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July 27th, 2006
Thu, Jul. 27th, 2006 09:55 am

Sometimes, almost by accident, we create a pithy phrase that sums up a certain way of looking at things, a way that strikes enough people as accurate that it becomes a meme. If events move in the way our meme predicted -- if tomorrow is even better described by the pithy phrase than yesterday was -- then these memes can even make us slightly famous.

Such seems to be the case with a little phrase I first used in 1991, when I spun Warhol's dictum around and predicted that "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen people." Just yesterday, this phase popped up as the opening sentence in a Christian Science Monitor article about blogging entitled More Creative, Less Political:

"In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 people. When Scottish artist Momus used that phrase back in 1991, he might have had the blogosphere in mind. But even if he didn't, a new report on American bloggers released last Wednesday by the Pew Internet and American Life shows that he was right on the money."

The article goes on to say that most people are blogging about their cat for their family and friends rather than trying to set the world to rights with political analysis, but the history of my "famous-for-fifteen" meme shows that chaos theory really has something: the phrase was first published in an obscure Swedish fanzine called Grimsby Fishmarket in 1992, then picked up two years later by Swedish daily paper Svenske Dagblatt. From there, via my website, which started in 1995, it took over the world. A butterfly really can start a storm.



Speaking of taking over the world, I wonder if, fifteen years hence, the meme I'm best remembered for won't be "Angrael". I first used this phrase right here on Click Opera on March 10th, 2004, in a piece entitled "Anger in Angrael":

"Since the Iraq war I've been lumping Britain, America and Israel together in my mind and calling them Angrael. Angrael is the Anglo-American-Israeli alliance. Angrael is a place I've left, and a place I consider to be 'living wrong', but I'm always fascinated to go back for a glimpse, to guage whether it's changing, and in what ways," I wrote.

The current crisis in the Middle East brings Angrael into even closer focus, as Angrael separates itself ever-more-clearly from world opinion. The situation is described in a leader in today's Guardian entitled "Indulging Folly":

"The conference in Rome yesterday, attended by more than a dozen countries as well the UN, the European Union and the World Bank, offered an opportunity for the diplomats to put together a belated peace package. Predictably, it ended in failure. Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, backed by Britain alone, spent 90 minutes deflecting and then blocking demands by all the other participants for a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire. Instead, the conference ended in fudge, calling for an urgent and sustainable ceasefire, not an immediate one... The US alliance with Israel has been a fact of international life for decades, but seldom has Washington acted so blatantly in support of the country and with such disregard for the rest of the international community."

Attempts in the early stages of the Iraq War to pass Angrael off as a multi-national coalition seem to have given way to a proud isolationism: Angrael against world opinion. Which paraphrases something Noam Chomsky said: "There are now two superpowers on the planet, the U.S. and world opinion. Our hopes should rest in the second superpower."

So will the Angrael meme (currently Google brings up only me using the phrase, and asks "Did you mean angel?") be as big in fifteen years as the 15 minutes one is today? Will the world divide more and more into two camps, Angrael versus everybody else? I certainly hope not.

I hope the whole idea of Angrael becomes an anachronism and gets quietly laid to rest. There are signs that the population of the UK, at least, is getting very sick of being the junior partner in the alliance. An ICM poll this week showed that 63% of the British public think (as I do) that Britain has got too close to the US. With figures like that, Angrael can't last long, can it? We live in a democracy, don't we? Well, let's see.

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