When was the last time you shared a political meme? Do you remember what it was? Do you remember what you were feeling when you made the conscious decision to share it across your network?
Chances are, you didn’t give it much thought, at the time. Memes are not designed to foster conversation or dialogue. The sole intent is to illicit a instant and sometimes gratifying emotional response. The term frequently used to today is — “triggered.”
In the world of gratification through a series of thumbs up, thumbs down, engagement and/or acknowledgement, they have become the lazy persons “finger on the pulse.” of current affairs
Ironically, most of the political memes being shared demonstrate the person sharing has a limited intellectual capacity and more often than not — the message is either misleading or simply false. Case in point:
There are a number of memes over the years which have gone viral with quotations attached to famous people addressing current affairs. Once it hits the world wide domain, the truth becomes blurry. Those who shared it may have done so with a wink and a nod (I used one of the more ridiculous of them) but there are some who simply don’t have a grasp on history and or the facts and share based on that emotional trigger.
Memes have been steadily replacing conversation over the past five or six years (in my estimation) and all manner of political activism is now coming in an easily deliverable package with image and some choice words to promote an idea. It no longer has anything to do with right or wrong. The intent is to drive an idea void of context. Because once you can eliminate the idea of context, the truth becomes a moot point.
“Editorial content is anything published in print or on the Internet that is designed to inform, educate or entertain and is not created to attempt to sell something. It is considered to be the opposite of commercial content or advertising copy.”
Much like this blog you are reading.
Where the premise of “editorial content” gets interesting is that the information is provided by a person who “edits” with an opinion about an event or situation. It’s based on their perception.
We now live in a world where the internet and access to it is a basic human right. We also live in a world where everyone has a digital camera attached to their phone, attached to the — internet. We have incredible access to information. Almost unfettered. Almost undiluted…
Except — we’re lazy. There’s simply too much information out there and the majority of people do not have the time and/or resources to watch the whole world playing out in front of them. What’s a person to do?
That’s where editorial content becomes so critical. Why watch an hour of political hearings on TV when a “trusted” professional who curates information for a living can parse the whole thing down into a 2 minute read? Let’s go one step further and strip it down to 8 words attached to an image. You don’t even need to have credentials or trust to create a meme — just the ability to put the thought to image and hope it goes viral.
An instantly recognizable image. Most won’t be able to tell you his name but within hours of this stranger, allegedly trying to deter people from burning down his home, became the darling of the internet meme. Understanding the purpose of a meme and how it plays into political discourse means understanding there were absolutely zero of these created to support and or acknowledge the fear (real or perceived) that prompted the McCloskeys (yes, I remembered) to brandish firearms on the front lawn of their home.
Eliciting the most primal urges, the majority of the world which saw and shared these particular memes took the same stance and having virtually zero context, were able to extrapolate an entire diatribe on race relations in the United States. The truth no longer mattered. I would say to the McCloskeys it did but to the rest of the world, the images forever etched in the collective minds of those whose only investment into the story was via an image that scrolled past them, in passing — the truth became a mild inconvenience.
We are living in one of the most unique times I have ever known. Our information is all coming through filters. There is no obligation on your part to understand the information you are sharing. As long as it aligns with the trusted narrative. In fact, thinking for yourself is now frowned upon. If you can’t stick to the script, the tech giants are willing and ready to make sure you do. A small group of people are now in charge of deciding what is truth and what is fiction.
It’s a slippery slope. When the few dictate what the many can consume. What’s frightening is I watch people I know, trust and even like who are at the forefront of shutting down free speech. All under the guise it’s for the well being of everyone. No longer can we decide for ourselves. We will let unknown forces direct our minds, our beliefs, our morals.
We have essentially entered into the world Orwell foretold in his dystopian work about a fictional future with what he coined as — newspeak. The premise is eerily accurate. Where a select few (mostly strangers) are in charge of omitting information deemed harmful to the collective. There is little rhyme or reason. The only thing you need to know is that it’s for your own protection.
The ease with which this new world we inhabit has been ushered in has been a shock to my system. I literally struggle with my own sanity on a daily basis because of all the misinformation strewn in with the factual. I say this not to shock you but merely to espouse my current reality. You can’t make an informed decision about anything if you’re only allowed to access information you have been permitted to and if that information only supports one side of the discussion. The idea a small group of people protecting me from myself by banning access is troubling, to say the least.
The tech giants have officially become the book burners of our present. Anyone who has read Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 should be terrified. We are literally on this doorstep, falling into the abyss, willingly.
