When the brain is diseased, in certain states, it degenerates. The inner portion, as opposed to the cortex, sees nearly all of its neurons sheathed in a fatty substance called myelin. It’s this myelin that allows the fast conductance of electrical impulses, and what gives that portion of the brain its name: white matter.

The myelin are extensions of other brain cells (glia) that support neuron health; these specific helpers are called oligodendrocytes, and these extensions, which reach out like hands, wrap around the axons to help propagate the electrical impulses. Those impulses are information, that which makes up who you are. Without information, the brain is a dead letter. 

Illustration of an oligodendrocyte.
Oligodendrocytes wrap axons of neurons in protective myelin.

You’ll see that the pseudopods extending from the oligodendrocytes are segmented, and the exposed areas are known as the nodes of Ranvier. These areas are where the electrical impulses jump, from node to node, and it is by this activity that the information travels with such speed. Imagine the leaping arcs of a fountain.

Under certain conditions, the myelin comes under attack. Substances such as reactive oxygen species disfigure and dissolve the fatty sheaths, exposing the axon underneath. When this damage occurs, the ability of the neuron to conduct information is significantly slowed. This damage can happen in the course of multiple sclerosis (MS); and it is possible that this also is occurring in some instances of COVID-19 brain injury.1

The damage, however, is innocuous under scrutiny, nearly invisible, as it is free of lesions. It’s known as normal-appearing white matter.

The lesion-free normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) in progressive MS is actually highly abnormal and contains chronically activated microglia, dysfunctional and degenerating axons, reactive astroglia, and a compromised blood–brain barrier[.]1

This phantom-like damage severely compromises the brain, causing it to malfunction.

Consider that human society is like a brain.

Jonathan Haidt, writing in the Atlantic, recently said,

People who think differently and are willing to speak up if they disagree with you make you smarter, almost as if they are extensions of your own brain. People who try to silence or intimidate their critics make themselves stupider, almost as if they are shooting darts into their own brain.3

Wilfred Trotter, a British neurosurgeon and sociologist writing more than a century ago, said this about man’s relationship to his kin-group, the herd:

Intercommunication, the development of which of course depends upon herd-accessibility, enables the herd to act as a single creature whose power is greatly in excess of the sum of the powers of its individual members.4 

Uri Hasson, a neuroscientist at Princeton, describes how the individual speaker, by way of verbal communication, forces an alignment with the listener.

We’re going to start with a metaphor about communication. And the metaphor is going as following. Think of me as a speaker, now, that I have some neural patterns in my brain that are related to what I’m thinking. And I am transmitting this sound wave by speaking to your brains. So now your brains become coupled to my brain. It’s really a wireless coupling. But what I’m saying now influences your brain responses. So there’s a physical coupling between us. And my task as a speaker is to make your brains similar to mine. And if I manage to do it, then there is a communication, and you understand me.

Uri Hasson describes how brains sync up during verbal communication.
r value=0.55

… That means that many brain areas become similar across all listeners, and going up and down in a similar way [in a brain scan] when they listen to the story.6

… Basically, now, we have the extent of the coupling between the speaker and the listener, and the extent of understanding. And you can see, there is a very tight connection. The more you get me, the more similar your brain to mine.7

In this way, we see that when human beings communicate to each other, we transform each other into nodes in a vast neural network. It is in this way that we are able to transmit information between one person to another in real time, or cultural information from one generation to the next. The voice becomes the synapse and each of our brains a discrete cell, making contact.8

Now think of disinformation as reactive oxygen species, damaging the physical structure of the brain.

“As in Alzheimer’s disease, in multiple sclerosis, oxidation may induce demyelination of neuronal axons, and activated microglial cells are the major source of ROS burst[,]”9 stripping the substrate of white matter, short-circuiting synaptic activity.10

Richard Dawkins in 1991 proffered the idea of information operating as a virus:

Computer viruses are pieces of code that graft themselves into existing, legitimate programs and subvert the normal actions of those programs. … [M]inds are friendly environments to parasitic, self-replicating ideas or information, and … are typically massively infected.11

Especially viral ideas such as fads or crazes spread “in patterns that differ from a measles epidemic in no serious particular.” Good information, like science, could replicate in similar ways but be beneficial to the host, whereas disinformation could set the host to malfunction to the point, for all intents and purposes, of destruction.11

Just last year, researchers studying prejudice found that hate speech spreads just like contagious disease. Having non-hate-speechifying neighbors will inoculate one to hate speech’s most pernicious effects, which is simple exposure; however, the more one is surrounded by hate speech, the more likely one is to replicate its use.12,13 Similarly, conspiracy theories ride the wave of rumor and innuendo, propagating through titillation or intrigue, nestling within confines of the mind that allow them to fit snugly within pre-existing patterns of thought.14

Now we must deal with the reactivation of Q.

