Re: Blue Star (was Re: A Drosophila for cultural evolution)

Bill Benzon (
Mon, 23 Jun 1997 15:26:39 +0000

Date: Mon, 23 Jun 1997 15:26:39 +0000
From: Bill Benzon <>
Subject: Re: Blue Star (was Re: A Drosophila for cultural evolution)

Dave Gross wrote:

> The reasons why the "Blue Star LSD" urban legend is appealing to me
> for
> memetics study include:
> * The reasons that people give for spreading the meme (usually
> 'to warn people of a terrible and hidden danger') are
> unrelated
> in fact to the content of the meme (the warnings are in fact
> untrue in almost every point).

It seems to me that this is a little tricky. Presumably the people who
spread the meme don't know it's false. So just why do they spread it?
Why do they find it credible? Beyond this, there are probably people who
pretty much believe it, but don't spread it. Why not? Are they lazy,
not communty-minded?

And what about people who receive the meme, know it to be false, and
don't try to correct the information?

One urban legend that I've received in email 2 or 3 times (within the
same 2-week period) is that Tommy Hilfinger (or Ralph Lauren, of Donna
Karan) was on the Oprah Winfrey show (or the Tonight Show) and remarked
that, if they'd known their clothing was going to be so popular among
African Americans, they wouldn't have made it so well. The designer was
then asked to leave the set by Oprah (or Jay Leno).

What interests me about this particular meme is that it seems to disable
the media-savy part of people's minds that would tell them that, if this
actually had occurred, it would have been national news and, as such,
been on the front-page of all newspapers, in the news magazines, on TV
news, and on radio. It seems to me that people really have to want to
believe this in order to pass it on. Why?

Alternatively, of course, on can attribute all the power to the meme.
But if you want me to really believe that, show me the code segments
which disable the media-savy part of one's inner database.I should also
say that, when I first read this story, my immediate reaction was "what
a scumbucket! He should rot in hell!" As I was preparing to pass it on I
started thinking and decided the story just wasn't credible. Shortly
thereafter I got email from someone else who'd gotten the story and they
reported it to be an urban legend.

> * It is an ongoing infection, so any theories we put together
> about it can be tested against incoming data. We could also
> seed the 'memetosphere' with new versions of the legend in
> an attempt to test theories.

Interesting. Or we could try to get a new urban legend going.

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