What would Noam Chomsky think about the linguistic development of Baby Yoda?

It's frankly shocking that in more than 40 years since Yoda first debuted on the big screen, no one has asked the anarcho-linguist Noam Chomsky to explain the Jedi's syntactical idiosyncrasies. But now that Baby Yoda has stolen everyone's heart, someone has finally taken him to task.

Or, well, maybe.

Given the fact that this is the first tweet from the account, I sadly suspect that this isn't real. I even messaged the woman who wrote it for verification, but she didn't respond. A quick Google search reveals that there is a Jessica Yu in Australia who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. If it is the same Jessica Yu from Australia, and this turns out to just be a fun creative writing experiment—well then hey, good on her. She captured Chomsky's voice here impressively well, along with his well-documented disdain for humans projecting linguistic meaning onto Koko the gorilla. If nothing else, I'm pretty sure that "'No thoughts on memes' — Noam Chomsky" is poised to become a meme now on its own.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, altered.

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Revisiting Operation Mindfuck

Over at Medium, BB pal Douglas Rushkoff explores how today's propaganda -- born in the 17th century to propagate the Catholic faith and reborn in the 20th century as "public relations" -- is no longer about convincing people to believe in whatever story the source happens to be selling. Today, Doug writes, "the primary goal of government propaganda is to undermine our faith in everything. Not just our belief in particular stories in the news, but our trust in the people who are telling the stories, the platforms, and fact-based reality itself." Interestingly, he traces this kind of systematic reality disruption to the counterculture. From Medium:

Before Watergate anyway, it felt as if the press and the government were on the same side, telling the same story to us all. There was no way for the underfunded counterculture to compete with mainstream reality programming—except by undermining its premises. The flower children couldn’t overwhelm Richard Nixon’s National Guard troops, but they could put daisies in the barrels of their rifles.

Taken to the extreme, this sort of activist satire became Operation Mindfuck, first announced in 1975 by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea in their Illuminatus Trilogy!. The idea was to undermine people’s faith in government, authority, and the sanctity of consensus reality itself by pranking everything, all the time.

The idea of Operation Mindfuck was to break the trance that kept America at war, blindly consuming, and oblivious to its impact on the rest of the world. Destabilize the dominant cultural narrative through pranks and confusion.

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"OK Boomer" comes to the NZ Parliament and makes all the right people angry

NZ Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick was giving a speech in favour of stricter carbon emissions standards when the 50-year-old National Party Climate Critic Todd Muller heckled her; without missing a beat, she fired back "OK Boomer" and moved on to making a rather good and eloquent point about need for intense action on climate. Read the rest

Runaway airport cart becomes meme for Trump impeachment

Here's the state of U.S. politics, starring the runaway airport cart as the Trump administration.

Image: Twitter Read the rest

Teens are filling Tiktok with memes deploring #Life360, a parenting app that tracks teens

Life360 is an app that lets you track a mobile phone user in fine-grained, realtime detail, with options to set alert for things like "is this person exceeding the speed limit?" It's widely used by parents to track their teens, and this seems to be the summer where it comes into its own, with millions of families around the world relying on it to act as a kind of remote leash for their kids. Read the rest

Epic Twitter thread uses classic art to illustrate the everyday sexism that women endure

Writer Nicole Tersigni posted this amazing meme thread on Twitter where she juxtaposed well-known classic art images with the sort of common and clichéd sexism that modern women are all too familiar with.

"Calm down"

"There probably just weren't any qualified women for the job."

"Thanks, I'm gay now" by Norman Rockwell.

"Let me explain your lived experience to you."

See the entire thread here. Read the rest

Grumpy Cat dies

Tardar Sauce, a cat known to many as Grumpy Cat due to her distinctive facial expression and 2012 viral video success, died Tuesday due to complications of an infection. The BBC:

Her image quickly spread as a meme. According to owner Tabitha Bundesen, her facial expression was caused by feline dwarfism and an underbite. Grumpy Cat travelled the world making television appearances and in 2014 even starred in her own Christmas film.

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Visualization of the most popular memes in the last 15 years

The metric is dubious — traffic to Know Your Meme entries normalized by Google Trends — but what a journey it's been.

Jessi Slaughter (previously) — then a child reportedly victimized by notorious scene creep Dahvie Vanity, bullied by his fans and made famous by her late father's 2010 webcam rant ("you done goofed") — is conspiciously the first to break a million views at KYM. (Dahvie was inoculated from consequences as a result of media amusement at the situation; he got to freely enjoy the 2010s and is still at large.) Read the rest

Satanic Panic 2.0: The Momo Challenge hoax [TW: Self-harm/suicide]

According to reports from gullible parents' organizations, police departments, and media outlets, Kids on the Internet are spreading memes featuring an image of "Momo" (actually a sculpture called "Mother Bird" created by Keisuke Aisawa for the Japanese SFX studio Link Factory) that includes explicit self-harm and suicide instructions (the "challenge" in "Momo challenge" is allegedly to get kids to hurt or kill themselves). Read the rest

One More For the Road: The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats are back!

