Memes as Participatory Politics: Understanding internet memes as a form of American political culture in the 2016 United States Presidential election

July 15, 2017 | Author: Emma Balfour | Category: Meme, Twitter, Instagram, Hashtag, Facebook
Share Embed Donate


Short Description

Descripción: This thesis seeks to theorise and contextualise the memetic activity of the 2016 United States Presidential...

Description

Memes as participatory politics Understanding internet memes as a form of American political culture in the 2016 United States Presidential election Emma Balfour SID 430289967

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of International and Global Studies (Honours) in American Studies, University of Sydney, October 2016. Word Count: 19,847

Abstract: This thesis seeks to theorise and contextualise the memetic activity of the 2016 United States Presidential election. My paper has three aims: (1) understand the cultural and political forces that shape memes, (2) catalogue and explain the memetic activity of the 2016 US Presidential race, and (3) thereby come to an understanding of what political citizenship means within meme culture and mainstream American politics. Ultimately, political authenticity and memetic authenticity are woven into the fabric of participatory politics: the cultural power of meme communities may have even greater significance in future elections.

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Acknowledgments

F

irst and foremost, thankyou to my wonderful partner, Luke Tisher, who helped and supported me more times than I know, and was consistently good-natured and optimistic. I could have done it without you, but I wouldn’t have wanted to.

Secondly: family. Thankyou to my mother Fiona for challenging me to be better, and my father James for keeping me grounded. I would also like to thank my brother, David, for providing about fifty percent of the memes in this thesis. I would be nowhere without the incredible academic support of my supervisor Rodney Taveira, who helped me to think bigger and better. Your advice, support, and humour were absolutely invaluable. Thankyou also to Rebecca Sheehan, our wondrous Honours coordinator, for giving me the best advice of my life: “Work hard on your good intentions.” Huge thanks to all of my friends who, of their own volition, contributed memes to the Facebook group “Memes For Emma’s Honours Thesis”. Thankyou to all the delightful people who helped edit my thesis – Rodney, of course, but also my mum, Wally Allington, Oliver Moore, Jennifer Nicholson, Jim Fishwick, Joe Campbell, Swetha Das, and Cathy Bouris. I am a big believer of never working alone – thanks for your support. A big thankyou to my thesis study buddy Adam Chalmers, and to my delightful cohort, Taylor, Claire, Lucy, Jack, and Ella. Each of you made me strive to work harder, and I am so grateful for your company and support throughout this! Finally, I’d like to dedicate this to my Bapa, Peter Meyer. You may not understand anything about mediated participatory politics, but you understand hard work.

1

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Contents Introduction: Memes as politics

3

Chapter I: Memetics theory and the forces that shape meme creation

12

Chapter II: American comedy culture and its continued impact

34

Chapter III: Political memes in the 2016 US Presidential election

56

Conclusion: Politics as memes

93

Figure References

97

Works Cited

101

2

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Introduction Memes as politics

M

emes are the anthropological artefacts of the net, cave paintings on the walls of the cloud. They are units of accumulated human collaboration that take place in mediated, online spaces; they represent the depth of complex

creative endeavour, and mark moments of communication and interaction that can be digitally traced. They are shaped by popular culture, but also have the power to shape it. Memes represent millions of hours of unpaid labour – and this in particular makes them fascinating. This thesis aims to do three things: (1) understand the cultural and political forces that shape memes, (2) catalogue and explain the memetic activity of the 2016 US Presidential race, and (3) thereby come to an understanding of what political citizenship means within meme culture, and what memes mean for mainstream American politics. In doing this, I will reframe memetic engagement – production, distribution, and consumption – as an act of citizenship. The idea of political memes as a form of participatory politics is a radical one, because it seeks to redefine political activity. One of the strangest experiences of writing this thesis has been people’s desire to contribute. Countless acquaintances expressed interest in reading it; fifty or so friends contributed sources and articles to the project; many more sent memes. This cannot just be explained by my friends’ kindness – why would communities of young people take pleasure in the anonymous and unrewarded labour of meme creation? Is memetic participation merely 3

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

time-wasting irreverence, or can memes be a political act of mediated citizenship? To answer these questions, we need to have a working definition of internet memes.

What are memes? Memes originally emerged in 1976 as a thought experiment in the final chapter of Richard Dawkins’ evolutionary science book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins coined the word to describe units of “cultural transmission”, that is, any cultural idea or practice that is spread through replication and mimicry.1 Memes could be as simple as nursery rhymes or as complex as the idea of God.2 For clarity, I will refer to these as “Dawkinsian memes”. The word was later adapted to describe “jokes, rumors, videos, or websites [spread] from one person to others via the Internet.”3 Internet culture scholar Limor Shifman describes memes as “units of popular culture that are circulated, imitated, and transformed by individual Internet users, creating a shared cultural experience in the process.” 4 This is the definition of internet memes that I will be using throughout my work. Crucially, memes are not to be confused with viral content. While the two often overlap, they function in vastly different ways. Viral content describes a single text which is widely distributed – such as PSY’s music video Gangnam Style which has 2.6 billion YouTube views.5 Meanwhile, memetic content is any online content spread through “rituals” of repetition, remix, and mashup.6 A good example of a ritualistic memetic practice is the use 1

Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 11 - Memes: the new replicators. p.203. 2 Ibid. pp.206, 207. 3 [sic] Please note that some quotations feature American spelling. Stockwell, S. (2004). Reconsidering the Fourth Estate: The functions of infotainment. [online] Adelaide: University of Adelaide. Available at: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/apsa/docs_papers/Others/Stockwell.pdf [Accessed 18 Nov. 2015]. 4 Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in a Digital World: Reconciling with a Conceptual Troublemaker. J ComputMediat Comm, [online] 18(3), pp.362-377. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcc4.12013/full [Accessed 18 Nov. 2015]. 5 PSY (2012). GANGNAM STYLE(강남스타일 ) M/V. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0 [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 6 Shifman, L. (2015). Memeology Festival 05. Memes as Ritual, Virals as Transmission? In Praise of Blurry Boundaries – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at:

4

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

of Doge, whereby an oft-photoshopped image of a Shiba Inu dog (nicknamed Doge) is accompanied by floating, nonsensical phrases of enthusiasm (“wow”, “amaze”, “much cake”) in brightly coloured Comic Sans font.7 Doge’s words of enthusiasm translated easily to any number of topics, and thus Doge was used as a cultural code to communicate ideas. Overlap between memetic and viral content does occur, as viral content is often mimicked, and memetic content often becomes viral. Shifman bases her analysis of memes on three dimensions: content, form, and stance.8 Content describes the topic of a meme (its characters, subject matter, and cultural intertextuality). Form describes how a meme is presented (whether it is pictorial, textual, audio-visual, or a Dawkinsian meme, like a rumour). Stance is more complicated. A meme’s stance is the information it communicates about itself as a meme, and its positioning in relation to its content – in political memes, this could be a political opinion communicated by the meme. The stance of a meme positions it within a broader cultural context; stance is therefore the most significant dimension for analysing memes contributing to political conversations, as it examines cultural intertextuality and conversation.

Why are memes relevant to the US Presidential election? In their consideration of participatory cultures, Jenkins, Itō, and boyd [sic] challenge the traditional definition of political activity by positioning modern political engagement as “micro-politics.”9 They posit that participatory political cultures encourage political engagement on a cultural level, rejecting the narrow view of politics as “institutional

http://culturedigitally.org/2015/11/memeology-festival-05-memes-as-ritual-virals-as-transmission-in-praise-ofblurry-boundaries/ [Accessed 29 Jun. 2016]. 7 Know Your Meme. (2013). Doge. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/doge [Accessed 4 Oct. 2016]. 8 Shifman, L. (2013). Op. cit. 9 Jenkins, H., Itō, M. and boyd, d. (2016). Participatory culture in a networked era. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.154.

5

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

practices, such as voting, lobbying, or petitioning.”10 In micro-politics, cultural communities can become political consciousness-raising groups. Groups shape cultural ideas, which in turn shape the political actions of individuals. Modern politics has adapted to cater to a world centred upon entertainment. This has led to a culture of “infotainment” – information presented as entertainment.11 As the lines between journalism, politics, and culture blurred, political memes became a humorous mode of online reaction. Memes have the ability to shape ideas and behaviours; when these behaviours include influential acts like voting, memetic analysis becomes crucial to understanding political culture. Lisa Silvestri reasons that “to meme is to engage creatively with a popular (and therefore recognizable) cultural artefact… [Memes] give us a common language from which to act politically.”12 Therefore, political memes are a kind of participatory politics. Speaking to this, Netzer et al describe the five primary characteristics of participatory culture: [Participatory culture] facilitates civic engagement and self-expression, supports creation and sharing processes, gives amateurs easy access to expert mentorship, enhances individuals’ belief in the significance of their own contributions and increases their sense of social connection.13 Throughout this thesis, I will demonstrate that meme cultures and communities fulfil all these functions, facilitating a meaningful expression of citizenship in the process. The power of political comedy has long been discussed. Shifman and Blondheim comment that “a close reading of humorous texts can provide insight into what is lurking in

10

Ibid. Stockwell, S. (2004). Op. cit. 12 Silvestri, L. (2015). Memeology Festival 08. Beneficent Memes – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at: http://culturedigitally.org/2015/11/memeology-festival-08-beneficent-memes/ [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. 13 Netzer, Y., Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. and Shifman, L. (2014). The Construction of Participation in News Websites. Journalism Studies, [online] 15(5), pp.619-631. Available at: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/12/8/1348.abstract [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. 11

6

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

the social mind, behind the façade of platitudes, conventions, and social expectations.”14 This is especially relevant for online spaces where social mores run amok. Analysis of the political influence of satire skyrocketed when a survey in 2000 indicated that forty-seven percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds “gleaned information about the [2000] presidential campaign from late-night comedy shows.”15 Sixteen years on, meme culture has become a prominent expression of comedy amongst young people; political memes, like satire news before them, are reshaping the landscape of political entertainment. There is also statistical evidence of the power of online citizenship: in a study conducted by Indiana University, Digrazia et al found that “social media are a better indicator of political behavior than traditional television media, such as CNN.”16 Additionally, a poll in February 2016 determined that thirty-five percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds found social media sites provided the “most helpful” information about the 2016 election.17 Online activity drives a huge portion of political thought in young voters, and understanding internet culture allows us to ascertain how mediated spaces create political dialogues.

Memetics theory to date Scientific analogies have guided the development of memetics theory. There are two scientific analogies used to describe the movement and spread of memes. The first compares memes to viruses, describing them as pathogens which mutate when passed from one host to

14

Shifman, L. and Blondheim, M. (2010). The medium is the joke: online humor about and by networked computers. New Media & Society, [online] 12(8), pp.1348-1367. Available at: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/12/8/1348.abstract [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. p.1349. 15 Sella, M. (2000). The Stiff Guy vs. the Dumb Guy. [online] New York Times. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/24/magazine/the-stiff-guy-vs-the-dumb-guy.html?pagewanted=all [Accessed 4 May 2016]. 16 DiGrazia, J., McKelvey, K., Bollen, J. and Rojas, F. (2013). More Tweets, More Votes: Social Media as a Quantitative Indicator of Political Behavior. PLoS ONE, Vol 8, Issue 11.p.4. 17 Gottfried, J. et al. (2016). The 2016 Presidential Campaign – a News Event That’s Hard to Miss. [online] Available at: http://www.journalism.org/2016/02/04/the-2016-presidential-campaign-a-news-event-thats-hardto-miss/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016].

7

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

another.18 Shifman comments that viral analogies conceptualise “people as helpless and passive creatures, susceptible to the domination of meaningless media ‘snacks’ that infect their minds.”19 As viral analogies can be reductive, the more commonly accepted analogy compares the spread and replication of memes to genetic evolution. Using evolution as a memetic framework similarly conceptualises memes as units that mutate over time, but the relationship between a meme and an individual is far less exploitative, as the individual has more memetic agency. Meme creators are like geneticists in laboratories, working to modify content to their specifications. Speaking to this, Hull comments that “memes are defined as replicators, not interactors,” and therefore the memes themselves do not have agency in change.20 Memes are changed by the external processes of meme creators, who mutate memes through the two processes of memetic evolution: remix and mashup. Gurney outlines the difference between these processes: remixes add further information, whereas mashups “take at least two separate sources of preexisting media content and recombine them.”21 Through the processes of remix and mashup, we can add unrelated elements, replicate previous alterations made to the meme, or revert the meme back to its original form. Viewing memes as evolution is an imperfect method of analysis, but it gives us a familiar framework with which to understand their development. I will explain memetic evolution through the development of Pepe the Frog, shown below in Figure 1. Pepe was created by comic artist Matt Furie, but was quickly adopted as a touchstone character to express different emotional responses to content: this is known as a “reaction image”.22 Figure 1 is not necessarily an accurate chronology of how Pepe

18

Shifman, L. (2013). Op. cit. Ibid. 20 Aunger, R. (2000). Darwinizing culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Introduction. 21 Gurney, D. (2011). Recombinant Comedy, Transmedial Mobility, and Viral Video. The Velvet Light Trap, 68(1), p. 11. 22 Collins, S. (2016). The Creator of Pepe the Frog Talks About Making Comics in the Post-Meme World. [online] VICE. Available at: http://www.vice.com/read/feels-good-man-728 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2016]. 19

8

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

developed, but it is what internet culture writes as the evolutionary narrative of Pepe – this narrative in itself is an expression of memetic agency.

Figure 1: Development of Pepe Meme (Illustrating Lamarckian Meme Development). Reddit, 2015.

The grandparent meme Original Pepe was remixed into Sad Pepe. From here, users connected with the elements of Sad Pepe that Original Pepe had not offered: Mad Pepe replicates Sad Pepe’s facial shape. Later iterations see Smug Pepe as a powerful meme: his break of the fourth wall is mimicked by Poopoo Pepe, Good Boy Pepe, and Well Meme’d Pepe. What makes memetic characters like Pepe successful is that users can choose which elements to remix – the range of possible modifications is limitless. Because of this, Pepe became a mascot of meme culture, endlessly malleable and adaptable. Pepe has become almost canonised within meme communities for his versatility. His imagery was so iconic that during the course of writing this thesis, far-right online enclaves hijacked the image of 9

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Pepe as a means of spreading white supremacy and pro-Trump propaganda (I will discuss this at greater length in Chapter III). The concept of meme creators as geneticists and memes as evolving units has remained the prominent theory of memetics. In Chapter I, however, I will contest this theoretical framework.

Chapter outlines My argument in Chapter I will reconceptualise memes as “genres”, a linguistic and theoretical structure that seeks to reframe memes in a way that will ensure clarity throughout my thesis. I will make the distinction between singular memes and “meme genres”. I will also analyse how the demography, design interface, and cultures of numerous online platforms shapes memetic form, illustrating my analysis with primary sources from these sites. In Chapter II, I will evaluate how contemporary American comedy culture impacts political comedy external to meme cultures, as well as its influences upon meme cultures (political or otherwise). Although American comedy culture is vast, I have narrowed my case studies down to television programs and internet comedy sites (radios, plays, and podcast services are too localised, and films emerge too slowly to be able to react to current political news). Within television, I will examine satire news, sketch comedy, and late night variety. Within internet comedy, I will analyse satire websites, sketch comedy, and cultural commentary. Throughout this chapter, I will make detailed analysis of meme genres and political comedy that these producers created. Chapter III will analyse the prominent memes of the 2016 United States Presidential election, describing and accounting for the different meme genres and communities that drove political culture on the internet. My significant case studies are Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer, Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash, Chillary Clinton, Bernie or Hillary, Trump Remix Vines, and Trump memes of the far-right (please note that this chapter discusses anti-Semitism and 10

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

mentions sexual assault). Each of these case studies represents a vastly different kind of memetic process, exemplifying different acts of online citizenship. It is important to recognise the limitations of this thesis. First of all, the overwhelming amount of memetic activity means I cannot possibly analyse every meme from the election – I have tried to analyse the most influential meme genres that took place before September 16, 2016 (twenty-one days prior to my thesis due date). Secondly, the internet is not one homogenous experience. As Kate Miltner astutely observes, “the experience of participating in meme culture is a social experience that is perpetually in process, and yet seems idiosyncratic to each person who participates: we are individually engaging with our own version of a shared (and amorphous) culture.”23 I have tried to counter any analytical idiosyncrasies by examining a wide range of websites, political alignments, and meme cultures. Above all else, the internet’s heterogeneity is integral to its social functions. There is perhaps one reason why all my friends volunteered to help me write about memes, one reason why the sprawling basement of the internet is filled with unrewarded creative endeavour: memes are interesting. And something this interesting is definitely worth investigating.

23

Miltner, K. (2015). Memeology Festival 02. From #Feels to Structure of Feeling: The Challenges of Defining “Meme Culture” – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at: http://culturedigitally.org/2015/10/memeology-festival-02-from-feels-to-structure-of-feeling-the-challenges-ofdefining-meme-culture/ [Accessed 27 Jun. 2016].

11

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Chapter I Developing memetics theory and the forces that shape meme creation

O

ne of the primary drawbacks of writing about internet culture is that academia moves glacially in comparison to the online world. As Phillips points out, “in the time it takes to research, write, and publish a project about a specific meme

or community, participatory texts—or even the communities that first created and/or amplified these texts—often undergo profound transformation.”24 I will try to “let ideas transcend examples” throughout my thesis, and allowing my theory to speak beyond contextual case studies.25 In my introduction, I outlined the history of scientific theories of memes, concluding that meme creators act as geneticists purposefully shaping memetic evolution. However, rather than relying upon scientific analyses, I will approach memetics with terminology borrowed from genre theory. I will use the language of literary genre to conceptualise “memetic genres”. Such a consideration of memes was originally posed by Wiggins and Bower, who proposed that every meme is “a genre with its own set of rules and conventions and a genre whose production is a product of postmodern conceptions of representation and

24

Phillips, W. (2015). Memeology Festival 03. Memes, Cool Traps, and Performing Legitimacy: Where the Researcher Fits in All This – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at: http://culturedigitally.org/2015/11/memeology-festival-03-memes-cool-traps-and-performing-legitimacy-wherethe-researcher-fits-in-all-this/ [Accessed 1 Jul. 2016]. 25 Silvestri, L. (2015). Op. cit.

12

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

replication.”26 They did not, however, investigate what this definition might mean within literary genre theory. Genre theory has existed since the debut of Greek theatre, and has struggled between defining texts by internal content (war film, science fiction) and external audience response (comedy, tragedy). Altman comments that “genre theorists have typically assumed that texts with similar characteristics systematically generate similar readings, similar meanings, and similar uses.”27 Altman dismisses this as an unsophisticated way of conceptualising genre. Genre theorists such as Robert Stam see simplistic genre divisions within film and literature as a hindrance to the creation of texts. Stam argues that one of the significant “problems with generic labels” is the proclivity for scholars to rely upon normativism, or “having preconceived ideas of criteria for genre membership.”28 This is an issue for any scholarly undertaking – the desire to prove a conclusion before analysing evidence on its own merits, thereby ignoring anything that disproves a hypothesis. Increasingly, genre theory has depicted genres as pluralistic, loose collections of texts that communicate with each other in some ways but not in every way. No text completely conforms to one genre; the original Star Wars trilogy is a science fiction that also draws from traditional revenge tragedies and the Western genre. Genres and texts are fluid. This is the first reason I believe that conceptualising memes-as-genres is useful: it incorporates notions of fluidity and malleability that memes-as-genetic-evolution does not. Interestingly, when nineteenth century literary theorists applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to literary genres, they found that the rigid scientific model was destructive to genre plurality, serving “to convince theorists that genres… evolve according to a fixed and

26

Wiggins, B. and Bowers, G. (2014). Memes as genre: A structurational analysis of the memescape. New Media & Society, [online] 17(11), pp.1886-1906. Available at: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/17/11/1886.full [Accessed 4 Jul. 2016]. 27 Altman, R. (1999). Film/genre. London: BFI Pub., p.12. 28 Chandler, D. (1997). An Introduction to Genre Theory. [online] pp.1-15. Available at: http://visualmemory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/intgenre/chandler_genre_theory.pdf [Accessed 16 Jul. 2016]. P.2

13

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

identifiable trajectory.”29 It is difficult to analyse genre from an evolutionary perspective, because evolutionary science relies on discrete categories and compartmentalisation, whereas genres exist in a fluid spectrum that cannot be precisely divided. When applied to memes, these notions of fluidity and plurality reinforce the practices of remix and mashup. Memetic genres posit that no meme is pure, and that every meme is a re-presentation of a previous meme. Just as the novel Frankenstein can be named as the original science fiction, there is an Original Meme within a memetic genre that characterises subsequent remixes and mashups.30 Yet that Original Meme may already be a blend of other memetic practices. Without the context of the science fiction genre, Frankenstein reads as a blend of horror, drama, and tragedy. Similarly, the 2016 meme genre Dat Boi, featured in Figure 2, blends the established genres of ugly aesthetics with a pre-existing memetic phrase to create a new meme genre.31 Dat Boi went on to become a far more successful meme genre than its parent Pacman meme.32

Figure 2: Dat Boi and its parent Pacman meme. Tumblr, 2016.

29

Ibid., p.6. Aldiss, B. (1995). The detached retina. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, p.78. 31 Douglas, N. (2014). It's Supposed to Look Like Shit: The Internet Ugly Aesthetic. Journal of Visual Culture, 13(3), Available at: http://vcu.sagepub.com/content/13/3/314.abstract pp.314-339. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. 32 Google Trends. (2016a). Dat Boi Frog vs Dat Boi Pacman, 24 September 2012-24 September 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.in/trends/explore?q=dat%20boi%20frog,dat%20boi%20pacman [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. 30

14

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

We can only create new genres from mashups of what we already know. Dat Boi only makes sense within internet culture because it borrows memetic practices that already existed within other memetic genres. As internet users, we can only understand memes because we have seen memes before. A single meme could be comprised of many smaller memes, and we may require literacy in all these previous memes to understand the new one. Memetic genre theory not only recognises the agency of meme creators, but endows users with authorial intent. The “hypodermic needle model” of media consumption posits that users passively and uniformly consume information, but this model fails to account for the complex individualised relationship between consumers and information.33 Similarly, memes are not uniformly interpreted by users. Internet citizens, or netizens, interpret memes in different ways, just as they might interpret a book or film differently from their peers. But memes-as-genes positions the individual’s relation to the meme differently – there is no room for interpretation in genes. The DNA for brown eyes means brown eyes: an individual cannot interpret that genetic information differently.34 Genetic memes do not reflect the subjectivity of meaning captured by memetic genres. Additionally, reading memes-as-genes gives them an intrinsic power that they do not have. The DNA for brown eyes doesn’t contain that information, it is that information. While genes are information, genres carry information. Cultural information is not intrinsic like genetic information is; cultural information is extrinsic, and informed by response. Memes are the vessel for cultural information, rather than the information itself. This, too, is how genre theorists conceive of genre. Daniel Chandler describes genre as “a shared code between the producers and interpreters of texts… a kind of shorthand serving to increase the

33

Utwente.nl. (2016). Hypodermic Needle Theory. [online] Available at: https://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20Clusters/Mass%20Media/Hypodermic_Needle_Theor y/ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. 34 For academic clarity, this is a simplified definition of how genotypes function and does not consider the effects of phenotypes.

15

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

‘efficiency’ of communication.”35 The code itself is not the information: it is a means to convey meaning. Memes-as-genres allows us to incorporate fluidity, develop a reactionary relationship between meme and netizen, and make a distinction between memes and information. While evolution describes the interactive element of meme creation and spread, it does not account for the interactive element of meme engagement. Ultimately, the memes-as-genres framework allows more meaningful and accurate engagement with memes. Throughout my thesis, I will use the phrase “meme genre” to refer to a group of memes who share similar attributes – for example, the Pepe genre, or the Dat Boi genre. An individual text will be referred to as a singular meme.

Factors Affecting Meme Creation I have already outlined that no meme is born in a vacuum. Creators are shaped by what they have already experienced; memes exist within a richly textured history of other memes and other comedic media (as I will detail in Chapter II). But meme creation is also shaped by a deeper, less obvious force: the interface and demography of online platforms. There are a plethora of online platforms where memes are created and distributed, but for my analysis I will examine what I consider to be the six biggest sites: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, and Vine.36 These platforms present content in different

35

Chandler, D. (1997). Op. cit. pp.5-6. Facebook. (2016). Facebook. Facebook - Log In or Sign Up. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Instagram.com. (2016). Instagram. Instagram . [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Twitter.com. (2016). Twitter. Twitter. It's what's happening. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Vine.co. (2016). Vine. Vine Home. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Tumblr.com. (2016). Tumblr. Log in | Tumblr. [online] Available at: https://www.tumblr.com/dashboard [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Reddit.com. (2016). Reddit. reddit: the front page of the internet. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. 36

16

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

ways, moulding the form and positioning of memes. Analysing these platforms allows us to understand how their memes function. Facebook mediates content from all other platforms. Its size sets it apart from every other online interface: founded in 2004, the site now has 1.71 billion users worldwide, who use the platform to speak to real-life friends.37 Pew Research Center found that sixty-two percent of all American adults use Facebook.38 Communities develop around group pages and fan pages. All content posted in these communities and by Facebook friends is organised algorithmically into a user’s newsfeed. The platform, which cannot be customised, is not conducive to creating memetic content, but is ideal at sharing content that was developed on other platforms. Because Facebook is made up a series of varied interest groups, memes that appeal to broader audiences receive wider attention, and fare much better than niche memes. Facebook’s privacy settings often limit how far a post can be shared and there is no centralised space which hosts site-wide content, however public posts or community posts made on publics groups or on fan pages can be widely seen via Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm. Facebook is often used as a means of political mobilisation because users can limit who sees their posts, and, as an American service, cannot be monitored by certain governments. Facebook was a fundamental tool of communication for Tunisian revolutionaries during the Arab Spring, who described it as “the GPS for this revolution.”39 And within the 2016 Presidential election, Facebook hosted the political meme group Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash, which will be analysed in greater detail in Chapter III. 37

Statista. (2016). Facebook users worldwide 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. 38 Duggan, M. (2015). Mobile Messaging and Social Media 2015. [online] Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/19/mobile-messaging-and-social-media2015/ [Accessed 26 Jun. 2016]. 39 Rosen, R. (2011). So, Was Facebook Responsible for the Arab Spring After All? [online] The Atlantic. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/09/so-was-facebook-responsible-for-thearab-spring-after-all/244314/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016].

