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Meme Update #23

In this issue:

Tobacco Advertising Update
Memetics Data
State of the World Forum


Tobacco Advertising Update

The political fight continues over banning tobacco advertising. On September 18, 1998, The Board of Health in King County, Washington -- Seattle and environs -- voted 10-3 to allow only black and white text on all publicly visible tobacco advertisements. They completely banned any tobacco advertising within 1000 feet of a school or playground.

A similar measure in neighboring Pierce County awaits an appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals after being upheld by a federal district judge last November.

Pleasantly, only one member of the board parroted the inane belief that tobacco advertising doesn't do much to influence minors to smoke. I guess she thinks that either minors are less susceptible to advertising than adults, or that American companies are run by the world's stupidest people who pour billions and billions annually into a marketing mechanism that "doesn't do much." THINK!

Advertising is a way for commercial interests to plant their memes in people with varying degrees of penetration. The techniques used are subtle or obvious (see Key's book "The Age of Manipulation," available from the Memetics Bookstore but they are effective. Since our economy is based on commerce, we tend to let businesses use any means they want short of outright fraud to promote their wares. But government prohibition of meme-spreading of harmful products is far less intrusive than laws against self-destructive behavior itself. It deserves to be tried.

The Supreme Court has ruled in the past (44 Liquormart) that for government to regulate commercial speech, it must prove that such regulation will achieve the government’s stated purpose. Since it let stand a similar ordinance in Baltimore last year and recently denied the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco advertising, the Court seems happy with this kind of local regulation for now.

Memetics Data

Here are the number of hits for various words on the World Wide Web as of 9/29/98, courtesy of Infoseek. The previous count, from 7/9/97, is included as a reference point. Words are sorted by percent increase over last sampling.

Music, sex, food, and Microsoft lead the list with the highest rates of growth. Darwin, Dawkins, Brodie, and memetics had dramatically lower rates of growth than any of the other words.

9/29/98 7/9/97 %increase word last time
8,831,904 1,057,284 735% music 4
3,317,431 429,866 672% sex 1
5,243,883 836,252 527% food 5
3,523,344 585,793 501% Microsoft 2
1,050,497 182,739 475% virus 8
6,315,566 1,118,455 465% love 3
6,826,221 1,215,574 462% opportunity 6
872,819 200,383 336% danger 9
9,577,052 2,596,611 269% science 12
47,284 34,845 35.7% Darwin 7
8,070 6,409 25.9% Dawkins 11
7,739 6,183 25.2% Brodie 10
1,628 1,419 14.7% memetics 13

State of the World Forum

Once again this year I have been invited to join 500 amazing people in San Francisco to discuss creating a cool future. You can bet I'll be there spreading the meme meme to the likes of Jodie Foster, Bianca Jagger, Steven Covey, and John Naisbitt. And It's going to be great to see my buddy Jean Houston again, the amazing woman who thinks like Solomon and speaks like Whittier.

A few spaces are left open for interested members of the general public. For more information see

All the best memes,


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Richard Brodie is the author of the first and best-selling book on memetics, VIRUS OF THE MIND. VIRUS OF THE MIND is in its third printing and spent over six months on the best-seller list! Start reading VIRUS OF THE MIND on-line, for FREE, at

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