Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of 3 (1988, updates 2002)

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu Feb 14 2002 - 02:44:09 GMT

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    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 21:44:09 -0500
    From: Keith Henson <>
    Subject: Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of 3 (1988, updates 2002)
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    At 03:51 PM 13/02/02 -0500, you wrote:
    >In a message dated 2/10/2002 11:23:12 AM Central Standard Time, Keith Henson
    ><> writes:
    > > But a good fraction of the memes that make up human culture fall into
    > > the categories of political, philosophical, or religious. A rationale
    > > for the spread and persistence for these memes is a much deeper problem.
    > > The spread of some memes of these classes at the expense of others is of
    > > intense concern to many readers of Reason. If we are to be effective at
    > >
    > > [This article was originally written for Reason, a Libertarian magazine.
    > > few years earlier I wrote Star Laws for them. Between the time I talked
    > > the editor about it and the time I sent the article in, there was a
    > change
    > > in management and the article was rejected. ("Star Laws Arel" will find
    > > this article in Google Groups if you want to read it.)]
    >Hi Keith.
    >I don't know if this is beyond Reason, but the next time you send an article
    >to a Libertarian magazine, you might try a title such as "Memes, Meta-Memes,
    >and Markets." I heard about the furor that your article caused with the new
    >editors at Reason. When Thought Contagion came out, it got scathing and
    >inaccurate reviews from Libertarian activists writing in three magazines! The
    >magazines were Reason, Liberty, and Free Inquiry. The latter is not a
    >Libertarian magazine, but the reviewer Thomas Flynn was a Libertarian

    I really appreciate the history! Let me add a bit to it.

    I guess it would have been the election of 1988, or possibly 1992, not
    sure. In any case it was the year Harry Browne was running for VP on the
    Libertarian ticket. Someone had handed him a copy of Memes, MetaMemes and
    Politics. He was much taken by it and called me up, asking me to submit
    the rejected article to Liberty, wanted to hold workshops on it, etc.

    After the rejection at Reason, I was not keen to send it to Liberty, but
    Browne talked me into it. Again, memory is kind of dim on this, but I
    think I sent them a paper copy. I don't remember if I called them a few
    weeks later or the other way around, but I remember getting a really
    hostile blast from the editor of Liberty--which I thought was really odd
    after having been asked to send them a copy by a national candidate of the
    Libertarian party. He was really upset about it. Seems he blasted Browne
    as well. Next time I talked to him, he had way cooled of on the idea.

    The rejections from the libertarian publications was odd in another way,
    they could not express what their problem with the concepts of memetics was.

    It was similar, now that I think about it, to the total rejection of even
    the *thought* by a scientologists of applying any kind of scientific
    measurement (such as double blind) to scientology. In fact, scientologists
    go further. Their minds completely reject the possibility that such tests
    are needed for *anything.* The ones who post on the net can't even
    describe why you have to take care while making people related
    measurements. It is quiet odd, and I have remarked on it in a number of
    postings over a few years.

    I wonder a bit if what we see in both of these cases is that intense
    dedication to a meme leaves you highly defensive about topics which even
    hint that the meme that the focus of you life might be just one of the
    crowd and not the revealed TRUTH OF THE UNIVERSE.

    Another example of people rejecting the very idea of memetics was the
    Skeptics. I wrote very early, 1984 or 1985 to them about a memetics
    article. If I remember correctly, that article was eventually published in
    two parts in the Bay Area Skeptics magazine in 1985 or 1986. The Skeptics
    magazine eventually had a meme article more than a decade after I wrote one
    for them. I don't remember the details about why Free Inquiry had a
    problem with memetics. It may have been due to the single person you mention.

    >I believe it was someone at Reason who told me that they still
    >remembered your rejected article 10 years later!
    >--Aaron Lynch

    Yea Ghods!

    The concept has run into a bit of opposition. Well, it didn't do them a
    bit of good to reject it. I posted it on the net and while the count may
    be down now, at one time there were at least a dozen web sites where you
    could find it. Memetics may not have taken hold at the level of the major
    magazines, but it sure has among the people to whom being a libertarian is
    just part of a whole complex of future oriented memes.


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