Like stereotypes, clichés are defeasibly true. A picture is worth a thousand words. And another cliché is—actually, I don’t know if we have any good societally pervasive clichés left referring to how the average person doesn’t updates priors in his epistemic net by a careful study of relevant texts. Anyone who believes that this is how people by at large come to form beliefs is projecting. People do not form beliefs this way. They form beliefs through hearsay, through the assigning of epistemic weight to trusted ingroup sources, through pre-existing and probably even biologically present priors.
This is because we have limited time, limited energy, limited cognitive ability, and limited information. We all suffer from these deficiencies, smart and dull alike. Here’s a practical example: it’s fairly obvious that if a relatively intelligent person was given the task of getting to the bottom of some issue-of-the-day in the news cycle, they would do a decent job of conglomerating the relevant information and sorting out discrepancies. A decent job, not a perfect one. But really, nobody has the time or energy to push biases aside. Instead, people are thrown about by the news cycle. And they’ll discuss news articles puked out by the Press.
So, they’re left with vague, fuzzy impressions of the article itself. They rarely remember specific details. They preface discussions of the articles with “I think this happened,” or “If I remember correctly,” or “I seem to remember having read that X is happening.”
What the article actually said often times doesn’t matter. Infect a few hosts with impressions, and they will voluntarily spread the overarching narrative injected by the writer through the tone of the piece, and what is selectively reported.
And it’s interesting to talk about, so the infected hosts talk about it because it’s better than talking about the weather. And that’s how even the intelligent are subjugated by the Press: through memetic injection.
What are some of the other forms? Memes as memes. Memes with text overlaying a picture. Memes that are funny and entertaining and trigger viewers almost involuntarily to spread around the virus. Memes bypass traditional defenses. Meme ‘strike notes’ are potent, summing up contradictions. They pack a punch. They’re simple to understand—not Economics in One Lesson simple. Actually and genuinely simple. And short.
This bypasses limited time, limited energy, limited cognitive abilities, and limited information. In the age of Twitter, even a paragraph of text isn’t read. If you’re lucky, it’s skimmed and not fully comprehended. It doesn’t do much, and people can’t share it. People don’t copy/paste Facebook comments. But they will share and save images on their computer. Besides, to even come close to the power of memes, we’d all have to be masters at rhetoric and stylistic construction.
The text is optimized to—in one or two sentences—highlight the internal contradictions in an entire political philosophy. Variations on that singular theme can be devastating. They’re strike notes. If the meme strike notes are good, looking at fifty will save you from reading half a dozen books. They might not equip you to defend or attack a position beyond that, but that isn’t the point. The point is either carving out a space for certain ideas to be heard, or closing off a space and booting certain ingroups or positions outside of the sphere of acceptable public discourse.
Memes also have a built-in defense mechanism. They’re ubiquitous in other contexts, and to whine about them is to whine at having fun, at which point you can inform the whiner that he has been selected as the act for next year’s Progressive Comedy Show, entitled “That’s Not Funny.”
Memes defend other memes. Key example: objections to memes can be met with other memes mocking the theological elements of progressivism, i.e. their ritualistic purity laws which cause them to wring their hands and gnash their teeth over ‘offensive’ discourse. And go for your throat. They always go for the throat in big groups.
Insert humorous image: I violated ritualistic purity laws. I will submit myself to confession. Mea maxima culpa. What must I do to be saved? Let’s play the moral one-upmanship game. Etc. etc. etc. Memes must be ready to deploy in response to ‘that’s not funny,’ ‘that’s racist,’ ‘that’s anti-semitic,’ that’s not okay.’ Kittens can be pretty disarming—embrace the absurdity because the absurd works.
A paragraph of text is nothing. Theological images with strike notes overlayed is devastating and infuriating.
Memes do the heavy explanatory lifting. Memes make you pause and think a minute because the text has been optimized and refined and made strikingly potent. They’ve been through the meme laboratory to increase their purity, like any good organic chemist would do with heroin.
Memes were built for social networks. They will attract likes and shares like moths to a flame. They form the fundamentals of thede warfare.
In this age of information overload, the wall you have to jump over to make something really stick towers higher. Paragraphs of text hit the first few feet of the wall, but the height of the wall is 15 feet.
Books are dead. Their only use now is for people to socially signal familiarity with views: “Oh, I’ve read X” means “I’ve skimmed it in Barnes & Noble and am vaguely aware of some of the general themes, so please accept my signalling and don’t press me to exposit and reconstruct detailed arguments from the actual text.”
This is reality. Modern, 21st century atheism has virtually been dismantled by the pioneering of thede-poisoning. The atheist ingroup has been poisoned because of how they’ve been framed via memes. Fedoras have been poisoned. Bow-ties have been poisoned—all because of their aesthetic associations with barely-smarter-than-average-internet-atheists-who-just-read-Dawkins-and-like-to-run-their-mouths. Decimated.
So pwned are the internet atheists that nearly every atheist now has to express a public disclaimer that he is sympathetic to religion and does not own a Fedora. He also has to mention that while Dawkins is a first-rate biologist, he knows next to nothing about philosophy. Without the disclaimer, he’s just ridiculed and written off. Memes have decimated that entire subculture and nipped the momentum it could have had in the bud.
No one will read Hayek except for an extremely small minority of nerds. And since they have low value, people won’t pay them much attention. Not all memes have to mock. Not all have to be jokes. Some can be aesthetic. Inspirational. Quotes. Quotes from Julius Evola laid overtop a picture of Evola himself, or some scenic background. Adjust based on audience.
This is meme therapy. Liberal application morphs priors almost involuntarily. Apply as needed, but apply consistently. Meme therapy is like Chinese water torture: the slow, repetitive drip is what finishes them. Follow directions on the box. But most importantly, coordinate deployment with others.
You can’t get away with sharing reactionary articles, but you can share memes.