Monday, February 13

Death to the Memes

Do you know what a "meme" is? I know the word is all over blogville like some kind of Stephen King super-flu, and people breathe it in your face a hundred times a day, but do you know what it is, really?

Know first that the word was popularized by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. Now, it would be ad hominem to criticize the word just because Dawkins is a crank and a git, whose favorite meme is "Boycott Israel". Or even because The Selfish Gene (as Stephen J. Gould and others have endlessly pointed out) is biological nonsense that is actually quite destructive of the Darwinism that Dawkins claims to champion. As an artifact of science, the meme belongs alongside ectoplasm, phlogiston, and other slime-related psychokinetic events - of great interest to Egon Spengler, but not to me. I don't take vocabulary lessons from the enemies of science and civilization.

As a writer, I despise the very word "meme". It is a most unimpressive phonetic event; an insignificant little whiff of hamster flatus. If it has any substance at all, it is the substance of body odor poorly camouflaged by bogus French perfume. Furthermore, it's jargon, and jargon is bad. (I don't even like the word "jargon", but I digress.) Worst of all, it's a cliché : a hundred-times-a-day cliché, if I were a poet and didn't know it.

If we are going to disguise jargon and cliché as thought, we might as well take on all those multisyllabic belches that the Postmodernists use. Then we can all sound like Martin Heidegger after a dose of bad speed - making no sense, but a stupendous amount of noise.

But if you really want to see the damage that memes are doing to the most vulnerable members of society, check out this great little piece by Mickey Kaus.
Much of Democratic politics seems to now consist of embracing and fanning similarly comforting, but ultimately deceptive, liberal memes. Enron has fatally damaged Bush, Abu Ghraib has fatally damaged Bush, Katrina has fatally damaged Bush, Abramoff has fatally damaged Bush, the Plame investigation will fatally damage Bush--you can catch the latest allegedly devastating issue every day on Huffington Post or Daily Kos (and frequently in the NYT). If you believe the hype ... you'll believe that Democrats don't need to change to win. They just need to push all of these hot memes forcefully.
Obviously, the "meme" is the greatest disaster to befall our leftward friends since the discovery of cannabis sativa. Once again, an intellectual fad has left them lying dick-in-the-dirt, mumbling incoherently to themselves.

Does this mean we should keep pushing the "Meme" Meme, for our own cynical political gain? Regardless of the appalling human cost? How can you even think such a thing? Crack open a history book and look at what happened when we tried to put LSD in Castro's cigars. A bunch of crackpots at the CIA had a lot of fun for a while, but nothing positive was accomplished. Why don't we just revive G. Gordon Liddy's plot to flood the air vents at the Democratic Convention with Nitrous Oxide? Heaven forfend. Abandoning all standards of ethical restraint is obviously not an option.

Instead, we must educate youth about the dangerous seduction of memes. Talk to your children about memes. (I have no children of my own, so I'd be glad to come over to your house and help out with this.) You know they're being exposed to memes at school: memes involving low-cut jeans and primitive Clintonian theories about sex. These can lead to more serious abuses, like a career in "journalism". Are you scared now?

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