Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Memetic Marketplace Watch

Two very interesting showings by political memes this week. Neither is an IPO; both have been around for some time.

Meme: "The Bubble"

Value: For those on the left, "bubble" has been a mimetic warhorse almost since the day Bush took the oath of office in 2001. One of the hallmarks of the Bush administration is the largely successful effort by his team to keep him insulated from exposure to disagreeable ideas. The bubble meme carries several ideas that stick when tossed at Bush: Someone young--a preemie?--left by genetics or upbringing without the ability to resist things that most of us--of hardier, mongrel stock?--simply shrug off without thinking. Isolated in a bubble, for his own protection, the "bubble boy" depends on family and helpers to mediate between him and a hostile world. Lacking resistance to ideas--critical thinking as immunity mechanisms? ideas as viruses?--he tends to be infected by whoever he talked to last.

Forecast: Bullish. "Bubble" has enjoyed quite a surge in the last week--including at Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the L.A. Times, plus an enthusiastic piling-on by Keith Olbermann--owing mainly to Bush's diffident reaction toward the Iraq Study Group Report. As the Democrats start flexing their congressional muscles, the carnage in Iraq continues, and more Republicans start jumping ship, expect to see more and more of this meme in its many varieties.

(As an aside: The terror of White House staffers at being caught uttering a discouraging word within earshot of the POTUS reminds me of the old Monty Python "Oscar Wilde" sketch:
OSCAR: Your Majesty is like a big jam doughnut with cream on the top.
PRINCE: I beg your pardon?
OSCAR: Um... it was one of Whistler's.
WHISTLER: I never said that.
OSCAR: You did, James, you did.
(The PRINCE OF WALES stares expectantly at WHISTLER)
WHISTLER: ... Well, You Highness, what I meant was that, like a doughnut, um, your arrival gives us pleasure... and your departure only makes us hungry for more.
Your Highness, you are also like a stream of bat's piss.
PRINCE: What?!?
WHISTLER: It was one of Wilde's. One of Wilde's.
OSCAR: It sodding was not! It was Shaw!
SHAW: I... I merely meant, Your Majesty, that you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.
PRINCE (accepting the compliment) /: Oh.
Can't be a lot of fun to be a sycophant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days.)

Meme: "Crisis of Confidence"

Value: When this phrase got pinned to Carter's energy policy speech (you remember--the cardigan sweater speech) even though, if memory serves, he never used the phrase in the speech, it became just one more nail in the coffin of his reelection hopes, . The lesson learned by all Republicans: Never use the "CoC" phrase, no matter how bad things look. Never.

Forecast: Sell! For pity's sake, sell! What on earth could have possessed Tony Snow to use this phrase in describing the American public's documented disdain for Bush's Iraq policy and the lock-step Republican congressional support for it? Any rookie PR flack knows you never repeat a hot-button phrase like than when it's tucked into a reporter's question, and you never--never!--introduce it into the conversation yourself.

Why didn't Snow drive the stake in the rest of the way and call Bush's middle-east policies "Carteresque" and complain that America is experiencing a "malaise?"

No comments: