Why 'Gangnam Style' Is Actually a Study in Mind Control
The future is going to look an awful lot like Thriller.
I should back up.
For those of you too young to remember, Thriller was a 1983 single by Michael Jackson, who, for those of you too young to remember, used to be a singer. Thriller was also notably accompanied by a 13-minute music video, which contained zombies and choreographed dancing, and just tremendous amounts of bad acting.
And red leather.
And yes, obviously the future is going to have bad acting, and red leather, and almost certainly a few zombie outbreaks. But that's not the scary part (I look pretty good in red leather). No, the scary part is the choreographed dancing.
Why is that so scary? And why is it such a given? Well, let's have a look at this recent tweet from poet and national treasure Sir Mix-A-Lot:
He's of course referring to the hit single "Gangnam Style," by Korean rapper Psy, which you'll of course be familiar with if you've left your hovel in the past few months. "Gangnam Style" is a kind-of-catchy song, and more importantly, a completely bonkers music video, which trampled across the Web a couple months ago. The video prominently features Psy doing a kind of horsey dance, which has, naturally, proven to be incredibly popular. Just about anywhere you go in the world now, if "Gangnam Style" comes on, at any time, in any place, everyone present will go fucking berserk, dropping their work, groceries and babies, and start flying around the place, riding imaginary horses. Here's a clip of people going off at a wedding:
And here it is at some kind of convention. (A cape and bad hair and Asus convention?)
Here's some guy who didn't even have time to put on pants before the urge to ride an imaginary horse overtook him:
Now I know what you're thinking. This is just people dancing to a silly song. It's a fad, like the Macarena, or bicycling. There's no reason to think that we're doomed to a dystopic, imaginary-horsey future.
Which is what brings me to Snow Crash. For those of you unfamiliar with incredible books, Snow Crash is a novel by Neal Stephenson about sword fighting and hacking and pizza delivery. It refined the concept of cyberspace and massively multiplayer worlds, helped popularize the term "avatar" and, I may as well mention again, had just a ton of sword fighting in it. It's about the most fun you can have with a book that doesn't have a carved out space for a dildo, and if you haven't read it yet, you should go do that now. I'll wait.
Wow, you're a quick reader. Man, I hope you didn't just skip ahead to this sentence. I'd hate to think that Cracked readers were that full of deception.
I'll explain then, knowing exactly how full of deception you monsters are, a specific plot point within Snow Crash; namely, its discussion of Sumerian history and the Sumerian language. As the novel explains it, the Sumerian language worked much differently from languages now. Composed of short, simple syllables, which modern listeners would find primitive and completely unintelligible, it also interacted with the human brain in an almost programmatic fashion, allowing for speakers to instruct their listeners to follow specific orders. Sumerian priests would use special chants to instruct the populace to bring in the harvest, or make leather goods, or whatever it was Sumerians did.
This type of language posed an incredible risk to the Sumerians, which left them vulnerable to "linguistic viruses" capable of reprogramming them for nefarious means. Without spoiling anything for you deceitful monsters who might still read the book, a major plot point of the novel is that indeed, this vulnerability might still persist in humans today.
The similarity between this and "Gangnam Style" is impossible to ignore. A series of short, gibberish-sounding syllables that inspire, nay, command crowds of people to ride imaginary horses? Also the fact that the song is completely unintelligible. (Is he actually speaking Korean? Has anyone checked?) Can you imagine people going so apeshit over this song if Justin Bieber or Ke$ha were shrieking this in English?
"Oh, come on," you're probably saying. "It's not the music that's addictive. It's the dance, from the goofy video. That's what went viral." (There's that word again.) Well, it turns out that this programming effect could be embedded in visual images as well, at least according to the theory outlined in Snow Crash. So let's check the video again, looking for any hypnotic images that could be programming us.
Maybe not. I've been staring at this for four hours now, and I don't think I've been hypnotized yet.
I think the conclusion is unavoidable: Psy (And boy, doesn't his name sound more ominous now?) is a linguistic hacker, and his masterpiece "Gangnam Style" is the music equivalent of herpes. It has reprogrammed our brains at a deep subconscious level, to make us ride imaginary horses. And the most remarkable thing about this is that Psy hasn't used this incredible power for something sinister. He's a white hat hacker; a prankster. He's done it for the lulz.
But I wouldn't get too comfortable, because there are organizations out there with a distinct lack of lulz, who are certainly seeking this technology. Picture a basement room at Fort Meade. A group of Army privates stand in perfect ranks on a dance floor, all doing the Hustle. Behind two layers of glass, a general wearing massive ear protection smiles. Right on schedule. The Joint Chiefs will be pleased.
Three weeks later, Hugo Chavez is thrown from power as Venezuela is suddenly embroiled in a Dance Dance Revolution.
And it's not hard to think of domestic applications for this. Those G8 or G-20 summits that are always surrounded by a sea of protesters? You don't think the police are looking for new ways to handle those crowds? A song that causes everyone to drop their gas masks, raise their hands in the air and crotch thrust their way home? I think they would find that very handy. "More empty paranoia!" you say. "It's not like the police have started deploying trucks with big fuck-off roof-mounted sound systems!"
Counterpoint: this police truck with a big fuck-off roof-mounted sound system.
Oh shit. That right there is called a long range acoustic device, or LRAD, and it's specifically deployed for crowd control. Sure, its only stated use is to produce irritating, crowd-dispersing noises, not disco inferno mind viruses. But when Disco_Inferno_Mind_Virus_(Bowel_Relieving_Edit).MP3 comes out, well, I'm pretty sure it won't take too long before one of the cops finds the "Source/AUX" button.
Then just wait for the black hat hackers to get to work. Can you imagine if the kids in 4chan get a hold of this technology? Car horns that trigger passersby to dive into the street. Cell ringtones that cause everyone in the room to start violently jacking themselves. Ice cream trucks that cause passersby to dive into the street and violently jack themselves.
The technology is out there. The mobile infrastructure is out there. The catchy, syncopated, mind-bending beats are out there. I would encourage everyone to use these last few days of free will to get your affairs in order.
Or at least put on pants that are harder to jack yourself in.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and your best friend. Join him on Facebook or Twitter, where he'll teach you how to make sure your own hearing is protected using nothing more than simple wood glue and a lot of nerve.