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It’s The Power of The Meme

Written by Nico Black

Digital Strategist and early-stage investor, Nico is also an AdTech enthusiast. He has over a decade of digital marketing experience and has been investing in tech companies since 2006.

May 7, 2011

My dual passions are marketing and politics. In both spheres there is a common factor. That common factor, is the power of assumption, from which stories and perceptions are built.

Assumptions are built from memes. Small snippets of information that once accepted alter our view of reality. E.g. sweets are bad for you. Really? Are they bad for you? What quantity is bad for you, who is “you”?

An effective meme is a closed eco system, Frank writes about this in his blog

Creating a closed eco-system is the holy grail of space exploration. Nothing goes out, nothing goes in, everything remains in a perpetual loop. Astronaut urine recycled into drinking water is, by virtue of the mere mention of a bodily fluid, perhaps the most famous.

The Closed Ecosystem, Sustenance via Urine

The Closed Ecosystem, Sustenance via Urine

The BDS movement works in a similar way. March 30th was ”National boycott day”, the target of the boycott goes without saying. Norwegian NGO

Palestinakomiteen (“The Committee for Palestine”) mentions this briefly on their website. For more information, Palestinakomiteen recommends the happy web surfer go to the site There is not much information here either, just a suggestion to go … back to Palestinakomiteens site again.

Despite their name, “closed eco-systems” are dependent on receiving energy from the outside. Sunlight, in the case of Planet Earth, or some wizardry based on batteries or the like in space.

The BDS movement gets its energy from hate.

This is true for any meme based eco system (e.g. “so when did you stop beating your wife?” – good luck disproving that meme). The BDS example is actually identical to any other marketing meme. Except that in the case of marketing meme, the motivation isn’t hate, it’s these key web focused motivators: (a) desire for better health, (b) want of more money and (c) need to improve relationships.

Keeping those points in mind, let’s consider what most cults rotate around: (a) nutrition “wholesome” lifestyles, (b) get rich schemes and finally (c) a sense of community identity order.

As you can see these motivations can underpin anything from Charles Manson (hitting all three points) to the BDS movement (hitting two points {professional agent provocateurs, using clueless Westerners as cannon fodder} barring nutrition). Diane Benscoter gave this amazing talk on how cults rewire your brain, please do watch:

So, now that the mechanism of control is outlined – how does one create a following? Seth Godin, the marketing guru of our time has a few ideas. He explains what it takes to create change in the world. His presentation is titled, The Tribes We Lead:

Seth says, that one needs to find a cause worth devoting ones’ life to – a problem worth fixing. Then, find lieutenants to help you get it done. Finally build a tribe of followers around the leader, around the solution (the leader and solution are one) and you can change the world. Simple.

So what happens when you couple the mechanism of creating a social movement, by using memes to reinforce it?

You can either get the cult of Apple or Nazism or some weird fusion of the two – living in his crazy little eco system, and even dressed the part.

Fashion guru John Galliano was filmed having a vile racist rant during which he declared: "I love Hitler."

Fashion guru John Galliano was filmed having a vile racist rant during which he declared: “I love Hitler.”


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