Danny Cardwell's picture

    Memes: The End of Original Thought

    For me, the saddest thing about Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media is the constant use of memes. Too many people have given up on thinking. I understand sharing a meme that's funny, clever, or has a sentimental feel, but to completely outsource your thinking to someone with a meme generating app is troubling to me. The majority of the social, political, and economic based memes I see are blatantly false and designed to be click bait. Information is easier to get now than ever, yet too few are willing to invest the time it takes to read peer reviewed journals, attend talks and lectures, or -at the very least- think for themselves.

    The amount of scrutiny social, scientific, and economic theory faces before we (the general public) ever get a chance to engage it is enormous, yet all of that hard work can be negated by someone with an app and a high speed Internet connection. I scroll my news feeds and timelines and read some of the most factually inaccurate psycho babble you can imagine. If video killed the radio star then Internet memes killed original thought.

    The popularity of Internet memes is a sign that the war on intellect and critical thinking is working. The political and media organizations that invested in systematically misinforming our fellow citizens have won; scholarship, and intellectualism are the sacrificial lambs to the altars of dogmatism and ignorance.

    Immanuel Kant wrote an essay titled, "What is Enlightenment". The most powerful quote reads as follows:

    Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on--then I have no need to exert myself. I have no need to think, if only I can pay; others will take care of that disagreeable business for me.

    Kant wouldn't be surprised by our present condition. The ability to mislead and distract has always been the most effective and efficient way for the ruling class to control the demos or proletariat.


    This is not intended to be one long paragraph. I've had trouble in the past separating my paragraphs.

    Sorry for the trouble, Danny. What browser are you using? If you can tell me the name of the browser and the version number, I'll try to troubleshoot.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    You can also write out your document on a word processor and simply cut-n-paste.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    I'm using Chrome on an Android tablet.My computer crashed about a week ago, and I haven't had the time to get it fixed.

    You don't say ;)

    I'll try to get my hands on an android tablet and troubleshoot.

    I'd say Danny got hold of a persistent meme.

    Devices are self destructing all around me.

    Welcome to Westworld.

    Great piece, Danny.
    You're a very clear and insightful thinker.  As you pointed out, those are qualities that are becoming increasingly rare.  It's becoming so bad, in fact, that I fear that pretty soon there will be no need to write at all, because there'll be no one left to consume your thoughts.  We're living in a horrible time, an intellectual wasteland.  So it's great to read people like yourself and a few others.  So keep on pushing that pen, Danny.  You give me hope.

    Such garbage you spew. There are numerous highly erudite conversations taking place on many diverse topics. For example there's a huge debate happening now on the role of religion in our world  by the New Atheist movement lead by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Demmett. They've written several best selling books and there are a couple of dozen debates and lectures on line. This and other subjects are being hotly debated. There are probably more readers and thinkers and more discussion between them than any time in history.

    Perhaps you're unaware of this because you're spending so much time pandering to the uneducated in 140 character sentences on your twitter account. What you're seeing is not a lack of intellectual discourse. It's your lack of involvement in that intellectual discourse.


    Your first sentence makes my point completely.

    Apparently you've gotten so used to twitter discussions using 140 character quips that you think it constitutes meaningful discourse. It doesn't.

    Here's another example. There's a vast community of botanists, both professional and amateur, discussing plant identification and speciation. A large sub group of that consists of herbalists. Before the internet these types of discussions happened much more rarely among a much smaller group of people at scientific conferences or gatherings of herbalists. Now the discussions are on going on a daily basis.

    Serious people having serious discussions on a myriad of subjects have always existed. The internet has not only increased the amount of easily available information but those discussions have increased immensely. Far from an intellectual wasteland, we live in a golden age of intellectual inquiry, discussion and debate. The internet is as earth shaking and transformative as the Gutenberg press was. Yes, we have to sort through the piffle but serious people have always  had to do that.

    If you're unaware of it it's simply because you're not serious about any subject and not involved in any of the discussions.

    I suppose a question to ponder, and to which I can't provide an answer, is how many of this "vast community of botanists, both professional and amateur, discussing plant identification and speciation." delve deeply into other fields of thought? You get them talking about a current debate in botany and they can talk for how hours, but if you then ask them about the current Greece debacle how many will say something to the effect of "I don't know, I haven't really been following that."

    I just recently mentioned another post that I know this man with a doctorate in Physics who believes God created Earth 4,000 years ago or so. We may live in "the golden age of intellectual inquiry, discussion and debate," but we also live in the golden age of specialization. The advances in communication technology has allowed people to live in their bubbles whether it is fashion or botany. The amateur botanist goes to work, eats dinner, does the daily chores and in their free time delve into the world of botany, shutting out the rest of the world. Of course, these discussions have a value that slowly seeps into the greater society at large, but that has been the case. Just look at how many "regular folks" still deny global warming or there is global warming but it isn't caused by or made worse by human activity. 

    There is more debates going on about politics than every before, but most people tend to hide out in a community that agrees with what they believe, a place where no one will put them on the spot or make them consider another way of looking at things.

    I just started tweeting myself, but it is people who basically pass along links to articles and poetry and host of other sites to stimulate intellectual inquiry. They are like "In the News" here at Dagblog, a headline and then a link. It offers the ability to for the person to add a few paragraphs, but if you just click on the headline from the front page, you sent to where the link sends you. There's nothing wrong with that, and sometimes those few paragraphs and/or comments don't do much to enlighten a person, a lot of times they are less than 140 characters.


    Of course experts in one field often know little about other fields. The amount of knowledge we've accumulated exceeds the ability of any one person to encompass it all. But if this is the era of specialization when was the era of generalization? Einstein is considered to be the pre-eminent physicist of the the last century. Where are his works on geology or economics? Let's go back another hundred years. John Stuart Mills was considered one of the greatest economists of the 19th century. What did he publish in the field of physics or mathematics? If we go back to the beginnings of science we can find a few exceptional men doing the seminal work in a few different fields. But shortly after that the great work was done by specialists.

    Sure there are people today, like your fundamentalist christian physicist, who seem able to compartmentalize their science and their religious beliefs. That too has always been the case. Newton is considered the greatest intellect of his age yet wrote on alchemy, astrology, and christian prophecy as if they were serious subjects worthy of consideration rather than nonsense worth only contempt and suitable as a subject only for debunking.

    There has always been an intellectual elite discussing the science and issues of the day, engaged in serious debate. And there has always been the uneducated and under-informed doing the same thing around the dinner table, local church, on the job site, or in small town gatherings. All that's changed is there are now world wide platforms for the under informed people to discuss. There are not more debates going on about politics than ever before. They are just going on in a much wider more visible platform. It may seem as though all there is is the trivial and the under-informed. But in the midst of the piffle there are still the serious people having serious discussions. Likely more serious people and certainly many more and more widely viewed serious discussions.

    I've made the argument at Dagblog before that it isn't that we are somehow less informed than in the past. Most Americans didn't have a clue about the country of Vietnam in 1963. The difference today is that people have access to a lot more misinfornation, distorted information, and out-and-out lies. It used be one just heard some crazy conspiracy from the guy down the block. Now you can read a blog written on the same topic on the other side of the country. Or on Fox News.

    There is a difference between being uninformed and misinformed.

    Differentiating between the age of generalization and specialization is about as impossible as discerning when exactly did the Age of Enlightenment began. 

    There was a time when the sciences and technologies were rather simple, an "academic" could be up to date in what was going on in other fields and work in their specialization. It is not about making a contribution to a field, it is being aware from a layman's perspective. So it isn't about Einstein's works on geology or economics, but whether he was informed on those topics. Maybe he wasn't. As I said in the previous post, I can't answer such a question.

    I've read just about every poem written by Jane Hirshfield, yet not made one contribution to the critical analysis of her poetry. How many hours of research did people do before having an opinion about the Greece issue? How informed were they on global economics? 

    Specialization is also something that is not found everywhere. It most applies to those areas of technology and science. Go see your doctor and if there is something wrong he does what? He refers you to another doctor that specializes in that particular field. There are those who know about setting up computer networks for business, but don't know how to develop a website because they don't know the language codes to do so.

    There was a time not that long ago when a math expert would know every relevant theorem and every important proof across the "field" of mathematics. These days there are so many branches of mathematics, and to keep current is a struggle what with international contributions from 150 countries rather than 7, along with any math theorems developed through AI/programmatic methods.

    The world no longer pays for generalists either - Einstein wouldn't get hired because he didn't have Java experience or work with a particular kind of telescope or particle accelerator and just imagine what a security clearance would mean (all his talk about peace? definitely a suspicious fellow-traveler type).

    Etc., etc, yadda^3 Fill in the obvious extensions & parallels here: _____________________


    I too worry about the influence of Faux news and the ready access to misinformation on the internet. Yet for all that access the demagogues seem to have less power and influence than in the past. McCarthyism gained much more power without it. And it wasn't just Joe McCarthy on the federal level. There were little "joes" with their little Unamerican Activities Committees in towns all across America terrorizing people and ruining people's lives. Despite all the efforts of Pamela Gellar and others, American Muslims were not rounded up after 9/11 and sent to internment camps as the Japanese Americans were during WWII. Even civil rights violations and individual acts of violence against Muslims, horrible as they were, seem to be less than in previous conflicts. Perhaps there are less stupid people now. As a society we do seem to be more capable of pushing back and diminishing their influence, though I admit, I'm not at all confident that will always be the case.

    Your comment about Hirshfield's poems brings up an important point. When I talk about the intellectual elite I'm not just talking about the most accomplished and knowledgeable who write the books and articles and engage in lectures and public debates that are viewed by tens or hundreds of thousands on line. Those of us who contribute little are also part of it. When we struggle to educate ourselves, when we use reason and rational debate even in as small a platform as dagblog or in discussion with friends we move the story forward and have an effect on the debate in our sphere of influence. It may seem too inconsequential to be meaningful but sometimes it's all we have to effect change in the world



    Again, you make my point. You don't seem to be able to distinguish between the QUANTITY of discussions, and the QUALITY of discussions.  I've been on the internet since they used to call it a bulletin board, so I know what I'm talking about. The level of both intellectual discussion, and inquiry, have diminished tremendously in the past 35 years, not only on the internet, but on our college and university campuses, and in the public domain as a whole.  Our society has been dumbed down, and that's what's threatening to destroy us. 
    Young people went INTO high school during the sixties much more knowledgeable than people coming OUT of our colleges and universities today. That's why we have so many Sarah Palins, and Michele Bachmanns running around here. 

    Uh, Michelle Bachmann would have gone into high school in 1969. Sarah Palin probably reflects Communications majors since forever, & Idaho U. is hardly UCLA or Columbia.

    Elon Musk is only 44, entered college in 1990 and is kicking all of our asses, as is Larry Page who started college in 1991. I'm pretty confident that there are kids starting college today that will surpass these 2, even if they don't know Sad Sack comics or the story of Thomas Edison or aren't familiar with Horatio Alger or Little Rascals. Cranky old folks have been underestimating youth since Alexander the Great's father said he'd never amount to anything.

    It was inevitable that as more users entered the system the quality would decline. Early ARPNET was restricted to government and universities. Of course the dialog was of a higher quality when use was limited to university Profs and selected students. I was working in the computer business around 1980 setting up networks for governments and schools and most of those networks were not connected to ARPNET or any of the subsequent systems. It took years for these separate networks to be integrated into what became the internet. Universities were always in the lead. For years the limited number of users mostly restricted to university professors and students kept out the riff raff and kept the quality high.

    As more and more people with a greater disparity in intellect and education flooded discussion sites.the serious people moved away. Those serious people didn't die or become stupid. They moved to other sites, many professional, usually with a paywall or some other requirement for admission to keep out the riff raff.

    I watched it happen and it's still happening. Great discussion sites become popular and more and more of the less well read move in to join the conversation. At some point if there are too many under educated people the serious people move on. If you find yourself surrounded by fools it's not because people have become less knowledgeable. It's because the more intelligent have moved elsewhere and left you behind with the fools. Think about why that happened to you.

    Young people went INTO high school during the sixties much more knowledgeable than people coming OUT of our colleges and universities today. That's why we have so many Sarah Palins, and Michele Bachmanns running around here. 

    This is laughably stupid. In the aggregate the knowledge and intellectual development of Americans has been steadily rising over the centuries. There have always been Palin's. There are still a sufficient number of  stupid people who support her but mostly she's seen as a joke. In the 50's there were more stupid people and then, she would have been dangerous. Instead of McCain's side kick she'd have been Joe McCarthy's side kick. There're still enough idiots to support Trump but mostly he's seen as a buffoon. In the mid 1800's he'd have been a power in the anti immigrant Know Nothing party. Look it up dude and learn something. I'm no great scholar of American history but you are totally clueless about the history of the US.


    Ocean-kat I'm well aware of the work Dennet, Dawkins, Simon Critchly, and the late Christopher Hitchens produced. David Hume, in my opinion, has articulated what it means to be an Atheist better than anyone working today in philosophical fields associated with deconstruction theory or post secularism. I respect your criticism. I'm not here for fighting, so I forgive you for the ad hominem attacks. Have a great day. PEACE

    Why is it that some people seem to be unable to follow the thread. The format seems so clear and logical to me. Perhaps some browsers display it differently, in a way that makes it hard to follow? At any rate the comment you're referring to was addressed to wattree not you.

    I liked the old way better, when the comment was addressed to a specific person.  Perhaps we should add a name to our comments when we know it might not be clear.

    Or Chevy Chase style:  "Jane, you ignorant slut..."

    I totally agree with you, even though I have used a meme or two, As you said:  "I understand sharing a meme that's funny, clever, or has a sentimental feel..." I had a thought that someone later wrote a book or essay on the top (I heard him in a NPR interview), which is we have in the workplace communicate in PowerPoint manner. This is the laziness of which you mentioned. Complex issues are reduced to bullet points.

    Like a meme here and there isn't a bad thing, what I found in just about every PowerPoint presentation was the presenter basically reading the bullet points, tossing in a sentence or two, rather than using the bullet point to represent a larger idea into which the presenter and the audience delve deeper.

    The "the war on intellect and critical thinking is working" and partly because people participate in the war even if they are unaware of their role. 


    I've learned to despise power point presentations. I think your point is spot on.

    Memes have always been with us. The problem with much of the social media is it rarely goes beyond the meme to a more nuanced and sophisticated discussion. Twitter especially isn't built for or capable of being a forum for discussion. But the problem you seem to see doesn't really exist. Those who think deeply about subjects still think deeply about subjects. Those who don't think deeply weren't part of the conversation 50 or a hundred years ago, beyond ranting to their friends. All that's changed is that social media has made it possible for the most uneducated people to find a large platform to share their opinions. It appears they are now involved in the conversation in a way they weren't before. In truth they aren't really involved in the conversation today any more than they were a hundred years ago. Those who think mostly ignore them.

    That's a very valid point that I never considered. I find most of the people I encounter who use lots of memes never hold conversations based on their social media posts.


    I develope a meme for just about every article I write, because I know many people won't read an entire article, so I try to at least stick a concept in their head.  But memes tend to be more drawn out.  Here's one latest meme below. You'll see an article come from this:


    Americans Are Being Returned To Slavery
    What many poor and middle-class conservative White people fail to realize is that the 1%ers don't care any more about them than they do Blacks and other minorities. If they did, they wouldn't be sending all of their jobs overseas.  One would think that patriotism alone would inspire these massive corporations to keep Americans fully imployed.  But even if these corporations didn't care a thing about patriotism, one would think they would keep America employed for no other reason than gratitude.  After all, during the Wall Street crash of 2008, if it were not for the American people, many of these corporations wouldn't exist today.  But the 1% don't give a wit about that, and White folks, they don't give a wit about you.  As we speak, they're actively trying to lower your standard of living. 
    And Black people, what many of you fail to realize is that we are the product of the very same racist environment as White people.  As a result, many of us are just as bigoted towards other Black people as any barefoot Hillbilly. I refer to such people as "bligots" - Black-on-Black bigots. There are also two other categories of divisive Black people.  First there are the "Blwhites" -  those are the Black people who think that they've arrived at a point in life where they've outgrown their Blackness and in many cases become remote from their own people; and then there are the Judas goats, those are Black people who conspire with the enemies of the Black community to mislead other Black people. All of these various factions are being manipulated by the 1%ers to keep working class Americans divided, and their ignorance to this fact threatens to destroy America.  
    The major corporations are making more profits than they have ever made in the history of mankind, so there's no reason for there to be ANY unemployment in the United States.  But due to the rapidly changing demographics (minorities now outnumber Whites in California) the corporate-GOP alliance have a vested interest in keeping the poor and middle class frustrated, hungry, and fighting one another over the handful of jobs that they're making available. That keeps the 99% of the people so divided that they can't come together to fight the 1% who are controlling the country.  So we are in the middle of a class war, and race is being used against us as a weapon of war. In addition, due to the many "Blwhites," "Bligots," and Judas goats among us, just because a person is of the same race, that doesn't mean he's on your side - i.g.,  Ben Carson, Larry Elder, Clarence Thomas.
    It's a sad thing to watch. Today the top 10% of the population controls 90% of the wealth, and the bottom 90% of the population only control 10% of the wealth. If it continues like this, and if we don't wake up, in another 10 years they're going to have us back in slavery (or indentured servitude, which is the same thing) - and I mean Blacks, Whites, and everyone else who doesn't have a few million dollars tucked away. 
    I continue to write about this situation, but it's like spitting in the wind. A Princeton study has ALREADY declared that the United States is no longer a democracy. It's now an oligarchy, completely controlled by the rich. What we want don't even count anymore (http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746).
    They control us by buying our politicians at the moment, but soon they won't even need the politicians; they'll simply dictate how they want things run.  We recently saw an example of that in Greece. The people voted overwhelmingly against austerity, but the corporatists and banks had such a stranglehold on the country they simply overruled the people's vote. That's exactly what's about to happen here if the people don't put their petty prejudices aside and wake up in a real big hurry.
    "The condition of living without unnecessary things and without comfort, with limited money or goods, or a practice, habit, or experience that is typical of this."
    It's an amazing thing to watch. The 1%ers have managed to make us hate one another more than we love our families, freedom, and justice.


    I read your work regularly and religiously. The use of memes as a snapshot of greater information makes great sense, but too many try to articulate very complex issues with a picture and a few sentences. I believe there's a place for memes, but they have inadvertently polluted the discourse on social media. Too some, memes are considered a source worthy of citation.

    You need to come and hang out with some of us on face book.  I have had some pretty good discussions there.  I think it all depends who your friends are. 

    Send me an invite. This is my real name.

    Danny, I think you give social media too much credence.  It will never take the place of serious, meaningful, long-winded debates because it's not set up to do that.  The beauty of Facebook and Twitter, etc., is that we have control over who enters our space and what we want to see and share.  it's like living in a huge city.  Every city dweller picks and chooses their locations and who they want to associate with.  We're just doing it virtually on the internet.

    P.S., you're welcome to friend or follow me on FB or Twitter but I'll warn you:  I share a lot of memes.


