Memes Shape the Story

Note February 2016: Written in 2012 as an explanation of what I meant; still relevant, I think.

Memes function as an epistemological filter determining what the facts and motives are and where to look to find them. The memes told their believers what Moscow’s motives were in the case of Georgia – Moscow’s motive and principle of its actions was an attempt to reverse the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The 2008 war was commonly fitted into the pre-existing story that Moscow was seizing its chance to defeat and humiliate Georgia and regain control over its behavior. But the adherence to the memes, together with the general ignorance of the context and Tbilisi’s ambitions, blinded their adherents to Moscow’s real concern. And that was that Moscow feared that a fire set in Georgia would spread across the mountains into the Russian Caucasus. Moscow feared this in 2008 because it had seen it happen in the 1990s. Moscow feared a repeat of what had already happened once before.