Re: Bali Bombing Meme

From: Bruce Howlett (
Date: Sat 26 Oct 2002 - 02:26:01 GMT

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    I agree that humans are predisposed towards the macabre and spectacular and that news media exploits this unmercifully. But surely those that like to quote "common good" rationales (politicians et al) should be the first to realise that the media reports are producing an effect of their own which may be far more damaging than the original event. I think we need an awareness level, and a to establish an understanding of the balance between reporting news, and dwelling unnecessarily on the suffering and misery which can only further the objectives of the terrorists. True, the "blame" is with the perpetrators, and maybe we should be spending some time trying to understand what motivates them to do such things and address those issues as well.

    The brief discussion we have had on this issue has brought me some clarity of thought. Thank you.


    Bruce Howlett

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Scott Chase
      Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2002 8:28 AM
      Subject: Re: Bali Bombing Meme

    >From: "Bruce Howlett" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: Re: Bali Bombing Meme
    >Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 22:41:33 +1000
    >Hi Scott.
    > >One cannot expect world media not to react to such atrocities such as the
    > >Bali bombing (or the previous events attributed to terrorism). That the
    > >terrorists might feed off the attention just highlights the twists and
    > >of their mental derangement.
    >I agree with what you say, but is there an identifiable memetic event in
    >this process? Eg: is the media attitude to report everything regardless of
    >the consequences a memetic phenomena? I am aware of a self imposed ban in
    >Australian newspaper media on reporting suicides as there is scientific
    >evidence proving such reports cause the suicide rate to increase. While it
    >might be more difficult to measure, the same may be true of terrorism
    >events. I just thought that some people on this list might want to extend
    >this a bit. When this thought first occurred to me, my first reaction was
    >to start writing to politicians to try to get them to reduce the media
    >coverage. But without some scientific rationale they would probably write
    >me off as a nutter.
      I've not been keeping up enough with events in Indonesia and the Phillipines
      where groups like Jemaah Islamiya and Abu Sayyaf (al-Qaeda affiliates) are
      active. The mindset of these militant Islamic extremists might be one place
      to look, regardless of how press coverage may or may not feed their madness.

      With these networks and cells popping up all over, one may want to consult
      the story of Hercules and the Hydra.

      I think it's important to have these stories covered. I'm not sure how
      Australian coverage of the Bali bombing has differed from ours in the U.S.
      We've been dwelling on the "Beltway Sniper" story here which may have
      overwhelmed possible coverage of other important stories. The wanton
      speculation and endless sensationalizing get to be too much to take. It's
      important to keep us updated on the current status of this sniper story, but
      it's also important to cover other events.

      There are times when I like to think of the news folks as vultures hovering
      over the latest carrion or leeches waiting for the next big story to bleed
      dry. In a slow news week a music or movie star caught wanking in a public
      restroom or adult theater would suffice for a media circus. With global
      terrorism on the rise, the wanking stars are safe from being the big story.

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      Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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