Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ludibrium as weapon

Filed under the plans I approve of dept.:
In summary, several Chinese language, but overseas based, websites have been blogging on the creation of a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China. [...] The blogs and websites themselves are largely invisible to ordinary Chinese as the Great Firewall keeps them out, but they can be seen by the security agencies, who have been swift to react. The organizers, whoever and wherever they are, have repeatedly called on people to gather in a range of popular and public areas in the centre of major cities across China – shopping malls and university campuses – and go for a stroll every Sunday afternoon to call for minor political change. These public areas are, at that time of day, normally filled with young people and out-of-town domestic tourists, all now potential ‘protesters’. Now, because of the number of competing and overlapping security agencies, there is a lot of pressure on the local commanders to make some arrests and to show some success, but there are no genuine protesters, just some bemused local tourists and a lot of foreign journalists. [...] At the same time, the organisers have used a wide range of popular and politically ‘safe’ words to use as code words [...] These keywords get picked up by the censors, and all web and SMS traffic using them gets shut down or blocked – Jasmine itself is of course popular in Chinese culture and widely used in branding, but sites using ‘Jasmine’ in their copy, however innocuous, are blocked - with real-world social, political and economic consequences.

The use of a fake revolution to foment a real revolution reminds me of the Rosicrucians, who never existed. The original documents attributed to the Rosicrucians were later claimed, by their author, to be a hoax. By introducing a secret society so desirable, pretenders were attracted, who then claimed to be members and inducted new members who weren't in on the fact. These members inducted new members, and soon a set of completely different secret societies were formed with the same name and claiming the same lineage. But, unlike the rosicrucian ludibrium, this plan requires the paranoid chinese secret police to play their part -- which is to say it's only useful against a government that is extremely paranoid about the possibility of revolution.

While there are innocents getting hurt because of this, it's not comparable to a revolution or an invasion -- or even a real protest. Nobody's bringing in tanks.

That said, this still brings up the question of memetic warfare. This is not (as far as I can tell) a CIA operation, though the CIA does things like this fairly frequently. This appears to be a psyops project being performed by individuals, which is why it appeared on the globalguerillas blog. It remains to be seen whether or not this is effective, though as the comments thread indicated, the chinese economy is suffering, which may be related to the blocking of keywords associated with otherwise profitable things. But, it's the first example I've seen of a memetic warfare operation performed by individuals upon an entire government and its auxiliary support mechanisms without requiring budget with some level of success.

Edit: China is clearly no stranger to the infictive in politics. NB: Since I do not live in China, I cannot make arguments about quality of life issues there, so I do not have any confidently-held quality judgments about their methods in terms of the perspective of a citizen. I am sure that many chinese citizens think that the united states is a horrible totalitarian government and that US citizens are much less 'free' than they are. I don't know who discovered water, but it wasn't the fish.

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