Re: virus: Will the real meme please stand up.

Brett Lane Robertson (
Thu, 07 Aug 1997 20:56:54 -0500


Slogans are memes. "Just Do It" is very content laden (not "as" content,
but inherently full of content), but not content specific. The word "just"
for example: Define it! Merely, barely, only, hardly, exactly? What about
"do"? action verb that generalizes to "doing" anything...walk, talk,
sing, play, run, etc., etc. And "it", likewise, substitutes for any number
of (in this case) verbs which act as nouns--walk, talk, sing, play, run,
etc., etc. Maybe the phrase translates "it is it, exactly". To a
generation looking for an answer, this sounds like *the* answer--or a
formula for the answer, a pattern.

Why do slogans catch on? Because we already have the content within our
lives, we just need something to hang it all on. If I had always been one
to sing silly songs, then the slogan tells me "just do it"...the same if I
were one to sing meaningful songs. The pattern translates, the content is
particular to the host.

"Nike" on the other hand may or may not be relevant to my life. If I am an
African villager (example), "just do it" would have a good chance to infect
me..."Nike" would not. The content of the jingle--"Nike"--must be
transported. Is not viable. Is not a meme (except as the letters may or
may not be archetypal symbols for common relationships; whereby, "NIKE"
may--or may not--be a "magickal" formula whose pattern causes a
re-arrangement of my YHVH, yod-vau or Jehova does [in my

The way we know a meme from a content-specific "cancer", is by noting if it
reorganizes material we already claim as relevant to our life or if it
introduces a new element; and if it introduces a new element, is this
element situation specific or is it a universal element which--alone--would
have an effect upon us (unlike "Nike" to a villager) in which case the meme
is most likely a mem- within-a-meme ("Meta Meme?" How are others using this


At 08:38 PM 8/7/97 -0500, you wrote:
>Brett Lane Robertson wrote:

>> Just wanted to clarify these three points: 1. Yes Tim, those ideas ARE
>> "something". 2. No, content doesn't get passed along with a meme. 3. The
>> meme is not just a virus of the mind (in order to spread the meme meme, it
>> must be generalizable outside of mind...must not be content specific).

>Hmmm. "must be generalizable outside of mind"...

>that is, able to be expressed *as* content (on, say, a peice of paper),
>so that it can actually be *transmitted* to another mind. We can talk
>all day long about "form and function", but inevidebly, the "meme" must
>be reducable to some kind of *language* (be it words, pictures, etc.).
>Otherwise, it cannot spread.

>My question is this: since the meme *must* transfer as content, how are
>we to recgonize and differentiate it from other content "somethings"
>(like the Nike deal)? Or is the Nike deal possibly a real meme? (ie.
>there is form and function, and we are just unaware of it)


Rabble Sonnet Retort
"The warning message we sent the Russians was a calculated
ambiguity that would be clearly understood."

Alexander Haig