Meme is the Message: How Memes Poison People’s Choices
by Maria Romero, February 28, 2019 4:50pm
Art by Dani Elevazo
If you’re always on social media, you’ve probably encountered them—internet memes. From Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Genes, memes are described as time-sensitive shareable units of culture, sometimes blunt or dumb, that are funny enough for us to pay them with our attention and space in our timelines. With simple texts over an image, short video, or digital clip art, they are meant to be spread with strong messages disguised in a humorous manner.
With its popularity among millennials who make up most of Philippine’s voting demographics, politicians eyeing elective posts in the government found the opportunity to capitalize on the situation. This election season, there’s no better way to win many hearts than riding in the meme bandwagon boat.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s infamous remarks on the War on Drugs is a meme. Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s appointment as new House Speaker became one. Bong Go rose to fame making his flight to Senate a lot easier through viral memes. Now, politicians invest in this form more seriously because anyone who has access to the internet, especially Facebook, is effortlessly reachable.
As an emerging medium, memes have given Filipinos a new way of expressing their beliefs. And slowly before we know it, memes are becoming the lingua franca of the upcoming 2019 elections.
Memes can be tools for political campaigns
Directly engaging with politics, even only on social media, can be complicated. Memes are mostly for laugh’s sake. And as creative and resilient Filipinos are, it has become our online culture to make memes out of any situation we even use them now to deal with our leaders’ confusing and incompetent governance.
Memes, with its comical appearance, can corrupt minds. Essentially, they are opposite of film or any literature published because there are no editors to refine the main concept and no producers to fund them. Since memes are memorable, people remember political memes even if it has negative implications. All a person needs to successfully circulate memes are internet connections and an agenda behind the meme’s virality.
So, if one wants to boost a certain politician’s name in public, the tried and tested way now is to weaponize memes and social media to create a name they want to be known for. At face value surface, memes are great attention-catchers for they look authentic and amusing, but if you look closely, you will see how it became a regime’s toolkit for propaganda.
It’s true, memes made it easier for us to remember important events the same way it made us ignore and sensationalize fleeting moments. It bridges gaps between people of different social status, but it also poses dangers in desensitizing serious problems.
If one wants to boost a certain politician’s name in public, the tried and tested way now is to weaponize memes and social media to create a name they want to be known for.
Take Larry Gadon’s instant popularity. His act of raising his middle finger and hurling expletives to former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's supporters was immediately transformed into meme amid the real underlying problem behind his fame. Through the comic relief those memes brought, people forgot that Gadon was a self-proclaimed “true-blooded Marcos loyalist” and was the person behind Sereno’s impeachment complaint in 2017. Now, he is slowly scuttling towards the top of senatorial rosters.
Case in point, we should never tolerate the use of memes as a tool for political propaganda especially if there are no follow-up discussions or else it will not have our best interests in mind. You can generate and share as many memes as you want, but we need to separate humorous memes from the ones that pacify serious issues. We should not use memes as a basis on our decisions in the upcoming elections. With the current state of our government, our wise votes are more important than ever.
We should not wait for incapable leaders to sabotage the welfare of our country for personal gains to finally have a sense of the magnitude of the problems caused by improperly using memes and social media to gain popularity. But there's a way to solve these dilemmas: Those whose hearts are always fighting for what’s right would tell only the truth. And memes don’t always embody the truth.