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Memetic Warfare- How memes are being used against us

Pepe the Frog: yes, a harmless cartoon can become an alt-right mascot |  Oren Segal | Opinion | The Guardian
Image credit: Matt Furie via The Guardian

In today’s globalized information environment, the ability to influence narrative and perception has become, arguably, the most leveraged, participatory, and relevant form of power.

Giesea, 2015, p.2

Keith Henson (2006) defines memes as “replicating information patterns: ways to do things, learned elements of culture, beliefs or ideas.” The power behind memes is that they can change not only individual thinking and behaviour but also entire societies.

Meme warfare can be described as, “the use of slogans, images, and video on social media for political purposes, often employing disinformation and half-truths.” (Donovan, 2019). However, correcting this disinformation often satisfies the creator’s goal of spreading the meme further (aka amplification). Meme warfare relies upon large-scale public participation to spread the memes and obscure their original authors.

The following video shows various examples of meme warfare attacks including, #draftourdaughters (2016), #shariaforamerica (2017) and #scandemic (2019-Present).

My remediation- examples of memetic warfare.

The memes shown in the video are not only examples of meme warfare but are also examples of collective intelligence.

What is collective intelligence?

Process by which a group/network generates options and decides on a course of action.

Domytro

Meme warfare is often planned and co-ordinated amongst users on platforms such as Reddit and 4chan (where users can remain anonymous).

Typically, meme warfare is most prolific amongst political spheres, as, by nature, they weaken monopolies on narrative and challenge centralised authority.

So, next time you laugh and share a meme that’s mocking the politician you despise, remember, that you are becoming another soldier in that memetic attack…

References:

Donovan, J, 2019, ‘How memes got weaponized: A short history’, MIT Technology Review, Weblog post, 24 October 2019, viewed 24 September 2019, <https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/10/24/132228/political-war-memes-disinformation/&gt;

Giesea, J, 2015, ‘It’s Time to Embrace Memetic Warfare’, NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence Riga, Open Publications, Vol. 1, No. 5.

Siegel, J, 2017, ‘Is America Prepared for Meme Warfare?’, Vice, Weblog post 01 February 2017, viewed 24 September 2020, <https://www.vice.com/en/article/xyvwdk/meme-warfare&gt;

Zolotukhin, D 2017, ‘What Is Memetic Warfare and How Does It Threaten Democratic Values?’, Medium, Weblog post 03 May 2017, viewed 24 September 2020, <https://medium.com/@postinformation/what-is-memetic-warfare-and-how-it-threats-democratic-values-5140741c3a4>

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One thought on “Memetic Warfare- How memes are being used against us

  1. Hey Alina,

    Pretty dramatic music in your video this week! I makes a lot of sense focussing on the meme as a constantly iterated weapon employed by collective swarms. I’m not going to suggest any kind of further research because your deep learning is totally evident here.
    My remediation was also a video where I focused on the collectives that form around online videogames as a socialised storytelling and competitive experience. Specifically I discussed the memes that circulate here – generally guides and strategy videos, and broadcast media where the collective ‘experts’ stream their gameplay or discussions about the game and other users write news articles, create maps etc. I found it interesting that the game is a controlled stack that is constantly and swiftly circumvented by the collective intelligence that grows out of its clients. Occasionally we even observe swarm behaviour, where a new secret or glitch is discovered and users quickly mediate and share the discovery memetically so others can take advantage before the producer and server host (as state actor) patches the holes. This also occurs in a timely fashion so that their contribution gains the most attention and most value in an external attention economy, built out of the game’s proprietary code. Pretty wild, but of course we know that collective intelligences are not a new thing – they are constantly evolving to meet new challenges.

    Cheers Alina! love your blog design btw.

    Liked by 2 people

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