17

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Instagram is a photo-sharing app; Instagram posts take up the entire screen, allowing users to examine each post without distraction from neighbouring posts. Fifty-five percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old Americans use it, but its usage is higher amongst women.40 Instagram is predominantly used like a personal photo album; pictures usually present wistful, idealised, and romantic glimpses into a user’s life, perfected through in-app filters which augment the colour and lighting balances in the photos. Instagram memes tend to focus upon youth culture, slang, imagery from the 1990s, identity politics, and empowerment. In keeping with Instagram’s pictorial interface, image memes use a combination of reaction images, tableau, and visual juxtaposition to communicate humour (seen in Figure 3).

Figure 3: From left to right. (a) Youth culture and 1990s references are combined in a meme about Pokémon Go and sexting; a reaction image accompanies the text, merging a Pokémon character with Pepe the Frog. (b) A meme riffs on both sexism and ableism at once, implying that the woman is a dog and the man disabled; here, rather than a reaction image, the accompanying stock photo acts as a tableau of the conversation. Note that the user, drgrayfang, has watermarked their username in the top left of the meme. (c) A meme plays with youth culture, body image, and 1990s references by juxtaposing Nicki Minaj with Flik from A Bug’s Life (1998). Instagram, 2016.

Although Instagram has a culture of personal content creation, it is used to build upon well-established meme genres from other platforms rather than generate new genres. This is perhaps because Instagram builds around users rather than content – any site that has a

40

Duggan, M. (2015). Op. cit.

18

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

follower count encourages a cult of personality. Hashtags in posts allow shared interests to be searched, but hashtags do not necessitate interactions with other users.41 Interactive communities on Instagram can only be facilitated through commenting and following users. This lack of user cohesion means that memetic communities must be searched and do not naturally appear upon a user’s feed as they may on Facebook. Additionally, Instagram has no in-app feature to allow users to share and credit other posts to their own feed, which contributes to a culture of screenshotting (capturing the display of a screen and uploading it as new content). Instagram meme creators will often watermark their usernames somewhere on the image to retain name power in any reposts (see Figure 4b). With such a disregard for intellectual property, limited routes to memetic reproduction, and a decentralised user-base, Instagram’s power as a meme platform is mainly in the diffusion of established genres rather than creation of new genres. This is partially because Instagram is a smartphone app, and it is difficult to use graphics software to create memes on phones. Twitter is a microblogging platform made up of one hundred and forty character-long posts, or ‘tweets’. Twitter displays posts from all accounts that a user follows in a reversechronological feed. Users can publicly interact with content in various ways: tweets can be “liked”, the reply feature facilitates conversation, and retweets allow content to be shared while simultaneously acknowledging the tweet’s author. These community-building features encourage content creation. The retweet function is particularly useful in promoting intellectual property. It is far easier to retweet content than it is to copy it into a new tweet and disguise it as your own. While this practice occurs on nearly all platforms, the retweet feature on Twitter means that users are more likely to hold content thieves accountable. Twitter’s culture celebrates originality, ingenuity, and intellectual property, making it a hub of original content creation. 41

Hashtags are a metadata tool that signifies a post is speaking to a particular topic; it is denoted by the symbol # before a chosen phrase.

19

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Twitter is used by some twenty-three percent of online Americans, but this increases within urban spaces: Pew Research Center found that “three-in-ten online urban residents use the site, compared with 21% of suburbanites and 15% of those living in rural areas.”42 Twitter is also more popular amongst non-white netizens: twenty-eight percent of black internet users use Twitter, as opposed to twelve percent of white internet users.43 The African American demographic has a particularly strong cultural impact upon Twitter’s landscape – Reddit has an entire forum dedicated to the memes that originate from “Black Twitter”.44 Salon described Black Twitter as “a collective of active, primarily African-American Twitter users who have created a virtual community that participates in continuous real-time conversations,” and noted its impact upon the George Zimmerman case in 2013.45 The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was used as a focal point for the contemporary civil rights movement; activists used Twitter as a socio-political tool to discuss racialised police brutality, give live updates of protests, share experiences of blackness as a form of consciousness-raising, and “push back against spurious media narratives.”46 This “continuous real-time conversation” about breaking news is expedited by Twitter’s use by media outlets and journalists.47 Many people use the site to comment on news in real time. Twitter differs from other platforms because it is often used by journalists to post breaking news updates, creating a constant online buzz of “ambient journalism”.48

42

Duggan, M. (2015). Op. cit. Pew Research Center. (2014). Internet Use Over Time. [online] Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/data-trend/internet-use/internet-use-over-time/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. 44 Black People Twitter. (2016). Reddit. /r/blackpeopletwitter. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/BlackPeopleTwitter/ [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016]. 45 Jones, F. (2016). Is Twitter the underground railroad of activism? [online] Salon. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2013/07/17/how_twitter_fuels_black_activism/ [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016]. 46 Stephenson, B. (2016). How Black Lives Matter Uses Social Media to Fight the Power. [online] WIRED. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2015/10/how-black-lives-matter-uses-social-media-to-fight-the-power/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. 47 Jones, F. (2016). Op. cit. 48 Highfield, T. (2015). Tweeted Joke Life Spans and Appropriated Punch Lines: Practices Around Topical Humor on Social Media. International Journal of Communication, [online] 9. Available at: http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3611/1450 [Accessed 29 Jun. 2016]. p.2716. 43

20

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Because tweets are limited to one hundred and forty characters, Twitter memes are succinct and easily communicated. They carry high memetic power across platforms; typically it is unusual or absurd tweet syntax that becomes memetic (i.e. the meme’s form). Examine Figure 4 below, a tweet from October 2015.

Figure 4: "look at it. it's got anxiety". Twitter, 2015.

The content comments on the dysfunction of humanity, and forms a narrative around corrupting a “perfectly good monkey” into one with anxiety, aka “Mankind”. It merges common Twitter themes of self-deprecation and crudeness, and the unusual juxtaposition between the grandeur of “Mankind” and the colloquialism of the angel presents inconsistent linguistic tones. This playfulness with tone and syntax is a prominent feature of Twitter humour, and indeed internet satire, as I will demonstrate in my Chapter II analysis of The Onion. The topic bears similarities to the Animal Creation genre, seen below in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Animal Creation genre. Twitter, 2015-16.

21

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

The Animal Creation genre familiarised users to the content of the Anxiety meme: we can only understand memes if we have seen memes before. The language of the meme was coopted by netizens: the unique punctuation and syntax which rested upon the premise that someone “fucked up a perfectly good x is what you did” made it highly adaptable and yet immediately recognisable. Tumblr developed the tweet into a broader genre, where it parodied subjects like Frankenstein, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Star Wars (Figure 6).49

Figure 6: An example of the anxiety meme, in the form of a Tumblr ‘chat’ post. Tumblr, 2015.

Globally each month, thirty-four million internet users access microblogging platform Tumblr; fifteen percent are aged thirteen to seventeen, and forty-one percent are between eighteen and thirty-four.50 Additionally, more time is spent on Tumblr than many other social media sites.51 Tumblr is famed for intersectional activism and fandom culture, as well as an irony-laden comedy culture of “shitposting” (a phrase used by many platforms to describe irreverent and ironic content creation). The success of the Anxiety genre on Tumblr exemplifies its cultures of mental health acceptance and shitposting.

49

khaleesi-mother-of-fandoms. (2016). Tumblr. Frankenstein Anxiety. Available at: http://khaleesi-mother-offandoms.tumblr.com/post/137616405637/dr-frankenstein-its-alive-i-have-created [Accessed 22 July 2016]. triangular. (2016). Tumblr. Hal 9000 Anxiety. Available at: http://triiangular.co.vu/post/137251162953/drchandra-i-have-made-the-hal-9000-unit-other [Accessed 22 July 2016]. 50 Gorman, T. (2016). Tumblr’s Best Practices for Building Community and Spreading Stories [VIDEO]. [online] Digitalservices.npr.org. Available at: http://digitalservices.npr.org/post/tumblrs-best-practices-buildingcommunity-and-spreading-stories-video [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 51 Smith, C. (2013). Tumblr Offers Advertisers A Major Advantage: Young Users, Who Spend Tons Of Time On The Site. [online] Business Insider Australia. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/tumblr-andsocial-media-demographics-2013-12?r=US&IR=T [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016].

22

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Tumblr’s interface facilitates all manner of memes: users can make text posts, image posts with up to ten images arranged in a grid, script-like “chat” posts as seen in Figure 6, and video posts either uploaded to Tumblr’s servers or linked externally. This engaging multimedia blogging facilitates many different blogging styles: visual, textual, humour, mixed. Each user has a fully customisable blog website at the URL username.tumblr.com, and posts from all followed blogs are streamlined into the Tumblr ‘dashboard’. Tumblr is a space of constant sharing and re-sharing: content is replicated from one blog to another via the “reblog” function, and users can add a comment to any post. However, comments are not posted in one continuous thread, instead branching into different versions depending upon who has reblogged it (similar to how chain emails branched out into trees). Users can tag posts with words for searchability, but often the tags are used as a space to comment upon a post without leaving an actual comment – this is far less disruptive to the post. Interactions with posts (reblogs, likes, comments) are recorded as ‘notes’ on the post. Because of its reblog feature, Tumblr (like Twitter) has a culture that validates intellectual property. Tumblr evades the cult of personality that Instagram and Twitter experience because a user’s follower count is not public information: this puts a much bigger focus upon notes as a measure of success. Contemporary Tumblr memes are typically formatted as text posts that employ the use of reaction images or reaction gifs, and may coopt the space designed for searchable tags to make additional jokes. Whereas Instagram memes are created as one whole image, Tumblr memes are mixed media of hypertext and images. Tumblr memes are commonly distributed to other websites as screenshots. There is a sense on the internet that memes that are screenshotted on one platform and reposted to another are inferior to memes that are shared natively. There is not only a decline in image quality when memes are captured and reposted, but there is also a notion that reposting to

23

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

external sites disrupts the functioning of the original site by erasing the original creator’s memetic power and attributing it to someone else. The most common place for screenshots to gain traction is on Facebook, because they can reach far larger audiences who do not need to start a Tumblr or Twitter account to be in on the joke. Tumblr’s content-driven culture means that Tumblr posts are frequently reshared on Facebook by pages like “Humans of Tumblr” which boasts over two million likes.52 The same content-driven culture is found on Reddit, a forum platform which caters to a plethora of niche interest groups. Reddit bills itself as “the front page of the internet,” and contains everything from politics to advice boards to crowdsourced celebrity interviews.53 Reddit organises content via discussion boards called “subreddits” which focus upon a particular topic.54 Users vote posts up or down (‘upvotes’ and ‘downvotes’) as a way to indicate their approval or distaste with the content. Upvotes given in the first few minutes of a new post are worth more than successive ones so as to maintain a constant flow of new content. Reddit unites content from all subreddits on its front page, enabling users to see the most popular content on the site. In this way, a minor post – say, a meme – can make its way to the front page of Reddit if it is flooded with upvotes in its early stages. Reddit’s front page has thereby popularised many memes. The insularity of certain subreddits has notoriously bred toxic and aggressive subcultures: some subreddits contain Holocaust denial, white supremacy, and pro-rape sentiments.55 Content from these far-right subreddits occasionally emerges on the front page of the website by way of the upvoting system. In June 2016, Reddit’s front page became inundated with content from the Donald Trump subreddit (/r/The_Donald). The subreddit’s

52

Humans of Tumblr. (2016). Facebook. Humans of Tumblr. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/humansoftumblrcom/ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. 53 Reddit.com. (2016). Op. cit. 54 Allington, W. (2014). New Media, Old Hatred: The Rise of Holocaust Denial on the Internet. Honours. University of Sydney. p.45 55 Ibid.

