Internet Chain Letter--Epitomized Meme?

alt.memetics archives
26-30 August, 1994
Number of articles: 2

From: (Name withheld by request)
Newsgroups: alt.memetics
Subject: Internet Chain Letter--Epitomized Meme?
Date: 26 Aug 1994 14:53:58 -0600

    This letter has been circulated around the internet.  It has 
strong hooking characteristics.





Dear Friends,
My name is Dave Rhodes.  In September 1988 my car was
reposessed and the bill collectors were hounding me like you wouldn't
believe. I was laid off and my unemployment checks had run out. The
only escape I had from the pressure of failure was my computer and my
modem. I longed to turn my advocation into my vocation.
This January 1989 my family and I went on a ten day cruise to
the tropics. I bought a Lincoln Town Car for CASH in Feburary 1989.
I am currently building a home on the West Coast of Florida, with a
private pool, boat slip, and a beautiful view of the bay from my
breakfast room table and patio. I will never have to work again.
Today I am rich!  I have earned over $400,000.00 (Four Hundred
Thousand Dollars) to date and will become a millionaire within 4 or 5
months. Anyone can do the same. This money making program works
perfectly every time, 100% of the time. I have NEVER failed to earn
$50,000.00 or more whenever I wanted. Best of all you never have to
leave home except to go to your mailbox or post office.
In October 1988, I received a letter in the mail telling me
how I could earn $50,000 dollars or more whenever I wanted. I was
naturally very skeptical and threw the letter on the desk next to my
computer. It's funny though, when you are desperate, backed into a
corner, your mind does crazy things. I spent a frustating day looking
through the want ads for a job with a future. The pickings were
sparse at best.  That night I tried to unwind by booting up my
computer and calling several bulletin boards. I read several of the
message posts and than glanced at the letter next to the computer. All
at once it came to me, I now had the key to my dreams.
I realized that with the power of the computer I could
expand and enhance this money making formula into the most
unbelievable cash flow generator that has ever been created. I
substituted the computer bulletin boards in place of the post office
and electronically did by computer what others were doing 100% by
mail.  Now only a few letters are mailed manually.  Most of the hard
work is speedily downloaded to other bulletin boards throughout the
world.  If you believe that someday you deserve that lucky break that
you have waited for all your life, simply follow the easy instructions
below.  Your dreams will come true.
      Sincerely yours,
Dave Rhodes
Follow these instructions EXACTLY, and in 20 to 60 days you will have
received well over $50,000.00 cash, all yours.  This program has
remained successful because of the HONESTY and INTEGRETY of the
participants.  Please continue its success by carefully ADHERING TO
Welcome to the world of Mail Order!  This little business is a little
different than most mail order houses.  Your product is not solid and
tangible, but rather a service. You are in the business of developing
Mailing lists.  Many large corporations are happy to pay big bucks
for quality lists.
(The money made from the mailing lists are secondary to the income
which is made from people like yourself requesting that they be
included in that list.)
1)  IMMEDIATELY mail $1.00 to the first 5 (five) names listed below
    starting at number 1 through number 5.  Send CASH only please 
    (total investment $5.00). Enclose a note with each letter stating: 
    "Please add my name to your mailing list."  For other countries 
    the equvielent amount may be sent, e.g. in Hong Kong Send HK$10
    as this is the lowest denomination note.
    (This is a legitimate service that you are requesting and you are
     paying $1.00 for this service).
2)  REMOVE the name that appears number 1 on the list. Move the
    other 9 names up one position. (Number 2 will become number 1 and
    number 3 will become number 2, etc.)
    Place your name, address and zip code in the number 10 position.
3)  Post the new letter with your name in the number 10 position
    into 10 (Ten) separate bulletin boards in the message base or to
    the file section. Call the file, MAKE.MONEY.FAST.
4)  Within 60 days you will receive over $50,000.00 in CASH.  Keep a
    copy of this file for yourself so that you can use it again and again
    whenever you need money. As soon as you mail out these letters you
    are automatically in the mail order business and people are sending
    you $1.00 to be placed on your mailing list. This list can then be
    rented to a list broker that can be found in the Yellow Pages for
    additional income on a regular basis. The list will become more
    valuable as it grows in size. This is a service.  This is perfectly
