For students of persuasion, the Ghost in the Shell franchise is one of the most interesting to entertain yourself with. Dealing with the nature of man’s place in and interpretation of reality after he has become cyberized, Ghost in the Shell is a treasure trove.
One of the biggest treasures might also be one of the least noticed. This is the first Stand Alone Complex novel, The Lost Memory. In it, we wonder how normal teenagers, with no political associations or any other discernible motive, could suddenly be persuaded to commit random acts of terrorism.
The “Good Morning Terrorists”
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Lost Memory begins with a hostage situation in an electronics store. The protagonists of the Ghost in the Shell universe, Public Security Section 9, incapacitate the perpetrator. He’s discovered to be a 16-year-old kid with no criminal history or motive to commit the act. He was another “Good Morning Terrorist.”
Unlike the other Good Morning Terrorists in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Lost Memory, though, he’s been taken alive, because Section 9 is much better than the local cops who were handling the previous cases.
The thing about Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is that everyone that wants to be a part of civilized society has a cyberbrain, which enables other people to access your memories. However, when examining their terrorist’s cyberbrain, Section 9 discovered its memories in the days prior to the attack were heavily fragmented, as if they were subject to sudden deletion.
But Section 9 has immense talent, not the least of them its field commander, Motoko Kusanagi, and Ishikawa, both of whom are specialists in cybernetic and information warfare. They retrieve some of the fragmented memories and reconstruct part of one. It’s revealed that in the days before the attack, the Good Morning Terrorist was somewhere in the slums of the Niihama city cyberbrain district.
I’ll spare the details, but it’s revealed that the Good Morning Terrorist viewed a certain stolen dream that made him likelier to engage in impulsive, angry behavior.
It’s this lost memory that has one of the most interesting passages of the book.
Sadness, happiness, fear – these emotions were all triggered because we associate them with the memory of certain situations. Take, for example, someone with a fear of dogs. Their phobia is caused by a strong link between the concept of a dog and a frightening memory of being barked at or bitten. In order to overcome their fear, all the subject needs to do is sever the link between the concept of a dog and the traumatic experience in his memory. Conversely, if he acquires a large number of pleasant memories pertaining to dogs, the sight of a dog will begin to trigger feelings of happiness.
By manipulating the conceptual associations in the memories of teenagers, a certain “memorist” created the Good Morning Terrorists. He’d done so by hiding the trigger program in an experience of a memory that most teenage boys would wish to have – a sex memory.
To make matters more ominous, the memorist was able to set his program to react only to teenagers that fit certain parameters. For starters, all of the Good Morning Terrorists were born in the year 2014.
However, if you’re shivering about the dystopian implications of this (since it appears likely that we, too, will someday have our minds and bodies linked to the net through a cyberbrain), there is a certain solace at the end of The Lost Memory, where Section 9 thwarts the most dramatic Good Morning Terrorist attack in a thrilling plot twist that only the Ghost in the Shell franchise can provide.
“I’m not convinced the teenagers that were subjected to the Good Morning Terrorist memory were completely in the thrall of Sakami’s brainwashing device. It seems morel likely to me that it was their own displeasure with society that ultimately caused them to resort to terrorism.”
“Now that you mentioned it, you watched the brainwashing memory too, didn’t you, Major?”
“Yes, the brainwashing memory itself doesn’t cause rage. The rage bubbles up from deep within a person’s mind, like seething magma.”
“In other words, in our society, anyone is a potential terrorist. That should keep us busy.”
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Lost Memory presents us with that riddle that’s been long debated among persuaders. Can you persuade someone to do something they never looked to do in the first place, or can you create entirely new feelings within people and persuade them to act in the way you wanted, even if they had no intention of doing so to begin with?
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Lost Memory looks like it chooses the latter option, which is surprising, given the setting. It’s possible to manipulate memories to change conceptions and even create terrorists, but something needed to lie beneath, at the foundation, for the brainwashing to work.
If you’re a fan of mystery stories in general, and also want to see some action, you’ll also enjoy Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Lost Memory. One of the calling cards of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex franchise is its ability to blend dystopian eccentricity with mystery and action. The book is about 200 pages long, but it’s a small paperback, so if you have the time, you can get through it in one sitting. I got through it in three days.
You can pick up a copy of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Lost Memory here.