Thursday, February 28, 2013


Here's a blog post about blogging. So you can go ahead and skip it if you just want the game stuff.

But anyway--

Tip: Avoid antimemes.

An Antimeme is an idea so self-evidently dumb that it's mostly spread by people explaining why they disagree with it...

....yet not so self-evidently dumb that the spreaders realize they don't have to explain.
No.... no....
An antimeme isn't like Nazism or God Hates Individuals Of The Homosexual Persuasion--these ideas get to be on TV and would probably be famous no matter what and, besides that, everybody in 2013 pretty much knows they don't need to explain why they're stupid.

Antimemes, on the other hand, seem just plausible enough to someone somewhere that folks regularly feel the need to boldly announce their opposition to them. "The moon is made of green cheese" is not an antimeme, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is.

An antimeme is also not spread primarily for journalistic reasons: that Texas board of education plank where they said Texas shouldn't teach kids critical thinking skills is not an antimeme because it was spread by people who just wanted folks to know about it and laugh. Peeps didn't, by-and-large, feel the need to write essays telling anybody why this was scary and wrong. The news and opinion outlets trusted their audience to know that merely by dint of the fact that it was their audience.

Antimemes, on the other hand, are accidentally spread by well-meaning but deluded people who inaccurately think of the antimemic idea as dangerous and possibly viral and want to nip it in the bud. That is: they think others will take it seriously enough that the idea might someday affect something important when, in reality, it totally won't.

Imagine a doctor who discovers a rare and poisonous salamander, deep in the jungle crowning a remote and uninhabited Pacific Island a few latitudes north of Antarctica. Imagine this doctor then catching it, breeding thousands of them and sending them to research labs all over the planet in the hopes of finding a cure instead of just, y'know, leaving the lizard on its dumb island and doing more interesting things. It's like that.

Antimemes and antimeme carriers aren't really a big problem. They're just boring.

People usually spread antimemes because they make a mistake about their audience. They somehow find themselves in the audience for a bad idea, they then make two mistakes:
1. Assuming anyone irrational enough to believe the idea is also rational enough to ever do anything that matters
2. Assuming anyone irrational enough to believe the idea is also rational enough to grasp an explanation of why it is wrong

Rather than bearding the antimemist in its lair and keeping the dumb idea in the dumb place, the carrier complains about it somewhere else and, thereby, boosts its signal.

In order to take my own advice, I'll use two examples so horse-out-of-the-barn that I'm not risking spreading them any more than they're already spread:

"People who play old games only play them for nostalgia's sake"and "People who play 4e only play it because they are anime-loving WoW addicts and there are lawns and they should get off them".

Announcing you believe either of these things is announcing you are inimical to truth, evidence and reason. You might as well have said "Judgement cow is couched in pie sparkle!" and said it from on top of an oil drum on a crowded street corner wearing nothing but Mardi Gras beads with mutton in  your butt. People walking by your street corner can and maybe should tell you to fuck off because you deserve to suffer for your lies about judgment cow and because, hey, maybe you can be reached, but if you go to your friends, in their homes and go "Y'know, this guy said judgement cow's couched in pie sparkle and that's just wrong in so many ways and it burns my ass because..." then things have gone awry.

Sometimes even dumb ideas can make you have thoughts. And sometimes sometimes these thoughts are even original and useful. Sometimes. But if you just showed up to say Dumb Idea Is Dumb then, yeah, everyone worth knowing knew that, and the rest aren't reachable.


  1. "with mutton in your butt."

    You, sir, are a poet. The internal rhyme of this phrase, coupled with its placement and rhythm at the end of the sentence, kicks the entire preposterous image up into the rarefied air of a Shakespearean insult. Kudos, Zak. Long may you wave.

  2. This is pure, unadulterated genius, sir. You deserve major props just for the title alone...

  3. "'Judgement cow is couched in pie sparkle!' and said it from on top of an oil drum on a crowded street corner wearing nothing but Mardi Gras beads with mutton in your butt. . ."

    I was imagining this as a Priest of some Chaos God (the Judgement Cow) who is forced to speak the Holy Phrase (". . .couched in pie sparkle!") "Umpteen" times upon an Oil Drum before being inducted into the Sparkly Mysteries. . .

    Also, great points regarding irrational people. DON'T SIGNAL-BOOST STUPID IDEAS is great advice, too. This is like when someone says something stupid to me IRL -- I don't respond. Hell, I don't even change my facial expression.

  4. I recently got antimemed by those Facebook things that are like "Can you name one rock group that doesn't have an E in its name!!!"

    So, where does "any news story about anything any republican state legislator says ever" fit in?

    1. "Can you name one rock group that doesn't have an E in its name!!!"

      I now want to start a rock band called ANTINOYZ just because of that.

      BTW, Hawkwind.

    2. Umm, Black Sabbath? Anthrax? That's not really hard.

  5. In my own defense, I quoted and linked the blog post because my initial reaction was not, This bad idea must be beaten into the ground! but rather, Holy shit, can you believe somebody actually wrote this?

    Nonetheless, the signal-boost wasn't warranted.

    1. if it makes you feel any better i wasn't thinking specifically of your forum post. It hasn't (yet) become repetitive fodder for 200 bored bloggers

  6. Huzzah! I get to be the dorky kid with glasses who points out that salamanders aren't lizards; they're amphibians! 8^D Also that breeding thousands of rare poisonous salamanders all around the world would actually be a pretty rare and potentially useful coup for science, since venoms have a lot of applications in medicine.

    1. The reason that dorky kid is unpopular is because he doesn't realize we already knew that salamanders weren't lizards.

      so while his knowledge of science is right up there with, say, ours, his ability to tell when a joke needs elegant variation more than scientific accuracy is somewhat lacking,.

  7. Don't you know that attacking a straw man position can be an effective way to push your own position? It's especially effective if your own position is close to the straw man and might be considered unacceptable. If you do it right you can move the 'Overton window' of acceptable public positions. Criticise Pol Pot from a Socialist perspective; criticise Hitler from a Nationalist perspective; criticise ranting neckbeards' "People who play 4e only play it because they are anime-loving WoW addicts and there are lawns and they should get off them" from an OSR perspective, criticise the prattish 4venger ""People who play old games only play them for nostalgia's sake" guy from a pro-4e perspective.

    1. And you'll note that my equivalencing of the four above is also a tactic, eg if you think Socialism is a legitimate political philosophy but Nationalism = Nazism, then accepting my framing above moves your Overton window. Likewise, more trivially Old School vs New School gaming.

      Of course calling it out like that probably means it doesn't work. :)

  8. Can you provide some actual-factual links to examples of anti-memes....

  9. Ayn Rand. Most well known Anti-Meme?

  10. Wait I... did someone "Well ACTUALLY" your metaphor?