Credit to my pal Sam Garner for “the elected meme.”
Donald Trump’s campaign was fuelled by a large group of pseudo-activists, whose picket line was not on the street, but on Facebook, reddit, Twitter and any other social media outlet you care to come up with.
It is, as the Guardian has so nicely wrapped up, the rise of the “alt-right.”
What’s most hilarious, and most mind-boggling, is that no one really understands what the alt-right is. Imagine the internet as a huge hive mind which has finally found it’s form of expression through…yes, you guessed it. Mr. Donald Trump.
For years, sites like 4chan have been the hub of nonsense on the internet. These “fake stories” you have been reading about had their first steps on 4chan, or a darker, more nasty site. No, Hillary Clinton didn’t fuck any children, in fact, Hillary Clinton didn’t even condone the fucking of children. No, Hillary Clinton didn’t throw a massive hissy-fit when she lost the election. These are all not real stories. The real power of the alt-right movement, if we can agree on calling it a movement, is in the power of the mass dissemination of false information.
When political commentators talk about the effect “memes” had on the election, most of the time it is apparent they’ve no idea what they’re talking about. I’m not here to say I do, but lets start with the basics.
The magic of memes: who do I credit, because who owns this image? No one. No one owns this image. It is universal.
Memes are jokes that play on popular perception of facts, new stories or ideas. They are essentially, to warm up to my non-millennial readers, “taking the piss.” Memes are hilarious because they are simple. Because they are simple, they are effective. Because they are effective they are the greatest marketing tool ever known in our capitalist wonderland.
Every day there are a team of marketers working at each large company, be it Google, or Starbucks, dreaming up ways to appeal to the internet audience. These marketers are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds collectively each year. Now imagine Donald Trump. He has just started his Presidential campaign. Through his brash attitude and his no-bullshit attitude (which is, in turn, completely full of bullshit) he appealed to an audience that could give him these hours and hours of work for nothing. For free.
Image credit: Saboteur365
Hillary Clinton had to pay people to comment on articles and post stupid images (see: Correct the Record.) Trump had to do nothing but be himself, or at least, act like whatever he was perceived to be by the masses. The support of Donald Trump started as one gigantic meme. The memes were funny because he appealed to the sensibilities of a distraught millennial generation, that were sick of politicians like Hillary Clinton. The idea of a mass corporate elite, combined with rising costs of education, house prices and medical care (in America), meant there was absolutely no stopping their hatred of the political norm.
Alongside their hated of the political norm, there was also an outcry against political correctness. Memes, by default, defy the “politically correct.” The most hilarious memes are memes that go against the norm. No harm is meant by them. Their outcome is for pure humour. They are a joke. Yet memes have been used by a vocal majority, that of young white men, to espouse their political views. Their hatred is turned against minorities, whether it be sexual, or racial, by the forces they despise so much: the political establishment and the mainstream media. These young white men have not been forgotten because of these minorities. The crippled welfare system, rising medical and education costs are not caused by the minorities. Absolutely not. The mainstream media has turned the mass’ anger towards these minorities because it is easier that way. Blame the immigrants, not poor political choices, blame the homosexuals, not God.
And yet, our alt-right speaks out against the mainstream media and the political elite alike. It is an entity itself.
Brilliantly, to the failure of the DNC (Democratic National Committee), the election could have gone either way. Bernie Sanders captured this online power just as effectively as Donald Trump. There was a moment, mid-way through the campaign, that support for Bernie online had reached such a fervour it became a little sickening. You could not stray far on the internet without someone telling you just how fucking fantastic Bernie was.
We cannot, of course, just talk about online coverage. Donald tapped in to a wide-spread anger and distrust of mainstream politicians. It just so happens that the people he appealed to were the people that saw an article online, particularly on Facebook (fuck you Zuckerberg, telling me you’re not a media company…) which had reached their news-feed because of this troop of online Trump warriors.
What is key to this argument is the fact, however much the regressive left might go against this opinion, people are not ignorant. It is impossible to tell them what to believe if it goes against their understanding. These are people who move and sway with popular opinion. With what they read. With what they see. It has been this way since the dawn of the media. It just so happens that the media these days is Facebook, Twitter – fuck, even this blog. I could tell you anything. You might not believe it, but Ricky McSlut next to you might lap it up. It does not mean that Ricky McSlut is stupid. He just has faith. He wants to believe that what you are telling him is true.
To attack a quote from a recent Guardian article, wherein the author stated the “alt-right” had “ensnared” the public into voting for Trump, there was no “ensnaring” about it. It was no trap. Memes are not a trap. There was nothing at any point that forced them to believe what was being told to them. This issue lies in the fault of the modern education system, the corruption at the centre of our conventional political system, and a failure to connect with the very heart of the internet, which lies in the body of an overweight, sweating young man, or woman, who uses Facebook 4-6 hours a day.
I digress. That is far too much of a generalisation. Everybody, in time, will use the internet. It is addictive. Dangerously so. If we do not properly educate, then who knows what sort of false truths will be spread. This is the era of post-truth. You believe what you read, because you assume it is true. Humanity is yet to catch up with how fast the spreading of ideas has progressed.
I can only hope that future generations are more savvy than us. I can only hope that generations in the future can be able to make civilised, educated decisions about this planet, not influenced by a frog, or a fake-news website, or whatever they see on their news-feed.
I have hope, because without having hope, I have already succumbed to the darkest web of the internet, which is to blindly agree with everything you see and accept it as truth.
NO. THE BLACK RHINO IS NOT EXTINCT.
NO. HILLARY CLINTON IS NOT A SEX OFFENDER.
NO. JEREMY CORBYN WAS NOT DANCING ON REMEMBRANCE DAY.
STOP ACCEPTING THINGS AS TRUTH.