Today, I wish to talk a little bit about the Stand-Alone-Complex and I already see you, the readers, sit in front of your screen and not understanding a thing. What is a Stand-Alone-Complex (which I'll refer to as SAC in this text) and what does this have to do with these topics in the title? Well, let's start from the beginning. Let's explain what and why and how and everything the SAC is.
The SAC is something that was introduced to me first in the Anime-series: 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex'. It refers to a phenomenon of mass-hysteria. The basic idea is that the idea of a certain event or person is spread over the media, something the people believe is real (like a revolutionary book or a political hacker) which is, however, not real. The knowledge of this fictional object of admiration leads to people getting influenced by it, leading to the rise of certain ideals and to copycats. Let's give you a more detailed example from the first SAC-series.
A hacker mysteriously kidnaps a CEO of a company and later lets him free at a public place but not before forcing him at gunpoint to admit a case of fraud. He does so in front of a running, streaming TV camera. Despite that, nobody sees his face because he hacks the camera feed in real time, covering his face with a logo. He becomes known as the Laughing Man. Followed by this incident, multiple cybercrimes – some connected with the logo, some not – become public and the Laughing Man gets the credit for them all. However, in most of these cases, the original hacker was not the person behind it. He is not the Laughing Man, he is just the one the idea of this figure started with. When a hacker later blames a political figure to be involved in corruption and asks for his execution, numerous people attempt to kill him, completely individual from each other, all following the ideals of this mysterious hacker that – in reality – never existed. In this case, the SAC was created unintentionally; nobody had the motivation to blame the Laughing Man for all these crimes (committed by different people, as I must stress out), it was just a combination of media hysteria and bad police investigation.
The idea of a SAC is fictional. But it comes surprisingly close to reality, as I want to show in a few examples.
The first example would be the comic V like Vendetta. In this movie, a revolutionary, hiding behind a Guy-Fawkes-mask, commits a series of crimes over a year, to remind the people of this man and to ultimately bring a fascist government in a dystrophic UK on its knees, while mobilizing the people to stand up against it. This comic was made into a movie, which became incredibly famous worldwide; not at the beginning though but when the Anonymous-movement started to use Guy-Fawkes-masks to hide their faces on demonstrations and in the Internet and also to have a symbol to connect them. This mask is the key of the identity of Anonymous – at least in my eyes. One could argue that the movement would have existed without the mask, mainly because its motivation is political, but I see this mask as a symbol that gave the movement massive media attention and made it as strong as it is now. Anonymous is almost a SAC, the only difference is that people know that V is a fictional character. There is an example however that may be even closer to what I mean. Beware though, this may piss some people off, because now, I bring religion in.
I must point out though that I do not want to talk about all religions. Hinduism, for example, is strictly excluded from my example, because it never tries to show that it is real, nor does it give laws to people. Hinduism is more a collection of myths and legends to tell the people a metaphorical story to deliver a certain message.
What I mean are the Abrahamic Religions and yes, I mean all three: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These three religions have a few things in common that make them interesting regarding the SAC: they point out special laws for their followers (ranging from the Ten Commandments to less obvious ones, such as in the Suras and so on) and they all insist that they are the truth, that the one God exists, that the prophets lived and that the historical events happened as described. Some even argue that the whole Bible/Qur'an/Thora are ultimate truths, even parts other argue to be metaphorical stories, such as the tale of creation. If you see the religions from an atheistic point of view, you can instantly see the parallels to the Stand-Alone-Complex: A fictional story and history that has a large effect on society, leading to people changing their life completely and even to large-scale wars. And while the basic Abrahamic Religions would be unintentional SACs then – most likely, whoever wrote the bible didn't think of such an effect or intended it – an intentional example would be Mormonism. The book of Mormon was written in modern times, partially opposes the Bible and was most likely created as a tool of mass-control.
And what is my intention in this text? My final conclusion, my ultimate point? It's simple: I personally think that the SAC is not a fictional idea but a real sociological phenomenon, and one that we may observe more often, especially in the age of Internet. And while I do not want to recommend this or anything, I must say that there is a theoretical possibility to artificially create a SAC, whatever the motivation for that may be. And also, I wish that people would learn from this text to think about what they hear and observe before they act accordingly to it.
Edit: The so-called 'Stand Alone Complex' and the idea of a 'meme' - not just the internet phenomenon but the proper, sociological term have a lot in common with each other. If you wish to read more into it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme