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July 04, 2002

Why We Blog

Somewhere in the suburbs: July 4, 2035

"Grandpa, what did you do in the War on Terrorism?"

"I was a warblogger, honey."

"Did you carry a gun, Grandpa? Did you fly a jet? Did you drive a tank?"

"No, not really honey. Lots of warbloggers had guns, though."

"Were you in the Army or The Navy?

“Nope, none of those honey. I stayed home the whole time. I never even saw an enemy unless it was on television or the Internet.”

"What good was a warblogger, Papa? You didn't kill anybody?"

"Well hon, there are lots of different parts to a war. Killing people is only a part of it. Maybe one of the biggest parts is the fight between the ideas on either side. The US lost the Vietnamese war not because the other side was stronger, but because it had better memes. We won the Cold War not because we killed a lot of people, but because our memes were stronger. The country was so strong then that it didn’t need a lot of people to fight. We didn’t even try to step up recruiting. But people still wanted to do something, so a lot of them started writing about it. People made fun of them, and called them names, and said they were useless, but they kept writing. I did the same thing. When I started, I couldn’t tell you why I wrote, I just know that it felt right."

"Meme, what’s a meme?"

"Well, do you remember when you had the flu last winter?"

"Yes, it was awful. I had green snot, and the dog ate some, and mommy made a face."

"Well, memes are like the little bugs that cause the flu, except instead of infecting your body and making you sick, they infect your mind. Why did Tommy throw up all over your grandmother’s couch this morning?"

"Because he saw Elmo spinning around on the holovision, and he started spinning around and around and around and then he fell down and then he threw up! He ate corn last night! "

"That’s right. Tommy got infected with the Spin Around Like Elmo meme, and it made him act differently. Lot’s of people just call them ideas. Tommy caught it from Elmo, and Elmo got it from somebody else. People are full of all sorts of memes. The older you get, the more you have, until you’re just a big walking collection of them. There’s the Elmo meme, and the Jesus meme, and the “There’s no such thing as Jesus” meme. But every meme that ever existed had to start somewhere. It didn’t exist until somebody created it. That’s what I did, during the war, along with thousands of other people. I made memes."

"Was it hard?"

"Sometimes. Sometimes it was really hard, and sometimes it was really easy. It just depended on how I felt, or what I had read. Other times I helped spread other people’s memes, or tried to add something to them. Most of the memes I made died because they weren’t able to infect anyone, or ran into another meme and got eaten."

"Eaten? How do you eat a meme?"

"Well, we don’t eat memes, honey. They get eaten by other memes. You’ve learned about evolution in school, right honey?"

“Duh! They teach it in first grade, papa! They have to! Just like algebra. Babies know about evolution!”

“Okay, well just like animals, memes go thru natural selection, and only the fittest survive. The blogosphere was one of the darwinian environments that memes were born and lived in. There were so many bloggers making memes that there were more memes than ever before, and more memes means better memes in the long run. Most of the memes I created, just like most of the memes everyone else created, died. But I would make another one, and people would pass it on, or incorporate it with another meme they were already infected with to make a whole new one. Sometimes I would see the reflection of one that I made in a stronger, more developed one. So some of them lived. The memes that I and the other bloggers created all had to fight with other memes to survive, and the ones that emerged were very powerful. Your great-uncle Laurence created a meme that infected people all over the world. Once they combined it with their memes, they had a whole different way of thinking about things. Killing people helped win the war, but changing the way people thought made sure that we wouldn’t have to fight them again.”

"Who saw your memes, papa?"

"Mostly just normal people, or other bloggers. They would either ignore my memes, or pass them on. I did the same to them. But I had people visit my blog everyday from the government, or from the military. Now there's no telling who those guys were. They probably weren't generals, or senators, but they might know generals or senators, and the memes they read here might then get passed on to where they made a real difference. And I was just a little fish. Bloggers like Glenn Reynolds had lots of people pay attention to him."

“Glenn Reynolds? The president of Mars? Did you know him, grandpa?”

“Well, no honey. I learned the importance of dropping his name into a conversation early on, though. He did send me an email once. And he talked about my memes a couple of times, which meant that they got a lot more attention than they would have otherwise. You never know what's going to happen when you create a meme. It will probably die, but sometimes, rarely, that meme goes on, and the person that created that meme would have made a big difference in the world. It’s like being a butterfly. One flap of a butterfly’s wing at the right time, and that little gust of air eventually becomes a gigantic storm.”

"So………war bloggers were like butterflies?"

"Something like that, honey."

“You were a war butterfly!”

“Sometimes. When I had a good day, perhaps. Maybe the Malachite butterfly. That one would be appropriate.”

"Why that one, papa?"

“They eat bird poop, honey.”

“You’re gross, grandpa.”

“Your mother thinks so, too.”

Posted by Bigwig at July 4, 2002 03:53 PM | TrackBack
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