I've talked a bit about this in (multiple) other threads - but thought it might be worth putting this stuff in one spot... A meme - Richard Dawkins first defined a "meme" as an idea that spreads among society in an unplanned and effortless way. Merriam-Webster officially defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” (Money quote) Meme, taken from the Greek for “that which is imitated” – were once defined as being self-replicating units of culture. This included anything that could be learned, remembered and spread from one brain to another, such as the concept of god all the way to popular commercial catchphrases - "something about the beef", eh? Most might think memes are so totally 21st century, I’d like to make the argument that World War I propaganda posters were the original memes. Lets pull out the wayback files for a good example of why memes matter.....and just why they can be so damn dangerous: WWI and Wilson (The dude was President of all things!) W. Wilson had run his 1916 campaign on keeping the US out of the war. That war being what we today call WWI. (1916 Election - The President Woodrow Wilson House) Folks may remember Wilson for calling for a special session of Congress, whose work culminated in the Revenue Act of 1913, introducing an income tax and lowering tariffs. But that doesn't address memes. After he was in office, Wilson wanted the US to be directly iinvolved in the war. Not merely illegally selling arms and munitions to belligerents in violation of our (USofA) Neutrality laws, but boots on the ground stuff. I'm not counting his invasion of Mexico, Wilson really wanted in on the fracas in Europe. By 1917, he was pushing for Congress to declare war, odd for a guy just elected the year before, one who campaigned on staying on the sidelines. We didn't have the Internet back then, but we did have posters. Most were printed by the current (Wilson's) Administration. To ensure acceptance of this complete about face, posters (memes) needed a little help. This was provided by Wilson asking Congress for what became the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, suppressing anti-draft activists. So that song about "Step out of line and the Man come and take you away" had a whole different meaning back then. (the net is full of wartime posters - spend a few looking them over on-line - and ask yourself how eerily familiar many seem to be - even today) So - Germans BAD. Allies - GOOD. Pretty basic stuff, and the posters really laid it on. They also asked for folks to pony up some cash and buy "War Bonds". The memes worked. Worked so well that US citizens of German decent were locked up in "Concentration camps" a British invention, from the Boer wars. BTW - this was in 1917. Thousands were interrogated and investigated. A total of 2,048 were incarcerated for the remainder of the war in two camps, Fort Douglas, Utah, for those west of the Mississippi, and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, for those east of the Mississippi. Mind blown yet? How about this- Most internees were paroled in June 1919 on the orders of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Some remained in custody until as late as March and April 1920. This was 6 months to more than a year - after the war was 'over'. It wasn't until Dec 1920 that most of these "War Time Laws" were over turned. (See Sedition Act of 1918 - Wikipedia for more details) BTW - The cases of these aliens, whether being considered for internment or under internment, were managed by the Enemy Alien Registration Section of the Department of Justice. From December 1917 this section was headed by J. Edgar Hoover, then not yet 23 years old. (The gift that just kept giving) By now most think this is a drunken rant. It isn't. Think of it as a call to examine the current memes you are exposed to today. They matter because people's attitudes and belief's can be affected, thoughts changed and then...well, then the bad stuff happens. Just as US citizens were rounded up and locked up - Germans and the Japanese - back in the day, doesn't mean it can't happen again. Today. What to watch for - classic propaganda stuff: A single group singled out. (like Welfare Queens) Specific attack words (illegal anything) Cartoons or movies that make a special case (Popeye the Sailor vs the Japs is just one example) Most dangerous - a call for 'action'. Bottom line - words and images matter. Because they can persuade normally rational folks to do crazy things - like lock up their fellow citizens. If you see something that strikes you as a bit odd - ask yourself this "Who will profit from this?" Stay safe, stay alert.