Re: Operationalising Memetics and Jones

Aaron Lynch (
Thu, 23 Apr 1998 11:22:17 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 11:22:17 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Operationalising Memetics and Jones
In-Reply-To: <>

>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.

Congratulations, Arel.

>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?

Paul has quite an excellent topic here, and I look forward to reading his
paper. Ultimately, the idea of keeping suicides and other mayhem out of the
news seems to be losing out to the channel surfer capture mechanism that I
discuss in my article "Thought Contagion and Mass Belief"

>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?

This sounds interesting too. Do you have any references?

--Aaron Lynch

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