How do Memes affect Political Media?

Written by Pak Lam

Memes, which are everywhere in our daily life, are more frequently becoming active on every social media platform. It is quite possible that all readers have seen, used or created a meme before. The word meme comes from the Greek word – mimema meaning, “something imitated”.

Despite the modern meme culture, a majority of contemporary memes contain captioned photos that intended to be interesting or humorous, but instead publicly ridicule human behaviour, social phenomena, and political affairs; spreading this message on social media.  Memes not only entertain our life, but they are also an online phenomenon now being heavily used to communicate political opinions and news stories. In 2015, 86% of millennials often encountered funny memes that contained political elements.  Therefore, it is obvious that memes possess cultural, and political propaganda. As a media and communication student, it is necessary to understand that memes are not only for entertainment, but also  a strong tool of political propaganda, travelling person to person in the world of media.

In the U.S. presidential election, there was a war of memes that Donald Trump eventually ‘won’. As Donald Trump attempted to promote his political ideologies and attitudes to both a local and global audience, Trump realised that there were two main factors that would help him achieve this. One factor was social media, an enormous platform collecting and  spreading valuable information to a global audience. The other factor being memes, which have the ability to present political celebrities and information in a hilarious way. The gradual development of memes was the main strategy used by Donald Trump during the election. It was a way to publicise Donald Trump’s political theory, thereby building a strong connection with his supporters. An example of Trump’s strategy is his “Build the Wall” meme, delivering a message about building a wall to stop Mexicans immigrating to America. “No one can stop me!” is an example of a meme reflecting his political attitude.

As we can see, memes are a strategic form of communication used by celebrity politicians. In addition, memes also give leverage to intimate politics; whereby we get a close impression of Trump’s political attitude through his representation and memes on social media, without actually talking to him face to face. Even though Memes cannot diminish the value of the news, they significantly impact politics by influencing publics’ emotions, feelings, or attitude. Memes change what issues we pay attention to, influence how we look for political information, affect how we process that information, and ultimately shape how we view the world.

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