When News Fails to be News
This article is about the incredible power behind memes.
To define a "meme", let me start with an example.
News stations are responsible for delivering...the news.
But instead they deliver a headline rife with memes like this that I found on MSNBC.com:
"Vaccination rates drop, putting more kids at risk"
The journalistic responsibility is to report that the rates drop which has some people concerned (and others happy) and propose some reasons as to why this may be happening.
Many of us would read this headline and mindlessly think nothing of it.
Yet, the more mindless the meme - the more powerful.
Seemingly benign, the statement actually just infected our brains with a little "mind virus" called a meme.
MSNBC.com is trying to leverage the memes of "fear" and "saving kids" to gain clicks and ad revenue. You may also be infected with the "meme" of "MSNBC.com" being a reputable news source that you can trust and enjoy reading.
A "better" title may have read "Vaccination rates drop which may put more kids at risk for 'x' and 'y' diseases experts say". The difference is subtle, but the hidden assumptions that are made are profound.
Perhaps after reading this, you might be ready to vaccinate against memes.
Ignorance is Bliss?
The article contains a link to "5 myths" about vaccination, clicking on the link leads to an introductory discussion on how vaccination rates are down, and how many people who do not vaccinate fail to do so because of ignorance, and then lays out the "truth" behind the five myths behind vaccinations.
The power of the meme was already felt.
Did you catch it?
Memes can be layered. Like a lie that begets many more lies. Memes build and expand on one another.
Not vaccinating because of "ignorance" is a mythful meme in itself. Vaccine research actually shows that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to choose against vaccination.
Yet, the author starts with the very assumption that those who do not vaccinate are ignorant, and then tries to substantiate the meme by giving you five reasons why. Once you agree that "anti-vaxers" - are "ignorant" - it sets of a domino of opinions that are then easier to believe. You've already been primed from the get-go that anti-vaccination is an ignorant decision.
I'm not going to make an argument as to whether the myths are valid or not, the behavior I want to point out to you is that you would click on that link most likely because you were fearful of being "one of the ignorant".
Fear is a powerful meme.
After reading the "5 myths" (who's to say there's only 5?), you'll feel informed, and now that you're "informed" and "not ignorant", you are already primed by the headline and the assumption that "those who are not ignorant do not vaccinate".
Ultimately, a person reading this person will be much more likely to vaccinate when posed with the question in the future (depending of course on other competing memes in their mind).
Limiting it to "5" primes you with the believe that there's only 5 and that after reading those 5 myths, you will have the satisfaction of knowing all you need to know about vaccinations to make an informed decision.
Memes can take root in your mind without conscious awareness.
Where Do Memes Take Root?
Chances are, I could look behind MSNBC.com's corporate supporters and find funding from a powerful industry or person who are pro-vaccines (this is also an assumption from my own memes).
So is the author the perpetrator? Is their boss the perpetrator? Is it the corporate executive? Or is it the person funding the site? The person reading? Or is it the underlying company culture?
Or is it just the nature of memes and their roles in our lives that we should become more aware of...
Even recognizing that a statement is rife with memes is not enough. Your subconscious reads the statement at face value. It's already registered in your subconscious mind.
The more memes are layered and hidden, the more powerful they ultimately become.
What "memes" may be behind our health problems in this country?