Sunday, February 19, 2017

Your Memes Suck Because You Are Stupid

What's a meme?

The concept of a meme originated with Dawkins. It is the smallest atomic unit of cultural transmission. It is intended as an analog to genes in the nature vs nurture dichotomy. How do we quantify genetic expression? Through genes. How do we quantify cultural expression? Through memes.

Many people are of the belief that the term meme has been hijacked, and now memes are just silly pictures with captions you find on the internet. Technically the term for those are image macros (if we can consider this to be a technical discussion). But there's no reason an image macro can't be a meme. And nothing that says a meme can't be a shitty meme, or false, or true but ineffective.

What makes a meme good?

A successful meme should be both entertaining and should transmit a unit of information that either (a) conveys a logical truth, or (b) works towards some cultural consensus. A meme that only conveys information isn't a good meme, because it won't have the impact of an entertaining meme. It won't "go viral". And a meme that doesn't convey information isn't really a meme at all. Let's look at some of the attributes a good meme might have.


What makes something funny? Think of a good standup comedian. Think of the bits that you can watch over and over. What do they have in common? There are different takes on what humor is, but to me it is the articulation of something you know to be true but had never quite put it into concrete terms. Often humor reveals some logical absurdity that has always been right in front of us but we never quite realized. When the comedian is really killing the people cutting up will say things to the effect of "oh my god, it's so true." The comedian has unveiled some truth. He has conveyed information. And you'll notice most good comedians seem to have well above average IQs.


A meme should be concise. It should convey an atomic unit of logical or cultural expression. Wall-of-text memes never go viral. If the memer wants to convey multiple points they should find another medium (like a blog!). 


Something is provocative when it either violates the moral values of the audience, attacks a person or group directly, or violates cultural conventions of the society at large. Like all things it can be used, misused, and abused. Donald Trump and Milo are both masters of provocation. They are able to provoke their enemies into making the point they want to make for them. 

Unity & Morale

A meme can also serve to reinforce groups beliefs, or to provide therapeutic value. These memes are important, but they don't contribute to meme warfare. They serve a support role in the way that the NCO Club doesn't contribute to the war-fighting capability of the military, but is considered to be helpful anyway.

Why their memes suck

Liberal memes are mostly ineffective. Here is the most viral meme they have going around right now.

It's kind of funny. But what information is being conveyed? At what point does someone say "oh my gosh that's so true!" It is merely recreational. The liberals are getting a kick out of them, but frankly so are the Trump supporters. Some of their responses.

Notice anything different about the pro-Trump versions versus the original? They actually convey information. The first one insinuates Trump as the savior of the people. The second puts Trump into the David & Goliath role against the establishment backed candidate. The last one shows Trump as the candidate who could not be controlled by the establishment. Still a tiny Trump, but information is conveyed.

Here were the most viral leftist memes of a couple weeks ago. 

Pussy hats and vagina costumes. Are they funny? I guess, in the way that crude representations of genitalia can be funny. Are they provocative? Sure, dressing up as a vagina violates social norms and public decency. But what information is conveyed? What's the message? It might fit in to the Unity category of meme. "Hey look, we agree we're all gynocentric!" But that's not meme warfare, and fits the conclusion I made in my post Women's March: Proof of Privilege that the marches were mass group therapy, not political action.

I've said a number of times that this isn't a battle of logic or ideologies. Still either side absolutely needs smart people and a solid and consistent logical foundation. If you don't have a logical base, you can't make effective arguments, and you can't make successful memes. Meme warfare is information warfare. We didn't meme a president into the White House because our side is so childish we were distracted by silly pictures en masse. We memed a man into office because we won the information battles. The left is responding by losing all grip with rationality, so we should keep wining the infowars for the foreseeable future.

No comments:

Post a Comment