In an era of twenty-four hour news cycles, instant updates, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, information has never been easier to access and create. Digital cameras in all of our pockets that connect to us to both cellular networks and the internet allow everyone to participate and contribute to the sphere of political discourse. The biggest issue that arises from this ability to share is that misinformation can easily be shared and paraded as truth.
Photographs and memes have been used to sway people for generations. Typically it falls under the label of propaganda. You saw this a lot back in World War Two. Posters like this one were everywhere.
What a hungry little beaver.
Back then, someone was typically commissioned to create a poster like this. There was a lot of bigotry and racism that was displayed in some of the posters. Canada was at war, we had an enemy, and many people were willing to do whatever it took to win the war, even if that meant embellishing the truth to get your point across.
We’re not at war anymore, but if you have access to social media, then you often see pictures like this one.
Going for the ‘Game of Thrones’ reference.
Or maybe this image.
For some reason, ‘temporary’ has an asterisk behind it.
Or, of course, this clever piece.
Right for the throat, eh?
These images weren’t commissioned by an artist, weren’t decided by a committee, there wasn’t a war room meeting with generals planning something that would stir the populace to buy war bonds. These were made by people who don’t have any ties to the political parties they’re trying to represent. None of these images were paid for by the Conservative or Liberal or New Democratic parties. Somebody, sitting at a computer, took maybe five minutes to think up a slogan and throw it over a picture. People are now generating their own propaganda.
The problem with propaganda is that, in order to be effective, it needs to be consumed quickly. It can’t be lengthy or use large words. It usually has to take a complicated problem and dumb it down into a digestible sound bite. It’s effective at getting a point across, but it cheapens the idea. You lose fidelity in order to target a larger audience. The internet, with the inherent ability to get messages out at the speed of light, has now become a bastion of poorly thought-out ideas plastered over pictures. The well thought out, researched, opinion is getting drowned out by memes and witty slogans. The rational voice is diluted by chanting and name calling.
This isn’t a left or right of the political spectrum issue. It’s happening to both sides. They applaud victories if they’re winning, and throw trash if they aren’t.
You would think that facts would get in the way of ignorance, but that hasn’t been the case. There was recently a study done at Dartmouth, which found out that when presented with facts that contradicted their own, people were less likely to change their mind. One of the major issues is the source of the facts. If a Conservative voter presents facts to a Liberal voter, the Liberal is less likely to accept those facts, as they came from a Conservative source. This is the classic Ad Hominem, in which the person presenting the argument is attacked, rather than the argument itself.
What’s the solution? People need to switch gears and reframe what an argument is. Arguments aren’t a football match, and we need to stop treating them as if there is winners and losers. An argument should be viewed as a discovery on both sides to find a solution.
In the meantime, there is a solution to meme propaganda. I’m absolutely sick to death of clever sayings put on top of pictures. Not just political propaganda, even the silly ones. I’m tired of minion quotes telling me someone is trying their best, sick of girls in yoga poses with inspiration garbage taken from Deepak Chopra, worn out by historical figures being misquoted. Social media has turned into your uncle who used to forward every email he thought was hilarious. Facebook’s ‘share’ button has littered my feed with ‘Top Ten Reasons I Prefer Dogs’ pictures and ‘Canada is a Great Country – Share if you Agree’ images. I’m going to try out an extension called F.B. Purity. It supposedly removes this sort of malarkey from your feed. I’m going to install it tomorrow morning and let you know how it goes. Until then,
Wise words, Xzibit. Wise Words
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. I’ll probably still use memes in the blog every once in awhile. To get my point across.
p.s.s. Well, maybe not.