I wrote a little yesterday about Operation Mindfuck, a Discordian disinformation campaign with good intentions. As John Higgs described it, “The aim of Operation Mindfuck was to lead people into such a heightened sense of bewilderment and confusion that their rigid beliefs would shatter and be replaced by some form of enlightenment.” The main technique used for this was contradictory stories being placed in the media.
Nowadays, we live in a media environment filled with contradictory stories. The same event can be spun in different ways according to the views of each side. The response of many people to this is to retreat further back into their own prejudices. Psychological experiments have shown that even retractions of lies do not help:
Colleen Seifert, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, found that even retracted information—that we acknowledge has been retracted—can continue to influence our judgments and decisions… This means that when the New York Times, or any other publication, runs a headline like “Trump Claims, With No Evidence, That ‘Millions of People Voted Illegally,’” it perversely reinforces the very claim it means to debunk.
(It’s interesting that certain groups are pre-disposed to reject disinformation. One of the teens in Veles, who ran fake news sites for the 2016 US election, didn’t bother making stories for Sanders supporters: “They don’t believe anything. The post must have proof for them to believe it.”)
Operation Mindfuck appears to have run aground. This playful strategy for making the world a better place seems to have no place in a world where disinformation is common.
(It’s worth saying that Operation Mindfuck is very different to propaganda. Most political lies are made with the aim of furthering a particular goal, rather than undermining belief. However, as discussed yesterday, there are politicians using nihilistic strategies very similar to this).
In January 2017, John Higgs wrote a blog post entitled For Robert Anton Wilson’s Birthday – some words on Operation Mindfix . This discussed the idea that “if you take the long term, pragmatic view, it could be that the use of Operation Mindfuck techniques in this way are, essentially, a trap.”
Higgs compared the state of modern politics to Robert Anton Wilson’s concept of Chapel Perilous, but saw some optimistic developments coming. The designer Amoeba (who worked on the graphics for Cosmic Trigger) had used the hashtag #operationmindfix while suggesting people take more care about what they post. Higgs wrote that “Operation Mindfuck is over for Discordians because it is unnecessary in the post-2016 world. From now on, the ongoing work can be considered part of Operation Mindfix”
Daisy Campbell spoke about Operation Mindfix in the Mysterium book, released in October 2017: “Operation Mindfuck failed. Perhaps it’s time to implement operation Mindfix and bring a little objectivity back.”
Another response to Project Mindfix came from Dolly Turing. They questioned the idea of fixing minds, and said that to equate fake news and operation mindfuck “completely seems to miss so many layers of possibility, imagination and dimensionality. The most expansive and terrifying and exciting parts of these things… and the silliest and most fun ones.”
The question is, if Operation Mindfuck is insufficient in the current climate, what does come next? As Cat Vincent tweeted way back in October 2016, “The Right basically stole Operation Mindfuck from us, weaponised postmodernism. The Discordian response is evolving…”
The John Higgs post has some other suggestions beyond Operation Mindfix.
It needs the coming together of people in the real world, because empathy is rarely found online… It understands that social media can be used for finding those who chime with us but that there is no point in using it to shout at the different… It involves the virtuous circle of people being inspired by people being inspired. It centres of [sic] the understanding that meaning exists, but it needs to be self-generated.
In the year-and-a-half since that post was written, the response seems to have evolved beyond Operation Mindfix to something new. And events such as this weekend’s Catch 23 are a part of that, a chance for people to come together in the real world.
More on Discordianism
I’ve been writing a series of posts about discordianism which will be the background to the this pamphlet on Brexit and hiking. The first part, Thatcher in the Rye, is available online.