24

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

moderators had boosted the popularity of certain posts by ‘sticking’ it to the top of the message board (a tool usually reserved for community announcements); once a post had received many upvotes, the moderators switched to a new post. These sustained efforts led to /r/The_Donald having a disproportionate presence upon Reddit’s frontpage, more so than the Bernie Sanders subreddit and the general politics subreddit.56 After this particular case, Reddit changed its upvoting algorithm.57 This ongoing battle against coordinated memetic activity of the far right is explored further in Chapter III. The Reddit interface is largely unchanged from the layout of early 2000’s forums, linking conversation threads in the main body of the page, and featuring the subreddit descriptions at the right. Reddit does not embed images or videos like Tumblr does: instead, images and videos exist as external links on Reddit – a relic of an older internet age, designed to minimise download size. Reddit’s pictorial memes tend to contain all information within the picture so that memes make sense when linked without original comments. This makes Reddit memes easily transferrable to other platforms. While only six percent of the online adult population uses Reddit, this figure rises to fifteen percent amongst males aged eighteen to twenty-nine.58 A 2012 study of thirty-one websites found that Reddit was the most male-dominated space: seventy-four percent of its users identified as male.59 This demography informs the site’s content and contributes to a culture of male insularity. The reason for the forum’s gendered polarisation is likely related to the maturation of Reddit as an internet space. In the early days of the internet, recreational

56

Ibid. Hicks, W. (2016). Reddit Changing Algorithm to Increase Frontpage ‘Diversity,’ Neuter The_Donald. [online] Heat Street. Available at: https://heatst.com/tech/reddit-changing-algorithm-to-increase-frontpagediversity-neuter-the_donald/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. 58 Pew Research Center. (2013). 6% of Online Adults are Reddit Users. [online] Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media/Files/Reports/2013/PIP_reddit_usage_2013.pdf [Accessed 22 Jul. 2016]. 59 Huffington Post, (2012). Social Media By Gender: Women Dominate Pinterest, Twitter, Men Dominate Reddit, YouTube (INFOGRAPHIC). [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/socialmedia-by-gender-women-pinterest-men-reddit-infographic_n_1613812.html?ir=Australia [Accessed 22 Nov. 2015]. 57

25

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

browsing was performed by those in technology industries; at that stage, the tech industry was predominantly male (and indeed, to this day seventy-nine percent of American computer programmers are male).60 Because the early internet reflected the mostly-male tech world, it was predominantly males who used internet forums for leisure. As one blogger astutely points out, “not only were [women] walking into a mostly male-populated subculture, they were also walking into a subculture that had developed around the idea of being a mostly male-populated subculture.”61 There is a self-made mythology that forums represent the true and ‘original’ internet – a mythology maintained by Reddit’s by-line calling itself “the front page of the internet”.62 Reddit users have power as the perceived tastemakers of the Internet.

Figure 7: /r/aSongOfMemesAndRage, Game of Thrones memes subreddit. Reddit, 2016.

And yet, the platform defies homogeneity with its niche communities. Meme-geared subreddits cater to specific meme genres, such as Game of Thrones memes (Figure 7 above)

60

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. [online] Available at: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. 61 Nassim A. (2013). Gender and the Internet. [online] Internet Ascent. Available at: http://internetascent.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/gender-and-internet.html [Accessed 22 Nov. 2015]. 62 Reddit.com. (2016). Op. cit.

26

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

and Christian memes (/r/dankchristianmemes).63 Reddit memes are built upon communities that are well organised and user-supported. The last memetic platform is Vine, the powerful new player which has outgrown its original purpose as a Twitter video-sharing app. Each Vine is a six second video which loops until a user scrolls beyond it; Vine sees 1.5 billion video loops daily.64 Vine’s demography is more teenage-heavy than any of the other platforms, with their largest worldwide demographic built of eighteen- to twenty-year-olds.65 Due to the inclusion of a follower count, Vine users (Viners) are susceptible to the cult of personality, and the six second timeframe means a lot of Vine content is simplistic slapstick (Figure 8, below).

Figure 8: Viner Rudy Mancuso dances to Uptown Funk for 5.8 seconds, and crashes into an object for the remaining 0.2 seconds. The six second time limit does not leave much room for breaking comedic boundaries. Vine, 2014.

63

Dank Christian Memes. (2015). Reddit. memes god would upswag • /r/dankchristianmemes. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/dankchristianmemes [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. 64 DeAmicis, C. (2015). Vine rings in its second year by hitting 1.5 billion daily loops. [online] Gigaom. Available at: https://gigaom.com/2015/01/26/vine-rings-in-its-second-year-by-hitting-1-5-billion-daily-loops/ [Accessed 22 Jul. 2016]. 65 Richter, F. (2014). Infographic: Key Facts on Vine Usage. [online] Statista Infographics. Available at: https://www.statista.com/chart/2456/key-facts-on-vine-usage/ [Accessed 22 Jul. 2016].

27

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Vine’s short videos are an easy way to transition from pictorial to video memes without having to commit to the long form of YouTube. Vines are short, simple, and ideal for multi-platform sharing. Each Vine already acts like a meme: in watching a Vine, the video automatically repeats, mimicking the process of mimesis through the repetition in its structure. The Vine platform subconsciously signals the memetic process, and its phonefriendly editing software means that memetic participation does not require expensive computer graphics software. Vines were commonly used for short mashup and remix videos during the election; songs were placed over clips of Trump’s and Clinton’s speeches, their voices were auto-tuned, and the volume and images were warped. Vine embodies the ever-evolving, fast-paced, trend-driven world of meme culture. Each of these platforms informs meme creation and meme participation in hugely different ways, and plays a significant role in shaping how users create, share, and read memetic texts.

What Makes a Meme Successful? So if user engagement and platform interface inform how a meme genre is created, what is it that makes a genre successful? Why does a community recognise and reward only some content with memetic engagement? There are four significant factors which shape memetic success: spread and virality, topicality, authenticity, and use of internet aesthetic. First and foremost, a meme genre’s success is measured by the level of spread and virality it achieves – that is, its reach. Fillippo Menczer, who conducted quantitative analysis of online trends, commented upon what makes content go viral: If [a meme] spreads to 10,000 people very early on who are all in one community, then it’s less likely to go viral. But if it goes through 100 people

28

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

who are all from different communities, and they interact with it, it’s much more likely to go on and reach a million people.66 Menczer highlights that content does not need to be cross-platform to ensure high virality, but does need to transcend multiple interest groups – this is why Reddit’s front page, which filters content from thousands of niche subreddits, is so good at promoting memes. It is difficult to ascertain the specific qualities that will encourage multiple groups to engage with viral content, but one is topicality. There is a constant desire for new and interesting content. Whereas a decade ago a meme genre lasted months or even years, today’s content-saturated internet burns through genres within a few weeks – some within even a few days or hours. Just as news quickly becomes old in a twenty-four hour news cycle, memes that are not topical quickly become unfashionable and unfunny. During a particularly large cultural or political event, such as an election or celebrity feud, memetic activity saturates every platform in a period of what I call “lucid-memeing”, where everyone leaps in to give their humorous take on the current state of affairs. In any community, there are people who engage deeply and routinely with culture, and people who are more out of touch. Memes go so quickly that even academics who study them have difficulty keeping up – maintaining memetic authenticity is an uphill battle. And so, from the fast-changing culture, a spectrum of meme users emerges. At one end, there are deep netizens, or users who understand genres and can create “authentic” memes. And at the other are shallow users, with less memetic fluency. Shallow users are more likely to use memes superficially, incorrectly, or inauthentically.

66

Lewis, G. (2016). We Asked an Expert if Memes Could Determine the Outcome of the Presidential Election. [online] VICE. Available at: http://www.vice.com/read/we-asked-an-expert-if-memes-could-determine-theoutcome-of-the-presidential-election [Accessed 28 Mar. 2016].

29

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Figure 9: Congressman Massie's doge meme. Twitter, 2013.

Authenticity of memes shapes memetic success, and the intricacy of internet culture makes spotting inauthentic users easy. Famously, Republican Congressmen Thomas Massie and Steve Stockman misused the Doge genre that I discussed in Chapter I. As seen in Figure 9, above, Massie employed the white Impact font of old macro memes rather than Doge’s signature brightly coloured Comic Sans. Douglas speaks to the congressmen’s inauthentic use of the meme: The criticism of Massie and Stockman was not just over outsiders “exploiting” the meme, but over their failure to understand [what] they were trying to exploit.67 The congressmen hijacked the cultural capital of Doge, and their lack of engagement with meme culture meant that they created inauthentic memes. Lampooning inauthentic memetic exploitation became a genre during Clinton’s 2016 campaign, as I will discuss in Chapter III. 67

Douglas, N. (2014). Op. cit. pp.334-335. RepThomasMassie. (2013). Twitter. "Much bipartisanship. Very spending. Wow. #doge http://reut.rs/1bml7Pf " Available at: https://twitter.com/repthomasmassie/status/415145732661059584?lang=en [Accessed 19 July 2016].

30

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

This anti-exploitation sentiment extends to corporations as well. Reddit is particularly loud in its scorn for inauthentic meme use; Douglas comments that its “anti-authoritarian culture… invites parody, a genre that always leans grotesque.”68 There is an entire subreddit parodying companies who misuse meme culture and youth slang (/r/FellowKids).69 It becomes abundantly clear that memes are not just a mask that can be exploited for capital or political gain. There is an anti-corporate sentiment in memetic internet cultures which is almost punk in its anti-authoritarianism. It may sound counter-intuitive, but netizens only recognise authentic irony. Anti-authoritarianism is reflected heavily in the celebration of confusing or unmarketable content, as seen in the Harambe genre. Harambe was a gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo who was killed by zoo officials after he threatened the life of a toddler who fell into his enclosure in June 2016.70 A meme genre soon arose that lampooned the hyperbolic public outrage over Harambe’s death; memes heralded the gorilla as an irreplaceable martyr, and users asked each other to get “dicks out for Harambe” as a show of mourning. 71 In a later analysis of why Harambe memes endured for several weeks, Brian Feldman of New York Magazine attributed it to the genre’s unique anti-corporate qualities: “‘Harambe’ is still a funny punch line because brands will never touch it.”72 Harambe not only highlighted a horrific act of public animal execution, but also violence against children, taboos that are rarely mentioned in mainstream comedy but which are mainstays of the internet’s darkest corners. Harambe reinforced a sense of active camaraderie amongst the meme community,

68

Douglas, N. (2014). Op. cit. p.315 Fellow Kids. (2014). Reddit. How do you do, fellow kids? • /r/FellowKids. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/fellowkids [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. 70 ABC News. (2016). Boy easily entered Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure: witness. [online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-01/witness-describes-harambe-incident/7468716 [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. 71 Geers, J. (2016). The 50 Greatest Harambe Memes Of All Time. [online] Available at: http://thoughtcatalog.com/jacob-geers/2016/08/the-50-greatest-harambe-memes-of-all-time/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. 72 Feldman, B. (2016). The Dark Internet Humor of Harambe Jokes. [online] Available at: http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/07/harambe-forever.html [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016]. 69

31

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

re-inscribing the celebration of anti-authoritarianism and cultural anarchy of the internet, whilst maintaining an aesthetic of self-deprecation. The aesthetic of internet humour is difficult to pinpoint, but Douglas does an excellent job summarising it with his concept of “internet ugly”: [There is] a definable aesthetic running through meme culture, a celebration of the sloppy and the amateurish … an imposition of messy humanity upon an online world of smooth gradients, blemish-correcting Photoshop, and AutoCorrect. It exploits tools meant to smooth and beautify, using them to muss and distort.73 We have already seen internet ugly in play in memes like Doge, Dat Boi, and Pepe – purposefully amateur imagery that is accompanied by phrases with confusing syntax. Internet ugly represents a dissonance between streamlined, digital computers, and ugly human mistakes. It is someone purposefully making something “look like shit” because it rejects all the tools at their disposal: it is the act of visual irony.74 While this is by no means descriptive of the entire internet, Douglas asserts that “it is certainly the core aesthetic of memetic internet content.”75 This mode of visual keying signals that a meme is “dank” – a word appropriated from marijuana culture to describe a very good meme.76 A meme’s “dankness” correlates with its ugliness and incongruence: memes “don’t have a traditional punchline, and they are deliberately shoddy.”77 Paradoxically, the internet, which many claim is isolating and dehumanising, revels in the ugliness of humanity.

