Re: virus: From the shadows

Martz (
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 23:31:10 +0000

On Mon, 17 Mar 1997, Tim Rhodes <> wrote:
>I'd like to pass on some thoughts a friend sent me and see what you all
>On Fri, 14 Mar 1997, Lurker X wrote:
>> I got interested in memes as part of some anti-public relations research I
>> was doing. I can't remember where the first pointer was. Public relations
>> personnel are the people who brought you "Part of this complete breakfast",
>> and other wonderful examples of spin doctoring. Initially I thought that I
>> could write a debunking essay based on logical or statistical fallacies.
>> Yes, sugar coated cocoa bombs are part of the complete breakfast shown,
>> but certainly not an essential part. I've realized that public relations
>> is not about telling any lie ... but about telling The RIGHT LIE <TM>.

I don't think it's about telling lies as such. There are laws against
lying in advertising. It's more about telling the truth but presenting
it in such a way that the audience sees something else. For example,
there's advertisement for a car running over here at the moment. The
scene (shot looking into the car from the front bonnet) opens with mum
and dad having just got out of the car, only daughter is on the front
passenger seat. Dad remarks on how roomy the car is. 'You could fit half
the house in there'. 'Yes', says mum, 'or three more kids'. Sudden look
of panic on daughters face - flash cut into her mind and the other three
kids are in the car. Two boys giving it some rough and tumble and baby
slobbering over itself (every young girls nightmare?), and indeed, even
with the four kids the car does seem pretty spacious. Scene cuts to
outside the car and the ad continues (the nightmare sequence lasts maybe
2 seconds). So now the casula viewer is left with the impression that
you can fit a whole damn family in this car without having to squeeze.
However, at no point did we see *any* adults in the car and the baby was
on the *drivers* seat. No lies were told but an important false
impression was created.

>> Since I've been reading the virus list I've had inklings of the anatomy of
>> the right lie since it seems to have memetic hooks. The right lie is
>> resistant to debunking since it subtly alters our perception of reality,
>> and then changing that perception requires <hopefully a great deal of>
>> effort.

Definitely. The example above is pretty unsubtle and easy to spot but
there was one a while back that took me *ages* to cotton on to. I can't
remember the text (which is a shame because it was a beauty) because
they stopped showing it just after I spotted it. The advert was
continually flicking between two different scenes, one was a consulting
firm and the other was an important client they were trying to land. In
each scene one person was engaged in a monologue explaining something to
someone else. Each conversation was matter of fact and each was geared
towards selling the product (telecommunications consulting service) in a
fairly matter of fact manner. We have no trouble keeping track of two
threads like that in our minds and we quite naturally separate the two
scenes consciously and deal with them individually. However, remove the
visuals and take away the voices so we lose all the cues that two
conversations are taking place i.e. deal only with the text. What was
left still made syntactic sense and was blatantly setting up false

>Interesting (and insidious) idea, no?



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