Political Memes: The Rise of the Political Meme in Politics Today | Retro Report

Memes are everywhere. These images and videos, often combined with text, are made by
regular folks to express opinions on social media about what is
going on in their lives and in society. Some go viral, like this video of
actress Keke Palmer admitting she has no idea who former Vice
President Dick Cheney is. -I hate to say it. I hope I don’t
sound ridiculous. I don’t know
who this man is. I mean, he could
be walking down the street, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t know a thing. Sorry to this man. “Sorry to this man” became one of
the most popular memes of 2019. Like these. -I mean he could be walking down
the street, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t know a thing. Sorry to this man. Like it or not, this condensed
expression offered by memes is now part of American politics. -Memes are the people’s
editorial cartoons. Historically, the news
media had the ability to compress a political debate into
a single image. Political editorial cartoons
gave us the Democratic donkey and the Republican
elephant, right? What now we have in the
age of the internet is people can create their
own editorial cartoons. I mean, what spreads, spreads
in part because it hits an emotional chord with people. Memes are
condensed expression. They’re shorthand. Just add water, and
they become something, something bigger. Memes have provided a
language for a new kind of politics and are being used by the
left and the right to score political blows, often below the belt. One controversial example: Pepe
the Frog, which started out as a harmless cartoon, but is
sometimes used to spread hate by white nationalists. -Pepe is a cartoon character
appropriated from a cartoonist who’s none too happy about it. But Pepe is appropriated by the
alt-right as a political symbol and they’re attaching all kinds of
meanings to them. President Barack Obama
became the first president to get the full meme treatment. -The idea that Obama was a
Muslim or that Obama wasn’t born in the United States spread
very far, very fast. Conspiracy theories,
racist memes, so forth, that expressed something we
need to pay attention to in our culture. But it did not have the
virtue of being factually right. President Trump has had to deal
with an onslaught of memes since day one, but he’s also
learned how to use them. -Every presidency, and every
election, and every political era are defined by the communication
technologies of the day. So, FDR and his fireside chats, Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on
“The Arsenio Hall Show.” Donald Trump is clearly the first
president of the Twitter era. And Trump is clearly a
fan of memes. These are just some of
the memes he’s posted to Twitter. -The pace of which information is
released, the expectations of these rapid-fire bursts. And, and
the emotionality I think is quite interesting, particularly with the
way that Trump tweets. Because his tweets are
always laden with emotion and often offer some sort
of window into his psyche in an interesting way. -We have a president that likes to
just pass along pieces of information and saying, well, I didn’t
know whether it was true or not it just looked interesting. And that’s sort of the way a lot of
teenagers relate to media, too. The things that fit their opinions,
things that they find curious, things that seem outlandish, they
pass along and wait for other people to decide are they
accurate or not. So while memes can be factually
questionable, or even divisive, they can be a window into society. After recent tensions between the
U.S. and Iran, World War III memes spread like wildfire,
reflecting undercurrents of fear and anxiety. -So it may be you’re introduced to
a topic through a meme. But that’s not where it stops. That’s just a point of entry into a
larger discussion. And there’s plenty of
evidence that young people in fact are using it in
precisely that way. I think they communicate things
to people that are really vital. And so the meme is a flag
that says, this is going on, pay attention, find out more.

Maurice Vega

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