A MEME IS ANYTHING that can be copied from one mind to another. An idea is a meme. A melody is a meme. The custom of shaking hands when you meet is a meme. The word "meme" is a meme and it has just been copied from my mind to yours. Read more about memes here.
The most dangerous kind of terrorism on the planet is Islamic terrorism. The memetic source of Islamic terrorism is a collection of memes called the Koran. Muslims believe the Koran is the word of Allah. They believe this because it says so in the Koran. It also says that a good Muslim must make continual war on all unbelievers until the entire world is subject to Sharia law. Quite a few memes within the Koran enhance and support this premise, and those who follow its teachings to the letter are a threat to freedom and democracy everywhere.
But memes outside the Koran also help the terrorists — memes that exist in non-Muslim minds. For example, the widespread belief that Islam is a religion of peace diverts effort and attention away from the real source of the problem and toward things that will not solve the problem. That's where you come in.
If you will help us spread the word about the Koran, international attention can eventually be turned to solving the real problem. But when you do this, you will get resistance. People will argue with you. An argument is a battle of memes and I want to help you win these battles. I'm not talking about arguing with Muslims about their faith. That is probably close to impossible because the memeplex itself has its own protection, its own "memetic immune system."
But the people you know who are not Muslims and live in a free society probably think Islam is a religion of peace. And they probably don't know much about Islam. What you can do is learn about it (start here) and then tell others about it, and sometimes they will argue with you. Then you can use the principles below.
So here are some rules of engagement that will help us win the long-term war of memes:
1. Don't argue. Don't even think of it as argument. What you're doing is trying to persuade. The responses you think of when you're arguing are sharp and hurtful and belittling. Persuasion responses avoid that and try to win someone over to your way of thinking. That's very different and much more effective. One of the reasons people don't like to discuss things with conflicting opinions is that they argue. Arguing tends to be upsetting. Persuasion can be fun. Read more about the fine art of persuading others here.
2. Use facts. Give your sources. Memorize key facts so you can quote them and say where you got those facts. Facts are the most important weapon in your arsenal. A good way to memorize facts is to mark the pages with little post-it notes as you read (or copy and paste if you're reading online). Then record those passages onto a cassette tape or digital recorder, and listen to it while you drive. When you've listened to something six or seven times, you will be able to bring the exact facts to a discussion with confidence. Or you can buy audiobooks. You can also find good sources online.
3. Remain calm. Cultivate calmness and tranquility. When you find yourself getting fired up, remember this is not an argument. You are persuading, and you can't force acceptance of your ideas. They have to be willingly accepted by the other. And people are more swayed by calm understatement than intensity and overstatement. In order to truly stay calm, you will have to be calm in your life, not just in the moment. Read more about becoming a calm person here. When you are calm, you are more persuasive.
4. Good conduct. Use social grace. Good manners. Conduct yourself with class. It is more persuasive.
5. Know what meme you want them to accept. People throw in all kinds of sidetracks and diversions into conversations. Keep clear on one or two simple memes you want them to accept and stay on course.
6. Build concessions slowly, piece by piece. Take smaller parts of the meme that they don't agree with, and convince them with facts that the new understanding is better than the old. Build up these concessions until you can get them to accept the meme you're aiming for. The first concession is your source of facts. Say where you got them and get the other's agreement that your sources are legitimate and authoritative.
7. Be specific. Define your terms. This will make it much easier to stay on track and get partial concessions.
8. Tell them your story. When they say they disagree, simply tell them that you once believed as they do (if this is true and it probably is), and that you slowly and with skepticism were convinced by the facts to change your point of view. This kind of story is very persuasive and prevents you from accidentally making them feel like a fool for not already believing as you do. Here's an example. Here's another example.
9. Be humble. Make it clear you know you don't know it all. Insults or sharp rebukes — or anything that seems to imply that "I know it all and you are grossly uneducated" — has no place in persuasion. It puts emotion up as a defense so new memes cannot can get through. It causes hatred, one-sidedness, and self-righteousness. It even causes wars.
10. Work on one point at a time. Ask "Do you agree with about this small point?
11. Graciously concede those points you agree with. Make it perfectly clear you agree with those points. There is a kind of give-and-take in discussions, and a kind of commerce or reciprocity. If you are willing to concede legitimate points they make and say so, they are more willing to concede legitimate points you make and say so, and so your conversation can get somewhere.
Develop your persuasion skills to do the one thing that needs to be done: Educate the Public.
Read more about memes:
The Meme Machine
Virus of the Mind:: The New Science of the Meme
Read some good answers to common objections you will get: Answers to Objections When You Talk About Islam.