To meme or not to meme

It used to be said that if your political philosophy can be summed up on a bumper sticker, you need to read a book. The same can now be said about those who litter social media with political memes.

The memes I am writing about are those fabricated e-placards that usually contMeme1ain a picture and short statement that are posted on social media to convey some idea. In the political world they commonly contain one-sided statements, too often with inaccurate information, and are mostly used to transmit the negative sentiment that those who oppose them are idiots, liars, racists, communists, weak, or just bad people.

As the presidential campaigns have begun in earnest, I have noticed an increase of memes flooding my Facebook and TwMeme2itter accounts. “Memeabators” (those who surf the web seeking memes to spew their philosophy) feel it is their self-appointed responsibility to let us know all the repugnant ideas they have stumbled upon on the internet.

I know from personal experience that many of the popular memes are created by special-interest hacks attempting to sway opinion that their proposals are the most acceptable because all other options will be disastrous. Memes come from people of all philosophical stripes, but those on the extreme edges of the political spectrum seem to “memeabate” far more than others. (It should be noted that “excessive memeabators” often feel the need to expel their tidings 5 – 10 times a day.)

Why do political memes bother me? There are many reasons, here are a few:

  • They are just damn lazy. Instead of thinking and writing in our own words, we sub-contract that responsibility to hacks in basements who overload “meme generators.”
  • They tend to be incredibly negative. I do find it ironic that some who blast negative political advertising conduct their own mini negative campaigns by posting multiple divisive memes.
  • We can do better. These tactics rarely solve problems and more likely create divisions. With the advent of social media we now have the ability to discuss issues with a wider audience, yet we are wasting this great tool by reducing everything to the lowest common denominator.
  • It is the political extremes that seem compelled to scatter the most –and the most obnoxious – memes. Thus sensible and effective ideas take a back seat in the discussion of political issues. I can’t see how bombastic BS replacing intelligent thought is good for our country.

As most people who know me apprehend, I have landed myself comfortably in the moderate to conservative circle on our political spectrum. And I am thankful my political champions (Charles Krauthammer, Peggy Noonan, Slade Gorton, Arthur Brooks, Stephen F. Hayes, Rob McKenna, Dana Perino, and the Washington Policy Center) do not sit around developing inflammatory memes, but instead offer well-thought-out articulations on the issues we confront. I know that people who represent other points of views have done the same. Thus, if one believes he or she is of the chosen class to enlighten the masses via social media, I think we are better served with intelligent communiques than the blowhard memes that now demean the discussions.

Perhaps this missive will fall on deaf ears and nothing will change. I fear someday soon I will be sitting with a client who will announce that we need to flood social media with attack memes. When this happens I will respond like the Native American in a 1970s anti-pollution television ad and just stare ahead while a tear runs down my cheek.

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Jim Keough

Jim Keough

Jim Keough has been involved in Washington politics for 30 years working for Slade Gorton, Rob McKenna, Dino Rossi and others. He is a public affairs consultant and founding Board Member of both the Roanoke Conference and Northwest Republican Community Fund.