I’ve watched the last several weeks as a certain anti-establishment movement in comics has floundered and lost its way a little. It was bound to happen on the internet with all the winning going on. Huge crowdfund campaigns, nothing but green in the future, but most of the bigger named campaigns were coming to an end, nothing had delivered yet, Marvel and DC have been relatively boring as of late, so there was a lot of antsy anticipation building.
What follows are common mistakes I’ve seen strategically that can set a whole movement back. It’s not about just this particular movement in information warfare, but I’ve watched several start/stops in news media, sci-fi books, etc. and these all apply.
The establishment has three primary objectives I call the “3-Ds”. It’s a little bit of a play on the 4D-Chess meme but the enemy really plays in three dimensions, which are their objectives for anyone who comes up against them:
They do these objectives in tandem. They destroy their target as hard as possible with name calling, making them out to be monsters instead of humans. They use that destruction then to get the budding movement to divide and fight amongst themselves, while deplatforming some of the major players so they can’t continue. Knowing this is how the enemy acts makes it much easier to avoid problems with them — because OUR REACTION to the enemy is what matters more than anything else when we’ve got our own movement going. Their actions matter very little to us in information warfare.
This seems to be a very simple one, but out in the trenches of social media, a lot of people forget who their allies are. They start to think they have to virtue signal to the “non-fighters” when the attacks get so hot, or something happens where the dynamic changes. It’s a false feeling. Don’t panic. Every narrative the enemy pushes is to get you to react to something for their above 3-Ds. Their actions don’t matter — but the way you respond to it does.
There will be people you don’t like, people who bother you, people you think the enemy has a “real case” in saying they’re a monster not a human being. It’s a narrative. People say mean things on the internet. There’s something out there about everyone who can make them look bad when spun and repeated through enemy filters. You don’t need to “guard associations” you don’t need to worry about your respectability in this kind of fight. It doesn’t matter what you think or what other people think of someone who’s firing in the direction of your enemies. You are already a nazi to them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re “really a nazi” because no one is really a National Socialist German Worker’s Party member. No one. It’s a game the enemy plays and when you join in — YOU lose.
Why do you lose? because your allies are people who can fight for you, your friends, or at the very least, the cause. Their presence in the information warfare battle makes narratives on our side, helps push the Overton window of the conversation, and their audience reaches cross over with your own to some extent. Everyone’s got a friend who’s got a friend who’s got a friend who’s either for that ally, working with the ally, or whatnot. The lie is that there’s a “zero sum game” that you either have to support EVERYTHING someone says or disavow. When that happens, the enemy succeeds in dividing us and it slows down the movement and keeps us from hitting objectives as we start grumbling amongst ourselves. You’ll lose out on your own followers by attacking allies.
I say abandoning instead of attack because sucking up the oxygen so that an ally never gets mentioned and is avoided is equally as harmful as an attack itself. In this day, death of mentions is death of information. Don’t disregard the totality of what an ally says or does just because of “principles”. There are no principles there, just losing to the enemy’s narrative.
Streisand Effecting Non-Players
This is an easy one to do. It feels natural to attack and we’ve all fallen prey to it at one time or another. When we’re under fire, the natural impulse is to strike out and fire back. That’s a tactic though and should only be used when necessary. The problem when someone gets harped on is not that people go “oh yes, this person must be terrible I logically conclude how bad they are”. No, the people who are against you KNOW you’re a “liar”. Know everything you say is “false”. Therefore they flock to the person being attacked in a natural instinct to 1. see what’s going on and 2. defend them.
Let me tell you the story about a small youtuber who opened up funny books on his lap and critiqued them last year. He said some very mean things about some of the creators and the work in comedic attempts to roast the poorly crafted books. His following wasn’t huge and didn’t matter a ton in the scheme of things….
….until creators started firing back.
The optic was that these guys are bigtime Marvel/DC celebs, and they’re picking on a little YouTuber! People flocked to see what the youtube was about and their attitude was sympathy to him, not toward the marvel/dc creators. His channel grew every time they did it. Eventually mainstream media outlets like The Federalist and PJ Media found him and saw several examples over a year of what was happening, and they blew him up to the mainstream. Why? He was a little guy being attacked.
This is happening now, I see it all the time. Once a movement gets big enough, it has its own establishment. Now when someone gets under fire in the reverse situation, they not only have themselves and a small budding movement to grow their base– they have the ENTIRE ESTABLISHMENT flock to them. You can avoid creating someone’s career by slowing down here and honestly doing what you would instinctually do to your allies when the Narrative gets hot and there’s the abandonment. Keep these small time people out of your mentions, ignore them. It’s for the good of everyone. There’s no one ‘being made aware’ of what this person is doing that’s hurting them. That’s not how this game works anymore. There’s only free attention to build a following, or there’s a death of mentions.
Both of these points come down to “don’t panic” and don’t react in the moment. When your allies are under fire and you’re stressed – it might be worth it to take 3-4 days before replying. Same with when there seems to be an urge to attack someone who’s so small they don’t matter because they’re saying terrible things. 3-4 days on the internet is an eternity. You probably won’t be passionate about something by that time, but taking that time before formulating an action can help you so you don’t make a big misstep. We’re reaching levels where we can’t afford missteps anymore if we want this to be a real viable alternative. How we react to the enemy is more important than what they do.
There’s only a couple of days left for The Ember War and it’s FULLY FUNDED! Help me push my epic sci-fi comic to greater heights at the end of this campaign. We’re making comics great again and you can be a part of it here.