QAnon has been likened to a corrupt game. “QAnon is like the reflection of a game in a mirror, it looks just like one, but it is inverted,“ Reed Berkowitz divulges.

[H]ere apophenia is the point of everything. There are no scripted plots. There are no puzzles to solve created by game designers. There are no solutions.

QAnon grows on the wild misinterpretation of random data, presented in a suggestive fashion in a milieu designed to help the users come to the intended misunderstanding. Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions. They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.

There is no reality here. No actual solution in the real world. Instead, this is a breadcrumb trail AWAY from reality. Away from actual solutions and towards a dangerous psychological rush. It works very well because when you “figure it out yourself” you own it. You experience the thrill of discovery, the excitement of the rabbit hole, the acceptance of a community that loves and respects you.15

A tendency to see patterns where there are none, apophenia—when chronic—is often an indicator of latent, underlying, or, perhaps, florid schizophrenia.16 That this conspiracy theory spreads like the verbal form of kudzu underscores the danger of this idea, that it may unlock tendencies in individuals already susceptible to this type of thought disorder,17 or simply mimic such delusional processes and loops in otherwise normal persons.

In his resurfacing last Friday (in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade), Q even admitted to the nature of its scheme: Shall we play the game again?”

Normal-appearing white(s) (matter)

Reconsidering the brain, certain neurodegenerative processes (such as frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s diseasecorticobasal degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease and others) can arise due to a particular protein called tau.

When tau (a protein that is distributed throughout the brain as the innate building blocks of neural microtubules) becomes hyperphosphorylated, it begins to misfold, agglomerate, and detach from its normally anchored site. Not only does it translocate to the body (the soma) of the neuron, it begins to recruit other proteins to assume its shape.

Another protein with this behavior of recruitment is the prion.

It’s not just PrPC turning into PrPSc and that’s the end of the process. PrPSc then acquires the ability to convert PrPC, the normal cellular protein, into more of the disease-associated form. 

So a good guy and a bad guy enter the scene, and two bad guys leave. That’s basically the prion conversion in a nutshell. 

Schematic of propagated protein misfolding diseases.
Several diseases mimic prion propagation.

… The normal-shaped protein can become distorted, and this is a catalytic process; the dominoes keep falling. So proteins get converted to an abnormal, usually a beta-sheet rich form.18

“Neighboring cells can be infected by misfolded proteins,” Neil Cashman in the above YouTube video tells us.19 Eventually the neuron suffers death.20 But first it transforms others into its misguided shape, dooming them as well. 

QAnon and MAGA operate just so.

If society is a shared network—a brain—then they may be the prions: misshapen, misfolded, and ultimately fatal as they recruit more and more healthy cells into their allegiance, their contortions. 

ordinary guys

And who is in MAGA, and in QAnon (the deluded reflection of MAGA)? As a mainly conservative, right-wing movement, the vast majority of members in each of these groups appear to be ordinary—one might say normal-appearing—White men and women. While there are some demographic outliers, the core of this rapidly mutating movement are what look like regular, everyday (white) people, who seem normal in nearly every other way. Until the topic of their obsession takes them over. Then they convert others into their universe of delusion.

We need to build antibodies.

Cashman mentions that he and his team of researchers are attempting to create antibodies that will be able to halt the would-be prions in their tracks. How so? The antibodies would intercept them and arrest them.

As soon as legally possible, the mutated forms of this movement, the aggressive and violent type, need to be identified and tagged as domestic terrorists. If and when they act upon their viral ideas and inflict harm, we need to arrest them so that they cannot spread their ideology to others. Manifestos should not be published; if already in the cloud or public domain, they should be put behind opt-in barriers (still accessible in accordance with free speech regulations, but not immediately visible upon a casual search). If they carry out attacks, their names should be muted in news reports so that they do not accrue glory.

Another method of inoculation would be the active practice of anti-hate speech. “[A]gents [of contemptuous prejudice (CP)] don’t engage in hate speech if: they already have a low level of CP; or they are pressured by anti-discriminatory norms (neighbors don’t use hate speech).”21 The creation or maintenance of social norms around tolerance will perpetuate tolerance, effectuating a prophylactic. But this has to be an active pushback in the face of this type of recruiting, as their speech is neither benign nor static. These people are purposely trying to transform as many people as they encounter. A rebuff doesn’t need to be confrontational; but silence in the face of hate is tacit support.22

Here is the straight news.

Prion disease is fatal to an organic host. Fortunately, for us, our shared brain is paraphysical23—it exists alongside us, reflected within and against physical reality. It is both within and without. Because of that, we have, in my estimation, a chance to save our shared brain, our civilization.

