One definition of 'insanity' is using socially acceptable methods to do socially unacceptable things.
-- 12-step saying
What is 'Bullying'?
Bullying is thought of as the use of force or influence to coërce a person into behaving in a certain way. This is exactly what immunomenes do in order to defend the memetic system (or memeplex) they are a part of. A key concept is the irrationality of this defense, or rather, the arationality. Memes may be rational or irrational as suits their purpose, which is ultimately survival and propagation to more minds. Memes are by the same token also alogical, i.e., they may use logic or not as it suits them.
Memeplexes are Conservative
Memeplexes seek to maintain their hold over a given memetic environment (the fabric of the collected subconscious minds of a given population), and so their immunomemes seek to maintain the status quo, to suppress anything that is perceived as trying to change it. Obviously the mechanism for this is the attacking of any memes, action memes or signal (information) memes that do not conform to the prevailing system. What does this mean? Memes "succeed" when they are able to copy themselves to other minds, such that those other minds copy or imitate them, or at the very least, are receptive to other minds imitating them without resisting. Immunomemes succeed when they prevent novel or alien memes from succeeding, but how can they do this? They must convince the would-be receptor / imitator minds not to accept the new meme. There are a couple of ways to do this: one is to supply a more attractive meme that is accepted instead, that fits exactly into the same "memetic nexus" as the hopeful new meme, thereby supplanting it before the fact, and the other way is to convince the would-be receptor mind that accepting the new meme would be a Bad Idea, i.e., associated with a Skinnerian pain reflex that one will be injured, killed, humiliated, etc. Public executions must be effective in this effort, by the way.
In fact, the two are really the same thing. The meme that "you will be beaten to death if you dress like a gay," for example, is a thinly-veiled threat from some unknown quarter, but it's really from everybody, i.e., everybody inured of the prevailing memetic system, or "you'll grow hair on your palms if you masturbate", or "you'll go insane if you smoke marijuana", or "you're a whore if you don't wear a bra", are also implied threats of ridicule or violence if committing the behavior. But these are just memes themselves. They displace the memes like "I can dress how I want" or "I can have the kind of sex life I want" or "I can say what I want" (without fear of violence or ridicule) from a given memetic nexus and take that place themselves.
Memes are supported by other memes. The "God meme" can support immunomemes such as those against masturbation or smoking marijuana, which might otherwise be vulnerable to the fact that they are demonstrably ridiculous. A person who masturbates or who smokes marijuana will soon discover that the promised insanity or hairy palms fail to eventuate, and since these both may be private activities, they can avoid the hail of immunomemes from the inured larger population. The meme dies because an isolated individual has much lower "memetic inertia" and is less beholden to the memetic system and is able to see its ridiculous aspects and how they run counter to his own self-interests and pleasures, do a bit of meta-memetic self-examination (or "memetic hacking"), and engage in "anti-social" (counter to the memeplex) behavior.
One (passive) way in which a memetic system may defend itself against, or immunize itself against invading novel, alien memes is "packing the memespace", i.e., the creation of many more-or-less useless, even wasteful memes whose main or only purpose is to occupy memetic nexuses so that they are difficult to take over and occupy. The marginal yet characteristic details of a culture or sub-culture may be examples of this, and of course such memes can network with other "filler" memes and "real" memes in a mutually-supportive web.
The Mass-Slaughter of Catastrophic Ideological Change
Bullying also applies to the instances where entire populations undergo an ideological shift, which may be more precisely described as a major change in their prevailing memetic system. We say that memeplexes are highly conservative in nature, and so they seem to be, and the evidence is that when imposing a major change, or replacing a preëxisting ideology, or system-wide memeplex (omnimemeplex), e.g. changes such as the Soviet and Chinese Communist revolutions, the rise of Naziïsm, the French Revolution, the creation of the American State, the creation of Mormonism, the creation of Christianity for that matter, etc. have all been accompanied by huge numbers of deaths, even into the tens of millions, often in the form of mass slaughter as opposed to outright warfare.
