Over the last few days a meme perpetuated by the far-right has been circling social media. The origins of the meme are 4Chan and the r/the_donald subreddit, and it has taken on many forms.
The idea of the meme is to label and brand any non-Trump supporter as an NPC. The far-right has been using this term for a while now, to describe anyone who doesn’t think the same way that they do. NPC is a video-game term and stands for Non-Player Character. The far-right are using this term because they believe anyone anti-Trump to be a brainwashed sheep, who is incapable of independent thought.
Last week they began making Twitter accounts that were “parodies” of anti-Trump folk. They started operating them individually, and used them to spread misinformation about left-leaning people, centrists, independents and moderate conservatives — Basically anyone who isn’t aboard the Trump train.
Over the weekend, many of these accounts were suspended by Twitter, largely for breaching the policy of you needing to be a real person or business. As well as rules they have against trolling, bot-accounts and misinformation (or “fake news”).
The New York Times put together a little collage of some of the hundreds of accounts. I’ve included it below, for some clarity.
This was an interesting subject to research. Especially as, just this week, Twitter released many of the account transcripts from its crackdown on state-sponsored Russian “bot-farms”. It’s important to point out that these bots come from “both sides”, in that some were anti-Trump and some pro-Trump.
It has been clear for a long time that Russia don’t really mind who is in power in the US, just that the American people are fighting against one another. They’ve started a war of misinformation without having to build a single, physical weapon. Sure, Russia stand to gain more with the Putin-sympathetic President in power. But even if Hillary had won, America would be just as divided, meaning a Russian victory.
I’m generally okay with people on the right poking fun at my political ideologies, as I also have the liberty to poke fun at theirs. I can see how each side believes that the other is living in a “hive mind” of identical opinions, because many of us do remain in our familiar echo chambers. So the far-right branding the left as NPC’s, actually makes a lot of sense from their perspective.
I would argue that the majority of the people making and using the NPC accounts spend their time on 4chan’s /pol/ and Reddit’s r/the_donald, and very little time anywhere else. Neither of these are news sources, as they’re simply message boards on which people can perpetuate the exact same thoughts, on repetition, forever.
Even my conservative relatives (I love them), have the common sense to watch Fox News. It might be a single news source, but it has a duty to report on a variety of subjects, and the world at large. Here are the current front pages of the far-right message boards, and the sorts of things that non-NPC, “free-thinkers” are consuming on an hourly basis:
I get my news from a variety of sources, and I even try to keep myself engaged with other voices when topics like this arise. For example, I watched a Paul Joseph Watson video to research this subject. I still can’t decide if he believes the things he says and just fails to see the irony, OR if he knows exactly what he needs to say in order to make a living from the far-right. Either way, it’s dangerous.
He used this voice-changing effect throughout his video to simulate the voice of a hive-mind NPC, but then used the same effect at the end of his video to ask his viewers to subscribe, follow and like all of his content. I almost spat out my coffee. And again, if he knows he’s doing it then it’s sort-of clever, but if he doesn’t then he’s a f***ing idiot, who probably thinks in his deluded mind that he’s the John Oliver of the far-right.
Even if you only get your news from ONE credible source, that’s still preferable to reading the comments of anonymous users and taking it as established fact. Reading through some of those threads on /pol/ was a bit of a nightmare, and I feel as though I need some lab-grade eye-bleach, but it proved something to me — The people who made the NPC accounts aren’t consuming any information beyond each other’s comments. It’s all just repeated statements, back and forth.
Yeah, we might all be living in our own echo chambers, but I think I know where the buzziest of hive-minds are. And ironically it’s the people who’re pointing the finger elsewhere. Please far-right, go watch some Fox News or something — Never thought I’d say that.
The other interesting aspect of this story is the Russian-bot element. We know they exist in the form of state-sponsored farms, and we also know that far-right message-boards independently created the accounts of hundreds of NPC “bots”. They used these accounts to spread misinformation, and generally troll the electorate. Here’s a source.
I put it to you that the far-right edge-lords on /pol/ and r/the_donald, are doing Russia’s job for them. I’m not saying that they’re being paid by Russia, or that they aren’t Americans — Enough evidence suggests that the far-right acted on their own here. But I am saying that if Americans start making fake accounts in order to influence the opinions of those in the centre, or of vulnerable young people online, then further division will happen. Meaning that Russia get what they want, with even less effort.
The far-right (and I say far-right because I’m not talking about your average conservative voter) have become what they accuse others to be — A hive-mind of bot-accounts who’re seeking to change the views of others by repeating the same phrases over and over.
At least I, and many others (including, unfortunately PJW) have the stomach to put our names and faces to our opinions. We’re individual protagonists or antagonists (depending on your worldview) in a giant, massively-multiplayer online role-playing game called Earth. Anyone who hides on message-boards, who refuses to put a name to their face as they operate a bot account — Well they’re almost the very definition of an NPC.
Pot. Kettle. Black.
Today is Thursday, October 18th and does anybody have any eye-bleach? I need some very strong, weapons-grade, eye-bleach.
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