73

Douglas, N. (2014). Op. cit. pp.314-315. Ibid. 75 Ibid., p.315. 76 I would posit that the opposite of a dank meme is an arid meme. Know Your Meme. (2014). Dank Memes. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/dank-memes [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. 77 Wolske, M. (2016). Make America Dank Again: Why Political Memes Don’t Work | In Media Res. [online] Available at: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/2016/09/06/make-america-dank-again-whypolitical-memes-don-t-work [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. 74

32

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Conclusions At the start of this chapter, I explained my reasoning for adopting the language of genre to describe memes. Genre theory reflects the fluidity of meme genres, develops the idea that users interact with memes, and, unlike evolutionary models, depicts memes as vessels for information rather than information itself. I analysed how memetic creation and sharing are shaped by the six major memetic platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, and Vine). I then outlined the other factors that contribute to memetic success: virality and spread, topicality, authenticity, and the ugly, anti-authoritarian aesthetic of internet humour. In Chapter II, I will approach the 2016 Presidential election by analysing how mainstream comedy engages with political parody. As I have already emphasised, we do not understand memes unless we have seen memes before; similarly, we cannot understand the political comedy of meme cultures unless we have satirical and political literacy. By juxtaposing mainstream comedic media with the internet, we can understand how ideas between these spheres are exchanged, repurposed, and mirrored.

33

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Chapter II American comedy continued impact

culture

and

its

M

emes are unique because the vast majority of them are made by people with no formal background in comedy. The comedic literacy of the general public is informed by what John Limon calls America’s “comedified” culture,

whereby comedy culture permeates throughout every sphere of society. 78 Memes do not exist in a vacuum separate from this comedified culture: to fully understand memes, we must understand American political humour more broadly. There are two main dimensions of traditional comedic media that shape internet meme culture: television comedy and internet comedy. The television comedy I will be examining encompasses late night programming (The Tonight Show, NBC), satire news (Last Week Tonight, HBO; Full Frontal, TBS), and sketch comedy (Saturday Night Live, NBC). The internet spaces I will analyse are satire websites (The Onion, Clickhole), cultural commentary websites (Cracked), and sketch comedy sites (College Humor).79 Dissecting memes through American humour studies allows us to understand memes as a continuation of America’s long comedy history. For nearly ninety years, American 78

Limon, J. (2000). Stand-up comedy in theory, or, Abjection in America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p.3. 79 The Onion. (2016). The Onion, Home. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Clickhole. (2016). ClickHole, Home. [online] Available at: http://www.clickhole.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Cracked.com. (2016a). America's Only Humor Site | Cracked.com. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. College Humor. (2016a). CollegeHumor. [online] Available at: http://www.collegehumor.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016].

34

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

humour studies has examined comedy and politics in parallel. In All Joking Aside, Rebecca Krefting states that “all humor locates itself in social and political contexts.”80 It is a strong, clear statement: comedy is a political act which engages with identity politics and political satire.

Television Americans television viewing habits have changed. The increased availability of highspeed internet at a relatively low cost has made on-demand streaming more accessible and popular; this has had a huge influence upon television. Data indicate that while broadcast television viewership has decreased since 2011, total video-watching hours continue to grow: “digital video is complementing more than replacing traditional TV”.81 Nevertheless, television viewing in America has decreased by ten hours a week amongst eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds, and networks increasingly use online streaming to support broadcast revenue.82 In particular, light entertainment has moved towards shorter segments that are easy to upload as YouTube clips, and internet-friendly television emphasises virality over memetic engagement. Viral content is accessible and boosts viewership; memetic content excludes potential viewers (as, indeed, does political content, which perhaps explains a reluctance to ask politicians tough questions). Meme culture can be intimidating to engage with, but viral content does not need prior knowledge to be understood and shared. So, how has comedy television reflected the 2016 US Presidential election, and what are its influences upon meme cultures? 80

Krefting, R. (2014). All Joking Aside: American Humor and Its Discontents. Johns Hopkins University Press. p.2. 81 MarketingCharts. (2016). Traditional TV Viewing: What A Difference 5 Years Makes. [online] Available at: http://www.marketingcharts.com/television/are-young-people-watching-less-tv-24817/ [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 82 Ibid.

35

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Parody and sketch case study: Saturday Night Live American sketch is seen best in the long-running NBC program Saturday Night Live (SNL). The show first aired in 1975 and has been produced by Lorne Michaels for all but five years of its run. The format is unchanging: each week a celebrity host joins the ensemble cast of sketch performers for ninety minutes of character-driven sketches, punctuated by a musical performance, pre-recorded “Digital Shorts”, and a satire news segment. SNL is shot before a studio audience and broadcast live. SNL’s influence upon politics is well-established; Baumgartner et al found that exposing voters to Tina Fey’s 2008 parody of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin immediately made Palin’s favourability plummet by sixteen points.83 The so-called Fey Effect “spilled over into vote intention, and was most pronounced among self-identified Republicans.”84 In 2016, SNL’s political parody verged upon libellous with a mock Trump campaign ad. In the sketch, a series of everyday Americans talk about why they love Trump, but later reveal their true colours: “He’s going to take our economy from here to here,” one man says, raising his arm and revealing a swastika armband.85 The sketch came in the wake of Trump’s refusal to disavow the support of ex-Klansmen David Duke, and used visual techniques to communicate Trump’s popularity with racists.86 Concluding with the tagline “Racists for Trump”, the sketch encouraged its audience to challenge the intentions of Trump supporters. However, any attempts from SNL to disempower Trump were quickly eradicated when the

83

Baumgartner, J. et. al. (2012). The Fey Effect: young adults, political humor, and perceptions of Sarah Palin in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Public Opinion Quarterley, [online] 76(1), pp.95-104. Available at: http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/76/1/95.full.pdf [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. p.95. 84 Ibid. 85 Stedman, A. (2016). Watch: ‘SNL’ Mocks Racist Donald Trump Supporters With Fake Campaign Ad. [online] Variety. Available at: http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/snl-donald-trump-racists-campaign-ad-1201723795/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 86 Kessler, G. (2016a). Donald Trump and David Duke: For the record. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/03/01/donald-trump-and-david-duke-for-therecord/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016].

36

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

show invited Trump to host on 7th November, 2015.87 While the liberal comedy world of SNL was against Trump’s policies, they continued to give him airtime because he was entertaining and boosted ratings. This shaped how Trump was discussed in memes: as someone whose dangerous policies did not impact his entertainment factor. Meanwhile, SNL’s Digital Shorts have shaped the landscape of the internet more than any other aspect of the show. In December 2005, actors Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell used a cheap camera to create “Lazy Sunday”, a hip-hop video about a humble Sunday afternoon. “Lazy Sunday” repurposed the self-serious mode of hip hop to lampoon whiteness in a form of burlesque parody. This juxtaposition of ostentatious hip-hop and menial content soon became iconic to the Digital Short team, who released their musical comedy under the name The Lonely Island.88 “Lazy Sunday” was cheap and weird in a way that the internet instantly loved – it was a mainstream comedy translation of homemade, low-fi internet ugly.89 Within a week, “Lazy Sunday” was illegally uploaded to YouTube, which at that stage was quite a small website. The video accumulated some seven million views and there is some evidence that the site’s traffic spiked eighty-three percent.90 However, YouTube partnership director Kevin Yen insists that there was no remarkable bump in visitors at time of the video.91 The Lonely Island later uploaded an uncensored version of their racier song Dick in a Box, which gained two million views in its first week.92 YouTube had allowed The Lonely Island to circumvent

87

Vitali, A. (2015). 'I Know How to Take a Joke': Donald Trump Hosts 'SNL'. [online] Available at: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/donald-trump-hosts-saturday-night-live-amid-protests-n459341 [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 88 Thompson, E. and Tussey, E. (2013). Andy Samberg’s Digital Success Story and Other Myths of the Internet Comedy Club. In: N. Marx, M. Sienkiewicz and R. Becker, ed., Saturday Night Live and American TV, 1st ed. Indiana University Press. p.239. 89 Douglas, N. (2014). Op. cit. 90 Thompson, E. and Tussey, E. (2013). Op. cit. p.240. Anderson, N. (2016). Did "Lazy Sunday" make YouTube's $1.5 billion sale possible? [online] Available at: http://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2008/11/did-lazy-sunday-make-youtubes-1-5-billion-sale-possible/ [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. 91 Anderson, N. (2016). Op. cit. 92 Thompson, E. and Tussey, E. (2013). Op. cit. p.241.

37

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

NBC’s censors, making the upload feel more authentic than its original SNL broadcast. YouTube owes a part of its early growth to the success of the SNL Digital Shorts, and for allowing its users creative freedom. But SNL’s greatest contribution to internet culture is the meme genre Mmm Whatcha Say. It derives from a 2007 sketch called “Dear Sister”, described as a “loose homage to the final moment of the Season 2 finale of The O.C.”93 In the O.C. episode, a character death was overdramatised with a musical hook from Imogen Heap’s 2005 song Hide and Seek. “Dear Sister” came two years after the episode had aired, and was thus already distant from the original source material. The short introduces three characters who inexplicably kill each other with guns; each gunshot is marked by the dramatic Imogen Heap hook “mmm whatcha say,” and the scene escalates by use of disruptive edits. Initial remix videos emerged soon after the sketch aired, whereby users played the hook over clips of people falling or being injured.94 We can better understand how the genre developed over time by mapping interest in the genre. In Figure 10, Google Trends analytics data tracks the search term “Mmm whatcha say” from 2005 to 2015:

Popularity of Google search term: “Mmm whatcha say” a

b

c

Figure 10: Google analytics data. “Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term.” Google Trends, 2016.

93

The Lonely Island. (2014). The Shooting AKA Dear Sister. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmd1qMN5Yo0 [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. 94 Tubekatt. (2007). Dear Persian (SNL Digital Short Spoof). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLyzscHXtWM [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016].

38

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Point A occurs in April 2007 – the SNL airdate. In 2009, Jason Derulo released a multiplatinum single which sampled the Imogen Heap hook; this explains the spike at Point B.95 The genre became dormant until September 2012, when a Tumblr upload of “Dear Sister” caused the genre to slowly gain traction.96 After sustained, cumulative exposure on Tumblr, interest peaked in 2015 (Point C). It became more than a video remix genre, and was invoked textually with the words “mmm whatcha say”.97 By Point C, some users admitted to being unaware of the genre’s origins, but understood it through memetic experience.98 Ultimately, the meme genre was most powerful having been repurposed multiple times, and after it was separated it from its original SNL context. As we will see with Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer in Chapter III, cumulative memetic repurposing heightens memetic power. Saturday Night Live’s unique ability to influence both political comedy culture and meme culture makes it fundamental in understanding American political memes. SNL acts as the comedy zeitgeist, not only in its representation of political figures, but in its ability to shape mediated comedy. Mediated meme cultures are directly influenced by the ideas and comic modes that SNL presents, and SNL’s sketch form means that segments are easily shared. SNL sets the tone for how politics is discussed within mainstream comedy, and establishes comic topicality.

95

Derulo, J. (2009). Whatcha Say. Jason Derulo. Beluga Heights. stupidfuckingquestions. (2012). Tumblr. Dear Sister, accessed via Wayback Machine. [online] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20121016020359/http://stupidfuckingquestions.tumblr.com/post/30118256714 [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 97 thestereotypebuster. (2014). Tumblr. “How to turn Hamlet into a comedy: mmm whatcha say” [online] Available at: http://thestereotypebuster.tumblr.com/post/106422891325/how-to-turn-hamlet-into-a-comedymmm-whatcha [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 98 officialnoot. (2016). Tumblr. “NO ONE TOLD ME IT WAS A REAL MEME” [online] Available at: http://officialnoot.tumblr.com/post/106778349255/demiboyclintbarton-mmm-whatcha-say-is-like [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 96

39

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Variety and interview case study: The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon SNL alum Jimmy Fallon has been the king of late night interview television since his move from Late Night to The Tonight Show on NBC in early 2014.99 Fallon’s Tonight Show is an internet-friendly format emphasising celebrity-driven sketches and games over interview.100 Segments from the show are uploaded to the show’s YouTube channel which boasts 11 million subscribers (more than any other late night interview channel by 3.5 million).101 Fallon’s show plays with virality more than memetic content, but his real triumph during the election cycle was his combination of sketch and interview. When Hillary Clinton was on the show, Fallon impersonated Trump and interviewed her via a split-screen phone call. “What would you do for women in this country?” he asked her, allowing her to demonstrate her competency in juxtaposition to his grotesque Trump caricature.102 The sketch format conjured a slightly more relaxed Clinton: “Hang on, let me get my pen,” she says, grabbing a glass of white wine from off camera. While this ‘relaxed’ Clinton is still highly scripted, the sketch format re-frames the use of a script. She is performing a sketch rather than a written speech, and communicates a genuine sense of humour – she can talk about real policy within the confines of a comedy sketch, and distance herself from being seen as a harsh or stoic woman.

99

Kissell, R. (2016). Ratings: Jimmy Fallon Caps Dominant Year Two on NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ [online] Available at: http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/ratings-jimmy-fallon-two-years-nbc-tonight-show-host1201702314/ [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 100 Pang, K. (2016). Jimmy Fallon: Host for a Twittering society. The Chicago Tribune. [online] Available at: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-03-02/entertainment/0903010190_1_astral-weeks-talk-tonight-show [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 101 Jimmy Kimmel Live. (2016a). Jimmy Kimmel Live – YouTube Home. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/JimmyKimmelLive [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 102 The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016a). Donald Trump's Phone Call with Hillary Clinton. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONRQZshyrPI [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016].

40

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Within the same episode, Fallon asked Clinton about the email scandal and her experiences with motherhood.103 Clinton embraced her political flaws within a space that positioned her as a mothering figure; she maintained humility without having her work ethic compromised. This is what Fallon can facilitate at his best: real conversation, genuine emotion, and political redemption – or at least, a contrived and convincing fakery. Comparatively, Fallon’s sketch-interview with Trump was one where Trump interviewed “himself” in a mirror.104 Fallon, mimicking Trump with verisimilitude, faced the real Trump in set designed to look like a mirror. This is a sketch form that Fallon had used before, interviewing “himself” (Andy Samberg) in a mirror in 2011 on SNL, and Mitt Romney in 2015.105 Trump happily parodied himself, smiled at jabs at his tan, and ended the interview with a self-deprecating nod to his accent: “It’s gonna be yuuuuuuuuge”. The effect of these two sketch-interviews with Clinton and Trump was completely different. With Clinton, Fallon’s Trump impersonation emphasised her passion and competency whilst maintaining a softness and relatability. Trump’s sketch only served to do what Trump does best: entertain. Fallon’s deft combination of interview, sketch, parody, and satire make him central to American political comedy culture. However, when Fallon hosted Trump again on September 15, 2016, his behaviour was entirely different. No longer was Trump one amongst many Republican primary candidates: he was the Republican nominee. The interview quickly gained notoriety when

103

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016b). Hillary Clinton Explains What's in Her Classified Emails. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l_NECN1lK4 [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016c). Rapid-Fire Interview with Hillary Clinton. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey7GdZVtdkM [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 104 The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016d). Donald Trump Interviews Himself in the Mirror. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2DgwPG7mAA [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. 105 Saturday Night Live. (2016a). Jimmy Mirror. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGGIkG4gMlI [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016e). "Mitt in the Mirror" with Mitt Romney & Jimmy Fallon. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHCFqjxpuPY [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016].

41

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Fallon ruffled Trump’s infamous hair.106 This moment served to humanise Trump, and garnered negative virality for contradicting Fallon’s long-held anti-Trump parody: like SNL, Fallon prioritised ratings over political message. This prioritisation of entertainment over political ethics was reflected in Trump memes. As I will discuss further in Chapter III, liberal meme spaces of the internet criticised Trump’s politics and simultaneously created accessible memes about him that downplayed his actions for entertainment. Fallon’s prioritisation of Trump’s entertainment value over political integrity was reflected in meme communities that sought to simultaneously criticise and trivialise Trump.

Satire case studies: Last Week Tonight and Full Frontal Following Jon Stewart’s retirement in early 2015 and Stephen Colbert’s move to The Late Show, the fifteen-year-strong ecosystem of American satire shifted. During the 2016 election, two programs emerged at the top of the food chain: HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and TBS’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. John Oliver is famous for pioneering long-form comedic journalism, although Oliver routinely defies being categorised as a journalist, so perhaps ‘investigative comedy’ is a better description.107 His twenty-minute segments focus on subjects ranging from Miss America to nutritional supplements, and attract consistent media attention.108 After an episode airs, news headlines invariably emerge announcing that Oliver has “destroyed” or

106

The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016f). Donald Trump Lets Jimmy Fallon Mess Up His Hair. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0BYqzdiuJc [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 107 Suebsaeng, A. (2014). ‘Last Week Tonight’ Does Real Journalism, No Matter What John Oliver Says. [online] Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/29/last-week-tonight-does-real-journalismno-matter-what-john-oliver-says.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 108 Last Week Tonight. (2014a). Miss America Pageant. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDPCmmZifE8 [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Last Week Tonight. (2015). FIFA II. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr6ar3xJL_Q [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Last Week Tonight. (2014b). Dr. Oz and Nutritional Supplements. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA0wKeokWUU [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016].

42

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

“eviscerated” this week’s topic.109 An investigation into this John Oliver Effect found that Last Week Tonight’s stories garnered more media coverage than mainstream news sources: people were “more likely to click on a John Oliver-related headline vs. a 60 Minutes headline [about the same topic].”110 However, Adam Felder of The Atlantic argues against Oliver’s journalistic efficacy because he is unlikely “to reach anyone outside a predominantly liberal audience.” 111 I counter that while Oliver’s investigative comedy may preach to the choir, it galvanises that choir with further political knowledge and satirical literacy – and that young, liberal, satirical choir forms a large bulk of meme creators. Felder also posits that Oliver’s ‘eviscerations’ are ineffective in the long run, because “these segments don’t change policy outcomes,” or at least not large-scale policies, as demonstrated by Oliver’s hand in reforming bail legislation within New York City.112 While Oliver’s segments do not necessarily spark major policy change, Felder’s vision of political engagement is limiting. We should examine the viewing and sharing of Last Week Tonight as another kind of participatory politics: one which focuses upon changing conversation and cultural education. Oliver’s show demonstrates that sociopolitical information can be delivered through comedy, galvanising young voters with another means of enacting citizenship. One such example of Oliver’s power to incite action in his viewership was his church experiment. To prove a point about money-making schemes masking as televangelist

109

Boggioni, T. (2015). John Oliver destroys lying, hypocritical GOP ‘idiot’ who wants to gut Medicaid. [online] Rawstory.com. Available at: http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/john-oliver-destroys-lyinghypocritical-gop-idiot-who-wants-to-gut-medicaid/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Gray, S. (2015). John Oliver eviscerates Congress over America’s crumbling infrastructure. [online] Salon. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/02/john_oliver_eviscerates_congress_over_americas_crumbling_infrastructure/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 110 VanNest, A. (2015). Measuring the Impact of "The John Oliver Effect" | Parse.ly. [online] Available at: http://blog.parsely.com/post/2380/measuring-the-impact-of-the-john-oliver-effect/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016]. 111 Felder, A. (2016). What Does a John Oliver 'Evisceration' Really Accomplish? [online] The Atlantic. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/04/late-night-comedy/475485/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016]. 112 Ibid.

43

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

churches, Oliver set up a legally recognised church.113 Viewers donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” before the church was permanently closed (proceeds were donated to Doctors Without Borders).114 Oliver’s power to mobilise his viewers – even if as a joke – is impressive. Last

Week

Tonight

created

its

biggest

memetic

impact

with

its

#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain campaign. As part of a February 2016 segment about Donald Trump, Oliver revealed that Trump’s ancestral surname was “Drumpf”, and touted its unimpressive

ugliness.115

Oliver

also

announced

his

new

website

makedonalddrumpfagain.com, where viewers could download a browser extension that replaced the word “Trump” with “Drumpf”, and purchase “Make Donald Drumpf Again” hats which sold out of all 35,000 units after eight days.116 By Super Tuesday, Google searches of “Donald Drumpf” had surpassed searches of “Marco Rubio” and “Ted Cruz”.117 Oliver spread, through one memetic word, Trump’s failures, deceit, and ineptitude. And while Felder argues that Oliver’s liberal-exclusive reach limits his power, I counter that memetic power on the internet lies within two political poles. Oliver’s memetic influence over the liberal pole makes him a crucial player in internet political culture. There is a presumption of a male-dominated landscape both in internet comedy and mainstream comedy culture. Every American late night program is hosted by a man with the exception of TBS’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which had 3.2 million viewers per

113

Locker, M. (2015). John Oliver Starts Own Church. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://time.com/3999933/john-oliver-televangelist-church-alst-week-tonight/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. 114 Kreps, D. (2015). John Oliver Shuts Down Fake Church Over Unsolicited Semen. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/john-oliver-shuts-down-fake-church-over-unsolicitedsemen-20150914 [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. 115 Last Week Tonight (2016). Donald Trump. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnpO_RTSNmQ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 116 Koblin, J. (2016). John Oliver Sells Out of ‘Make Donald Drumpf Again’ Caps. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/business/media/trump-segment-on-john-oliver-showexplodes-on-youtube.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 117 Wolfers, J. (2016). ‘Donald Drumpf’ Is Beating Rubio and Cruz for Second in Google Searches. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/upshot/donald-drumpf-is-beating-rubio-andcruz-for-second-in-web-searches.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016].

44

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

episode in its first season.118 Like John Oliver, Samantha Bee uses long-form investigative comedy, but addresses women’s issues with regularity. In an election where Hillary Clinton constantly comes under sexist scrutiny, Bee acts as feminist catharsis; she tackles issues like untested rape kits and Southern legislation designed to block abortion clinics.119 Her comedy is primal, angry, and didactic; she’s not afraid to wipe fake vomit off the screen in response to Trump talking about his penis.120 With a diverse writing staff, Bee’s visceral outrage appeals to the intersectional feminist meme communities of Tumblr.121 Bee is the lone female voice of late night American political comedy, and represents that same small voice of angry satirical Tumblr women. She has repositioned female anger from a punchline to a satirical tool, outlining the significance of a female voice not only in mainstream comedy but in internet spaces.

Internet comedy sites Internet comedy is distinct from internet memes because humour websites are created by people with comedy careers, whereas anyone can contribute to meme culture. While some of these websites invite users to contribute content, there is a different dynamic to meme culture – these sites still have the power to act as comedy gatekeepers by exercising editorial power over user contributions. The biggest comedy websites function as idea hubs, and when they do interact with meme culture it is in an attempt to explain it or to service a deeper

118

Morris, A. (2016). How Samantha Bee Crashed the Late-Night Boys' Club. [online] Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/features/how-samantha-bee-crashed-the-late-night-boys-club-20160630 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016]. 119 Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016a). Rape Kit Backlog. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrxTrR5_8Zo [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016b). Abortion, Texas-Style. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSMXwzH-moc [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. 120 Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016c). R.I.P. GOP (Part 1). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkvp6Syvv9c [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. 121 Traister, R. (2016). Smirking in the Boys’ Room With Samantha Bee. [online] Available at: http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/01/samantha-bee-full-frontal-c-v-r.html [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016].

45

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

joke.122 Comedy websites can be swept into the broad modes of satire, cultural commentary, and sketch; the case studies I will be analysing are The Onion and its sister site Clickhole, as well as Cracked and College Humor. Each of these websites speaks not only to internet and meme culture, but also to political culture at large.

Satire case studies: The Onion and Clickhole The Onion began as a student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin in 1988, and quickly became an internet staple when it started publishing online in 1996.123 The Onion creates satirical newspaper articles, reflecting on both current events and fictional content. Much of their fictional content juxtaposes a unique experience with the reporting style of current affairs news (e.g. “Man On Cusp Of Having Fun Suddenly Remembers Every Single One Of His Responsibilities”).124 The Onion is a satirical touchstone – Reddit has a thread for unbelievable current affairs stories called /r/NotTheOnion.125 Most readers access The Onion via its Facebook and Twitter accounts. A notable instance of The Onion’s influence upon internet culture is its gun control satire “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”126 The article was originally published in May 2014 following the Isla Vista shooting in California, where an enraged gunman opened fire at the University of California, Santa Barbara as

122

See College Humor’s use of the Gangnam Style dance in their 2014 all-nighter video: College Humor. (2014a). YouTube Closed Captioning Experiment (All-Nighter 2014). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txvud7wPbv4 [Accessed 14 Aug. 2016]. 123 Marino, N. (2016). Six Insights From an Editor at The Onion. [online] Available at: https://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2009/07/six-insights-from-an-editor-at-the-onion.html [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. 124 The Onion. (2013). Man On Cusp Of Having Fun Suddenly Remembers Every Single One Of His Responsibilities. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/man-on-cusp-of-having-fun-suddenlyremembers-every-32632 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. 125 Not The Onion. (2016). Reddit. Sadly, this is not the Onion. • /r/nottheonion. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/nottheonion/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 126 The Onion. (2014a). ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-to-prevent-this-says-only-nation-where-this-36131 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016].

