Re: virus: MEME UPDATE: To Censor Or Not?
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 11:28:43 -0600 (CST)

On Mon, 9 Dec 1996, Richard Brodie wrote:

> - Should we censor ads for tobacco and other harmful products?
> - Book Review: Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins
> - Movie Review: Mother Night
> - Event calendar


> "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the
> press..."
> I find myself in the uncomfortable position of questioning the wisdom of
> the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, a tenet safely
> lodged in most people's esteem somewhere above Motherhood and the right
> to root for your favorite sports team. Somewhere in my study of
> memetics, I came to the stunning but rational realization that tobacco
> advertising might be causing a lot of unnecessary suffering in this
> world.
> Is advertising effective at changing people's behavior -- specifically,
> at getting them to buy where they wouldn't before? Decade after decade
> and billion after billion spent on advertising tells me the answer must
> be yes, as does the whole theory of memetics. Advertising works by
> planting memes in your mind, or reinforcing ones already there. Without
> the stimulus of ten or a hundred images of Coke daily, the soda drinker
> might drift off to a competing brand. Those carefully engineered images
> presented on our TV screens tell our reptilian brains that Coke is the
> brand of the leader of the pack, who has all the power, the freedom, the
> girls...
> But we are smarter than that, aren't we? We are intelligent enough to
> view a TV commercial and then decide for ourselves what to buy...aren't
> we? Why all this fuss about advertising for harmful products, about
> movies and programs depicting violence, about Beavis and Butt-Head
> displaying moral decadence? Can't responsible people think for
> themselves, and responsible parents guide their children, despite the
> nightly memetic irradiation?
> I would like to believe that we can think for ourselves. And yet, the
> statistics show us that as a group we are sheep. Although from my point
> of view I see myself taking in information, sorting through it, and
> making my own choices, when we have a thousand of us or a million or
> five billion, we behave predictably as a result of the advertisers'
> influence. Studies show that when a high-profile suicide is reported,
> for the next few days there is a predictable blip upward in the suicide
> rate wherever the story was reported. And these are not just a clump of
> suicides waiting to happen, triggered early by the news -- these are
> EXTRA suicides, people who would not have taken their lives had not the
> news story been reported.

Richard Brodie, the incidence of level-3 thinkers in our society is so
low that statistics won't detect their influence on a large scale. The
8effects you report above are a direct result of the vast majority of
people in the above cultures being level-2 thinkers.

There is a drastic correlation [<100%!] between level-2 thinking and
"sheep mentality". I see this every day among the grad students I work with.
The CoV seems to automatically select against this--something about who
would even consider this list.

The research I have read suggests that level-1 thinking is usually
incompatible with "sheep mentality".

> So the same can be said for tobacco advertising. In the years since
> television advertising for cigarettes was banned in the U.S., smoking
> rates in this country dropped rapidly. But in the mid-'80s, as tobacco
> companies found alternative methods of marketing, rates for the youngest
> smokers began rising again. As more and more details come out in
> congressional hearings, the ugly question is raised with surprising
> courage by President Clinton: should we limit the freedom of speech of
> tobacco companies by eliminating much of their ability to advertise?
> Imagine if cigarettes could be sold only in plain white boxes with
> "cigarettes" stamped on the box. No attractive packaging, no studly
> Marlboro Man (who died a few years ago of smoking-related illness), and
> certainly no child-enticing, rhinophallic Joe Camel. Would it make a
> difference? I have to think so. Is it an unreasonable affront to our
> freedom? That's a much more difficult question.
> With any censorship, the ultimate question is "who decides?" While we
> might be happy at first to see a "Harmful Products Advertising Act"
> censoring tobacco and alcohol (and later other drugs as they are
> inevitably legalized), what is to prevent the new government Department
> of Censorship from declaring something YOU want to sell harmful? Look
> the wrong way at the Assistant Censor General and I might find MEMETICS
> suddenly declared too harmful to permit me to talk about it!

Science and mathematics are also very high on the list of things that
would be censored by the Assistant Censor General. Reality refuses to be
Politically Correct; both science and mathematics take their orders from
Reality, not Ideology.

[At least when they work. When Ideology dictates the above, they are
smashed by Reality into not working. The search for the nonplanet
Vulcan was driven by an effort to save Newtonian mechanics; the search
for the nonexistent ether was driven by an effort to save the Galilean
transform for mechanics (Maxwell's equations are incompatible with it).
Classic instances of Ideology dictating science, which promptly failed
to work because it defied Reality.]


/ Towards the conversion of data into information....
/ Kenneth Boyd