so on. But the biggest threats are, of course, armed conflicts on the basis of intercultural or inter-religious confrontations. After all, it is much easier to destroy the “others” than to learn how to understand them. Because the fear that leads us already gave the “others” terrible bestial properties justifying the necessity for their immediate kill.
“Ukraine is fascist, russophobian state. Scums should be hanged”
My St.-Petersburg friend said these words to me when I tried to warn him of the possibility of organizing terrorist attacks in Russia during the celebration of May 9 Victory Day to blame Ukrainians for possible civilian victims. And it was a highly educated man with high analytical skills, who is able to search and analyze information.
When I asked him “Whether I would be hanged also?” he said that “everything will depend on the extent of my guilt”. Then I asked who would determine this extent? But, in response I learned that “lists of ghouls, pretending Ukrainians have already been drawn”.
I did not ask him if it’s appropriate to determine someone’s guilt, if the “enemies’ lists” are already made up. There was no sense in this question.
In my view, such responses can give a man who is immersed in some extreme condition. Some time ago, a lot of people in Kiev were also shipped to it, during the most acute confrontations of Maidan. This condition is primarily motivated with fear, which forces us to the Maslow’s needs pyramid footage. As I can say from my everyday analysis of social media and people’s behavior in it, often there is no real threat. So, we should blame in our hard feelings the information space that surrounds us.
Civilization security threat in our minds
Vladimir Vernadsky, the first president of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, considered the founding father of the noosphere theory. This is the kind of environment in which the whole conscious intellectual activity of mankind is going on. It is believed that a third-party unceremonious intervention in this environment, which is not fully studied and understood, carries a great danger. Just like human intervention in the nature processes is a serious threat to the ecological environment. This idea has become the «STALKER» series of computer games concept basis, when the global catastrophe that spawned the game world was caused by an attempt to curb the noosphere by group of researchers.
Each new step of the information space development (and noosphere development – as a kind of collective cognitive environment) is followed by much more active manipulative methods and technologies improvement to impact this environment.
These technologies have penetrated into absolutely every aspect of our life, from the belief that each of us needs iPhone, ending with global terrorism and political elections. This means that, theoretically, a person can be convinced of anything. For example people can be convinced in uncontested need to kill their own kind. This occurs due to the artificial, planned noosphere man-made changes, by its filling with an information that generates man’s conviction in “his” (actually forced upon) opinion.
I’ll tell you what to think
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 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. 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 book The 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”
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.
For example author says that one such “combat” memes was the phrase “The party of crooks and thieves”. It refers to the ruling Russian political force “United Russia”. This meme was very actively broadcasted by Aleksey Navalny during his presidential campaign.
Russian expert and scientist Igor Ashmanov (CEO of “Ashmanov and Partners”) has made a lot for understanding memes processes, their origin and development. In his numerous interviews he talks about the phenomenon of “switching-on themes”.
To “switch on some theme” is to fill the information space with news, posts, occasions and other content on a particular subject. Naturally, most of these messages are placed with a purpose and have a certain context and focus.
In May 2013 I wrote an article “Conspirology: homosexuality and incest as leverage in geopolitics”. I described the development of popular Russian topics about “decaying European values” in Runet. Approximately 6 months of memetic technologies made homosexuality and incest firmly associated with the European Union and constituted as a threat to Russians.
“Crimea is ours”
My friend from St.-Petersburg is convinced that “those guilty Ukrainians should be hanged”. I’m sure that nobody can bring a person to this aggressive condition in two months; either it is a highly educated man, or any average Russian. This requires a gradual and systematic long-term pumping with disturbing information that grows in the recipient motives of fear and pushing violence.
This is comparable to the way prisoners in Afghanistan or Vietnam and Iraq go to the enemy’s side after a long time in captivity. They take the Islam and continue to fight against their own country. Nobody can achieve this in a short time, but with sufficient zeal and duration, the result of “human reprogramming” is practically inevitable. So, a person is shifted from one level to another until the “program” will work. The main condition is continuity and a sufficient resource which gives to the recipient mostly one-sided information.
In Ukrainian informational space the share of pro-Russian content has always been huge. This is the television, movies, media, and news feeds. Many aged people believe “If something really important and interesting happens in Kiev, then it will definitely be show on Moscow television! Why to pay more?”
Most of the media were full of headlines about “decaying Europe” and the “gay movement” in Ukraine. Moreover, it was profitable for private news portals, as it turned out that such news is very clickable. All this has led to the belief that citizens of European countries have sex with children and eat people .
Analysis of media space showed that in runet in the beginning of 2013 the frequency of references to topics related to homosexuality, increased 12-13 times compared with the beginning of 2012. Does this mean that Russia has increased the number of gays or the topic has become more interested? Of course, no. As you know, a healthy nation will have no such a huge “social request” for this kind of information.
Since the second half of 2013 subjects of fear, disgust and aversion have been tightly linked to homosexuality and pedophilia using online media. A majority also perceived it as inherent attributes of “European values”.
Then, after this, information space has become gradually move to the European choice in Ukraine. Associative chain lined up (one of them) very clear: “Ukraine wants to integrate into Europe and in Europe – they have “European values”, which consist of pedophilia, homosexuality and incest. That is why – Ukraine is for incest and homosexuality”.
So hate to the Ukrainian people began gradually nurtured. And October 5, 2013, after the fight of simple Ukrainian boxer Vladimir Klitschko and the “Great Russian Vityaz” Alexander Povetkin it became absolutely clear that this aim was reached. It became abundantly clear after a judge gave the victory in the ring to Ukrainian. Information space literally exploded with anger and hate towards Ukrainians and all Ukrainian.
