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« This Explains Everything | Main | Trillion Dollar Idea »



I've always thought it was a very bad idea when we interfere with Darwinism, like when we force people to wear seat belts or don't allow them to experiment with potentially dangerous drugs.

If people are that suggestable and easily manipulated, then perhaps they were meant to be selected out of the gene pool. The people remaining would be much more independently motivated free-thinkers who would move mankind forward.

Eighty percent is a bit absurd for the thought experiment. I think a number of that size pretty much implies that we're practically doomed as a race anyway if our minds are that flawed. I think the people who would ban a song like that are the ones controlling the easily manipulated people and managing to exploit that for their personal gain. An emotionally strong race of humans would pose a threat to those sitting on their ass and getting people to do what they want.

gl hoffman

I am sure someone has already said this...I mean, really over Three Hundred Comments!! Anyway...of course, one may shout FIRE in a crowded theater...where would be a better place to shout fire? Oh you meant, falsely shouting fire?...per Oliver Wendell Holmes...this might be the most misquoted thing, like, er, you know, ever.


I did not write that comment up there.. but it IS funny ;)



There are many restrictions on "free speech," but oftentimes, we don't think of them in that context.

This blog reminded me of the incident a few years back when an episode of a Pokemon cartoon caused a bunch of kids in Japan to have seizures. Nobody died, although 600 some people experienced negative health consequences (Wikipedia). The episode was immediately banned; nobody made a fuss about free speech. Perhaps it was because the health hazard wasn't psychological; it was physiological. I wonder why that is a deciding factor. (Or, maybe it was just because nobody gives a damn about Pokemon!)

If we were to be consistent in our treatment of the Pokemon seizure-causing episode and the hypothetical 80% suicide rate song, we obviously would ban the song.

Real Live Girl

If reporting the suicide is truly newsworthy, and not just satisfying people's voyeurism, then run the story.

But I don't believe most suicides are (whether you're famous or not), and if the result of the media broadcasting it (over and over) is that it prompts depressed, irrational, or mentally ill people into following suit, then I say err on the side of kindness and hold the story. How does it affect your day to day life to know (or not know) who committed suicide from a news article or broadcast?

Also, people who are suicidal are not necessarily stupid. They've just lost hope that life holds any happiness for them in the future. Sometimes it's the result of a chemical inbalance, or that life is kicking them in the ass so hard right now they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, but only a long endless black tunnel. When I run into these people, I try to find a light for them.

If we're going to thin the herd, I say start with mean assholes.


On an unrelated note, I find it ironic that whenever I post on your blog I'm asked to enter lots of random letters with the following explanation:

"This test is used to prevent automated robots from posting comments."


Re: "Do you guys genuinely believe you are safer if you all have firearms ?"

If the alternative is "just the bad guys having firearms", yes.

The problem isn't the firearms - there's countries which force *everybody* to own an assault rifle and practice regularly, eg. Switzerland, but there's no gun crime to speak of.

Nope, the problem is the society. If you took away all the guns in America you'd have mass stabbings instead (or mass baseball-battings, or...)


What would you care if the song killed 80% of the listeners? No doubt you'd have heard the song yourself, and therefore would have been unlikely to survive. Unless everyone here believes they can beat the odds.

Music moves me emotionally. I can almost pick my mood by how I setup my playlist. If I were to hear this song, I'd probably be in that 80% who died because of it.

I suppose it all depends on how the song gets out there. If you have to buy the album, all of us pirates are safe. If it's only played on Top 40 radio, only the sheeple will die. If someone hijacked all the other radio stations in town and played the song over and over, so you only have to turn on the radio for a few minutes and will have a guarenteed exposure - well, even doing that with a nonlethal song is still illegal.

Question - is the band immune? There could have been thousands of such songs penned, but before going public, the band would have to practice. In a typical band of 5 members, each practice would end with 4 of them dead. That might not stop the 1 guy who keeps surviving, but it would delay getting a gig, as 4 new members would be needed each time. I suppose if you cycled through the band members this way, eventually you'd find more people in that top 20% and eventually end up with an immune band. But that initial guy would have to be huge asshole.


I'd buy the album and a car just so I could blast it as I drove down the street. But then again, I'm rooting for the highly deadly mutation of the bird flu that kills off 1/4 the Earth's population instead of the less deadly mutation that gives half the planet the sniffles.


Re: "Do you guys genuinely believe you are safer if you all have firearms ?"

If the alternative is "just the bad guys having firearms", yes.

The problem isn't the firearms - there's countries which force *everybody* to own an assault rifle and practice regularly, eg. Switzerland, but there's no gun crime to speak of.

Nope, the problem is the society. If you took away all the guns in America you'd have mass stabbings instead (or mass baseball-battings, or...)


It is rubbish to say that suicide removes the weak and useless. The majority of people who are influenced to do this are teenagers, and those who will do it are the sensitive, creative types. We NEED those people, they are the ones who progress the human race.

A suicide is not just one person dead, but a whole family torn to pieces. They leave behind parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends who may never recover.