    legal. If you have any doubts, refer to Title 18, Sec. 1302 & 1341 of
    the postal lottery laws.
NOTE: Make sure you retain EVERY Name and Address sent to you,
either on computer or hard copy, but do not discard the names and
notes they send you.  This is PROOF that you are truely providing a
service and should the IRS or some other Government Agency question
you, you can provide them with this proof!
      Remember as each post is downloaded and the instructions
carefully followed, five members will be reimbursed for their
participation as a List Developer with one dollar each.  Your name
will move up the list geometrically so that when your name reaches
the number five position you will be receiving thousands of dollars
in cash!
 1) Joe Wargo
    338 N.W.35th St.
    Corvallis, OR 97330
 2) Robert A. Decker
    307 S. Division #4
    Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2203
 3) Lian Fang
    560 Memorial Dr.
    Westgate Apartments, #406
    Cambridge, MA 02139
 4) Ted DeCastri
    8537 Sheraton Drive
    Miramar, FL 33025
 5) Jennifer Tew
    45283 Sycamore Court
    Utica, MI  48317
 6) Victor Wong
    20 Brimwood Blvd., TH#29
    Scarborough, ON M1V 1B7
 7) T. Qian
    1629 Oak Ave., 2nd FL
    Evanston, IL 60201
 8) Ian Verhaegen
    2160 Frederick St.
    Concord, CA
 9) Robert Arles
    180 E. La Verne Ave #8
    Pomona, CA 91767
10) Joseph C. Zajac
    870 Peach Blossom
    Rochester Hills, MI  48306
 The following letters were written by participating members in this
To Whom It May Concern:
 About six months ago I received the enclosed post in
 letter form.  I ignored it.  I received about five more of
 the same letter within the next two weeks.  I ignored them
 also.  Of course, I was tempted to follow through and
 dreamed of making thousands, but I was convinced it was
 just another gimmick and could not possibly work.  I was
 wrong!  About three weeks later I saw this same letter
 posted on a local bulletin board in Montreal.  I liked the
 idea of giving it a try with my computer.  I didn't expect
 much because I figured, if other people were as skeptical
 as I, they wouldn't be too quick to part with Five
 Dollars.  But, I buy lottery tickets weekly in my province
 and have nothing to show for it but ticket stubs.  This
 week I decided to look at this as my weekly lottery
 purchase. I addressed the envelopes and mailed out one
 dollar in each as directed.  Two weeks went by and I
 didn't recieve anything in the mail.  The fourth week
 rolled around and I couldn't believe what happened!  I
 can't say I received $50,000, but it was definitely well
 over $35,000!  For the first time in ten years, I got out
 of debt.   It was great.  Of course, it didn't take me
 long to go through my earnings so I am using this
 excellent money opportunity once again.  Follow the
 instructions and get ready to enjoy.
 Please send a copy of this letter along with the
 enclosed letter so together we can convince people who are
 skeptical that it really works!
       Good Luck,
       Charles Kust
       St Agathe Que.
Another letter:
    I tried a similar program in which the cost was $5.00
 per response.  In that one the return was about 3%.  Since
 I did not have a modem I sent out letters regular mail.  I
 created a few mailing labels and printed out all of the
 labels on pressure sensitive tape.  The first mailing that
 I used the $1.00 dollar per reponse approach I started to
 get return mail in just over one week!  I sent out 200
 letters instead of 100 that is required if you use the
 mail instead of the bulletion boards.  Additionally, I
 included as many friends, relatives, classmates, that I
 could think of in order to encourage their participation
 if they happened to recognize my name, so my percentage of
 gain was higher.  I am trying again with 500 letters to
 see if I surpass the $141,000 of the last time. You just
 won't believe it until you try.
       Best Wishes,
       Mark Garner
       Dallas Texas
 additional notes:
     This system works equally well if mailed out
 manually.  Mind you it takes more effort to hand address
 the envelopes and the cost goes up proportionately to
 cover the postage and envelopes. You must also photo copy
 the instructions, cross out the name in number one
 position, write in your name in the number ten slot and
 change the rest of the numbers accordingly. (It might be
 neater to use white out or paste over the names.) In order
 to achieve the same results you must send out the $1.00
 dollar to the first five names and then send out another
 100 letters with copies of the program enclosed.  It has
 been suggested not to put a return address on the outside
 of the envelope in order to encourage the recipient to
 open it.  The return will approximate that then received
 from the posts listed on the bulletin boards.

      What do you think about this?  Did you want to get involved
as you looked at it?  What "grabbed" you?  Do you think there is a
particular personality type which would respond best to this letter?  
Or a particular phase in life when this letter would be more attractive?
If you feel ridicule towards those who actually respond to this, and 
send the money, do you think that people who try this feel ridicule 
towards those who don't see this "opportunity"?   

     Do you think that anyone is making money using this system, or
do you at least not have proof that it doesn't work, leaving a big enough
grain of doubt in your mind for the meme to take hold?  

     What are your internal defenses against memes/chain letters/schemes  
like this?  

     Is too high a threshold of doubt and skepticism detrimental?       

        Thank you reading this, and for any feedback.  



Newsgroups: alt.memetics
Subject: Re: Internet Chain Letter--Epitomized Meme?
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 1994 19:31:31 GMT

If I were designing an Internet chain letter, I would...

      ... hide the fact that I were the inventor of the program. This by
making it look like the chain has been going for several months very
succesfully.  I would write and include some enthousiastic letters, signed
by different (fake) names, naturally written in different styles and
printed in different lay-outs.

      ... not let other people do the job of spreading the letter. The
risks that these people would 'cheat' (e.g. by putting 10 new names on the
list in stead of one) is too big. So I would not make 100 copies but, say,
10000 or more. I'd have to find a way of automatically collecting email
addresses. (Search newsgroups, track web-pages recursively, mail to
anonymous accounts, etc.)

      ... study old, succesful chain letters and imitate the psychological
tricks used in them, perhaps try to improve weak points using my knowledge
of the human mind (and memetics).

I would end up with something very much like the chain letter posted to
this newsgroup by Jon.  

At first glance it looks all indeed quite credible. 
Very smart anticipation of scepticism.  In the first part of the letter
(the "Rhodes" part), rhetoric tricks are very obvious (amicality; attempt
to force identification; typical idiom: you "deserve" it).  This gives the
sceptic reader a sense of superiority ("I won't fall for these tricks"),
WHICH WEAKENS ATTENTION.  In the second part of the letter (the "Kust"
part) manipulation becomes more subtle ("lottery ticket" argument does fine
with me), and the --now weakenend-- memetic resistence finally fails.
   [When I was reading, at a certain point I noticed a little voice in 
   my head came up asking 'why am I so sceptic?']
Notice that readers' scepticism itself is PART OF THE STRATEGY!  Blind
scepticism may even invoke a "hiding" strategy, which allows meme-seeds to
grow in my brain undisturbed.

The 'instructions' part is all in imperative mode. This will cause a
stereotypic recalcitrant reaction with most readers. Such a reaction was
intended!! It's all part of the strategy.  'Hooks' are added to guide the
recalcitrance: for instance one could be very *naughty* and change the file
name given in the instructions! Or one could -- very unobediently!-- send
out 200 copies instead of 100 (like this "Mark Garner" was said to have
done). Again resistence reactions are anticipated by the designer of the
letter!  They are an integral part of the strategy. Just make people think
that they are smarter than you, and that you are very simple minded; they
will be very vulnerable to your --less simple minded-- manipulation.

Retrospectively, I now see reading the chain letter HAD an effect on me.
Not the effect intended by the designer though. I will never participate in
chain letters designed BY SOMEONE ELSE.  However, there is a possibility
that one day, when I'm "desperate, backed into a corner", I think back of
this chain letter, and design MY OWN version.  I would certainly use the
knowledge I have acquired today by studying this chain letter.
Now THAT would mean that I really am infected by the chainletter's memes!?
This effect was indeed not intended by its designer, but it WAS intended by
his memes, if you know what I mean!
It is the invisible meta-chainletter present behind all chainletters....

Marc P. de H., P.O.Box 16167, NL-2301 GD LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS