By CLAIRE WANG
Memes have dominated the 2016 presidential election, satirizing the candidates’ looks, dramatizing their controversial policies, and commercializing their battle cries (“I’m with Her!” “Grab ‘Em by the Pussy!”). Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been both their subjects and creators. Their over-paid marketing staff have embraced memes as a convenient, lighthearted way to clap back at their opponent (“Delete your account”), spread campaign messages, and pander to specific racial groups (“abuela” jokes for the Hispanic folks, Beyonce lyrics for the black, Pokemon Go references for millennials).
College students are the most enthusiastic consumer of memes. While they understand the advertising and entertainment values of memes, liberal and conservative students alike also notice the harmful ways in which meme culture has influenced politics in the past year.
Ann Park, a politics major at NYU, said that memes disproportionately benefit Clinton because Trump is more problematic and, therefore, so much more “memable.”
“Memes get people to focus on the shortcomings of the candidates instead of their strengths,” she said. “You can only this is how it benefits Clinton
more people know about hillary’s emails than her
Aside from that, memes also helped cultivate enticing but flatly false rumors, Park said. On both sides of the political aisle, this claims rings true. News of Clinton’s pneumonia in September sent Dems and Republicans alike scurrying for explanations. Many thought she was in critical condition. Somehow somewhere, a body double theory miraculously gained traction.
#HillarysHealth #HILLARYSBODYDOUBLE @TheDemocrats Really? pic.twitter.com/gxzEcdn6JQ
— OathKeepers.org (@OathKeeper101st) September 12, 2016
Trump’s sniffing fits at the three debates (only marginally less embarrassing than his actual performances) inspired a string of hilarious memes insinuating that he’s not only a KKK offspring but also a coke addict. It was all fun until former presidential candidate Howard Dean legitimized the cocaine rumor by tweeting about it. It got people wondering if Trump’s actually doing coke (he isn’t).
Trump in the green room before the debate #TrumpSniffle pic.twitter.com/cgEvow4uZT
— Prairie Progressive (@PrairiePrgrssiv) September 27, 2016
“Memes are an innovative advertising tool, that’s for sure,” Park said. “But it absolutely should not be your main news source.”
For Ashley Powell, a junior at Hillsdale College in Michigan, the saturation of memes in this election cycle has diverged the public’s attention from the significance and viability of the candidates’ policies, which is far more important than their antics.
“They’re yet another manifestation of media bias,” she said, referencing the inundation of of anti-Trump memes posted by major news outlets. “I never see a compilation of anti-Clinton tweets on Huff Po or Buzzfeed, and I assure you there are plenty of those around.”
- more to come