    I was thinking about this subject.

    I like to say it is repubs.

    I mean they just get faxed or emailed their statements for the day.

    And they write or mouth the same damn memes.

    That is a fact.

    I aint gonna argue the memes of my dems.

    Then a Trump shows up and says:

    Fuck the memes. I hate all Hispanics. hahahaha

    And yet, I hate Trump even more. hahahahahah

    There is software even more sophisticated than I have. What is even funnier is that I need the software to properly spell. hahahaha

    I am not a scientist.

    I am not an economist.

    I am not a human. hahahaha

    The polls tell us what to say, I guess.

    Good points.


    That sums up some of my social media interactions. Clever!

    I may be exactly the person you're talking about, because, okay, I like Facebook and Twitter and share memes often.  I think many of them are clever and say a lot in a few words.  I've seen some great discussions come from them--but not often, I admit. 

    But saying you hate memes is like saying you hate cartoons.  They aren't the be-all and end-all but they have their own unique place, even for some people who are kinda sorta smart.

    There are plenty of places for longer, more intellectual discussions.  Facebook isn't one of them, but that doesn't mean it's any less useful.  There is a community feel to Facebook and Twitter, which, I think, is the reason so many flock to them.  It has nothing to do with intellectual laziness or dull imaginations, and everything to do with meeting and greeting and celebrating and commiserating.  Memes work well there, in my opinion.  It's not for everybody but it doesn't have to be.

    I value your opinion Ramona. Social media is fun. I draw the distinction when someone tries to reduce complex geopolitical issues with a picture and two sentences. It's a disservice. I see too much of this; maybe I need some new friends!

    She is also interesting and fun on face book. 

    Likewise, my dear.

    I understand what you're trying to say--I think.  I don't see social media ever taking the place of serious in-depth discussions, just as I don't see blogging ever taking the place of journalism, or home-made You Tube videos ever taking the place of professional documentaries.

    Social media reminds me of the old multi-section newspapers.  There is something for everybody, it's informative and entertaining, but it's not our only source of information.  We can find many more effective places to do the in-depth studying necessary to understand an issue, but sometimes we just want to make conversation.   It's always been that way. 

    Social media gives us the chance to get to know people we would never have met, otherwise.  We can't help but learn from one another, and when we share memes it's no different than sharing anecdotes or stories.  It doesn't make us dumber, it probably makes us more. . .well. . .sociable.

    The Beneficial Yet Harmful Impact of Sports On The Black Community

    When you talk about "political and media organizations" and "altars of dogmatism and ignorance"..........'ideology' is the better word than dogmatism.

    Dogmatism relates more to a 'principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertible'.

    Dogma is better used when a belief is religious in nature.

    An ideology (a system of ideas and ideals forming the basis of an economic or political theory) is more appropriate for a set of political beliefs.

    My karma ran over my dogma. Left with Buddha-in-regalia.

    The Kant quote is interesting. But he is taking a different position than yours. He is saying that the problem is on the level of people taking responsibility for their lives. Each one has to do things for themselves, despite or because of the community they came up through, or have someone else make that decision for them.

    To be sure, there are all these easy ways to not do the work one should do. Figuring out what that work is some of trickiest stuff there is.

    When people become interested in things, they work it all the way down. What is easy for one person in the conversation is a lot of work for somebody else.

    It becomes personal. 

    Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
    Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
    Let us go and make our visit.


    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.
     -- from T. S. Eliot "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

    Was that when poetry jumped the shark? (and was it pushed, or did it leap from its own despair? The cutter fish want to know if they should follow suit). 23-42-17-haiku-haiku...

    I think of the words formed before the end of world war 2 as this place very difficult to explore.

    It is weird if one has viewed hours of all the footage of it. Caught sides ways to a another purpose. The event has become cliche. Like something from Hollywood.

    It is not a surprise that people didn't know how to talk afterwards.

    How does one record events?

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