N1H1 is not the virus that will destroy us

The notion of “viral ideas” is a central theme in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. And the “birther” nonsense is a near-perfect illustration:

“We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep humming all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban legends. Crackpot religions. Marxism. No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information. The only thing that keeps these things from taking over the world is the Babel factor — the walls of mutual incomprehension that compartmentalize the human race and stop the spread of viruses.”

A world where all, or most, of the people speak English would be a dangerous thing indeed.

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