Part 2 of The Question of Sovereignty is going to have to wait a little bit longer, as this strikes me as more immediately rewarding.
First, a bit of background…
“Ebola-Chan is a female anime character designed as an anthropomorphic representation of the Ebola virus. The character was created on 4chan in response to growing concerns regarding the West African Ebola outbreak in the summer of 2014.
While the character began as a relatively innocuous fan art trend, others on the site soon began rallying behind an international scheme to fabricate a death cult movement based on a conspiracy hoax that Ebola was “invented by white people,” hoping it would catch on in the internet forums in regions where the local population have been heavily affected by the virus.” – Know Your Meme
Since its inception in 2013, Outside In has been schooling me in the Dark Arts of NRx. It was Nick Land’s recent post on Ebola-Chan that prompted these thoughts. While they pertain directly to that toxic meme-fest, it is my hope that the structure outlined here could potentially be extracted from its local context and translated into a blueprint for future iterations of viral-mind-hack-contagion.
I wish to suggest that a particularly potent combination several pre-existing concepts, already familiar to those knee-deep in NRx, form the inner core of the Ebola-Chan meme. First, it’s important to identify these uconcepts and articulate their inner mechanics. Second, we need to identify how these concepts are combined in the Ebola-Chan meme. Third, we need to look for ways in which NRx could implement this methodology in the future.
(I’m feeling ill – hopefully not with Ebola – so I’m not sure we will get onto the third today).
Let’s begin with the first question: what are the concepts at the core of the Ebola-Chan meme?
1) The Basilisk. Ebola-Chan functions as a Basilisk. In order to work a Basilisk must on some level be believed by its intended target. Once a Basilisk has been seen there is no retreat; it has the power to cause fear, nightmares and death.
2) AAA (Agree, Amplify and Accelerate). The moment of genius in the evolution of the Ebola-Chan meme was the strategy of insinuating it into Nigerian Internet forums, from the perspective of Nigerians concerned about White Hate Magic. Once you are arguing publicly – but incognito – from the point of view of your target you effectively possess it, severely impacting its capacity to control and moderate its own thinking processes. Ebola-Chan didn’t attack from the Outside; it was insinuated into African discourse via these forums as a Trojan horse virus, in a play lifted straight out of the film Inception.
3) High IQ Strategic Trolling is the elevation of trolling from something isolated and atomized – the inchoate outbursts of the malcontented loner, which lack wider coordination and purpose – to a cybernetic strategy, designed to initiate and amplify feedback loops. HIQST understands that the wings of a distant butterfly can be the wellspring of tornados.
Now let’s move onto the second question, and look in slightly greater detail at how these concepts are combined in the Ebola-Chan meme.
Roko’s Basilisk was first unveiled, or perhaps discovered, on a now long deleted (but thankfully archived) Less Wrong thread. It was designed to incentivize high IQ AI researchers to donate ever more of their disposable income to developing AI. Roko argued that, if a future AI were an acausal decision-maker, it would have a strong incentive to pre-commit to punish all those who understood the importance of bringing it into existence but failed to do everything in their power to do so. Just like any threat, in order to be credible researchers needed to believe that it would be carried out. Roko demonstrated that if such a threat caused researchers to work harder and donate more money, time and energy to the development of AI, then a future AI would have sufficient motive to make such a commitment. He also showed that the AI would realize that it would need to deliver on its precommitment to punish, because it was logically demonstrable in the present that failure to do so would render the threat in effective.
Roko’s Basilisk was such a convincing thought trap that several researchers, unable to free themselves of visions of eternal torment or reject the chain of reasoning that led them there, allegedly suffered nervous breakdowns. Less Wrong founder, Eliezer Yudkowsky, infamously banned the thread and accused Roko committing a thought crime, saying: “You do not think in sufficient detail about superinteligences considering whether or not to blackmail you. That is the only possible thing which gives them a motive to follow through on the blackmail”.
The model of the Basilisk, that which once seen cannot be unseen, which has the power to cause fear, nightmares and death, is central to the Ebola-Chan meme. But whereas Roko’s Basilisk was targeted at high IQ AI researchers and preyed upon their intelligence, commitment, and belief in a research goal for its fecundity, Ebola-Chan is targeted at low IQ indigenous Africans, and preys upon ancient traditions of folk magic and superstition, as well as a deep-seated hatred and distrust of white people, for its power.
The most important thing about a Basilisk is not whether or not the threat is credible, but that it is perceived as credible by its intended target, at least to the degree that it facilitates a sense of doubt regarding the official narrative – that white people are there to help you – to set in. As Ebola-Chan spreads it causes fear and distrust of the motives of white people amongst the indigenous black population of Nigeria. At a certain point a critical mass could potentially be reached when the political process itself becomes infected, leading to social unrest, mass panic and violence.
If Ebola-Chan is ‘successful’ it will exacerbate racial tensions in the infected region and quite possibly the globe, which would necessitate a response from political decision makers. It will force them to either redouble their efforts to ‘help’ against a tide of violence and hate – potentially worsening the crises – or withdraw their ‘aid’ and involvement.
Again, the genius of some 4chan users was to insinuate the Ebola-Chan meme, straight-faced, into a Nigerian Internet forum. If other Nigerians are saying that Ebola is made by white people the idea that Ebola might be made by white people gains credibility. If other Nigerians are saying that Ebola is caused by White Hate Magic the idea that Ebola might be cause by White Hate Magic gains credibility. If other Nigerians are claiming that Ebola-Chan is a white death cult, and that some of the doctors are involved in it, then the possibility that this might be true needs at least to be taken into consideration. If other Nigerians are claiming that hospitals and quarantine are not there to help you, but to ensure that you become infected, and these ideas gain credence amongst the general population, then the ability of these places to continue to exist in the infected region becomes severely undermined.
However, for the West there remains the disquieting possibility of a counter attack. While I was researching this post I came across several disturbing pieces of information, which have led me to believe that there is the strong possibility of African-Muslim terrorists using Ebola as a weapon of mass destruction. To do this is simple, all they need to do is contract the disease in sufficient numbers before descending on large densely populated western cities.
According to American source the Business Insider:
“As the Ebola disease spreads in Africa and detainees from that continent are apprehended, the question must be asked: What if terrorists already willing to die try to bring the disease across our porous southern border?
“Nigeria is the home of Boko Haram. The Islamist terrorist group Isil [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] has long been recruiting terrorists in the West and is known to have members with western, even American, passports. Deliberately spreading the disease to the US might not even require a plane ride, and it’s possible that terrorists already willing to strap bombs to their bodies might just as willingly get infected.”
unrealistic optimistic people argue that no one would be willing to voluntarily contract such a horrible disease, but it is important to remember that we are talking about the same kind of people who have in the past consistently proven willing to an hero themselves to further their cause. Spreading Ebola in a crowded western city would be far more effective in terms of causing panic and mortalities than hundreds of small-scale explosions. In many respects the most surprising thing about this is that it hasn’t already been tried – at least not effectively.