References to phenomena in Dank EA Memes are related to Dank EA Memes. As a significant forum for discourse in effective altruism, meta-level references to dank EA memes and events in the group itself ontologically share a direct relation to effective altruism. According to Yudmowski’s Law of Dankfinite Recursion, memes retain their relevance to effective altruism within three-degrees of an object-level EA topic. Therefore, this meme is only one to two degrees removed. Therefore, it’s allowed.
A meme referencing this post would be two to three degrees removed except this post is now a phenomenon within DEAM itself and in being referenced without the hypothetical meta-level reference being self-referential would now qualify as an object-level EA phenomenon.
[epistemic status: flying by the seat of my pants. Just wingin’ it.]
We’ve passed through another cycle of rationalist dialectics. Bashing the centre, what we call “liberals”, which also includes some people from the progressive centre-left and conservative centre-right, has been in vogue. The early signs of it started with Brexit. That’s when it was truly contrarian, and the last time it was original.
After Trump’s election, a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon. That’s when it was metacontrarian. You were neither a Clinton, Trump or Sanders supporter who didn’t register a prediction before the election and who followed along with all the polls, but right after you mention all your misgivings about everything the whole time. That’s jumping on a bandwagon if I’ve ever seen it. Well, we all did that at least a little bit. If you’ve been criticizing centrists for their naivete after the election. If it took you until the election to notice it, you were naive too. I know I was. C’mon, it’s okay to admit you were signaling if we all did it. I won’t tell Robin Hanson if you won’t.
Anyway, bashing centrists is now standard again. It’s filtered through Dank EA Memes now. It’s like, “haha, liberals want us to still take them seriously when they’re so out of touch!” is a meme. And it’s been a meme for months. It’s a tired meme. I’m pretty sure teenagers who don’t know what the Washington Post or the New York Times are are now mocking WaPo or NYT. Even calling out Vox for all its libsplaining is really old hat.
So if you want to look cool and edgy in Q2 of 2016 by having a hedgehox political prophecy before anyone else, we need to figure out the next metacontrarian position.
The next metacontrarian position isn’t about politics. It’s about journalism and the media. The standard position is hating the media, which is also the correct position. The contrarian position is being someone who feels like they need to get any decent news somewhere, because they’re worried under the Trump presidency for their well-being and need to know what might change, and NYT or WaPo are the place to get it. I heard somewhere paid subscriptions of those news publications and the Boston Globe have been way up since Trump’s election. For the record, I take no position on the legitimacy of NYT or the Boston Globe as a source of good journalism. WaPo threw Ed Snowden under the bus last year, so to Hell with them.
Anyway, the metacontrarian position on journalism in 2017 is:
journalism just is factionalized and partisan politics! Journalism is just about tribal fighting, and that the Fourth Estate no longer even exists…? Yeah, basically some position not lamenting the downfall of journalism, but some long-winded theory about how journalism fell decades ago and you’re only noticing it now because it was you, the news-reading public, who drove journalism downhill with your consumerist hunger for infotainment! Yeah, that sounds right. If you write something that reads like a LessWrong post, but can be reduced to “political theatre is written like a literal soap opera”, you’re pretty metacontrarian.
Now we just need some edgy up-and-coming blogger to write it up. No, it won’t be me. Even I don’t care that much about coming up with wacky inside views nobody else would see coming. At least for politics. I mean, people should be putting that effort into finding Cause X. Actually, we don’t actually use metacontrarianism to search for Cause X. We should try that. Like, just take two causes, and rationalize some wacky hybrid out of thin air like the two causes were two chunks of Play-doh. The results would be the Cronenbergs of cause prioritization.
Anyway, everyone on Rationalist Tumblr should write their crackpot theory about why journalism became so awful, and then we can adopt them to be cool and edgy again by fusing bullshit with other bullshit to make some extra-deluxe platinum-coated bullshit that still doesn’t match the map to the territory. One of you might also turn out right, so if you are, you can be the next Scott Adams, i.e., “Dilbert guy who called Trump a ‘wizard’ on his blog”.
[estimated reading time: 3 minutes for slower readers; 2 minutes for faster ones]
[epistemic status: So, I have strong opinions on dank memes. I could be biased, but bear with me.]
[editorial note: I was too lazy to provide hyperlinks-as-citations when I first wrote this. I might do that later. If you’re really curious about a particular claim, feel free to ping me for a source in the comments.]
It seems dank memes as political propaganda might be having some effect. I think the memers themselves don’t really know how they’re doing what they’re doing, so they say “meme magic is real”.
But I have some hypotheses. The upshot is that if Donald Trump ultimately got his edge to win the election by a hair by playing the media like a fiddle, the alt-right was the bow with which he played that fiddle. They ran back-up on the internet, where the media lives these days, and unleashed the worst trolling they save for each other on the darkest corners of Reddit, 4chan and 8chan on journalists. That includes dank memes, hit pieces, all sorts of things. And these nihilistic internet trolls eat it all up and gave the Trump campaign free spin control. They spewed it all over social media.
But dank memes are a special tool in their arsenal. What makes dank memes special? Some ideas:
- Dank memes are the aesthetic motif of the people. It’s decentralized, it’s unclassy and crass, and anyone can make them do anything. Dank memes spread when they’re ugly, so you don’t need to be a graphic designer. Legacy media like WaPo, or new media like Jezebel, who think policy debates are one-sided and back Clinton on everything wouldn’t be caught dead spreading dank memes as the ideographic propaganda on their Facebook pages. So, if you see a dank meme, you know it’s from an average Joe like yourself rather than an elite with an incentive to defend Beltway assholes.
- Dank memes sneak past people’s System 2, right into their System 1, and grabs them by the heartstrings. This is just “a picture is worth more than a thousand words”. Anyway, they fit well with Trump, who also operates by always routing around reason and preying on emotion. Mix this with how virally shareable they are on social media, and you’ve got a perfect way to spread a message throughout all social media, with its hundreds of millions of users and several billion accounts worldwide.
So, when you think about the unprecedented ability in history for so few people to convey their ideas so well to so many people so fast, the power of dank memes doesn’t sound so surprising. For all we know, it was in total a few hundred or few thousand young internet stormtroopers, maybe coordinated by some unknown cabal of reactionary social media wizards. I’ve heard about the Pied Piper scandal, so I don’t think the Democrats, or even anyone on the political left or centre, may be better than the far-right, or the centre-right.
But nobody predicted even a poorly coordinated group, a smaller conspiracy than most would guess, could so freely wield this much power over the internet. Maybe that’s a good thing, if we can’t trust the fourth estate anymore. But it scares me too.
This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
This is another post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
This is a typical blog post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
This is my blog. The topics I like writing about most are pop culture, cinema, effective altruism, global catastrophic risks, psychological sciences, and dank memes.