06 October 2007

¡Ché! - a Chaos Marxist "how to" guide

Sometimes I despair a bit about whether what I am writing here will ever bear fruit. But today our friends at the BBC took a look at how the cult of Blessed St Ernesto the Motorcyclist got started, and Dobbsdammit if my intuitions weren't right on the money. Judge for yourself:

"Che Guevara has become a brand. And the brand's logo is the image, which represents change. It has becomes the icon of the outside thinker, at whatever level - whether it is anti-war, pro-green or anti-globalisation"...

The unchecked proliferation of the picture - based on a photograph by Alberto Korda in 1960 - is partly due to a political choice by Korda and others not to demand payment for non-commercial use of the image...

"I deliberately designed it to breed like rabbits... The way they killed him, there was to be no memorial, no place of pilgrimage, nothing. I was determined that the image should receive the broadest possible circulation. His image will never die, his name will never die."...

After Che Guevara's death, an outraged Mr Fitzpatrick furiously reprinted originals of the poster and sent it to left-wing political activist groups across Europe...

"His death was followed by demonstrations, first in Milan and then elsewhere. Very soon afterwards there was the Prague Spring and May '68 in France. Europe was in turmoil. People wanted change, disruption and rebellion and he became a symbol of that change."...

"There is a theory that an image can only exist for a certain amount of time before capitalism appropriates it. But capitalism only wants to appropriate images if they retain some sense of dange..."

Combining capitalism and commerce, religion and revolution, the icon remains unchallenged.

Compare the above with the intuitions I put on this blog back in January:

  • 1. Make your memes open-ended in possible meaning. It's sheer death to a meme to attempt to control how it spreads. If at least some people aren't misusing it or misinterpreting it - if, indeed, it's not being subjected to the merciless application of Rule 34 by /b/tards and their ilk - it doesn't have real power. If you make the meaning plain on the surface - meaning that it has to pass a "conscious mind" filter first - its usefulness will be restricted to people who already agree with you. The fact that capitalist pigs use Ché for advertising is a tribute to his power, as the lady quoted above says. To give another counterexample, mass movements start to suck when the founders start insisting on the right to "bounce" their fanbase - followers of the career of Andrew Eldritch will know what I mean.

  • 2. Leave it noncommercial for as long as possible. Make it a signal that can't be stopped. Are you in this to change the culture or to make a living? Choose, but choose wisely.

  • 3. Invoke often. You can't get this going until you put in the work yourself. Memes don't spread by themselves - you have to get the damn thing out there, not just make it available and assume that people will find it as if by (heh) magic.

  • I would like to add a fourth to this list:

  • 4. A meme needs an environment to grow in. You need to have a receptive audience to give your meme the start it needs. Ché had the mass movement of 1968 to grow to maturity in - but not all of us will be that lucky. On the other hand, Malcolm McLaren said: "if you don't have a scene, you have to start one". In politics, I think we call that cadre-building.

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding blogging here!!!

    I will read everything on this blog - after I get soime sleep (lol).