Suicide is a BAD THING.


oh boy this is so beautiful. i wish i hadn't so much work to do today


That wouldn't bother me anywhere near as much as the way the press currently covers terrorist acts, school shootings, etc.


Once again, your comment system put my comment under another's name:

Posted by: peter | April 29, 2007 at 08:38 AM

If the caveat is that it only affects people who haven't yet reproduced, I think it has a good Darwinian effect. So, go for it.

Posted by: Merlisk | April 29, 2007 at 08:34 AM

Actually, I'm all in favor of allowing free speech rights for that song that makes 80% of people kill themselves!

My comment is listed as Peter's. :(

Boraxis Baugmonster

Oh crap, Scott. I forgot to pick at your analogy. Oh well, maybe someone else will do it.

-- baug


We've had songs that HAVE killed millions of people and yet they continue to be played over and over again so as to inspire countless others to kill more people. They're called "patriotic" war songs. Every country and almost every religion that glorifies and foments war has them.
So what was your point?


I do.
I had a problem w/ the news doing a story that shows how these kids/teens make various weapons they use to terrorize- in my area, the news did a story like that right after one of the first big school shootings.

Great, someone just killed a bunch of people for their enjoyment, let's show some more *exactly* how they did it.

Smart. Real smart.

Boraxis Baugmonster

Hey, what about the media making people famous for being mass murderers? It might not be fair to say they "glorify" mass murderers but they certainly make them famous. They said that cho-loser's name every four seconds for days, and every time I saw a TV his face was on it. They even played his video rant! Next to that the suicide thing is a trifle.

I don't know if making it illegal is the answer (seriously). I hope (not as seriously) the next mass murderer shoots news people though instead of college students. He'd want to choose news offices where guns are off limits like they are at most schools.

-- baug

Alexis van der Merwe

I like liberty - it's swell, but people are too stupid and easily led to be exposed to the sheer amount of information we all encounter every day through the media. I'm not a communist, and as I said, liberty is swell, but what the hell do you expect to happen? We have kids shooting up schools and people killing themselves because they listen to that stupid Christina Aguilera song about fat people too many times. People are just too damn stupid.


If it could be proven that the song itself actually caused suicides then it should be banned...but that is very different from reporting a story about a suicide. If someone is in such bad emotional condition that simply hearing about another person killing themselves prompts them to do the same, then you can't blame the news story. Tragic as it may be, that was a decision made by the person, not forced on him by the reporter telling the story.


I agree with you, in principle, that the media should have more social responsibility. Some outlets release elements of people's personal lives that the general public buy in the morning because they're nosey, but have forgotten by lunchtime, despite an enormous inconvenience / strife for the subject of the piece. The media also has a large part to play in the role of governing the country. In the UK, they're responsible for the mess of the Dangerous Dogs Act. A few bitten children, and an outcry from the press to curry public opinion, and an Act is rushed through, with very little enforceable effect, but what effect it did have meant destroying a lot of harmless animals (as well as a few dangerous ones).

Saying that suicide in the press begets suicide by copy-cats or depressed people thinking "it's an everyday occurrence" is a little dangerous. It's getting jolly close to 'post hoc, ergo propter hoc'. Saying that a suicide happened after one was reported in the paper means that is was caused by the report in the paper is a little reckless. I think that the report followed one suicide, and the so-say copy-cat will be reported too, simply to fill column-inches with claims of "copy-cat" and "the state of the country today".

Perhaps the deceased doesn't read the paper. Perhaps they don't watch the news. Perhaps they're deaf & blind & sicjk of it. Perhaps they've got a headache and thought that 16 paracetamol would work better than just two. I could write a long official-looking paper saying that the curvyness of bananas is corrupting our youth and causing suicide. Wouldn't make it true. Resuscitate someone and ask them why. If you can't, the rest in conjecture.


I've heard of this since 85 while in college studying Criminal Justice. Also interesting were some studies that showed after a state uses capital punishment, violence within a certain radius of the location of the execution actually rises for a period afterward. Violence begets violence.


Reminds me of the song "The Thought Police"

Thought police
They will put you under
The thought police
They will take you in
The thought police
They will clean your mind out
The thought police
You can never win
You can never win
You can never, never, never, never, never win
There are people around with problems
Those who live in fear
Running from the shadows
Waiting for another year
Thought of the secrets
Secrets of the mind
Thoughts can spell out danger
To the leaders of the time


Of course I don't have a problem with that. If people are so stupid as to kill themselves inspired by a high profile suicide, they deserve to die.

DT Strain

Never say "x causes z" when there is a conscious, intelligent, decision-maker in the chain of events between x and y. The proper situation is: x inspires y, who then has the choice to do z or not. If y chooses z, then "y causes z" - not x.

This is the sort of madness that ensues when one takes metaphysical assertions about the absence of free will, and misapplies them to the practical instances of 'effective free will' in real life.

It's a twisted path that will logically lead to all sorts of liberty-destroying notions.

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