Back in 2007, Adam "Apelad" Koford created a marvellous, funny, weird alternate history for the then-viral phenomenon of LOLcats, running-gag memes of cats whose superimposed dialog had many odd grammatical quirks: the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats," a pair of comic-strip hobo cats straight out of the 1930s, who found obscure and clever ways to riff on our contemporary LOLcats. Read the rest

Distracted Lego boyfriend

Iain Heath writes, "I recreated the 'distracted boyfriend' meme using LEGO bricks." You certainly did, Iain, and very well, too! Read the rest

'Shut up and take my money,' the wallet

Mass consumer spending season is nearly upon us. The perfect time to load your hard-earned cash into this wallet by Etsy shop DangerRan.

No extra charge for the interior Dick Butt.

Shut up and take my money ($60 of it)!

(nopuedocreer) Read the rest

Put words between buns!

Courtesy of Ian Bogost (previously): a meme generator that puts words between buns!

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The Biology of Disinformation: Interview with Rushkoff, Pescovitz, and Dunagan

Over at Mondo 2000, our old pal RU Sirius interviewed Douglas Rushkoff, Jake Dunagan, and I about the "The Biology of Disinformation," a new research paper we wrote for Institute for the Future about how media viruses, bots and computational propaganda have redefined how information is weaponized for propaganda campaigns. While technological solutions may seem like the most practical and effective remedy, fortifying social relationships that define human communication may be the best way to combat “ideological warfare” that is designed to push us toward isolation. From Mondo 2000:

R.U. Sirius: In a sense, you’re offering a different model than the one most of us usually think in, as regards memetics. Instead of fighting bad memes with good, or their memes with ours, are you suggesting that we look at memes themselves as viruses attacking us? Is that right?

Douglas Rushkoff: Yeah, that’s the simplest way of looking at it. That’s why I called memes in media “media viruses.” Even if they end up forcing important ideas into the cultural conversation, and even if they ultimately lead to good things, they do infect us from the outside. They attack our weak code, and continue to replicate until we repair it, or until we come to recognize the “shell” of the virus itself. I think what makes our analysis unique, compared with a lot of what’s out there, is that we’re not proposing yet another technosolutionist fix. Mark Zuckerberg wants to fight fake news with artificial intelligence. Great.

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The evolution of meme music from 1500 AD to the present

Pianist Lord Vinheteiro's latest tracks selections of meme music from the year 1500 AD to now. You'll hear "Greensleeves," Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9," The Village People's "YMCA," Rick Astley's rickroll hit "Never Gonna Give You Up," and lots more.

It's a fun playlist. Still, why must he stare into our souls?

Previously: The evolution of music from 1680 to 2017 Read the rest

"The Biology of Disinformation," a paper by Rushkoff, Pescovitz, and Dunagan

My Institute for the Future colleagues Douglas Rushkoff, Jake Dunagan, and I wrote a research paper on the "Biology of Disinformation" and how media viruses, bots and computational propaganda have redefined how information is weaponized for propaganda campaigns. While technological solutions may seem like the most practical and effective remedy, fortifying social relationships that define human communication may be the best way to combat “ideological warfare” that is designed to push us toward isolation. As Rushkoff says, "adding more AI's and algorithms to protect users from bad social media is counterproductive: how about increasing our cultural immune response to destructively virulent memes, instead?" From The Biology of Disinformation:

The specter of widespread computational propaganda that leverages memetics through persuasive technologies looms large. Already, artificially intelligent software can evolve false political and social constructs highly targeted to sway specific audiences. Users find themselves in highly individualized, algorithmically determined news and information feeds, intentionally designed to: isolate them from conflicting evidence or opinions, create self-reinforcing feedback loops of confirmation, and untether them from fact-based reality. And these are just early days. If memes and disinformation have been weaponized on social media, it is still in the musket stage. Sam Woolley, director of the Institute for the Future’s (IFTF) Digital Intelligence Lab, has concluded that defenders of anything approaching “objective” truth are woefully behind in dealing with computational propaganda. This is the case in both technological responses and neuro-cultural defenses. Moreover, the 2018 and 2020 US election cycles are going to see this kind of cognitive warfare on an unprecedented scale and reach.

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Youtube Face: the visual vocabulary of broad facial expressions dictated by Google's Algorithm Gods

You've probably seen the Youtube Face; it's that extreme facial expression (disgust, ecstasy, hilarity, etc) depicted in the thumbnails of Youtubers' would-be-viral videos, especially reaction videos. Read the rest

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