I’m seeing it again. It never went away, but my spirit has recovered enough energy to pay attention to it once more.
The Meme-ing has returned.
Meme’s can be wonderful things when used for their original purpose, to create humorous anecdotes 1. But their sharp appeal also makes them popular propaganda weapons, and these have become a cancer to the very fabric of our society. It’s evil, and it needs to stop.
Meme’s are effective propaganda, but that’s the problem. They are effective because they attack the emotional pleasure centers of the brain, releasing a biological cocktail which intoxicates our nervous system and weakens our ability to reason. Even worse, the weapon of meme-ing isn’t even meant to be used on those whom we deem our enemies. It’s a weapon we turn on ourselves, unleashing it both upon on own person and the crowds with which we agree. As propaganda gets shared it pleasures us with sharp cuts and increases our resolve to continue in this alluring practice. In the end we become so hooked on the intoxicating elements of spreading propaganda any who don’t share our particular form of the addiction are treated as less human.
If this sounds like the description of an addiction, it’s because it is an addiction. And our culture needs some serious rehab.
Addiction is the only way I can resolve how I know people who are kind, compassionate, intelligent, and friendly — but also have no issue sharing a meme which “proves” that to make a budget one has to choose either the military or solving the problem of Dreamers.
Addiction is the only way I can resolve how people without a mean bone in their body have no problem re-sharing memes which make false claims about “illegals” sucking up public benefits for which they pay nothing 2.
Addiction is the only way I can explain how people I know stand for truth will share a meme declaring how baseball players used to kneel for the national anthem back in the 1950’s, even though the meme used an image from the 1930’s and originated on a fake news site.
Addiction is the only way I can make sense of how people who are told, again and again, they were spreading a lie out into the world, will go back again and again to shoot up with the same fix.
We’ve got to do better. We need to recognize the signs of meme-generated dopamine dependence and resist the fix. When we encounter a claim which rewards us with a good high upon first reading, for the love of truth we have to refuse that rush. And in that refusal we need to take the time to look up the meme’s actual contents. Verifying its veracity will dull a meme’s edge with context, but isn’t that a good price to pay if it slows the spread of lies?