There is a Chinese expression: "Kill the chicken to frighten the monkeys". As Slavoj Žižek points out, the inability of a given subgroup of a population to access the prevailing ideology leads to violence, and so too, does the exercise of changing the ideology of a population, and it's really the same thing. In an anthropomorphic deconstruction, "you have to kill the people who disagree with you until they are all dead or the rest are terrified into going along with you." As with all anthropomorphic shorthands, there is no "you" or "they" who may be readily identified, and therefore it defies the illumination of mechanism. If we look instead at a system of rules and memes which are imposed, and which are therefor measurable, we can see how they dictate the actions of the imposers, the bullies, and the existing population, presumably many of whom are already sympathetic to the invading memeplex (ideology) and therefore do not run afoul of the immunomenes and action memes of the invading system, which the unfortunate others, e.g., Jews, Royalists, counter-revolutionaries, heretics, or those who are so designated because they are allies of the targeted populations or because they are free-thinkers or simply nostalgic for the old ways, are caught up in and suffer anything and everything from marginalization, imprisonment, even extermination, all of which we have seen and continue to see.
Why does this happen? There is not some "God" or "Patriarchy" or "Big Brother" or even "Secret Police" that is plotting against the targeted individuals and depriving them of their rights, possessions, freedoms, and lives, but instead a collection of individuals who are inured of, infected by the invading or prevailing memeplex, carrying out the actions, the functional memes, of that memeplex and transmitting the signal memes and immunomemes to maintain that system of oppression. This includes denouncing targeted individuals because of what they do and say, or even just for existing, aggressions and micro-aggressions which are sanctioned by the memetic system against targeted minorities, e.g, women, minorities, lower classes, etc., as well as persons, i.e., the police and courts, who actually have power to use state-sanctioned force against the targeted individuals.
A poignant example is our town of Moscow, Idaho -- Ordinance 2002/13 -- which purports to regulate "toplessness" by women. One immunomeme protecting this law is that it applies to men as well as woman, but that is completely false -- men are not mentioned anywhere in the law, which goes into explicit detail of the female anatomy. The point is that the law says, effectively, "...something...something...description of which various parts of the female breast may not be exposed...breastfeeding is somehow okay...police discretion...six months in jail and $500 fine..." In other words, the police are allowed by the law to accost and physically inspect women and arrest them based on their own discretion and the women may be subject to actually quite severe penalties (especially a woman who has a job she would lose if absent for six months or doesn't have a lot of money or access to same). Basically, it's a law against women.
Why do I harp on this? The police, and indeed, people who might complain, have their discretion as to whether the topless woman is attractive and should be let to carry on, or is a minority and so her showing a bit of skin just under her armpit could make her the target of (sanctioned) racist bullying. A woman who is wealthy and/or connected does not have to fear as much as a woman who has little money or support should she be targeted by this law, which she probably would not be anyway. Again, we see that popular people are less at risk, while those who are not are subject to bullying, i.e., the police and general population can decide to bully or not, since there is no harm to persons or property in question. Also, Americans breastfeed much, much less than the rest of the world, stopping at six months, typically, so would a woman who was breastfeeding a child of four (average for the world over) be targeted because it was not legal breastfeeding or because others were complaining (bullying) or the police used his discretion (bullying again).
Ultimately it is "too expensive" to employ or indoctrinate an oppressor class who is solely responsible for the oppression of targeted sub-populations. The targeted population will get better and better at interacting with the designated oppressors, constantly trying to get out from under, the oppressors will get lazy, etc. The targeted population needs to begin to oppress themselves, to internalize their oppressive behaviors (and memes). There are many examples of this.
One example I find interesting is American women's obsession with "peeing standing up." This is a terrific example of internalized oppression and its relationship to "memetic stickiness". The biological fact that human females have to "squat to pee" in order to avoid getting urine all over themselves is a sign in the simiotic sense, i.e., it distinguishes men from women, is an irremovable biological fact of being a human female, and thus can be said to be "memetically sticky". What this means is that memes can be and are "stuck" to it, e.g., in the context of American sexist misogyny having to "squat to pee" is seen as somehow "inferior" as opposed to being able to "stand up to pee" being a sign of superiority.
The problem is that the argument devolves into whether it is in fact better or worse to be able to pee standing up or to have to squat down to pee. This very discussion is a classic example of internalized oppression, i.e., the very memes that support this pseudo-dialectic are the ones that attach to women (and men) and make them seem inferior. The same could be said of memes that put forth that Europeans are "prettier" than, say, Africans and East Asians, i.e., attach to the memetically sticky physical differences between these peoples, and make that a basis for their oppression, and arguing about what is ostensibly an aesthetic distinction in fact reënforces the oppression and racism, and even the victims' efforts to argue that they are just as beautiful or more beautiful than the oppressors or whomever, is accepting that this ultimately racist distinction is a valid one. Why? From a memetic standpoint, by harping on this artificial distinction, i.e., which race is "prettier" or "has better hair" or is standing up to pee better fuels all of the memes in the associated memetic sub-system of oppression.