We don’t have much time, though. As the Washington Post recently reported, of those detained and arrested at the Capitol on January 6, 35% of them held connections to extremist groups. Many of them were multinodal (established in more than one extremist group) and thus served as bridges.24

Additionally, estimates are that QAnon alone enjoys approximately 20% approval from the general American population.25 At about 40% of a population, the adoption of an idea gains nearly irresistable momentum.26 So we must seize the margin we still yet have and push back, on multiple fronts. If we can convert some of their nodes and turn the tide, that would be the most efficient way of disrupting their zones of influence. Converting opinion leaders (influencers) would accelerate this process even more.26

Let’s save our brain.

1 I have detailed my concerns about COVID-19 brain degeneration here and here, among other places. The former gives a schematic of specific brain areas that appear particularly susceptible to the disease’s effects; the latter describes how the degeneration of COVID-19 mirrors the impoverishment indicated in psychopathy.

2 Patricia Gallego-Delgado et al., “Neuroinflammation in the normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) of the multiple sclerosis brain causes abnormalities at the nodes of Ranvier,” PLoS Biology, December 14, 2020. 

3 Jonathan Haidt, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” The Atlantic, April 11, 2022.

4 Wilfred Trotter, Instincts of the Herd in Peace & Warp. 94.

5 Uri Hasson, “How we communicate information across brains” (iBiology), YouTube, November 20, 2019. Cued to 6:14.

6 Ibid. Cued to 11:36.

7 Ibid. Cued to 14:10.

8 Compare “Decoding the Brain” (World Science Festival), YouTube, April 14, 2022. Cued to 1:06:24.

9 Agnieska Jurga et al., “Overview of General and Discriminating Markers of Differential Microglia Phenotypes,” Frontiers in Cell Neuroscience, August 6, 2020 (doi: 10.3389/fncel.2020.00198).

10 ”When these [microglial] cells are activated and superoxide is released, this creates a cloud of reactive oxygen species in the environment around the nerve cell, and this leads to long-term depression.” “Long-Term Synaptic Depression Triggered by Microglia” (Cell Press), YouTube, April 2, 2014. Cued to 5:10.

11 Richard Dawkins, “Viruses of the Mind”.

12 Christian Rigg, “New political psychology research models the epidemic-like spread of hate speech,” PsyPost, March 31, 2021. Quoting research by Michał Bilewicz and Wiktor Soral, “Hate Speech Epidemic. The Dynamic Effects of Derogatory Language on Intergroup Relations and Political Radicalization,” Advances in Political Psychology, Vol. 0, No. 0, 2020 (doi: 10.1111/pops.12670).

13 See my previous diary on brainwashing and the media corridor.

14 “Once a set of distorted memory states is entrenched it becomes a powerful force, attracting and distorting new thoughts associated with them. Deep encoding of information that enhances the memeplex is one of the reasons why conspiracy theories are so persistent.” Włodzisław Duch, “Memetics and Neural Models of Conspiracy Theories,” Patterns, Vol. 2, No. 11, August 2015 (doi: 10.1016/j.patter.2021.100353). Retrieved at Researchgate.net. See also my previous diary on conspiracy theories.

15 Reed Berkowitz, “A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon,” at TheStreet.com (courtesy of Phil Davis), 2019.

16 In terms of QAnon being a “guided apophenia,” as Berkowitz suggests, points also toward Theodor Adorno’s supposition that certain forms of propaganda (specifically fascist propaganda) induce “an organized flight of ideas.” See my two diaries treating this idea, here and here.

17 See “Schizotypal Personality Disorder vs. Schizophrenia” at The Recovery Village.

18 “Neil Cashman- Prions are Prototypes: Other Neurodegenerative Diseases” (CJD Foundation), YouTube, August 29, 2018. Cued to 1:47. Learn more about beta-pleated sheets: “Prions and Protein Misfolding” (Andrey K), YouTube, January 30, 2015.

19 CJD Foundation, op. cit.. Cued to 15:07.

20 See “How Changes in Proteins Can Lead to Diseases” (University of California Television), YouTube, April 13, 2022.

21 Rigg, op. cit

22 Agents use hate speech if: they have a high level of CP and their neighbors use hate speech (radicalization); they have a high level of CP and their neighbors don’t use hate speech, but they fail to recognize it (‘faux pas’).” This indicates that, once the target of the speech alerts the agent of hate that they do not use that speech or share those sentiments, the agent should lapse into dormancy. Rigg, ibid.

23 By paraphysical, I mean para- (along, beside) + physical. I do not intend any sense of the paranormal or of metaphysics.

24 Michael Jensen, “It wasn’t just Proud Boys. Interconnected extremists converged on Jan. 6.” Washington Post, June 17, 2022.

25 “The Persistence of QAnon in the Post-Trump Era: An Analysis of Who Believes the Conspiracies,” Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), February 24, 2022.

26 Talk: ‘A Brief Introduction to Network Interventions for Behavior Change’ (Dr. Thomas Valente)” (Network Science and SNA at the U), YouTube, May 19, 2022.

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