Vaccimate Your Islamist Memoids

One of the keys to modeling human conflict at the group level will be memetic theory. Memes are ideas, and serve the same purpose for cultures that genes serve for organisms. They self replicate, and spread, ensuring the propagation of the culture.

As we take in the near constant stream of bombing and terrorist and war news, we are asked again and again to consider how religious people can decide to blow up innocent civilians. What do these suicide bombers (or homicide bombers if you watch FOX News) think? How do cricket players and fathers of 8 month old babies get to that place? How do they think? What are they thinking?

I have a doctorate from a Department of Community Health where I specialized in epidemiology – the study of disease in populations. Classic epidemiology looks at infectious (and non-infectious) disease transmission with concepts like infectivity, attack rates, and incubation periods.

Memetic theory borrows heavily from these concepts. I won’t bother trying to re-define memetic theory here. The relevant experts have left their excellent expositions elsewhere on the web and I refer you to the Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission (http://www.jom-emit.org) which is either being reborn or frozen in amber, I cannot tell. Regardless, lots of good meme theory there.

I am particularly fond of the link out to the Memetic Lexicon (http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/MEMLEX.html). And I thought it would be fun, for me at least, to try and write about the latest London bombers (not the Provos or the Luftwaffe) using memetic nomenclature. I was never taught that violence was an agent of disease, and as a professor, I never taught it as one either. But perhaps I should have? Anyway, here goes:

Homegrown Islamist suicidal violence in Western Europe has yet to be revealed as either generally auto-toxic or as a successful infection strategy. Clearly, detonating yourself is auto-toxic to the individual host, but it may be worth significant net gain in ideosphere share for Islam as a whole as it attempts to re-establish and extend the Caliphate.

The strategy of suicide bombing makes full use of modern communication vectors, as each incident brings the meme right onto our screens and into our minds. Western press does, I believe, attempt to include vaccime (sic) with press coverage based in liberal democratic philosophy. But can this meme complex convey as much protection as tolerance? Here the common news outlets perhaps fail to deliver the most potent inoculant. Mass media can also seem like a promising method to diffuse concentrations of exo-toxic Islam through the expansion of these potential memeoids’ meme pools.

A relative lack of tolerance propagation is a failed opportunity to protect ourselves from the spread of toxic Islamist memetic material. Like malaria, stamping it out might be impossible (remember smallpox only had humans for hosts). And censorship may only select for a more virulent form of the meme. Can students of recent Muslim history show us how recent censorship in Muslim populations selected for these virulent forms we see in the rise of the Al Qaeda sociotype and its memetic engineers?

BTW, I first came across the concept of meme thanks to an Orson Scott Card novel – one of the sequels to Ender’s Game as I recall. Perhaps it was Speaker for the Dead? For memes in science fiction see this great list which includes Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy – and another guy interested in modeling and simulation of human conflict: Harry Seldon. (http://www.orionsarm.com/books/Memetic_Engineering_in_Science_Fiction.html)

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