Memetics–A Growth Industry in US Military Operations
TITLE: Memetics—A Growth Industry in US Military Operations
AUTHOR: Major Michael B. Prosser, United States Marine Corps
THESIS: Tomorrow’s US military must approach warfighting with an alternate mindset that is prepared to leverage all elements of national power to influence the ideological spheres of future enemies by engaging them with alternate means—memes—to gain advantage.
• Defining memes. Memes are "units of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation," and as ideas become means to attack ideologies. Meme-warfare enters into the hotly contested
battlefields inside the minds of our enemies and particularly inside the minds of the undecided.
• Formations charged with Information Operations (IO) Psychological Operations (PsyOps), and Strategic Communications (SC) provide an existing construct for memes and the study of memes, memetics, to grow and mature into an accepted doctrinal discipline.
• Epidemiology of insurgency ideology. Using the analogy that ideologies possess the same theoretical characteristics as a disease (particularly as complex adaptive systems), then a similar method and routine can/should be applied to combating them. Memes can and should be used like medicine to inoculate the enemy and generate popular support.
• Private sector meme application. 3M Corporation employed an innovation meme designed to cultivate an employee culture, which accepts and embraces innovation in product development. As a practical matter, 3M executives endorsed and employed the lead user process in new product development, which translated into a thirty percent profit increase. The innovation meme was key to 3M’s profit increase.
• The proposed Meme Warfare Center (MWC). The MWC as a staff organization has the primary mission to advise the Commander on meme generation, transmission, coupled with a detailed analysis on enemy, friendly and noncombatant populations. The MWC aims for a full spectrum capability of meme generation, analysis, quality control/assurance and organic transmission apparatus. The proposed MWC structure lays in stark contrast to the ad hoc nature of current IO and JPOTF formations.
CONCLUSION: Cognitive scientists, cultural anthropologists, behavior scientists, and game theory experts must be included as professional meme-wielding-gunfighters on future battlefields. The US must recognize the growing need for emerging disciplines in ideological warfare by ‘weaponeering’ memes. The Meme Warfare Center offers sophisticated and intellectually rich capability absent in current IO, PsyOps and SC formations and is specifically designed to conduct combat inside the mind of the enemy. Memes are key emerging tools to win the ideological metaphysical fight .
Memes - The Clinical Approach
Some defense think tanks and contractors have latched onto the meme construct and offered a useful method to analyze contemporary military problems, namely insurgency ideology. In this sense, the theoretical idea of memes in insurgency describes a method of analyzing cultural ideas, isolating them into parts,
and with a clinical approach revealing how an insurgency meme spreads and replicates itself (essentially an epidemiological approach). This analysis of meme application highlights how the insurgency meme replicates and spreads like a disease. The clinical disease analogy for the spread of memes infers a further metaphorical connection to the development and spread of ideologies.
A Proposed Future - The Meme Warfare Center
“Deep in the confined spaces of the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) Col Peepers is furiously grinding out the latest memes needed for the next operation. He arrives at the brief and sits beside the Commanding General as the Meme Management Officer (or the Senior Information Integration Advisor). The CG’s briefing is
designed for three main purposes. First, the briefing reviews original mission guidance, Rules of Engagement (ROE) and then frames the context for how subsequent mission guidance will be transmitted to
subordinate units. [think in terms of “No better friend, no worse enemy”, or “First do no harm”].13 Second, to review current battlefield memes, including a review of memes from the Meme Engineering Cell (MEC), Meme Analysis Cell (MAC) and Meme
Communications Cell (MCC). Third, and perhaps most important, to review and assess enemy and noncombatant reactions to the latest meme-set (the feedback loop). This critical review by the CG will produce updated internal mission guidance, identify mediums for
meme distribution, in order to influence the enemy and local noncombatants within the Area of Operations (AO).”