How viral social media memes trigger real-world violence

What responsibility should government authorities and Big Tech take in policing the spread of sedition-oriented content?

Credit: Christian Buehner on Unsplash
  • It can be hard to believe that comical images online are enough to rile people up enough that they'll actually attack.
  • Originating in the darker corners of the internet, Bugaloo is now prominent on mainstream online platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
  • The Network Contagion Research Institute's recent series of Contagion and Ideology Reports uses machine learning to examine how memes spread.
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The ​'Motte & Bailey' meme reveals what's wrong with political arguments in 2020

This medieval-themed meme highlights a shady yet all too common rhetorical move people make in arguments.

Credit: MotteAndBaileyMemes/Big Think
  • The "Motte and Bailey Doctrine" was developed by philosopher Nicholas Shackel.
  • It describes a rhetorical move in which an arguer advances an indefensible opinion, but when challenged falls back upon a similar yet easier-to-defend opinion.
  • Motte-and-baileys have become a weapon of choice in political and culture-war arguments.
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Memes 101: How Cultural Evolution Works

We are what we are because of genes; we are who we are because of memes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett muses on an idea put forward by Richard Dawkins in 1976.

Ever wondered where the word ‘meme’ comes from? Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett explains the term, coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, and its effects on our lives and history. How did we, as a species, become what we are – or more relevantly who we are? Natural selection and genetic evolution have made our physical bodies, but we are so much more than a collection of cells. We are also a conscious community, with language, music, cooking, art, poetry, dance, rituals, and humor. Dennett explains how these behaviors are the product of our cultural evolution. Memes are cultural replicators that spread like viruses, and only the most advantageous – or "the fittest" – of them survive. Daniel Dennett's most recent book is From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds.

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