2020 was, as meme-culture ironically metaphorized, an apocalyptic seizure. Of course, compared with the centuries of slaughter and plagues preceding it, this is obviously a dramatization. Yet, it hints at a substantial problem: emerging from a great tectonic shift in the geography of our media, 2020 revealed how Social Media Warriors have seized the means of crises production, finally mastered the “art of exaggeration” (Sloterdijk) and began producing minor earthquakes shaking its social media landscape (including a social media hype in Gamestop and Dogecoin).
Meme-Culture and Covid-19
- The democratic occupation of society’s communication hubs has overloaded the power-circuits of our knowledge distributers. Yet, with the new free market overrun by opinionators, the major question became how to define knowledge. Twittrepeneurs and podcasters have destroyed the classic transmitters that once infused knowledge into the social body. Moreover, they have partly replaced knowledge of experience with self-referential knowledge–knowledge that grounds itself by being cited often enough.
- The new power energized the power-play of politics. The fourth pillar of the state is now distorted by an anonymous lump of quasi-professional, well connected opinionators interested in disruption for social media attention. Pseudo-knowledge-production is power. It’s internal motivator is mere growth.
- Though Obama’s presidency changed little, it stood at the forefront of this fundamental change (in 2008, before he was elected president, Obama was honored as the advertiser of the year, beating apple, and following the Nintendo Video Game System; see Note on Obama). It began with Obama’s social media voters’ acquisition, until Trump allegedly built the social media “bomb”.
- Of course, this factoid of Trump benefiting from Cambridge Analytica was designed by similar rules of exaggeration. Yet, while most twittrepeneurs hope to be an epi-center of social media earthquakes to promote their version of identity, Trumps’ unshakable ego has become the earthquake weapon in a land of free and cheaply transmittable speech. Thus, after 4 years, 2020 was the season’s finale in a new yet powerful series called A Social Media Democracy. Yet, this finale was not, as many assume, a live-lesson about immune-systems in the bodies of the living individuals. More so it was a seminar on dysfunctional immune systems. It was about a democratic body infected through social media outlets by memes.
- It was not Obama who changed the world, but it was the invention of the smartphone in 2008. On the one hand, it flattened the competitive ground for countries without a strong industrial sector by reducing investment-costs. New population could suddenly participate in the new forms of virtual goods production for comparatively cheap costs. The high technological density of smartphones (containing alarm-clocks, calculators, video-recorders, TVs etc) enabled anyone to participate in the modern economy with a single device. China’s wealth is grounded by the of 1.3 billion people suddenly being connected to the world through such a device.
- On the other hand, an idea could now spread like a virus from any corner of the world. Coinciding with the production of attention-drugs (the infinite news-scroll-screen), memes became a lucrative market for viral opinionators and their shit-storm-marketeering. As excrements were often a source of disease and infections in previous centuries, and since the infrastructure of social media was not built for all the outcomes that humans naturally produce, memes were the new viruses spreading. A climate change towards viral shit-storms is the newest political ingredient. Trump has mastered that game.
- Maybe, the formation of the flat-earth movement was a subtle warning sign, like a cough or a runny nose. Maybe, it was a hint we needed some immunity boosters; that we were in need of establishing some functional immunity infra-structure. While before theories of BigFoot and Ufos only gained distribution by inefficient channels, the addictiveness of social media in everyone’s hands increased their R-value dramatically. The smartphone is a mass-tool for mass-mezmorizing and recruiting soft-brained soldiers. Most of their spreaded viruses are tolerable (one just has to think of the BTS-Army, Justin Bieber, Gangnam-Style), yet, it was only a matter of time until a virus would occur that would test our democratic body and turn into a significant disease. Who would have thought that the result of this climate change could be a real virus?
- A virus is an empty form that only utilizes the mechanisms of another body. The virus itself has no purpose. In this sense, successful opinionators like viruses produce memes that utilize the means of another system. They have no clear intention. Their production becomes self-referential, only producing what is given within their systems. An opinionator like a virus spreads a form and not content or better said the form is its content.
- In the past, the Chinese system unified its concert of social media voices, while the Western democracies failed to respond with a functional immune system. Here, the freedom of bullshit-production is the ideal ground for viruses to flourish.
- Blind reproduction precedes, ideology follows (Note on GPT-3 and blockchain-technology to control fake-news). 2020 was therefore not the year of the Corona-virus, rather it was the year in which a democracy paralyzed itself. The significance of Corona lies in its visualization of underlying democratic problems. With regard to the effective management of a life-threatening disease, it makes Eastern and Western democracies comparable and initiates a new competition with regard to knowledge and pseudo-knowledge.
I have compiled 10 Thesis on the Corona-Virus: