Historical Roots of Mad Cow Culture

Mad Cow Culture has its origins in the outbreak two decades ago of Mad Cow disease (MCD) in England, Europe and to a lesser extent in the U.S.  The metaphor was straightforward; downer, or infected cows were often ground into the feed and fed to other cows that became infected.  All sorts of stories sprung up around this disease. The British press reported that bones of the British dead, soldiers killed in the European wars over the last century or so, had been ground up and mixed with feed for cows and perhaps other farm animals.  Even though only a handful of people contracted Mad Cow disease, the fear spurred profound changes in the British meat industry.

Mad Cow Culture represents a kind of dog-eat-dog world where culture, politics, and reason are being cannibalized, eaten up, half-digested and spat out again in angry tones, memes and forms.

Of course, cultural and political madness have a long and rich history.  And the Cow or the Mad Cow image seems to offer an interesting lens on current societal madness. The challenge for the team is how to overlay the Cow on the current state of madness.  The quick answer is to make sure our Cow look a lot like Donald Trump.  And this Mad Cow needs plenty of room to roam.  Of course, he will spend the requisite time in the barnyard that might be mistaken for one of his political rallies.  This Cow is full of bombast, bullshit and madness. He might seem like our favorite crazy uncle. Cow is his best interlocutor, living inside his head, talking to himself, staring at the barnyard mirror for the longest of times.  In plain view he stitches together his biography, as if it arrived directly from the unconscious.  As a psychologist might say, Mad Cow lives in a “feeling-toned complex,” full of anger, suspicion, deceit and abject narcissism, and spews this stuff all over the barnyard.

The Mad Cow Culture website might well be considered a joke book, a parody of the current political scene, a laugh track for those so inclined.  After all, it is largely rhyming five-liners (Cow Shorts) where everything but the kitchen sink has been dumped for the reader’s pleasure. There are longer narrative pieces (Cow Licks) that appear on the site. These are a way to link up narrative threads and show that Mad Cow Culture is pervasive and unrelenting.