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).
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…
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/>
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>
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>