Meme This: An Essay for a Day
by Phineas Dash
Blogger has switched to a new system which seems unable or unwilling to publish longer entries. I assume this is a temporary problem, so for now I’ve sliced this essay up into separate posts, but you should be able to follow it easily in the normal way, from top to bottom being from start to finish. Just ignore the time checks.
Something called a "meme" is a highly fashionable idea at the moment. What is it? A meme is a highly fashionable idea.
Richard Dawkins is credited with naming it, as a kind of imitation (from the French meme) as an analogue to genes, because it is copied and transmitted from one person to another. Darwinists like Dawkins sometimes use the term as if memes were genes for ideas or information.
But they also use it as if memes are viruses. People become infected with ideas or information, such as buzz-words, fads, "urban legends," and so on.
In that sense, as Lee Cronk writes, "The idea of the meme is itself a meme, and a successful one at that..." Highly respected thinkers like Daniel Dennett use the term. For the short time I was a consulting editor for them, the folks at Adbusters Magazine swallowed it whole. Perhaps they saw in it an alternate pedigree as well, from William Burroughs and his idea of language as a virus.
Are you confused yet? I am. And I suspect we're supposed to be. This meme stuff has the smell of semiotics and deconstructionism, both perfectly good tools until they became dogmas, with their own clergy and secret language. Memeticists who might chance to read the rest of this commentary might simply dismiss it by saying that I don't understand what they mean by "memes." And they may be right. But rather than saying I'm sorry, I am inclined to get loudly in their faces with the simple retort, THEN YOU DIDN'T EXPLAIN IT VERY WELL, DID YOU?
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