Brazil and Memes

The same day (June 6) as “American Lawyer in Brazil” Glenn Greenwald was proving instrumental in the exposure of mass spying on Facebook & co, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in the first of countless massive protests against corruption and ill-spent tax dollars.

Holding up banners reading “We Come From Facebook,” the crowds steadily grew. According to noted authority Wikipedia, by June 13 police had “lost control.” The night of June 17, a relatively small crowd of Molotov-cocktail-and-fireworks-wielding rioters overwhelmed an even smaller group of police and nearly stormed the Brazilian parliament in Rio. Brazil’s president, herself a former guerilla figher, called the protests “healthy.”

Now Brazil’s little-known intelligence agency has announced they’ve put together a “last minute” effort to monitor social media and the Internet.

In short, the Brazilian protests have become the most visible test so far of how well small groups can observe, manipulate, and control decentralized networks. (The Brazilian protests are apparently leaderless and grassroots.)

What does this have to do with memes? A decentralized group can be run by memes instead of people. (Ever been on 4chan or Reddit?) It’s possible that’s the case with the Brazilian protesters… and if not, it’s possible the various authoritarian forces will try to make it so, applying their own kind of evolutionary pressure in hopes of creating a “Bonsai spring.”

Either way, the law of unintended consequences is likely to apply.

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