Combat memes: “Friendship Train”
Technology of “combat memes” can be considered as the most powerful. “Color revolutions” can also be called as a memetic technology element. In particular, when the color indication is used (“orange revolution” in Ukraine) or when some objects are used (“Revolution of Roses” in Georgia). Therefore, it is the creation of memes like “banderovtsy”, “gay-ropa”, “fascists”, “maydauny” 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. Every person has limited capacity to perceive the information.
When at the end of February I talked to my friends in Sevastopol, I wandered where is the meme about “friendship train” with banderovtsy came from. Almost every Crimean was so frightened by this news. Some representatives of the one of numerous ultra-right organizations said that they will come to Crimea “to teach locals how to be faithful to their Motherland”. This meme, passed from mouth to mouth among the Russian-speaking people in Crimea, nurtured precisely the theme of fear, which is one of the most powerful drivers of behavior.
Actually this “train” already went to the Crimea in the spring of 1992 – 22 years ago. Just when Crimean politicians prepared to adopt the Constitution of Crimea, which declared its independence. In other words, this technology has been used successfully already then. But, unfortunately for the initiators, information space has not yet acquired such a development in 1992. So, this problem remained mostly unknown.
In 1992 the main organizer of “friendship train” was the UNSO – ultra-right organization of Ukrainian nationalists, which had close connection with Dmytro Korchynskiy, who often appeared in information space during Euromaidan and even declared the war on Russia, when Crimea situation has started.
Korchynskiy was a student of the Shevchenko University History Faculty, but he never graduated as was banished from the fourth year of education. However, you cannot call him an ordinary man. Almost none of the Ukrainian politicians do not know the art of rhetoric as masterfully as Korchynskiy. According to his own declarations he took part in almost every armed conflict on the post-soviet territory. Of course, such a person could not avoid interest of special security services, as he also openly brags in his book “War in the crowd”.
One of the chapters of this book tells how in the spring of 1992 UNSO activists organized a symbolic “friendship train” to hold a procession and prayers for dead soldiers in Odessa, Kherson and Sevastopol. The “delegation” consisted from the former elderly UPA (Ukrainian Rebel Army) fighters, priests and ordinary members of the UNSO.
Firstly, the “friends” visited Odessa, Kherson and Nikolayev then. And then Black Sea Fleet Commander Admiral Kasatonov said he would not let “Banderivtsy” in Sevastopol (nothing like current situation?). And at the entrance to Sevastopol train was stopped. Ways allegedly were blocked for three hours, during which activists sang songs, and then, by their own words, went to Sevastopol by sea (although it is not clear where to get as many boats to accommodate people from a whole train?). According to “friends” they still held a rally, prayer, then again boarded the boats and went back.
That’s the whole “Bandera threat”. But in 1992 there were no mass propaganda on TV, no social media with its current level of development to “roll hysteria” around the need to “defend against the Nazis”.
Though, it took 22 years and “Bandera friendship train” that could threaten only to itself, has grown substantially in Pearl Harbor and Tsushima together.
Ukrainian defeat in the war of senses
Since the days of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz it’s hard to discover something new in conflicts and confrontations. Only the tools are changing but not the main points. For example, according to Sun Tzu – the worst thing for the general is “to besiege the fortress”. More profitable strategic decision is to “smash the enemy’s troops”. Even better is to “break enemy’s unions”.
And the best war is to “smash the enemy’s plans and thoughts”, to seize the territory of its senses not in real world but in the noosphere. This was said by Valerii Pekar (CEO EuroIndex) in February 2014 on the one of the lectures in the “Maidan University”.
Those who produces and distributes their senses in the information space, takes the leading position. There is an available vast arsenal of cultural and media tools to do that, and one of them is cinema.
And in this sphere Russian information and cultural field is much more advanced then Ukrainian. PR-consultant Victor Pashula described it in his article about how Russian movies time after time show to people how bad are Ukrainians and how is necessary to treat them. One of those movies is “We are from the Future II”, when Ukrainians showed as animals fighting on the side of Nazis in World War II.
Unfortunately, in Ukraine there is almost no one produces senses that could withstand abrasion Ukrainian identity from the noosphere. It was understandable when practically the whole country was struggling to survive with the odious “Family”. Although at this difficult time enthusiasts worked on issues of birth to new senses. Take, for example, the Vikisitinomika group initiative like “Branding Cities” and “Travel brand in Ukraine”. But now in the March-April 2014 there are also no such efforts, nobody really confront the Russian propaganda power.
It’s only the 1st of May 2014 Turchinov signed the decree on the measures of development in the sphere of informational security, which only gives some orders to prepare some documents and strategies till the end of July. This is like to dig trenches under the carpet bombing. It’s like the President and the Security Council head and his deputy do not understand that you cannot fight the memetic weapon just by switching off the Russian television.
One of marvelous science fiction novels, where author also tells us about destruction of mankind is “Parimutuel Planet” (was renamed to “Faithful to Thee, Terra, in Our Fashion”) by Alice Sheldon who wrote it under the name of James Tiptree, Jr.
The most interesting in this plot is that people who lost their home – Earth, has made a unique startup for the whole galaxy – “competitions planet”. Moreover, their work has always been associated to all galaxy worlds, with honesty, tolerance, diplomacy and the ability to find a common language with everyone. In other words, despite the fact that they lost their homeland their civilization has not died. It’s just moved into the noosphere and there came to exist as a set of symbols and senses.
Humanity already has a huge number of similar examples. The State of Israel was established only in 1949, after the Jewish people were tried hard to destroy by centuries. What does it tells us? Despite the fact that it is vitally necessary to fight for the territorial integrity of the country, a key task of the Ukrainian people, and in a global sense 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.