Tag Archives: vladimir putin

Cultivation of the Internet Meme: An Eerie Truth about Widespread Misinformation and Brainwashing

The Internet Meme, which has become an extremely common form of self-expression and sentiment-sharing, will increasingly become a tool to manipulate the masses. This concern of mine was voiced at the end of my previous blog post about the advent of the Internet Meme with the example of how Vladimir Putin has cultivated support from Russia’s youth through his effective use of his meme, “Man like Putin.” The meme, by means of an internet video and pop song, was first created for and then adopted by Putin and played on Russian radio stations. Its catchy theme and music has turned a propaganda song into a top hit in Russia.

You might be thinking, “So what? That was in Russia; memes cannot be used to influence people here in the United States!”

That is where you and I would disagree.

Memes, by definition, spread quickly and alter cultural attitudes. Would it really be difficult for someone to create a meme that is sure to spread like wildfire and alter a cultural attitude to their advantage? My answer would be a definite “No.” How hard is it to create an internet meme? New ones are created all of the time. In order for an internet meme to catch on, it has to engage the audience, capture a sentiment they have already experienced, and bring them to a conclusion which they expected. Without any of these three parts, an internet meme will not catch on. All three of these things are already found in campaign ads. The only thing that is stopping the bridging of memes with commercials is the lack of understanding of internet memes with the older generations who do not have experience with them due to their relatively recent origination.

Consider the Presidential Election this year in November. Right now, we cannot say who will win the election with certainty because the election is still more than a month away and plenty of things can happen from now until then that might sway the results. Say that one candidate was able to produce a TV ad or even a simple image on the internet that closely followed the pattern of an internet meme. This pseudomeme could slander his opponent beyond repair a few days before the election and sway the results in his favor illegitimately. I am not saying that it is likely, just that it is possible.

The Presidential Contenders, Obama (left), Romney (right), for the 2012 Election.

In the stark contrast to government politics, the hacktivist group, Anonymous, has adopted a meme as their source of inspiration from imageboards. With imageboards, users have the choice to set their names to Anonymous when posting. When many users chose to stay “Anonymous” on imageboards, it became unclear who was saying what and gave the appearance that one person was making all of the posts without a username. This collective combination of being unknown and omnipresent on the internet was adopted by the hacktivist group. Eventually, the Guy Fawks Mask, another meme from the original Gunpowder Plot and the movie, V for Vendetta, was adopted as a symbol for the organization.

This group warns against the same type of government manipulation of society as I mentioned above, but they have no qualms with breaking the law, if need be, for their plans to succeed.

Anonymous is particularly famous for its targeting of the faux religion, Scientology. They believe that the leaders of Scientology have been manipulating the Church’s followers, bleeding them dry, and then covering it up. In the video below, Scientology is called out on its “campaigns of misinformation, [its] suppression of dissent, [and its] litigious nature…” Anonymous says that the Church of Scientology is brainwashing people and abusing their civil rights, the same thing I fear might happen should the power of memes falls into the wrong hands.

I am not saying that I am a supporter of Anonymous, just that they bring up a very important point when it comes to how powerful groups can manipulate people.

Anonymous Members in front of a Scientology Building.

The have also targeted the United States Senate for their acts which to Anonymous, “Effectively ends the Bill of Rights in America.”

The next video is a direct message to Obama from Anonymous. This one is particularly disturbing because it calls the President a “disgrace to the presidency” for having “sold out to the corporate injustices that every American involved in the Occupy movement is speaking out against.”

It is interesting that Anonymous is using memes to identify itself as well as fight the organizations that one day may manipulate memes for their own purposes.

All Your Meme are Belong to Us

Meme: “An idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

-Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Memes, specifically Internet Memes, have become increasingly relevant due to the rise of social media. They have taken on many forms such as images, videos, text, ideas, and even faces. Internet memes have taken an interesting turn that has made them one of the foremost tools for entertainment, jest, satire, and story/problem sharing.

The original Internet Memes were images and GIFs (basically a moving image) that were usually created by forum users with the purpose to get ideas across in a humorous ways. One of the most widely known and used internet memes is also recognized as one of the first. If you text or message your friends on Facebook, you probably have used it at least a dozen times in the past week.

Of course it is the emoticon.

The emoticon was invented on September 19, 1982 at 11:44 by Scott Fahlman on Carnegie Mellon’s message board. On the site, someone posted a question about the result of an elevator with a candle and a drop of Mercury inside. The immediate response to the question was titled “WARNING!” and was a joke about how one elevator in the building elevator was now burned and contaminated with Mercury.

16-Sep-82 12:09 Neil Swartz at CMU-750R Pigeon type question
This question does not involve pigeons, but is similar:
There is a lit candle in an elevator mounted on a bracket attached to
the middle of one wall (say, 2″ from the wall). A drop of mercury
is on the floor. The cable snaps and the elevator falls.
What happens to the candle and the mercury?
=

16-Sep-82 17:21 Howard Gayle at CMU-780G WARNING!
Because of a recent physics experiment, the leftmost elevator has been
contaminated with mercury. There is also some slight fire damage.
Decontamination should be complete by 08:00 Friday.
=

This message was interpreted as an actual warning advisory and the word was spread that an elevator was contaminated. The immediate reaction to this mishap of misinterpreted humor led the message board users to look for a way to signal humor in a textual message. Fahlman proposed a simple solution.

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E. Fahlman : – )
From: Scott E. Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:

: – )

Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use

: – (
=

(Source)

Sine that original post, the concept of using symbol based faces as indicators for mood and tone within short messages has become engrained in modern communication. Now, there are hundreds of different emoticons, each representing a different face or action that is associated with an emotion in order to steer the tone of the message as the sender pleases.

What about more recent Internet Memes?

Internet Memes have exploded and expanded to a gigantic, expressive collection of sentiments and ideas which today are mostly fueled by the younger generations. The simple reasoning behind this is that the internet in the form that we have it today did not exist more than a decade ago and those who were brought up with the internet have come to embrace the Internet Meme.

The title of this post, All Your Meme are Belong to Us, is an adaptation of the popular Internet Meme “All your base are belong to us.” The origin is from the semi-popular 1991 Japanese video game, Zero Wing. The game’s poor English translation includes many nonsensical statements like “What happen?,” “What you say!,” “Take off every ‘Zig’!,” and “All your base are belong to us.” This meme indirectly contributed to the development of a much larger meme known as “Engrish,” or the resulting message when a non-English speaker poorly translates something into English.

How are Internet Memes important when it comes to experts?

Well, that is a bit complicated to explain, but it can be said that many “experts” have harnessed internet memes to their advantage.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin, is the former and current President and former Prime Minister of Russia… not to mention that he is probably the most powerful Russian since Gorbachev. He is famous for his personal propaganda. This includes pictures and videos of him riding horses, fishing, doing karate, and playing sports. Not only does he have a huge propaganda machine, he has his own internet meme which is extremely popular in Russia called One Like Putin. This meme was original produced in the form of a music video and song and became extremely popular in Russia.

English Dubbing:

The song became extremely popular with the Russian youth who enjoyed the beat and the theme. Even though it was definitely not the first propaganda song produced in Russia, it was the first one in the form of a Pop song. After this song came out, the phrase, “a man like Putin,” became common-place and widespread with the Russian youth.

This example of propaganda turn meme has worried me a little. It shows how those who control memes can cultivate power and support from the youth even if their platforms or ideas may be faulty.

I think that internet memes now play an important role with shaping the perspective culture of my generation and it will surely be the opinions of those who can command the internet meme that will outshine the others…