Meme and mneme

From: Dace (
Date: Sat 18 Feb 2006 - 00:18:11 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Meme and mneme"

    > From: Keith Henson <>
    > Subject: Re: Cartoon meme
    > At 01:52 PM 2/12/2006 -0800, Ted wrote:
    > snip
    > >I see three memes here, none of which are the cartoons themselves. The
    > >first meme is the idea that the cartoons are good, which exploits the
    > >Western belief that Islam, all the way back to Muhammed, is inherently
    > >terroristic.
    > Given the history, there is a lot of support for this meme.
    > >The second meme is the idea that the cartoons are bad, which
    > >exploits the Islamic belief that Westerners disrespect Islam. This meme
    > >also circulates in the West by exploiting our fear of retaliatory
    > True and true.
    > >The third meme is the idea that Muslims don't understand free speech,
    > >exploits the Western belief in the superiority of our enlightened
    > Agreed.
    > >Far from being memes, the cartoons are merely artifacts which, like cows
    > >a tornado, have been picked up and tossed about in a memetic maelstrom.
    > The cartoons are also memes. They are replicating information and are now
    > elements of culture. But "so what?"

    Granted, the cartoons themselves are memes. But these memes are different from the others in that they have nothing to do with memory. That Islam is inherently terroristic, that Western culture is more enlightened, that Westerners disrespect Islam-- these memes are all products of culturally shared habitual thinking. They are memes in the mnemonic sense, enduring on the basis of habit. By contrast, what incites people to seek out and discuss the cartoons is that they have a buzz. The cartoon memes carry a charge both because they're current and they resonate with established mnemes. We may also speak of a memetic field that embraces the individuals under the influence of the cartoons and their associated mnemes. The more people drawn into the field, the more powerful it becomes. But ultimately the cartoons cease to be current, that is, the current is reduced and eventually cuts out. At that point the memetic field dies, and the associated mnemes return to their dormant state.


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