Let’s talk about memes.
I’m definitely no memetic expert (believe it or not, that’s a real thing that exists now because internet). But I am one of those darn Millennials who’s killing off all the good things your parents and grandparents tried to hard to build – like Applebee’s. So I think I can speak on the issue a little bit.
I love a good meme. A GIF or a still image with a clever joke, pun, or subtitle that gives you a quick LOL before you scroll further down on Reddit. I have friends who I count on sharing some quick chuckle memes every time I hop on the Face Books.
They make for some good “Haha! Look at this!” moments, and they can really give others a glimpse into your specific brand of humor.
Harmless. No big deal. Moving on.
2015/16 happened. As a digital native, I was flabbergasted by the sudden infiltration of political memes into my otherwise mostly peaceful habitat. My entire online ecosystem was overrun with memes about Trump or Hilary or Bernie or Pepe. I quickly and undelightedly learned which of my friends held which extreme political views.
I think there is something altogether different about political memes. Joke memes can be outrageous or over the top to spark a quick laugh. They’re created to get a gut-level emotional response. Memes seem to trigger a response that is quicker than logical thought. So if a meme has more than, say, 10 words total, you’ve lost me. Now I’m thinking too hard. Logic and reason simply get in the way of enjoying a good meme. The best memes are emotionally relatable at some level. They elicit this “it’s funny because it’s true” kind of response. And so we share them with the comment, “This is so MRN.” (me right now) And we move on IRL. (in real life)
Political memes seem to do the same thing – and that’s why they are so dangerous. If most regular memes exist to get a quick chuckle, political memes exist to get a quick outrage response. They are specifically designed to elicit an emotional response, but instead of relatable self-deprecating humor, they spark a sense of anger at some injustice or corruption or “I can’t believe what THOSE people do/say/believe.”
Political memes are, by and large, poorly photoshopped pieces of “art” created with an obvious bias that are meant to be easily disseminated and viewed on large-scale platforms for the sole purpose of increasing the US vs. THEM divide.
Another way to put it, political memes are “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”
Which is actually the definition of PROPAGANDA.
Political memes are propaganda. Full stop.
It’s SO easy to click that “Share” button underneath a political meme you see in your timeline. And it’s a purely emotional reaction to do so. If you would give it half a moment’s thought along with a 30 second or less search on Snopes, you would probably realize that big, white block letters don’t make a statement true.
Sharing a picture with white writing on it to promote your political believes is lazy at best and dangerous at worst. All those “Pizzagate” memes lead to an actual murder!
Political memes are nothing more than propaganda, and propaganda has only ever served to deepen the divide between people. I see people sharing loads of propaganda on FB and then post about how sad it is that we’re so divided as a country. Want to start healing that rift between people? Then stop sharing that political propaganda bull crap.
[Side note: I’m not including articles, headlines, or even infographics. Those can be helpful and insightful. Memes? Not so much.]
When I see you post a political meme, I have no choice but to assume you agree 100%, not only with the message of the meme but also with the creator of the meme or the group that meme came from. Which, newsflash – a large percentage of the political memes people share come from other countries that don’t have our best interest at heart.
I’d be MUCH more interested in reading what you actually believe in your own words. If you disagree with someone/something, feel free to speak out. I’d like to hear your own thoughts, your own words, your own nuance.
Every political issue is more complex than can be accurately represented by a meme, anyway.
Finally, those of us who follow Christ should have an added interest in seeking and sharing the truth. And the truth is that Christians don’t fit into our two party system. We should represent a third way. Whenever the leaders of his day tried to suck Jesus into a political debate and get him to choose a side, he nearly always chose a third way that they never saw coming. He didn’t come to play those games. (And he didn’t always show the utmost respect for the office of the leaders, either. Remember that time he refused an audience with Herod and called him a “fox” in response?)
If political memes are only there to cause disunity and to spread misinformation, then I, as a US citizen but more importantly as a follower of Christ, want nothing to do with them.
What do you think about political memes? Are they harmful propaganda? Or are they harmless fun? Let me know in the comments, because that’s always a safe place for political discussion…