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The Distortion of Memes and Spread of Mis-information

Taylor Barry

Posted on January 8, 2020 19:18

2 users

Let he who is without sin order the first airstrike.

Americans are prolifically blessed in our ability to selectively decide our historical narratives.  The drone strike on Qasem Soleimani illustrates how the current political divide impacts how audiences absorb information.  Soleimani was guilty; he is responsible for numerous worldwide terrorist attacks through Qud forces, proxy Shi'ite militias, and extensive international allies.  What is concerning from a domestic standpoint is how the public, especially younger generations, have responded through social media, specifically WWIII memes.

Humor as a coping mechanism to understand difficult information is far from revolutionary, with political cartoons reaching their first peak during WWII.  Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram quickly flooded with recognizable imagery mocking potential war and (a false) reinstatement of the draft.  Viral users and influencers work to unite the social community through the comment sections and the channel's easy accessibility.

The danger stems from the inherent trendiness of memes and how quickly we are able to move on to the next pop culture blast (remember when 'Epstein didn't kill himself'?). Information fires by in rapid succession, which doesn't necessarily encourage further research. Initially comical media devolves into manipulative political propaganda, an immediate consequence of the deepening division between national beliefs and a glossed-over history.

One egregious example comes in the form of shared posts misrepresenting the money given to Iran as a result of 2015's nuclear agreement.  According to President Trump's rhetoric, the Obama administration carelessly gave Iran an exaggerated amount of money that directly funded Iranian terrorist groups. While his Defense council could not verify whether any funds had been misappropriated to Soleimani, the post simultaneously ignored that the money was legitimately diverted to Iran from formerly frozen international assets and debt obligations of other countries.  The additional $1.7 billion repays an outstanding military aid debt owed by the U.S. to Iran due to its failed attempt to keep Shah Pahlavi in power following the 1953 coup.

Why should something that happened 62 years prior matter? Because it explains why memes fail us. The US effort to keep the Shah in power created an authoritarian regime, resulting in the death of 1000's of Iranians. That failure laid the groundwork for the anti-Western sentiment that drove the 1979 revolution, the dawn of Iran as an Islamic State.  The ripple effect remains palpable as Soleimani is one example of many extremists raised in a corrupt environment born of ill-advised intervention.  

But a meme doesn't generate these uncomfortable conversations; it simply presents two diversions. One side dissuades civil discussion across social media as if someone is tallying points.  The other sees the crisis ending with a shinier controversy flashing trendy hashtags.

Political memes hinder the recognition of humanity within its appropriate historical context. The inability to learn from previous failures stagnates policy and reduces the attribution of culpability amongst parties.  Share the meme but study the circumstances:  Should war not come to pass this time, will we face similar crises in the next decade because we failed to learn from today's news?   

 

Taylor Barry

Posted on January 8, 2020 19:18

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Source: WashPost

With Iran considered one of the world's most capable cyber warriors, experts now fear the U.S. killing of Qasem Soleimani...

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