Search this site!
     by FreeFind

Meme Update #16

In this issue:
    Movie Review: Wag the Dog
    State of the World Forum
    Subliminal Seduction Update


Happy New Year to all my Meme Update Subscribers! As I'm sure you have noticed, I've taken a couple of months off from writing Meme Updates to enjoy the holidays and my trip to visit my brother in Thailand.

Please feel free to forward, repost, spread, copy, and otherwise disseminate these memes. Subscription information is at the bottom of this letter.

Movie Review: Wag the Dog

It's less than two weeks till Election Day. The President is leading all the polls. Suddenly, you learn that the newspapers are about to break a story that the President, while meeting with a Campfire Girl in the Oval Office, may have gone a bit too far in demonstrating how he used to start fires when he was a Boy Scout. She is accusing him of sexual molestation. Is it true? It doesn't matter. It's a meme involving sex, children, danger, and celebrity, and as such is guaranteed to dominate the media, and therefore the minds of the masses, during this critical pre-election period. What will you do? What WILL you do?

If you're Robert DeNiro, who plays a Washington spin doctor brought into the War Room to handle this touchy situation, you naturally realize that you need to create an even more virulent positive meme to outcompete the negative one. Well, Grenada worked for Reagan, he figures. So he hires Hollywood producer Dustin Hoffman to orchestrate a war for him.

Although the plot is perhaps predictable once this frighteningly plausible scenario is established, this movie is full of hilarious one-liners which I won't give away here and is well worth the full $7 admission price. But for me the most exciting thing was that I wasn't the only one laughing at the cynically insightful memetic insights of this movie. Looking around and hearing the full audience laugh loudly at just the right places, I was thrilled to see that, at least in memetically enlightened Seattle, people really got it.

State of the World Forum

In November, I was invited to attend the annual State of The World Forum, co-chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev and other impressive figures. Jim Garrison and his staff have done an incredible job of bringing this event off and gathering hundreds of very cool people in one room for the purpose of creating a future that works for everyone. Look for a full review of November's State of the World Forum by yours truly in an upcoming issue of the H.M.S. Beagle . Meanwhile, here's a preview:


As my jogging partner and I, having mounted the final hill in our daily half-hour morning run, returned to San Francisco's posh Fairmont Hotel, a smiling doorman waited with gifts for us: two bottles of cold mineral water wrapped in fresh towels and tied with a gold ribbon. What wonderful service, I thought with one side of my brain, but the other side wondered about the appropriateness of having such luxury at a conference dedicated to saving the world. Shouldn't we be miserable, huddled together in unheated shacks, or at the very most a Ramada Inn? You wouldn't see Gandhi here, would you?

Actually, a Gandhi was there. Sonia Gandhi, widow of former Indian leader Rajiv Gandhi and president of the foundation bearing her late husband's name. In fact, with the exception of a passionate, reproving address from New Age feminist Marianne Williamson, the mood of the Forum seemed all in favor of eradicating the meme that doing good cannot coexist with doing well. In a world of increasing abundance, there's no reason we can't strive for personal fulfillment en route to making a difference in the world. Besides, martyrs are no fun at parties -- the crosses they bear keep knocking over champagne glasses.


A surprising highlight of the five-day event was my meeting with "psychic" Jean Houston. Turns out she's charming and brilliant, not a flake at all. Imagine that. I wonder what else I see on TV is inaccurate?

(Always on my mission, I went to give Houston a copy of Virus of the Mind, and was delighted to hear her respond that she had already read it. A self-proclaimed nerd, Houston wanted me to know that she was "not Hillary's guru." I had already sent physicist Stuart Kauffman a copy, but he bashfully informed me that he hadn't read it and that it was hopelessly lost in a pile in his office. Thinking about my own office, I told him sympathetically that I understood about piles and shoved another copy into his hand, admonishing him to read it this time. Only a small voice in the back of my mind wondered about the prudence of adding another powerful concept, memetics, to that already critical-mass mind. But hey -- I'm on a mission from God.)


The full report will be available in a future issue of HMS Beagle.

Subliminal Seduction Update

The subliminal seduction business is expanding. In addition to the previously reported methods of one Ross Jeffries, who applies neurolinguistic programming (NLP) methods to the practical application of seducing women ( ), you can now order subliminal music tapes on line for the same purpose. You get your choice of 10 different kinds of music from Oldies to Alternative, all with Eros-inducing sounds lurking just beneath the surface. Unlike Jeffries' stuff, which actually seems to work and which will be the subject of a Rolling Stone article on Feb. 13, I have not had any reports on the effectiveness of these tapes. But I'm sure some reader will let me know... you can find them at

[Thanks to several readers who probably don't want to be named]

On a more academic front, British researchers have done some clever experiments to see if background music can influence people's buying habits. Of course the answer was yes. They played either French or German music in a wine shop. Wine sales were hugely skewed in favor of the kind of music being played: when the French music was on, people bought French wine. When the German music was played, they bought more German wine.

Most interesting, people polled afterwards said overwhelmingly that music didn't influence their buying decision. Just goes to show you that we don't know ourselves as well as we think we do. I have friends who still insist that TV commercials don't influence their buying habits. Meanwhile, I just bought a nice new pair of Nikes yesterday, the kind where they replace the expensive synthetic rubber with air and charge an extra $50. But there's nothing like that feeling of knowing you own the very best.

The complete article is on line at

[Thanks to reader Pete Callahan for infecting me with this meme.]

All the best memes,

Richard Brodie