August 9, 2017

Are memes an inevitable result of a post-literate society? Or is imagery toward a political end (think, George Washington and the cherry tree) as old as the printing press?

Yes to both, say the panel on "The Beat with Ari Melber."

One of the panelists is Ben Schreckinger, author of the Politico article from last spring entitled "World War Meme":

There is no real evidence that memes won the election, but there is little question they changed its tone, especially in the fast-moving and influential currents of social media. The meme battalions created a mass of pro-Trump iconography as powerful as the Obama “Hope” poster and far more adaptable; they relentlessly drew attention to the tawdriest and most sensational accusations against Clinton, forcing mainstream media outlets to address topics—like conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health—that they would otherwise ignore. And they provoked a variety of real-world reactions, from Clinton’s August speech denouncing the alt-right to the Anti-Defamation League’s designation of Pepe as a hate symbol to—after the election—the armed assault on a Washington pizzeria wrongly believed to be hiding sex slaves.

Trump meme-ers are overwhelmingly young white underemployed sh*t kicker males whose primary motivation is to "blow up the system." (They love Steve Bannon.) But Howard Fineman makes a fascinating point about them, and how their "work" relates to our own movement:

HOWARD FINEMAN: I think the nihilism, the kid in the basement wanting to blow up the system, The person that Steve Bannon embodies and brought into the White House is instructive and a challenge for The Resistance. The Resistance does not simply want to tear down the system. It's easy to be the kid in the basement wanting to blow things up. It's harder to make a positive argument. That's what they have to figure out using the technology, using the internet, using memes, using the language of memes, which is not new. Everything from George Washington on a white horse...this isn't new. This is adaptive to this world. The other side better gets a hold of it. Donald Trump himself is a meme. He's a cartoon character as president. That's why the people in the basement could support him without, they thought, consequences. It does have consequences.

That goes back to my point that no one actually thought Trump could get elected. He did, and we will never take voting for granted again. And memes? Yeah, we got you, Howard:


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