The worse one is when every other month the pop-crypto-pseudo-feminist magazines such as Bust or Bitch, print how "at last, women can pee standing up". They are pushing all women to internalize the idea that it is inferior to squat down to pee, that men are better (because they can stand up to pee), and women can be (almost) as good as men with some new device or technique or something. All of the memes that oppress women, that they are not as good because of inherent biological properties they cannot escape, are flying around and getting reproduced, supported, and propagated everywhere.
A footnote is that I was surprised when going out in the woods hiking with New Zealand female friends and they would just pop behind a tree to take a pee and then carry on like it was no big deal. However, a common refrain with American women, picked up by women and men alike, is the drama of having to find a proper restroom which infects the typical American hiking or tour group. Again, an avalanche of memes that support the oppression, keeping it very much toward the forefront and unquestioned, and, not surprisingly, it's highly culturally centered.
Authors / Creators are Vulnerable
Artists, authors, and other creators, even if they are not "social critics", risk being made targets of the immunomemetical bullying associated with any memetic system (ideology). The question is what form does their victimization take? If an author has been published, then at some point their ideas become part of the accepted memetic system. This is perceived as true, but it is also true in a real memetic sense, in that the memes (words, books) they create are being copied and reproduced everywhere, and if they are a best-seller then by definition a large number of people have bought and read these memes and presumably many of them copied them because they tell their friends to get the book, too. A successful author may be criticized, but after a certain point they may no longer be bullied memetically since they have become part of the memetic system themself [sic].
One tragic result for a successful author or creator having become part of the memetic system is that they may no longer have the freedom to have new ideas, ideas that depart from the original creations that got them famous in the first place. To have an original idea puts them back into a similar situation to before they got recognized -- the bullying memes, the immunomemes of the system that previously resonated with their accepted ideas, are still vigilant to protect the system. A cult of personality may be where the system adapts to the minute-by-minute pronouncements and actions of the Fearless Leader (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, et al), but those are rare, if they exist at all.
Any author that writes in line with the prevailing memes of the memeplex in which they find themselves, i.e., not going against any of them, trying to replace them, etc., is acceptable. However, any meme that runs afoul of same is attacked. That is the reflex. It's that simple. The easiest way is to hide what one is doing under a veneer of the prevailing memes. Back in the day, that was the only way to get published (or to stay out from under the headsman's axe).
Disappointingly enough, and any semi-advanced language learner knows the feeling, some of these immunomemes can take pretty pedestrian forms. Any bit of writing (or speech) takes liberties, even at the purely technical level. Neologisms, deliberate plays on spelling and punctuation, are all invitations to bullying. This is the go-to response from native speakers when one is trying to learn their language -- any departure is taken as "a mistake". Speculating on how human relationships might work differently, suspensions of disbelief, and so forth, are comparably suspect. Writing is very slippery. Just like with live comedy, there is a certain assumption of willing, even active, participation on the part of the reader. If the reader refuses to give that participation, it can be a form of bullying, and there does not have to be a good reason, as with all bullying. It's ironic, since the ostensible purpose of "art" is to express ideas in a new and different way, to challenge and elevate the observer, but the observer does not have to participate, even if they say they are going to, that they are willing. A sympathetic reader is just like someone who shelters an enemy of the state from the Gestapo -- they are part of the system and at the same time willing to question it. This turns out to be rare.
The Metamemetics of "Free Speech"
The idea that "we are a free country" or "we have free speech" are almost certainly false, but in what sense? For example, the idea that since we don't burn people at the stake for "heresy" or shoot them for criticizing the state means that we have "free speech" is a meme. These notions are often accompanied amicably by other memes such as "...but we have to maintain standards of decency," but those "standards of decency" are enforced by the state, by the police. As mentioned, being a woman is effectively illegal in Moscow, Idaho, as in many other places. The existence of the very real immunomemes against people seizing personal power or engaging in unhindered personal expression are protected by other immunomemes that pretend these former memes don't exist, and thereby protect the functional memes of the society, that is, since we absolutely support the idea of individual rights and personal freedom of speech and so forth (so the immunomemes tell us, reality notwithstanding), the prevailing memes, e.g., Christianity (often fundamentalist), marriage in the heterosexual nuclear family, modern medicine, misogynist sexism, racism, unrestrained capitalism, etc., etc., must be "right", i.e., they are somehow "winning out" against other ideologies which, since they are "free to compete on a level playing field", must be inferior, otherwise they would predominate, and they clearly don't. QED*
* another meme, by the way.