Art has always been about more than a mere display of an individual’s creativity expressed using a specific medium, it has been a major source of political and social discourse over the centuries. Art in itself has also morphed and evolved. A rather underappreciated form of art that has gained popularity not only among the millennials but even baby boomers is memes. The ideas covered on them that are targeted to different demographics may be different but they are memes nonetheless.
Are Memes a boon or a bane? Are they Art or Political Propaganda ?
Evolution of Memes
Memes started out as a non-lingual means of communicating between individuals who may not share the same language. The ideas was to have a means of communication between people by using humor to inform, educate and spread awareness about things that may be of mutual interest for all parties involved.
While they began on the fringes of the internet, on websites like 4chan and Ebaum’s World. Due to the humor they exhibited, and their high share-ability, they soon began to bleed into mainstream websites and social media.
Since then, they have almost become a primary form of communication over the internet which is not only humorous with a heavy sense of sarcasm but are also informative too. We have gotten to a point wherein its almost impossible to scroll down your Facebook feed or be in a whatsapp group without being bombarded by them.
They cover a wide range of topics today, politics, society, movies, actors, public policy, religion etc. Almost everything in today’s world can be used to create memes. They have a high tendency for going viral due to their humorous nature.
What are Political Memes
A Political Meme is political in nature i.e. it uses the image of a politician to make a humorous yet truthful point about their success or failure in office, or it can also use images related to a specific public policy that was enacted by the leaders to make positive or even negative comments on said policy.
Political memes come into full swing especially during elections. They help spread information and disinformation in an attempt to further a specific political ideology so as to urge or influence voters.
Much like political cartoons, political memes are provocative art pieces that intend to inflame emotions in those belonging to a particular political ideology. They can also be used to create awareness, popularity or interest in a specific political viewpoint by using a sharp humor filled words to elicit a reaction from the viewers.
Using Memes as political Propaganda
One often finds their timelines and chat groups flooded with political memes, specially during elections or when a big public policy decision has been made by the government or even when the opposition takes out any type of large scale action against the government of the time.
Political Propaganda is the spreading of information so as to propagate a certain cause, regardless of it being true or false, just or unjust, it is all propaganda. It’s the manipulation of facts so as to influence the public into thinking in a certain way. They play a major role in political campaigns today, they’re used to spread information and disinformation.
Memes have become a necessary evil in today’s day. The right leaning groups of the world seem to be using them to further aid their fake news campaign while creating a viral factor for their content. The left leaning groups use them to inform the public of their ideology and initiatives while also constantly running a smear campaign against the right.
How Memes Affect Politics
What once started out as an innocent effort to spread humor and love among a fringe community on the internet has now become not only an art form but also a major source of political discourse and propaganda.
They have become one of the most essential tools used by people to publicize their political leanings as well as appreciate or denigrate decisions made by their political leaders. They have been rumored to be able to switch the tides of elections. To the extent that there’s an unsubstantiated claim about Facebook posts and memes impacting the American Presidential Elections of 2016.
A political meme can inflame feelings of the public strongly, it has the power to create and destroy political campaigns. Humans tend to be gullible, and it is easy to push people to behave and or react in a certain way to the content being consumed by them. This has been used both positively and negatively to impact not only elections but even mundane day to day functioning of the political machinery in several countries
Why Political Memes Work
They work for one very simple reason, they are shareable. The beauty of memes is in the simplicity of the manifestation of an individual’s/a group’s ideology. People want to share their opinions but they may not always know how to do so. They provide people an avenue to share their opinions without fear of prosecution because of them being considered art and one not being able to tell exactly where a certain meme was created.
Meme makers are protected under the Right to Freedom of Expression as well as Freedom of Speech. Those who share them can not be persecuted due to the memes not being created by them. This makes people more bold to share them as far and wide as possible.
This makes them easy to share and quick to flood the internet and attempt to sway opinions, this is why political memes work. They spread fast and wide without fear of repercussions, and are thus able to easily manipulate and sway public opinions.
While memes are coming to be recognized as art, they are unfortunately also being used to spread political propaganda on all fronts by all political parties in all countries. Due to their protected status as creative work product under Right to Freedom of Expression and Speech, they spread fast and wide easily. We believe that while they are a boon in some states where there is a lack of freedom of expression, they are also a bane when it come to some states where they’re being used to propagate hate and negative ideas against minorities.