Re: Blue tie

From: Dace (
Date: Fri 28 Nov 2003 - 07:50:39 GMT

  • Next message: derek gatherer: "Re: Blue tie"

    > From: derek gatherer <>
    > Ted: I'd say when the Queen showed up for
    > > her date with Bush (who
    > > was wearing a white tuxedo) sporting a blue sash, we
    > > can pretty well figure
    > > it's gone memetic.
    > Except the queen always wears a blue sash. No memetic
    > transmission there.

    The sash was the exact shade of blue that W. has been sporting in his ties. I don't recall the name, but it's one of dozens of shades. It was reported that the Queen wore this shade instead of the usual royal blue so as to take part in the new "phenomenon." Even if the detail about the Queen turns out to be a misunderstanding on the part of the reporter, it's still a clear-cut meme. The blue tie craze is exactly the sort of thing Dawkins had in mind when he coined the term.

    The question is at what point the behavior became memetic, that is, when it ceased to be a normal function of human interaction-- such as underlings aping the boss to get on his good side-- and took on a life of its own. Until this is resolved we have no clear idea of what a meme is because we can't distinguish it from the background of human culture. This is a major reason memetics is generally not taken seriously, and this problem has been brought about in large part by the big thinkers who wish to reduce the whole of culture to memes.


    Original post:

    There's a new meme in Washington. Seems that Bush came to town wearing a blue tie. No one in Washington had ever worn a blue tie or could remember seeing anyone else in a blue tie. Up till then, there had been only three to choose from: the red "power" tie, the striped "Harvard" tie, and the
    "bureaucrat" gold (at least according to Roger Mudd, who reported this story on the Lehrer Newshour). Pretty soon, the cabinet caught on, starting with personal advisor Karl Rove, the last holdout being Colin Powell (and his CIA man, Tenet). Beyond the White House they've started popping up all over town.

    Clearly, it's a meme. The question is when it became a meme, i.e., when did it cease to depend on human sense for its replication? Certainly when Bush began wearing it, it was not a meme. After all, he was the only one doing it, and to be a meme it must spread to at least one other person. But that doesn't mean it automatically became a meme when Rove picked it up. As long as people wore it for the perfectly sensible reason of getting on W.'s good side, it transmitted through normal cultural means rather than memetically. Only when people genuinely started to like it did it became a meme. Suddenly, it was "happening," and instead of choosing the tie, the tie began choosing them. I'd say when the Queen showed up for her date with Bush (who was wearing a white tuxedo) sporting a blue sash, we can pretty well figure it's gone memetic. It had become a "thing," and naturally (as with the Beatles 40 years ago) she wanted in on it.

    Of course, I don't mean literally that the tie itself is the meme. A meme is not a thing you put under a microscope. The meme is the behavior of wearing the tie, and no, it's not tucked away somewhere in our prefrontal lobes. No matter how many people are infected with the meme, it's still one meme. So it doesn't exist in individual minds, i.e. brains. It exists in the shared mind of a living culture.

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