Trigger Warning: – You might be triggered by some of the memes displayed on this page. I do not agree with any of them, and they’re here for the purpose they serve; Show people the harm they do.
We’ve all heard jokes that weren’t exactly, as they put it these days, “politically correct”. Most of us just laughed it off, not wanting to make the situation awkward, not giving it much thought. Others might have laughed and made a counterpoint right there. Some might have been triggered and stormed off. And, some of us laughed our hearts out and made another, possibly even worse, a statement that is protected under the very convenient covenant of “freedom of ball-busting”.
However, we hardly realize that these jokes go beyond what they’re meant for. Or in fact, they do exactly what they’re meant to do.
As all things should be, let’s approach this monster under the lights of almighty scientific reasoning itself.
In a study conducted by Heidi Huntington, Department of Journalism and Media Communications, Colorado State University to determine the association between political memes and its effectiveness. The two-part study, which involved 633 participants, concluded that participants took political memes as attempts at conveying something more than just good humor, but a sense of how things are in the society. Non-political memes were just seen as mere jokes without any sort of societal implications while political ones took it to a completely different sphere of perceiving reality.
The study also found evidence that political memes were factors that motivate one’s own political ideologies, which would go on to say that that annoying Trumpet neighbor (not too hard to guess what that means) would find the meme up there extremely funny and would use ideas drawn from it when he argues with you tomorrow. However, it was also found in the study that people who disagreed with a certain political ideology didn’t exactly enjoy a meme pertaining to that part of the political spectrum. The person would simply meh it and move on or drop a hasty comment of indignation to make everyone feel immensely better at the end of it all.
Let’s take this piece of art for example. This meme came into circulation in 2017 after motion 103 was passed by the Canadian Parliament. It was proposed by the Liberal MP Iqra Khalid after the Quebec City mosque shooting and condemned Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. The Liberals hailed it as a necessary step to stem the anti-Islamic hate movements riding the world’s waves. The conservatives argued that it was a vasectomy for all sorts of constructive criticism that Islam would garner and conveniently ignored all the other religious groups of Canada, ranging from Protestants to Buddhists.
This perfectly portrays how a meme conveys half-truths so brilliantly and elegantly. Apparently, both people in the picture stand for furthering the interests of Muslims. Now imagine this from the eyes of someone who has no/mixed political opinion. Imagine being bombarded with memes like this every day. This brings into the argument of the brainwashing effect of memes. They can influence public opinion and discourse in this way.
And the issue is getting quite out of hand. Last month, Facebook removed 50 Instagram accounts linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency for sharing memes containing disinformation. In the same month, TikTok removed 24 accounts that shared Islamic State propaganda. Reportedly, many international powers like Russia, China, and Iran have interests in using social media to influence election results. These are accounts are just manifestations of a much bigger and uglier picture (an obvious reference to the Guccifer 2.0 fiasco of 2016), and it only seems logical that authoritarian regimes would want more authoritarian regimes in power, to create a sort of authoritarian regime birthday batter, each complementing the taste of one another, which when baked would then create the huge authoritarian birthday cake, which anyone who supports this can shove up their already overlarge nose.
But trust me, social media companies are not doing enough to curb this threat. They might be doing a lot, but it’s simply not enough. For example, both the memes displayed upstairs come from two Instagram accounts. The big issue is that social media companies are not seeing the big picture here. It’s not just disinformation that needs to be attacked, it’s also stuff like this.
First off, that meme just assumes all Asians are Chinese. Secondly, it just assumes, all of them support the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin. Thirdly, it’s just plain offensive. However, the worst is that this meme will feed any anti-Asian sentience someone would have, and that would reflect the next time that someone meets an Asian or walks to the polling booth to vote for that right-wing guy who claims that the Chinese are stealing all the jobs.
Or even this beauty. This is plainly racist. According to statistica.com, in the number of arrests made by the United States for property crimes in 2018, 589,224 of the accused were ethnically white while the number of blacks arrested was 264,748. Let’s just assume that blacks are magical thieves who can never get caught with their crimes. Even then, this meme helps override years of history and other socio-cultural aspects that contribute to the current state of society. It motivates that uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table to create an argument about how blacks are ruining America.
And I got all these images from Instagram. Now we realize there’s something missing somewhere. Somebody’s not doing their job right. Or maybe somebody thinks this is all okay.
At the end of the day, anyone who shares this kind of stuff has one very solid and valid argument.