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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

#duffypickuplines: Social Accountability and the Meme Meat Market

Senator Duffy Repays Inappropriate $90K Gift from PM’s Chief of Staff (Received to Repay Inappropriate $90K Expense Claim)

"My place, or my place?"
"You compensate me."

Here's why the Conservative Party of Canada ought to love the Duffy meme - it's a perfect example of everything they used to stand for.  Social accountability? Check! Using highly critical humor to pillory someone you've identified as tax-dollar gobbler? I guess they still kinda do that, unless it's one of their own (but not staff, because they don't count).

Above all, though, the #duffypickuplines meme is a great example of how the free market really works: people are competing to come up with the funniest, most biting line.  Wanting to get public recognition for their wittiness, folk are tweeting and retweeting their lines, while the really catchy ones get mass-tweeted organically.  It also helps to have celebrity endorsements, like a retweet from Andrew Coyne.  Of course, some novel folk come up with the idea of posting rather than retweeting someone's line, trying to sound more witty than they are.  You get a lot of that in the free market, too.

Everyone is producing and consuming in a specific market space, generating demand for more of the same, creating more options for jokes to choose from.

It's the market place for ideas.  And it looks an awful lot like a meat market - the branding, the wingmen and sheer volume is what generates attraction, or failing that - originality.  Money isn't the goal here, as it never is - it's brand, klout, power that has ultimate appeal.  That's why so many people are dedicating unpaid time in trying to one-up each other; it's the status, stupid!

Is any of this useful in terms of economic growth? Perhaps not directly, but the decline of civility, planning and transparency in government hasn't been good either.  The whole meme movement is a modern-day shivaree, reminding the Duffys of the world that new House or not, it's OUR world he lives in and our money he's playing with.  The underlying theme is that of the collective holding an individual accountable.

There's an interesting parallel here; Anonymous couldn't exit without the Internet and is seen as a bit of an E-Vigilante.  Memes, on the other hand, equates to the mob - they don't need to be faceless because they are the face of society.

In response to all this free market of ideas tweetishness, the goal of Team Harper will be to change the channel by attacking something else or convincing themselves waiting it out will work.  Both, oddly enough, are limbic reactions to threat.  Laissez-faire, it would seem, doesn't work so well when accountability's involved.

Meanwhile, someone's sitting at a desk somewhere with a quiet smile, knowing that they got the ball rolling by coming up with the hashtag in the first place.  Everyone's had a laugh and pushed each other further, but by the very act of being selfish, they have promoted the basic message.

There's something in that.
Aaron Lynett / National Post

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