meme warfare

meming is a 21st century artform.

were there memes before y2k?  of course.  from the earliest times of history there have been images (or combinations of images and words) that were meant to convey a simple point.

this one was popular in the 1970’s.


memes are designed as vehicles for the delivery of information.  people have a hard time remembering a great number of details, but when something is distilled, it gains power.  in the above meme, we feel as if we have been this kitten.  we know what it’s like to be stuck.  the image latches on to our imaginations and takes hold forever.

memes can be used as tools, but also as weapons.  at first, no-one could stop senator joe mccarthy in the 1950’s as he raged against non-existent, communist, straw man enemies.

on march 9th, 1954, edward r murrow said these words on tv:

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve.

this is often considered one of the key moments mccarthyism failed.  another happened three months later when joseph welch rebuked mccarthy with immortal words. “Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

but, actually, the term mccarthyism and its definition had been coined 4 years earlier in a march 29, 1950 political cartoon. this cartoon became an early meme against the red scare.


when the cartoonist (herb block) crystallized the dirtiness comprising mccarthy’s attack on liberty and freedom he created a new weapon, and gave critics like murrow and welch a way to identify the enemy.  both attacks were needed, the meme attack and the legal attack.

which brings us to trump.  trump is similar to joseph mccarthy, in that he wants to whip up anger against immigrants and minorities.  trump and mccarthy would make a great pair, honestly.

so how does one make the perfect meme?  is it really an art to condense a complex topic into a small sphere?  here is an example.

this is a meme i made today.


there are three things i hoped to achieve with this meme.

  1. show the russia story as one with a past, a present, and a future. flynn was the past, and sessions is the present. who knows what the next weeks will bring?
  2. make an association with lying and losing your office. flynn lied and now he is fired, therefore the same fate is waiting for sessions.
  3. give momentum to the investigation and the search for more proof of trump campaign law-breaking.

it is a simple approach, but one with a tradition that goes back tens, if not hundreds, of years.  the alt right has claimed victory by getting trump elected using the meme of pepe the frog.  this is in spite of the fact that matt furie, the creator of the frog in question, hates trump with a passion and created anti trump artwork before the election. his response to the appropriation of his frog is itself a new meta meme.  in closing, let’s see furie’s expression regarding his art being used by trump supporters.

matt furie’s portrayal of donald trump


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