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Re: <nettime> Can the Left Meme?
Florian Cramer on Fri, 16 Jun 2017 03:08:48 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Can the Left Meme?


   Tilman,
   I couldn't agree more - and would suggest to extend this history to the
   memes of the Luddites and even revolutionary pamphlets and caricatures
   in the reformation age. This was a highly successful political meme in
   its time, the early 16th century:
   https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ego_sum_Papa.jpg ; just like
   contemporary Internet memes, it relied on mass reproduction technology
   and popularized access to media.

   Even the visual structure of imageboard memes is a 1:1 continuation of
   medieval and Renaissance emblems which consisted of a title (motto)
   printed on top, an image (pictura) in the middle and a subtitle
   (subscriptio) at the bottom. When emblems fell out of fashion in the
   18th century, newspaper caricatures took over their structure. Internet
   images memes are just the last part of this media history.

   Even theories of memetic information and the grotesque as an weapon of
   information warfare is much older than the Internet (and Dawkins'
   genetics). William S. Burroughs' early 1970s essay "The Electronic
   Revolution" (electronically reprinted by UbuWeb here:
   http://www.ubu.com/historical/burroughs/electronic_revolution.pdf)
   is all about memetic warfare. Quote from page 24/25:

   > "So does scrambled word and image. The units are unscrambling
   compulsively, presenting certain words and images to the subject and
   this repetitive presentation is irritating certain bodily and neutral
   areas. The cells so irritated can produce over a period of time the
   biologic virus units. We now have a new virus that can be communicated
   and indeed the subject may be desperate to communicate this thing that
   is bursting inside him. He is heavy with the load. Could this load be
   good and beautiful? Is it possible to create a virus which will
   communicate calm and sweet reasonableness? A virus must parasitise a
   host in order to survive. It uses the cellular material of the host to
   make copies of itself. in most cases this is damaging to the host. The
   virus gains entrance by fraud and maintains itself by force. An
   unwanted guest who makes you sick to look at is never good or
   beautiful. It is moreover a guest who always repeats itself word for
   word take for take."

   In academic cultural theory, Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the medieval
   carnival as a populist spectacle of inversion of ruling codes can be
   seamlessly applied to 4chan's and 8chan's meme culture.

   > Leftists are by defintion attached to some kind of humanist view of
   > the world and hence cannot stoop low enough to create stuff that is
   > attractive to the crowd the enjoys /pol/-type of Memes.

   It didn't always use to be like this. Think of the meme campaigns in
   punk culture - starting with "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols
   and the accompanying visual campaign designed by Jamie Reid, think of
   the anarchist British "Class War" zine and its headline "Another
   Fucking Royal Parasite" atop of a picture of Princess Diana and her
   newborn child, or think of the 1990s London-based "Underground" zine
   (made among others by Matthew Fuller and Graham Harwood) which featured
   a tabloid-size image of prime minister John Major with a penis as a his
   nose
   (http://www.paperposts.me/posts/underground-a-free-broadsheet-for-london).

   If such forms are no longer acceptable within the so-called left (a
   term which in the American context problematically conflates the two
   opposites of liberalism and socialism), 'Neoreactionaries' have some
   point when they call it a "cathedral".
   -F

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