Re: Operationalising Memetics and Jones

Arel Lucas (
Wed, 22 Apr 1998 19:52:05 -0700

Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 19:52:05 -0700
From: Arel Lucas <>
Subject: Re: Operationalising Memetics and Jones

This is an old thread--at least an old message to which I am responding,
but I am finally cleaning out my inbox after finishing my Master's
Project (MLIS)--at least I hope it's finished except for the final
printing & ceremonies.

Interesting to know that someone did the numbers on the Werther Effect.
Anecdotally, I've known for years that at least some in the media at
least at one time in one area felt responsible for this effect. During
the early '80s I worked as a medical secretary in the medical examiner's
office in Pima County, Arizona (Tucson). It was part of my job to
transcribe the examiner's reports of suspicious deaths, including
suicides. I wondered aloud one day why there had been no media reports
of the several suicides during the 5 weeks I was a temp in that office.
I was told that there was a sort of conspiracy of silence not to report
them--even the rather messy jump from the top of a prominent Tucson
hotel--since it was believed that more suicides would be provoked from
the reporting. Someone reading Phillips? Or just people putting 2 and 2
together from personal experience?

On another tack, have I missed seeing anything on this list about the
inadvertently memetic experiment Ron Jones conducted in Palo Alto on his
high-school class? He clearly demonstrated that it is possible to:
a. Extract the basic elements of the Nazi scheme (to use Hofstadter's
term for a structure analogous to a chromosome with memes for genes)
without any memetic training or conscious knowledge of memetic theory;
b. Teach them quickly to a group of adolescents;
c. Cause a rapid contagion of this highly virulent scheme, even to
racial intolerance where there was no explicit articulation of this meme.

Fortunately, he also proved that it is possible to stop a contagion of
this sort--at least at such an early stage and when done by the
acknowledged leader.

Does anyone know of any followup of this remarkable experiment?

Arel Lucas

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