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

Date: Thu Feb 14 2002 - 04:03:31 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of 3 (1988, updates 2002)"

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    Subject: Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of 3 (1988, updates 2002)
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    In a message dated 2/13/2002 8:53:49 PM Central Standard Time, Keith Henson
    <> writes:

    > >Hi Keith.
    > >
    > >I don't know if this is beyond Reason, but the next time you send an
    > >to a Libertarian magazine, you might try a title such as "Memes,
    > >and Markets." I heard about the furor that your article caused with the
    > >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
    > >activist.
    > 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
    > 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,
    > 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
    > 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
    > 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.
    > Keith

    Thanks for the enriched history, Keith.

    Another little tidbit: as if for good measure, Reason placed part of its
    scathing and inaccurate review on the Thought Contagion page at It seems likely that they send all their reviews to, though, since they are very eager to spread their ideas.

    The points you raise about how memetics may be ideologically
    threatening to a growing movement are good ones. In the case of the
    Libertarians, there may be another consideration: that the theory
    suggests that not all the major problems and misbeliefs of society can
    be traced to the actions of governments, and that populations can go
    astray even without the action of a central authority.

    From what Scott says, it appears that the furor at Reason and at
    Liberty happened long after you wrote the article. That is, assuming
    that I correctly remember you having started to circulate the article
    sometime around 1986. If 1996 was the year of the big flap at
    Reason and at Liberty, then the whole thing would have been a very
    current and emotional memory to them by the time they got my book in

    --Aaron Lynch

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