Narrative warfare generally focuses on “attacking” narratives and counters to those psychological operations. However, much more damaging are malnarratives. Malnarratives can be thought of as a memetic analog to prion diseases: healthy and normal faculties are mistraied in a way which induces further mistraining in such a way that the memes are damaging both to the individual and society at large.

Case Study: Woke

We contend that “woke” is a malnarrative deployed against the US working class by the US capitalist class.

This malnarrative takes advantage of good and healthy impulses: the distate for bigotry and desire to include among the American populace. However, “woke” subverts these drives into their exact opposite through the abuse of language and double-speak. The “woke” malnarrative uses the language of civil rights to train people into adopting the mechanisms of bigotry – such as systemic racism and sexism in universities, employment, and government benefits. The effects of this malnarrative in US society have been devastating, undoing generations of civil rights progress and destroying major companies who become infected with this disease.

Since the terminology involved registers as “good” to participants, they never critically examine their actions – and therefore, conduct repugnant acts while believing that they’re helping or benefitting society. This is what we mean by a memetic prion: the language involve “codes” as a beneficial meme, but actually represents a damaging mechanism.

Origins of Woke

The roots of these diseased memes traces back to the Marxist theorists driven from Germany in the 1930s during the rise of the Nazi party; the infamous Frankfurt school. This intellectual movement was the basis of “critical theories”, which as designed to deconstruct a society to prepare it for revolutionary action.

These destructive memes were incubated in the US throughout the period following the second world war and civil rights movements; partially by domestic actors and partially through foreign influence. We can see their roots in the academic theories underlying many of the feminist movements. They were subsequently refined in the 1990s to their current incarnations, “critical race theory” and “critical queer theory”.

In the 2010s, we saw these theories suddenly “mainstreamed” by the Obama administration and allied business leaders – who were looking to deflect from reform demands to address the crisis in the US economy brought about by generationally failed policies, such as outsourcing, centralization, etc. To shatter to the working class and deflect from necessary reforms to protect the power of the capital class, these bigoted theories were endorsed on the national stage and promoted with corporate funding.

Deployment Against Change

This tactic to deploy neo-bigotry cloaked in the language of civil rights to disrupt class movements has been noted by numerous news sources: from Vivek Ramaswamy to Tim Pool and Jimmy Dore to smaller creators such as V-Radio. Further, many who were there note the disruption to Occupy Wall St that these malnarratives caused. This effectively ended the “Hope and Change” period in US politics, where citizens were demanding change following the 2008 financial crisis (and proceeding decades of Wall St failure).

This destructive tactic has caused the collapse of the “Progressive” movement in the US, returning it to the Democrat roots of embracing systemic bigotry while ending any class awareness within their demands. Nearly 15 years later, we still lack any substantial reforms to benefit the working class. Indeed, the election of Donald Trump to president is best viewed through the lens of “break the system” in retaliation for failing to reform peacefully and instead engage in divisive neo-bigotry.

We’ve seen this malnarrative work its way into institutions as those caught in the initial infection progressed in their careers, ranging from universities to businesses to government. In each case, this malnarrative has eroded the reputation and performance of that institution: blowback similar to that experienced in releasing a biological weapon, as the perpetrator is infected with their own weaponized disease.

The ultimate outcome of this memetic weapon, released 15 years ago against the class movement seeking peaceful change is the collapse of US institutions and the looming prospect of civil war – as a faction driven rabid seeks to build Jim Crow 2.0 and the opposed faction no longer believes that peaceful reforms under the current regime are possible.

Malnarratives Are Dangerous

As usual, these types of manipulations create uncontrollable blowback against the perpetrators – with the Democrat party and their allied businesses unlikely to survive the turmoil brought about by their embrace of the “woke” malnarrative, used to destroy the prospect of peaceful reform and protect their privilege.

These techniques while seemingly effective in the short term are as insane as biological weapons, due to the destabilizing effects and propensity to infect the perpetrator. We hope that this case study on the damaging effects of weaponized narratives (and particularly malnarratives) helps practioners of narrative warfare understand the implications of their choices in weaponizing memes.

While we pity those infected, we look forward to the day that perpetrators behind such weapons face justice.