46

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

“retribution” for his own virginity, killing seven and injuring thirteen.127 The Onion article was later republished with key places and names changed in the wake of subsequent mass shootings (June 2015, October 2015).128 Users soon took to reposting the headline in the aftermath of other mass shootings. The article’s memetic power is emphasised by its anti-gun stance. An example of the Onion’s direct influence upon meme culture is their article “Cinnamon Roll too good for this world, too pure.”129 This particular turn of language – describing a cinnamon roll as good and pure – was quickly adopted by fandom communities as memetic shorthand for a much beloved character cursed with tragedy.130

Figure 11: A Cinnamon/Sinnamon meme categorising characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Tumblr, 2015.

The Cinnamon Roll is an example of a meme genre that transcended its context as an Onion article. Although there are more structured sub-genres within the broader genre, the

127

O'Connell, E. (2016). “We fostered something chaotic and irresponsible”: Elliot Rodger, Isla Vista & the echoes of a tragedy. [online] Salon. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2015/05/22/we_fostered_something_chaotic_and_irresponsible_elliot_rodger_isla_vista_ the_echoes_of_a_tragedy/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 128 The Onion. (2015a). ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-prevent-says-only-nation-where-regularly-ha-51443 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. The Onion. (2015b). ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-prevent-says-only-nation-where-regularly-ha-51444 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. 129 The Onion. (2014b). Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/beautiful-cinnamon-roll-too-good-for-this-world-to-35038 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. 130 dork-larue. (2015). Tumblr. [online] Available at: http://dork-larue.tumblr.com/post/122264549961/i-lovehow-because-of-that-beautiful-cinnamon [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016].

47

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Cinnamon Roll stands as an example of a memetic idea being replicated in multiple varying ways. In comparison to No Way To Prevent This, Cinnamon Roll is far more susceptible to remix and mashup. No Way To Prevent This governed the content to which it is attached, but Cinnamon Roll transcended its existence as a phrase or an image: it became an idea, an abstraction, far more portable because it was not constrained by content or imagery. The Cinnamon Roll genre is an internet meme only in that it was developed and spread online – its abstract form makes it Dawkinsian in nature. The Onion launched a spinoff website, Clickhole, in 2014.131 Rather than publishing straight satire, Clickhole lampoons clickbait culture with neo-Dadaism. Clickhole’s articles very rarely have a point beyond an underlying nihilism about the futility of online media. Titles such as “Problem Solved! This Panda Has Been Giving Birth Over And Over Without Stopping Since Last Month!” pair positive clickbait language with surrealism.132 Questionnaires like “Which One of My Garbage Sons Are You?” parody culture website Buzzfeed, juxtaposing specificity with broad-appeal personality quizzes.133 Clickhole’s unusual writing style underpins its highly conceptual tone. Its employment of strangely juxtaposed epithets with jarring syntax reflects the unusual syntax of Weird Twitter – for example, Clickhole writing feels very similar to the Anxiety genre discussed in Chapter I. Its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it uses the wellestablished practice of specificity. The introduction to “Which One of My Garbage Sons Are You?” is an example of specificity: “I’ve got some shit boys. My huge beautiful wife gave

131

Dewey, C. (2014). The Onion launched a parody site called Clickhole, and not everyone got the joke. (What happened next will not surprise you.). [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theintersect/wp/2014/06/24/the-onion-launched-a-parody-site-called-clickhole-and-not-everyone-got-the-jokewhat-happened-next-will-not-surprise-you/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. 132 Clickhole. (2014a). Problem Solved! This Panda Has Been Giving Birth Over And Over Without Stopping Since Last Month!. [online] Available at: http://www.clickhole.com/article/problem-solved-panda-has-beengiving-birth-over-an-822 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. 133 Clickhole. (2014b). Which One Of My Garbage Sons Are You? [online] Available at: http://www.clickhole.com/quiz/which-one-my-garbage-sons-are-you-1458 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016].

48

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

me children who think and speak like the toilet.”134 By juxtaposing the general tone of a questionnaire with sudden bursts of specificity, Clickhole conjures a vivid universe. “My huge beautiful wife” fractures the traditional adjective order, underpinned by the unusual syntax of “speak like the toilet”. Clickhole’s writing style toys with the concept of American dialect. Versions of American dialect humour have emerged in Yiddish theatre, the Southern writing of Mark Twain, and SNL sketches like “The Californians”.135 Clickhole’s specificity is a new form of American regionalism whose region is the online sphere. Both Clickhole and The Onion tap into the comedic language of specificity which is used elsewhere on the internet, which is why their writing remains funny online.

Cultural Commentary case study: Cracked Cracked.com calls itself “America’s Only Humor Website”, and mainly comments upon popular culture.136 Like The Onion, Cracked is descended from print media: Cracked Magazine was a MAD Magazine knockoff founded in 1958; after poor sales in the early 2000s led to a short-lived rebrand as a lad-mag, Cracked Magazine folded as a print publication in 2007.137 Cracked.com was founded in 2005 under the management of ABC News veteran Jack O’Brien who established a cutting and self-deprecating analysis of pop culture and current events maintained to this day.138 Cracked presents information in written, audio, and video forms. It has a host of regular columnists, but also showcases guest articles, infographic pieces, podcasts, sketches, 134

Ibid. Browne, L. (1945). The wisdom of Israel. New York: Random House, pp.495-510, 521-530. Buxbaum, K. (1927). Mark Twain and American Dialect. American Speech, [online] 2(5), p.233. Available at: http://jstor.org/stable/452316 [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Saturday Night Live. (2012). The Californians: Drama Off the 405. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt-tG6ufH90 [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 136 Cracked.com. (2016a). Op cit. 137 Dean, M. (2002). Anthrax Attack and Distribution Troubles, Cracked Awaits Salvation. [online] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20060505022532/http://www.tcj.com/242/n_cracked.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 138 Abraham, J. (2016). Jack O'Brien, Cracked.com. [online] Gothamist. Available at: http://gothamist.com/2005/10/12/jack_obrien_crackedcom.php [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016]. 135

49

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

and “Photoplasty” articles where readers are encouraged to submit photoshopped images that conform to a certain theme.139 Many article ideas are crowdsourced through the Cracked forums – some contributions are compensated, but users mainly contribute in the hopes that they may one day be selected to write a full article. This practice of unpaid labour reinforces the memetic process of uncompensated cultural participation. Cracked’s writing style relies heavily upon listicles (articles presented in list form), but goes into a lot of depth with each point on the list. There are, of course, exceptions to the listicle form, usually presented as shorter satirical or confessional columns. This format means that Cracked articles can be read quickly and concisely, making them the perfect method of delivering bite-sized news, fan theories, and quirky facts. Cracked’s clickbait headlines make it desirable to read and easy to search – searchability is vital for internet cultures because it introduces more people to internet communities. Cracked hosts a range of web series centring upon popular culture, but the most common form of Cracked videos features a member of staff presenting a listicle to the camera. Cracked receives most of its video exposure through its YouTube page. YouTube’s recommendations algorithm means that anyone who has watched a video remotely connected to geek culture or film theory has likely been recommended a Cracked video. Cracked produces around five pieces of content (videos, articles, and podcasts) each weekday. In recent years, Cracked has shifted from its lad-mag roots to a socially conscious, progressive internet space. Its desire to keep up with a politically engaged zeitgeist has meant that it now presents socio-political news alongside popular culture, eroding the lines between the two. The company has brought more women onto its video and writing teams, and tackles topics that would have once been considered completely out of character for the site. Cracked

139

Cracked.com. (2016b). Obvious Ways To Solve Famous Movie Plots In Seconds. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_2210_12-movie-plots-settled-with-basic-household-products/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016].

50

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

was once a geek haven that relished in articles about side-boob: it now produces insightful pieces about Monsanto, political correctness, and sex work.140 Rather than invading journalism with entertainment, Cracked’s entertainment has been invaded by journalism. Similar to John Oliver’s investigative comedy, the effects of this cross-media practice have changed the fundamental core of internet comedy spaces. This change in pace – talking about socio-political issues alongside popular culture – is mirrored in the changing landscape of meme communities. Cracked engages a different public about politics, and provides an unlikely means to disseminate information, just as memes do.

Sketch comedy case study: College Humor College Humor’s website was founded in 1999; based out of collegehumor.com, it produced user-generated content to foster a loyal community with the express purpose of earning advertising revenue.141 The business expanded in the mid-to-late 2000s to become one of the most influential comedy websites. Its biggest platform today is its YouTube page, which launched in 2006: with over 10.9 million subscribers, and videos regularly surpassing one million views, College Humor is a mainstay of internet sketch comedy, posting five original sketch videos weekly.142 Their content aims for virality, and typically riffs on popular culture, life as a self-deprecating millennial, and, more recently, political satire. The

140

Cracked.com. (2009). Boobs: The Closest We've Come to the Jedi Mind Trick. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/funny-212-boobs/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Cracked.com. (2016c). Bayer Purchased Monsanto (And We Are All Screwed). [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/article_24346_bayer-purchased-monsanto-and-we-are-all-screwed.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Sargent, J. (2015). 6 Ways Critics Of Political Correctness Have It Backwards. [online] Cracked.com. Available at: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-ways-critics-political-correctness-have-it-backwards/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Evans, R. et al. (2016). 5 Ways Life as a Prostitute is Nothing Like You Expect. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-1490-5-ways-life-as-prostitute-nothing-like-you-expect.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. 141 Fox News. (2006). Business at Collegehumor.com Is No Joke [online] Available at: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/06/15/business-at-collegehumorcom-is-no-joke.html [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. 142 College Humor. (2016b). CollegeHumor YouTube Home. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/collegehumor [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016].

51

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

bulk of their video sketches are set within the College Humor offices, with staff playing fictionalised versions of themselves, although they have produced numerous higher-budget sketches and web series. Similar to Cracked, College Humor has developed more progressive and socially conscious content. Recent sketches have addressed coming out as bisexual, the nuances of being mixed race in America, and the exploitation of activist language – a far cry from their award-winning yet juvenile 2007 sketch, “Hand Vagina”.143 College Humor has always, on some level, engaged with politics: their 2008 video “If the Other Party Wins” lampooned Republican and Democrat fearmongering campaigns.144 This practice of political parody continues to be a useful and appealing tool deployed by them to this day – look no further than their parodic series “What’s Inside People’s Pockets?” (Figure 12). But the 2016 election has seen College Humor engage with politics beyond parody. Sketches like “Donald Trump Will Never Be President… Or Will He?” and “Why Bernie Sanders is Actually Winning” tussled with liberal confusion and stubbornness, engaging with the political anxiety gripping the left in the 2016 election.145 Their video “Donald Trump: Show Us Your Penis” parodied activist campaigns, asking Trump to verify his claim of an impressive penis size.146 The actors speak didactically, pleading with him to make good his word, and their sustained incredulity challenges their audience to demand better of Trump.

143

College Humor. (2015a). When Coming Out Goes Better Than You Thought. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgHwF4CNiJA [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2015b). Are You Asian Enough? [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVR3B01NxiM [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2015c). Coming Out As Trans-Everything. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMUl6w1efXI [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2007). Hand - Vagina. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQtKnDGhxmk [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. 144 College Humor. (2008). If The Other Party Wins. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-_JhRJ0tWA [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. 145 College Humor. (2016c). Donald Trump Will Never Be President… Or Will He? [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxSAHqFqG58 [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2016d). Why Bernie Sanders is Actually Winning. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHS-K7OuLAc [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. 146 College Humor. (2016e). Donald Trump: Show Us Your Penis. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG5kSgJtyQg [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016].

52

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Other videos implored viewers to register to vote and go to college (the latter with a cameo from First Lady Michelle Obama).147

Figure 12: "My second bag of Werther's candies comes with a big, fat, sticky joint." College Humor's parody of Bernie Sanders taps into his dual persona as a radical college student and benevolent grandpa. College Humor, 2016.

College Humor, then, uses political comedy not just as a comedic tool, but as a way to enact genuine social change. Rebecca Krefting describes this as charged humour – humour that specifically intends “to incite social change, develop community, and lobby for civil rights and acknowledgement.”148 These are actions that College Humor has increasingly pushed. Still tongue-in-cheek, College Humor has used comedy to demand better of American politicians, while simultaneously normalising comedy as an act of participatory politics. This is, perhaps, College Humor’s greatest transformation.

147

College Humor. (2014b). A Political Ad For Your Friend Who Doesn’t Vote. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeGAnQ6DyJs [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. College Humor. (2015d). Go To College Music Video (with FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA!). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1yAOK0nSb0 [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. 148 Krefting, R. (2014). Op. cit. p.25.

