How do we love you? Let us count the memes.
The Greens take their ability not to be serious seriously — and that means memes. It’s a chance to get a simple message out in a comical, topical way so their social feeds are packed with big pics and bad jokes. A perfect example was their hijack of Valentine’s Day (note to Greens: one ‘l’ in Valentine) to send a heartfelt message that drives home their dislike of the new Liberals/One Nation preference deal:
— TheGreensWA (@TheGreensWA) February 14, 2017
Then there’s Greens candidate for East Metro – Tim Clifford, whose home made cut-out-your-own Valentine’s Day card looks nationally for a way to target current election issues:
Or this one, capturing the all important cute baby demographic, referencing 90’s cult flick The Matrix, and making a point on solar power all at the same time.
Why does it matter? The term meme isn’t new. It means an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. But in internet lingo, memes are identifiable images or videos, usually with text placed over the top, that spread around the internet like wildfire. They are often adapted with slight variations to speak to different audiences. As explained by Meme Scientist Ari Spool there is no single formula for a meme, but those that work best usually involve a certain level of absurdity and have an inside-joke quality. (See, for example, the Joe Biden, Barak Obama memes that emerged just before Donald Trump was sworn in as President.)
Sure they are funny, but in the past few years we have seen more political memes than ever before. Why? Well, partly because there have been irresistible images and partly because they can sting the target more effectively than any long-form article, as Bronwyn Bishop discovered after her decision to claim a controversial helicopter trip became legend:
Bronwyn Bishop seen heading to the corner store for a carton of milk & loaf of bread pic.twitter.com/bc13imKso9
— Dave (@chef09876) July 19, 2015
Millennials get memes and use them, so they are also a great way to target younger voters, but the power of memes is more important than that. The combination of a strong visual image and simple bold text has been co-opted by all sides of politics to make a point, and some Facebook pages almost entirely consist of polemic images and text, denigrating one side or the other, designed to be shared as highly persuasive messaging.
What’s more, there are entire ‘meme factories’ of internet trolls who exist to churn out memes, often designed to support right or far-right positions or candidates. These fall over the line into propaganda, engaging racist stereotypes or half-truths to powerful effect. So keep it sappy, keep it simple and remember: memes work. Take a surprising image, add humour not hate, and pair with a simplistic message, and you are on to a political winner.