RE: Memetics basics

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri 09 Jan 2004 - 13:58:18 GMT

  • Next message: Alan Patrick: "Re: Dawkins on Channel 5 last night"

            <I don't know if it's necessarily a search for an enemy. Instead it boils
    > down to conflicting worldviews generating mutual mistrust and enmity, a
    > two
    > way street. Enemies might not actively be searched for, but passively
    > found
    > on both sides of the equation.>
            Joe also picked me up on this, off list, so I guess I should qualify what I meant. Essentially, taking the historical outlook you offer as broadly correct, what I meant was that institutions initiated and organised around the Cold War have needed to re-orient themselves in the post-cold war period (this has even been referred to in popular culture- one of the Brosnan James Bond movies has Judi Dench's M calling him a 'cold war dinosaur'). Looking very cynically one can see agencies like the CIA or MI6 needing to heighten the threat of islamic fundamentalist sects like Al Qaeda to justify their existence- or more generously to ensure that the representation of that is such that they are seen as the people to deal with. The bitter irony is that 9/11 gave them some basis for this whilst at the same time suggesting significant gaps in their ability to deal with such threats- and why, because they're organised to deal with cold war style tactics from their enemies, not the kind of threats posed by al-Qaeda and others.

            In other, I hope more list-relevant, words, the search for an enemy is about the reorganisation of the memeplexes of the West- particularly the institutions of governance and security. That reorganisation in order to fit into existing memeplexes requires a singular, unified enemy- islamofascism as Joe calls it. But that shapes the discourse in a way that suits cold war mentalities used to the notion of a singular enemy, rather than reflecting the myriad of threats, and potential threats in the post-cold war world.

            To give an example from a few years ago (1999 I think), the Brixton bomber- the lone nut who set off three nail bombs in london locations targeting asian, black, and homosexual communities, initially confused the security services, and the media. I recall an early news report in a serious newspaper after the first bomb that must of mentioned about at least half a dozen possible suspect groups that might have done it- including Serbs upset about the kosovan war, right wing groups in the UK, islamic fundamentalists, and various organised crime groups from around the world.

            Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that there are discourses around issues that dominate the way people structure events, issues and their means of being understood, addressed and resolved which are shaping the way threats post 9/11 are being represented and interpreted, and those discourses (or memeplexes, perhaps) stem from the cold war.


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