Re: Memetic Parasitism

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Tue 19 Jul 2005 - 18:58:32 GMT

  • Next message: Alan Patrick: "Re: Memetic Parasitism"

    Alan Patrick wrote:
    > On another board we were talking about why Harry Potter has raised the
    > ire of religous fundamentalists, whereas Philip Pullman's kids series,
    > which is far more anti religion etc, has not. View was that perhaps the
    > anti Potter thing is a memetic parasite, the Potter mindspace being
    > larger and thus better to colonise. (Of course, as Pullman is for older
    > kids it just may be that the moralists find it harder to understand.....)
    > Any views on the lifestyles of Memetic parasites....for eg are there
    > differences between species, say between fad parasites and those leeched
    > to longer term memes?

    I'm not convinced that it's a matter of being parasitic - well only in the sense that you can't have an objecting-to-Harry-Potter meme-set without having Harry Potter in the first place.

    I think it's just standard memetic evolution, with three factors at play here. First, there's all the hype that's surrounded the books: even if you've never read them you will know that Harry Potter is a boy wizard, because there's been so much publicity. The "Harry Potter is a wizard" meme is enormously fertile.

    Secondly, wizardry/witchcraft/magic are topics that provoke a reflex objection amongst certain Christians (in the same way that evolutionary theory does). The subject-matter of the Harry Potter books are thus very obviously incompatible with their existing meme-set.

    Thirdly, their existing meme-set includes ideas about evangelism, saving people's souls, particular responsibility to protect children, etc. So one of the effects of acquiring the "Harry Potter is a wizard" meme will be to do all they can to prevent children from reading the books, to condemn them publically, etc. This is how their existing meme-set makes them behave.

    I suspect that the key difference between these books and the Pullmans lies in the amount of hype each has had in the US, where the particular Christian meme-set that objects so violently to Harry Potter seems to be the most prevalent and vocal. But this is just a suspicion.


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