The challenge in challenging people on ideas they share via social media is now met with anger, name calling and even; isolation. It feels like a work of fiction, this current reality. My learned knowledge is no match for the propaganda of a well worded meme. The countless hours I have spent sifting through content, watching unedited video and sharing my thoughts is discounted by those with the all knowing meme. If I don’t fall in line — I’m ostracized. Worse yet, reported…
There’s nothing more alarming (actually, it wears off over time) than getting the dreaded facebook notification. There are a number of them you can receive, from gentle warnings all the way to what I call facebook jail. Jail usually comes because someone in your network reported you. See Orwell.
What makes all of this quite fascinating is we have no way of vetting the fact checkers. All we need to know is the narrative is presented to us by mainstream media and, the big tech companies follow suit. That is our proof. We are not to talk about any of this information being compromised. Suggesting there is corruption at these levels garners you a tinfoil hat and the ridicule of your social media “friends.” And if you get too much attention, you simply disappear.
It’s easy to ignore what’s right in front of our faces. In fact, the experts suggest if you want to hide something from someone — you hide it in plain sight. Media has now successfully morphed into an Oligarchy. Democracy and politics (with most countries having a 2 to 3 party system) have moved into the realm of Plutocratic governance. And nothing is hidden. Powerful leaders almost act with disdain as they make rules which are designed to help those who don’t need it and further exacerbate the rituals of the poor and a shrinking middle class. The power struggle is between two groups offering you up the same shit sandwich and your job is to decide which shit tastes sweeter.
There’s only one way to make such a difficult decision…
Returning to our regularly scheduled program…
In the past few months, we’ve all dealt with the realities of a worldwide pandemic. Some of you have been affected more than others. Either though catching that cold or losing your jobs or both. I’m unemployed. It started with self-isolating and watching my industries (yes, two of them) collapse within a month. The world has changed and some say changed permanently in a scant 4 months. Imagine, we have 7.6 billion people on this planet and everyone has been changed in some way and we are being told there is no going back.
The rub through all of this is we are also no longer permitted to question. Governments around the world have made collective decisions regarding our basic and taken for granted freedoms and we, for the most part, have stepped in line to protect the herd. I’m not going to lie, the image that just ran through my head is…oh hell, since I’m on a meme kick right now:
We’re all in this together. So we jump because the alternate is we kill someone. I don’t want that guilt on my hands. I don’t have to believe the narrative but I’m no longer in a position to do anything about it. We must obey. We must comply. We must flatten the curve.
Facts have taken a backseat in order to do what is morally right. There are no absolutes. Anyone who takes a position of absolute truth is either delusional or is lying. If my actions to follow the herd means less pain and suffering, I have an obligation. I take that seriously.
This does not mean we should not question the current narrative. This does not mean we should be prevented from seeing alternate points of view. I truly believe we are caught between the truth and the lie. The math doesn’t add up. The stories don’t add up. The swift and unbelievable action taken against any information that contradicts the accepted narrative is unsettling.
We will believe rich and powerful individuals who have skin in the game and vilify those who stand to lose everything by presenting an alternate theory. Nobody bats an eye. The biggest irony for me - the people who are most active with the memes, those ridiculing and/or shutting down free thought believe they are “woke” (I hate this term) and are quick to dismiss those who object to anything their memes are selling.
A couple of things to ponder in my closing thoughts:
If most political memes present ideas which align with the majority, why is the intent to ridicule what should be a small and insignificant group of people with debasing and often offensive material? It’s a simple premise and goes back to hierarchies we learned in school: Safety in numbers. Don’t rock the boat. Follow or be crucified socially. We’re all essentially living or reliving high school where fear prevents us from speaking our minds. Those people quick with the memes and a sharp tongue are our modern day bullies. They have nobody to answer to and are propped up by the parroting masses while those opposing the message refrain from interacting for fear of castigation.
My final thought is this: I make political memes. A lot of them. They’re all mostly from the right as a form of protest. You may have even seen some unknowingly. Some have gone viral and unfortunately, I have to keep that part of my life hidden from most of the people in my networks. While I push back where I can, I know it’s pointless. It’s also potentially damaging professionally when you’re challenging the establishment…a topic for my next blog perhaps.
You can’t change a made up mind.
If you’re still here, I feel it prudent to share some materials the big tech companies have attempted to hide. I’m hopeful Medium continues to allow free speech and sharing of information. Thanks for your patronage.