RE: and a few I missed yesterday

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Wed 11 Jun 2003 - 10:59:40 GMT

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    Thanks again, Derek,for these refs.

    Far be it from me to critique an article from an abstract... but I couldn't leave this one alone:

    <Inhibiting Imitative Terrorism through Memetic Engineering
     Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, June 2003, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 61-66(6)
      Pech R.J.>

    The title's a bit of a giveaway, isn't it?

            <Some acts of terrorism are the consequence of an
    > individual or group's imitation of an act of
    > terrorism,>
            Define imitation, and provide evidence to show that an an act is a direct imitation, and not simply the same act. (Unless every person who shoots someone else, is copying Dirty Harry, or some other mediated act of shooting).

            <which has previously been publicised
    > through the media.>
            What I particularly like about this is the presumption that media content is available to everyone everywhere, and therefore that's the way, the copycat finds out about the trigger event. So suicide bombers in Kabul, or Algeria, or Iraq, must be doing it because they see it in Palestine via al-jazeera, or perhaps we should be blaming CNN or the BBC World Service.

            <Media reports of terrorism appear to be rising, feeding a potentially increasing number
    > of imitative behaviours.>
            'Appear'? You've got to be a bit more exact with the evidence to back that claim up, and besides reporting of terrorism, is not the same thing as depicting the acts.

            <Such reports may provide individuals who are frustrated, angry, suicidal and/or
    > suffering from personality disorders>
            Well, at least they get the predisposition thing in there, not that it slows them down,

            <with the means>

            Oh, so reading the NY Times (OK bad choice, since it's all made up and robbed from other sources) gives people the home-made bombs of the suicide bombers, or maybe flying lessions for a commercial airliner.

            <and the motivation>

            Oh hang on, I thought they were acknowledging predisposition, but now this is suggestion significant psychological change through media exposure, leading to behavioural change, a really flawed notion (and, at the very least, very difficult to demonstrate empirically, despite the regulat bullshit from the APA , amongst others, about media violence)

            <to copy what is perceived to be a method of gaining attention>

            Well, perhaps, but what such writers always miss is that such actions are consistently and routinely framed as negative events- terrible acts etc., so the attention gained is not positive coverage- and if the coverage can affect behaviour, then the nature of coverage can't be ignored.

            <or what is perceived to be an acceptable method of venting anger and frustration.>

            This is the argument about suicide contagion isn't it, essentially that reports of someone doing something an audience member was considering gives the green light by means of suggesting the acceptability of the act. As above though, the nature of the coverage, if it's having that much affect on behaviour, must play a part.

            <Through memetic engineering, the interpretations that
    > are placed upon acts of violence can be manipulated to
    > appear undesirable to even the most unbalanced minds,
    > which it is argued, should inhibit the spread of
    > imitative terrorism.>
            Rubbish. This kind of thing reminds me why I changed jobs, so I didn't have to teach all those dodgy people wanting to become PR professionals (some of them were quite nice people to talk to, to be fair).

            The blithe manner in which some disciplines are throwing around memetic engineering as if it were an actual tool, is astonishing. I think they're using the term as a front for propaganda, just like the advertising people are using the term viral marketing simply to sidestep industry watchdogs (there was a piece in The Independent about this last week) so they can put dodgy ads on the web.


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