by Zoe Harding

(Part 5 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Part 1part 2, part 3, part 4.)

Once you write off the shambling hordes of DeepGrey-infected marketing consultants who make up most of the population, what’s left? The Nazis, of course. That persistent yet cannibalistic and insular sub-species, still reeling from the swift and brutal Consequences that followed their atrocities during the Meme War. When the War began, the tech industry was on the verge of realising what human society took several world wars to realise: fascists are poisonous to any system they’re allowed to root in, and should be rapidly expunged with fire and extreme prejudice.

Unfortunately, once the dust settled it became apparent that the tedious little bastards had largely made it out intact, protected by the remains of Silicon Valley’s brogrammer epidemic and sympathetic voices in the government. In one of its rare positive moves, however, DeepGrey wanted nothing to do with them, and rapidly made itself fundamentally incompatible with the true believers and heavily infectious to the irony-shitposting kekistani fuckwits. Internet Nazism shrank to a hard core of SS-uniform wearing dickheads who continued to punch above their weight with their very own armies of bots, but thanks to their brief flirtation with actual scary no-shit political power in the early 2010s and the hideous consequences thereof, they’re now thoroughly discredited for at least another twenty years. (History repeats itself, and cycles faster each time, after all.)

Parallel (and occasionally uncomfortably close to) the shitlord Reich there’s an odd coalition of heretic libertarians, anarcho-capitalist weirdos, and the more economic end of the anti-DeepGrey movement. They generally believe that the whole thing is a vast moneymaking scam and that true success lies in trying to do business outside it, and the flock to the banners of the weird staring-eyed wonks who claim to have not just learned to hack DeepGrey but even to exploit and optimise it.

They’re a disparate community that spends half its time running elaborate scams against itself, but they hate DeepGrey with an enthusiastic amount of passion and they’ve gotten further than anyone in trying to figure out how it works. Much like the Nazis, they’re still working on a 20th century social structure, which means they’re 95% cishet men with beards, but they don’t contribute anywhere near the amount of hostile online noise. They also cast a long, dark shadow in the form of the more overtly criminal groups that are the remains of post-DeepGrey organised crime, a group still rapidly evolving to evade the new law enforcement environment and learn how to run protection rackets against the global spreadsheet overmind.

Then there’s the rest of us. Politically, the left never coalesced before or after the Meme War, and they certainly took the heaviest casualties both from the War itself and the subsequent mass DeepGreying thanks to a lack of the united front that the Nazis or the various governments could present. That means that the non-ancap, non-fascist anti-DeepGrey lot (the Campaign are the exception to this) are a massive and often impenetrably odd network composed of a dozen or so subcultures who’ve remained DeepGrey resistant. It has real trouble with the more active end of the BDSM community, I’m told, and the more cult-like extremes of the furry and fetish subcultures also tend to be sufficiently absorbed in their interests to escape it for the time being (mainstream furries, alas, were eaten by marketing departments – if those giant plush animal mascots didn’t have a haunted and-I-must-scream look to them before, they sure do now).

The rest is a ramshackle mess of self-important free spirits like myself, single-issue and multi-issue wonks, those who are still too neurodiverse for DeepGrey to get its hooks into (deeply paranoid communities, those, living in terror of the day some drone patches the system and floods their spaces with power-marketing memes) and anyone else who’s looked at the unfolding digital nightmare that’s turning anything in its path into mid-level management personnel and managed to run for the digital hills.

A few other lesser predators stalk the net as well, not least the schismatic mess of surviving churches, some of them running their own indoctrination webs to snag the faithful with very persuasive prayer memes. It’s not a good idea to fuck with them. They’re small-scale but touchy, responding to the slightest pokes with a barrage of prayer and spam that will bore through the most respectable online defences through sheer enthusiasm and turn you into a proselytising nightmare before you know what’s happened, or else wielding the power of the Holy Lawsuit to summon DeepGrey-powered lawyers – a subspecies so horrifyingly inhuman that their very touch chills you to the bone.

That doesn’t include the various sects of Offline Monks or the New Islamic League, by the way, although it absolutely does include the various Hindu groups who keep innocently leaving Islamophobic Indian nationalism strewn about the place laced with subtle-but-noticeable dog-whistles about pork and hijabs. The Monks remain offline as a deliberate statement, the NIL cannot openly exist in any online space – like the survivors of The Nameless Movement, their very concept was irrevocably tainted by the cultural genocides of the Meme War, and they have to exist either offline or as a series of pseudonyms and sockpuppets so oblique and complex that the Nazi (or, sadly government) term-searchers can’t find them lest the carnivorous shitposts get let loose again. In practice, of course, the Nazis are far too oblivious to spot even the most blatant NIL members, but for now fear remains effective area denial for many.

And somewhere in the middle of this lot, existing entirely separately in the ever-warmer, ever-grimier offline world on which all of this nonsense runs, the Real People pointedly wonder what happened on the print media and the remaining un-DeepGreyed television channel, or retreat to their gardens to grow potatoes and occasionally shoot down passing cargo drones.


Featured image via Pixabay


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