Frame Control: Manipulating Memetic Momentum

Frame control is a tool that can be used to manipulate memetic momentum. It is a guerilla tactic that can allow a smaller operator to survive massive, coordinated attacks. Learn how to use this to your advantage.

Frame Control

Frame is the context through which events are perceived. Whatever happens in the picture is what happens, but the frame is the “view” you get into what’s going on.

Frame is internal and external.

Internal frame is all in your head. It’s mind memetics – how you process information, how you talk to yourself, how you perceive what’s going on. A strong internal frame is the hallmark of self-confidence. A weak internal frame is pessimistic suicide.

External frame is narrative. It stems from internal frame – those with a strong internal frame are able to impose it on others, and make it an external frame. A classic example of this is public shaming. Once somebody has been labelled a racist, or sexist, or nutjob liberal, others begin to perceive every action they take through that lens. Stereotypes are a common source of external frame, but they can be overruled by other factors if one works hard enough.

Frame becomes a selection factor for memetic effects. For example: Trump has been framed as a potential Russian puppet. This means that anything concerning Trump and Russia is more likely to go viral than, say, something concerning Trump and Azerbaijan. Likewise, ISIS have demonstrated a history of truck attacks. Any attacks involving trucks are likely to be quickly attributed to ISIS, versus another potential terrorist group.

Frame And Memetic Momentum

The most viral wins, and frame enables things to go viral. So it’s hugely important in studying memetics.

Memes achieve momentum through repetition. They’re more likely to be repeated if the memes suit the dominant frame.

When memes are sufficiently repeated, they begin to set the frame themselves. This is a key element in propaganda – keep repeating the same message through official channels, and soon you can start to fit all new facts into that narrative. This is memetic momentum.

Momentum can become almost unstoppable. Memes build tremendous amounts of collective power and influence through repetition, and it’s all heading in one direction. But what if it isn’t?

Control Frame And You Can Redirect Memetic Momentum

It is easier to seize the frame than to create new memes. If you can manipulate the frame through which a meme complex is being viewed, you can hijack its momentum for your own purposes.

This is why you see so many companies trying out memetic advertising. They allow memes to build organically on social media, then attempt to switch the frame so they’re associated with the trend. Think of the recent Pepsi ad in which they try to associate themselves with the left’s protest movement. If Pepsi can become associated with it – which there is some indication they did – then they gain the benefit of the memetic momentum with very little work on their end.

Like him or hate him, President Trump is a master of this technique – manipulating frame to hijack memetic momentum. Here are two examples:

  • Fake news: this charge was initially lobbed at the right (and Trump by association) – that bullshit merchants in, say, Moldova, were creating totally false news stories to go viral and boost Trump’s election chances. The “fake news” label was created, and repeated endlessly by tech companies, media outlets, and opposition politicians.Trump saw an opportunity to hijack the memetic momentum. He’d established some anti-media frame already, commonly using the mainstream media as a punching bag on the campaign trail. So moving against the media in this sense was simple – he just started labelling the legacy media as “fake news”. Now, every attack on the media had the added value of all the memetic value built up by his opponents, invested in that term. “Fake news” is now more associated with Trump’s media beefs than with any Eastern European bullshit outlets. A perfect example of how to control frame and manipulate momentum.
  • “Deplorables”: On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton placed half of Trump’s support into the “basket of deplorables” – Islamophobic, misogynist, etc. Someone not aware of memetic effects might become defensive in this situation – arguing that their supporters are not, in fact, Islamophobic or sexist. But this doesn’t achieve anything – playing defense is weak frame.Strong frame control allowed Trump to maintain the momentum of this meme, but weaponize the narrative to his side. He walked out to a song from Les Miserables, with a large graphic saying “Les Deplorables”. Instead of defending against the label, he embraced it – framing it as an attack on his supporters, and by extension, the average Joe. Every repetition became a dagger into the Clinton campaign, rather than one into his own.

Using frame control to manipulate memetic momentum is like judo. Just as one can use the force of an opponent’s strike to take them to the ground, you can use the momentum of any narrative for your own purposes. Used as a guerilla tactic, frame control can take the biggest and most organized attack against you, and turn it to your advantage.

Any sufficiently large meme complex will be attracting attention. There’s a war for attention, and this means a lot of the work has been done for you. You just need to guide the attention to your interpretation, rather than someone else’s. That’s frame control.


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