Re: virus: Meme Update #29: Copycat Shootings

Sodom (
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 18:37:33 -0400

Once again, I don't see evidence "TV saturates us with desires that are undesirable". A great majority of TV does not do that, but what does, like the shootings, gets extra press. The exposure to violence and "bad" things is a permanent fixture of culture. As someone who has witnessed death first hand, I can say that television does NOT do the subject justice.

Once again, I'm willing to bet that sexual predation was more common at any time before now than it is now, along with shootings and the other concerns voiced here. Everyone one of us has heard of "Rape and Pillage" which until recently was the main mode of war, and in many places still is. We now see rape and pillage as a definite bad policy and everyone would agree, whether you see it or read it. Before our time, most people on the planet experienced famine, war, pestilence and other major issues personally, now most of us will NEVER experience these things directly. Television is NOT a substitute for the real thing, and since the science of video and audio transmission is responsible for a lot of our crime prevention now. There are many, many opportunities to see educational, non violent television, public broadcasting and just plain quality television. The themes are the same, good guy vs bad guy. The good guys still win, usually with some moral attached - even if it is "crime doesn't pay" I would argue that the medium as as whole is partly responsible for less violent society that exists today. The copy cats are "collateral damage" to a very good end.

So to say that "TV saturates us with behaviors that are mainly undesirable" is not an empirical statement but a personal one along the same lines as the right is attempting to demonstrate. I am not suggesting that you are one of "them" haha, but that this meme has got you. If we were to measure how many times these negative images were glorified, and by glorification I mean more than loud - I mean pictured in the media as favorable, then I think you would find almost all the protagonists in the story lines against the negative actions and rewarded as such. Certainly there are exceptions, but rarely. To some people, notably Dan Quail, Murphy Brown was about as negative an image that could be portrayed, yet you or I most likely would suggest the opposite.

So in closing, I suspect that imitation spans the entire gambit of what we see and experience. That our taste for violence is becoming more and more detached to the point where almost everyone would rather see it on TV then participate (which I think is the only other historical option). Reed and I think Eric, pointed out a while back that it was getting increasingly difficult to get people to kill (we disagreed on the genetic issue, but agreed on the memetic issue). Television has made it more difficult for 99% of the population to commit violence as it has become a substitute for behavior. The remaining 1% fall outside of sanity as far as I am concerned, and would jump at any option. Like the suicide story you brought up - the remaining 1% may not have committed suicide had they not read the story, but they would have imitated something else - maybe fatally, maybe not.

Bill Roh

admittedly speculating a bit.

James Veverka wrote:

> Message Sender: From:
> (Richard Brodie) Date: Thu, Jun 17, 1999,
> 4:45pm (EDT-3) To: Subject: RE: virus: Meme Update
> #29: Copycat Shootings Reply to:
> Richard Brodie wrote:
> >I agree with what you say. The main problem
> >is that TV saturates us with behaviors that
> >are largely undesirable: conflict,
> >violence, sexual predation -- because
> >these attract viewers.
> And in all this is the culture of retribution. With the hero and the
> villian of the story in the perfect setting, we are beset with a
> mutation of the rule of law. We see punishment that is way out of
> proportion: cruel and unusual. We experience vicarious vigilantism. We
> see revenge and pay-back as a way of life . By way of caricaturing the
> villians as hateful pondscum sociopaths we are invited to join in on the
> judgement of this evil menace. The character illicits rage and passion
> from the audience. LETS KILL THE BASTARD SLOWLY! ................
> "you'll get yours"......jim
> What a lesson! What's on next?
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Subject: RE: virus: Meme Update #29: Copycat Shootings
> Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 16:45:03 -0700
> From: "Richard Brodie" <>
> Reply-To:
> To: <>
> Bill,
> I agree with what you say. The main problem is that TV saturates us with
> behaviors that are largely undesirable: conflict, violence, sexual
> predation -- because these attract viewers.
> Richard Brodie
> Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme"
> Free newsletter!
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Sodom
> Sent: Thursday, June 17, 1999 12:25 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: virus: Meme Update #29: Copycat Shootings
> Richard, It seems like you have given this some thought, here is my question
> to
> you. How are copycat shootings or suicides or whatever any different from
> most
> other types of learned behavior. It just seems to be a lot more basic than
> the
> press spreading the info along. If one child sees another playing with
> matches
> and burning his hands, despite seeing the pain, I'll bet the kid still will
> pick
> up the matches and proceed to burn himself. The only difference I see is
> that
> the media can spread the word faster. I think all I am saying is that if an
> idea
> is glorified in any way, others copy it. The message is irrelevant other
> than a
> short and simple message is probably more effective than a complicated one.
> I
> don't think the media is naive - I do think that their reasons are good
> ones - I
> simply think that they don't weigh the costs to humanity against the
> benefits
> cash. Lets face it, people want to believe and to be led - they want to
> think
> that what the professor, teacher, preacher and news man (or woman) are
> telling
> them is the truth. People like to think that a Judge or News person,
> celebrity
> have some sort of insight we regular people lack. I don't think I can make
> the
> proper logical connections so the next statement is pure speculation: I
> think
> that "self respect and/or self confidence" plays a large role in copy cat
> behavior due to a lack of self trust when confronted with information that
> is
> glorified. Many of us have an almost knee-jerk reaction to ideas that don't
> seem
> reasonable on the face of things, and that our self confidence helps us to
> question what we are told helps and to protect against copy cat behavior.
> Bill Roh