53

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Conclusions In this chapter, I outlined the impact that traditional comedy media have upon American political comedy and memetic comedy. I first examined the influence of television comedy. I outlined the varied achievements of Saturday Night Live’s use of parody and its history with memetic creation, but concluded that their hypocritical portrayal of Donald Trump was to the detriment of their comedic integrity. Fallon’s use of parody empowered Clinton and mocked Trump, demonstrating his ability as a comedian to mediate internetfriendly light politics. However, this assessment also fell victim to hypocrisy after Trump’s later appearance on the show. My analysis of satire news outlined the prominence of investigative comedy in the works of John Oliver and Samantha Bee. Ultimately, Oliver’s voice is most powerful within left-wing enclaves, while Bee’s feminist voice acts as the outraged comedic catharsis that Jon Stewart once provided the nation. My analysis of comedy websites revealed that The Onion and its sister site Clickhole maintain online relevance by using the language of specificity developed by Weird Twitter. Cultural and sketch sites like Cracked and College Humor, however, mirror a wider trend that has shifted centrist online spaces into more radical socio-political commentators. These sites blur the lines between entertainment and news, much in the way that meme cultures do, but also use their platforms to enact charged comedy that incites change in their viewers. Meme culture is now an integral part of America’s comedic ecosystem. It provides talking points on interviews, riffs upon the character and caricature developed by these traditional comedy outlets, and takes cues from mainstream media in its attitudes towards socio-politics. In Chapter III, I will examine the biggest memetic genres and trends that arose during the 2016 US Presidential election, organising them according to which candidate they focus upon. Through this, I hope to demonstrate how the political culture has deepened, and how it exists in conversation with American comedy and political culture at large. 54

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Chapter III Political memes in Presidential election

H

the

2016

US

aving come to an understanding about how memetic genres form, and how American comedy culture inculcates memetic creators with comedic literacy, let us now examine the political memes of the 2016 US Presidential election up to

16th September, 2016. I will begin by examining the memes about Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. I will then review memetic activity about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, extrapolating how these memes demonstrate cultural ideas about the candidates. I will delve into conflicting representations of caricature, and the memetic voice of extreme conservatism online. Through this, I hope to demonstrate the different ways each of these genres engages with Netzer et al’s notions of participatory culture.149 I hope also that this section might serve as a catalogue of political memetic culture, and that it might indicate what the future of memetic politics may entail.

Ted Cruz: Zodiac Killer Texan Senator Ted Cruz was Donald Trump’s main adversary in the Republican primaries, running on an evangelical platform until his withdrawal on 3rd May 2016.150 Cruz’s hard stance against abortion, Obamacare, climate change, and gun control made him 149

Netzer, Y., Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. and Shifman, L. (2014). Op. cit. Sullivan, S. and Zezima, K. (2016). Ted Cruz drops out of the Republican presidential race. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ted-cruz-drops-out-of-the-republican-presidentialrace/2016/05/03/8f955a06-0fe7-11e6-81b4-581a5c4c42df_story.html [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 150

55

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

especially unpopular amongst liberals, as did his anti-Obamacare legislation which resulted in the government shutdown of 2013.151 Additionally, Cruz is renowned for being an unlikeable person. While working as an election staffer in 2000, “colleagues occasionally avoided meetings that included Mr. Cruz, to spare themselves the pontification.”152 Senator Lindsay Graham famously said, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.”153 Craig Mazin, Cruz’s freshman roommate, routinely insulted Cruz on Twitter: “As a freshman, I would get into senior parties because I was Ted’s roommate. OUT OF PITY.”154 Mazin’s classmates “described the young Cruz with words like ‘abrasive,’ ‘intense,’ ‘strident,’ ‘crank,’ and ‘arrogant.’ Four independently offered the word ‘creepy.’”155 Even before caricature, Cruz was regarded as an unpleasant person. And thus, within mainstream comedy, the persona of Cruz as creepy and insufferable endured. Full Frontal With Samantha Bee featured an insult montage, where Bee referred to Cruz as “Princeton’s unwanted foetus… fist-faced horseshit salesman… the world’s only unlikeable Canadian… the junior senator from the uncanny valley […] self-described human… tentacle monster… half melted Reagan dummy… unflushable toilet clog.”156 Speaking of the Indiana primaries, satirist Stephen Colbert said “Cruz has really put all of his eggs in this basket, and I want to be perfectly clear, ‘his eggs’ is a common expression, I’m

151

Martin, J. (2016). Republicans Using Shutdown to Stake Positions for Potential 2016 Bids. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/10/us/politics/republicans-use-shutdown-to-stakepositions-for-2016-bids.html?_r=0 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 152 Flegenheimer, M. (2016). Before Rise as Outsider, Ted Cruz Played Inside Role in 2000 Recount. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/us/politics/before-rise-as-outsider-ted-cruzplayed-inside-role-in-2000-recount.html [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 153 Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016d). Cruz 101. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMgaqhTZBlg [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 154 Clmazin. (2016). Twitter. “As a freshman, I would get into senior parties because I was Ted's roommate. OUT OF PITY. He was that widely loathed. It's his superpower.” [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/clmazin/status/686241061329485824 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 155 Murphy, P. (2013). Ted Cruz at Princeton: Creepy, Sometimes Well Liked, and Exactly the Same. [online] Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/19/ted-cruz-at-princeton-creepy-sometimes-wellliked-and-exactly-the-same.html [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 156 Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016e). Cruz Bows Out / Michelle Branch. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtZF007Lep4 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016].

56

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

not saying that he is a reptile that reproduces with hatchlings.”157 Saturday Night Live went for a succinct image: Cruz with horns and fangs rising from hell accompanied by a demon.158 The Onion’s take was perhaps the most cutting: “Brutal Anti-Cruz Attack Ad Just 30 Seconds of Candidate’s Photo Displayed Without Any Text, Voiceover, Music.”159

Figure 13: Ted Cruz lookalikes, compiled by Mic.com. Tumblr, 2016.

This caricature of Ted Cruz as a weird-looking unlikeable creep was reflected in memes about the candidate. A whole series of memes presented a picture of Cruz alongside a picture of something he ostensibly looked like (Figure 13). This lookalike meme is the visual 157

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2016a). It's Do Or Die For Ted Cruz... Probably The Latter, May 4. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iQCq_Bdlr8 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 158 CNN. (2016). 'Church Lady' returns to 'SNL,' takes on Trump ... again. [online] Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/videos/entertainment/2016/05/10/snl-church-lady-moos-pkg-erin.cnn/video/playlists/snlpolitics/ [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 159 The Onion. (2016). Brutal Anti-Cruz Attack Ad Just 30 Seconds of Candidate’s Photo Displayed Without Any Text, Voiceover, Music. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/video/brutal-anti-cruz-attack-ad-just30-seconds-candida-52562 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016].

57

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

version of Samantha Bee’s epithets. This visual keying sought to “other” Cruz by depicting him as inhuman, uncanny, and uncomfortable. “Othering”, or the process of alienation, is a very useful caricature technique, calling into question someone’s true nature by distancing them from the general populace (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Ted Cruz is depicted as an alien or rogue science experiment, desperately trying to blend in with other humans. Twitter and Tumblr, 2015-2016.

The most prolific method of othering Cruz was the Zodiac Killer genre. The memetic idea was simple: perpetuate a rumour that the identity of the anonymous serial murderer known as the Zodiac Killer is Ted Cruz. The Zodiac Killer murdered five people in the California bay area in 1968-1969; he sent “taunting cryptic notes” to the police about his

58

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

murders, calling himself “the Zodiac”.160 The Zodiac’s identity has never been discovered, so the killings remain a mainstay of internet conspiracy theories. It goes without saying that there is no way this theory could possibly be true: Ted Cruz was born in Canada in 1970, two years after the first killing.161 The genre arose from the depths of Twitter in 2013 when Cruz was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Twitter user RedPillAmerica tweeted “#CPAC Alert: Ted Cruz is speaking!! His speech is titled: ‘This Is The Zodiac Speaking’”. 162 The genre did not re-emerge until late 2015. During GOP Debate on 14 February 2016, comedian Nathan LaMagna and his circle of comedy friends on Twitter were interested to see if they could get a phrase onto the CBS Trending Ticker.163 The ticker itself is evidence of the mainstream media’s attempt to connect with mediated online spaces, and its exploitation by memetic communities is indicative of the internet’s scorn for anything mainstream. Figure 15 shows Google search interest in Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer from its inception in March 2013 until August 2016.

Figure 15: Interest over time 14th March 2013 – 20th August 2016; “a value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term.” Search terms “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” (blue); “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer” (red). Google Trends, 2016.

The graph demonstrates that after February 2016, the genre exploded. Its success lay in its variety of form: while the content and stance remain the same in every meme, the form 160

Sanders, S. (2016). #MemeOfTheWeek: Ted Cruz And The Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: http://www.npr.org/2016/02/26/468153952/-memeoftheweek-ted-cruz-and-the-zodiac-killer [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. 161 Statesman.com. (2016). U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. [online] Available at: http://www.statesman.com/s/news/politics/ted-cruz/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2016]. 162 RedPillAmerica. (2013). Twitter. “#CPAC Alert: Ted Cruz is speaking!! His speech is titled: ‘This Is The Zodiac Speaking’”. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/RedPillAmerica/status/312323787091755009 [Accessed 18 Aug. 2016]. 163 Sanders, S. (2016). Op. cit.

59

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

varies. Like The Onion-derived Cinnamon Roll genre I analysed in Chapter II, Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer was a successful and versatile meme genre because it was not tied to any one platform or aesthetic. It was an abstract, Dawkinsian meme that could be presented through any form. Twitter users quickly formed the hashtag #ZodiacTed to spread convoluted evidence of Cruz’s guilt.164 Tumblr produced textual and pictorial memes, such as the parody of Kanye West’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo, (bottom right, Figure 16). The YouTube upload of the 2007 documentary This is the Zodiac Speaking was barraged with comments mentioning Cruz.165 Three mock change.org petitions demanded answers from Congress, Obama, and about Ted Cruz’s implications in the Zodiac case.166 Two subreddits dedicated to the meme genre were founded.167 The Facebook page “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer” accumulated over 47,000 followers.168 An image comparing the police drawing of the Zodiac Killer and Ted Cruz was shared and reposted hundreds of times across every platform (top right, Figure 16). In short, it was an enormous cross-platform phenomenon that took many forms.

164

JasonRRocha. (2016). Twitter. "THEODORE CRUZ = 12 LETTERS ZODIAC KILLER = 12 LETTERS 12 SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC It's almost too perfect...almost #ZodiacTed". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/JasonRRocha/status/700712012620238848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 165 pedrobosox. (2016). This is the Zodiac Speaking. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI0jnsbZwys [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 166 Change.org. (2016a). Ted Cruz: Make Ted Cruz answer the question "are you the zodiac killer". [online] Available at: https://www.change.org/p/ted-cruz-make-ted-cruz-answer-the-question-are-you-the-zodiac-killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Change.org. (2016b). Barack Obama: Formally Investigate Ted Cruz: Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-formally-investigate-ted-cruz-zodiac-killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Change.org. (2016c). Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz to admit he's the zodiac killer. [online] Available at: https://www.change.org/p/ted-cruz-ted-cruz-to-admit-he-s-the-zodiac-killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 167 / Ted Cruz is Zodiac Killer. (2016). Reddit. /r/tedcruziszodiackiller. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/tedcruziszodiackiller/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 168 Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. (2016). Facebook. Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/TedCruzIsTheZodiacKiller/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. ZodiacTed. (2016). Twitter. @ZodiacTed. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/ZodiacTed [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

60

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Figure 16: Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer memes. Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook 2016.

We can better understand how Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer developed as a genre by mapping interest in it with Google Trends data. There is no methodology as of yet which can accurately map memetic creation, but Google Trends allows us to estimate the internet’s interest in a phrase. With meme genres, spikes in interest generally correlate to significant moments in the genre’s life, such as a hashtag, an article, or a period of lucid-memeing (that is, prominent memetic activity coinciding with a large cultural event).

61

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Figures 15, 17, and 18 all use the same data sets gathered via Google Trends; the x axis represents time, and the y axis represents the popularity of the search terms as a percentage of its most popular point of search, so that a value of 100 represents the term’s peak popularity.169 It is clear from Figure 15 (page 60) that despite the genre’s instigation in 2013, the genre began to gain traction at the time of the 14 February GOP Debate, so for the sake of clarity, let us examine from February 1st, 2016 (Figure 17).

a .b c

.d

e

Figure 17: Interest over time from 1st February, 2016. Search terms “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” (blue); “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer” (red). Google Trends, 2016.

On Figure 17, I have denoted four points of interest. Point A of Figure 17 falls on February 14th, with “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” at three percent of its total popularity: this marks the GOP Debate hijacked by Lamagna. Point B is at 20th February: a week after the GOP Debate, it has gained enough cumulative traction to spike for the first time. Point C is February 27, where “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” increases to sixty-one percent of its total popularity. Point D on March 25th marks another notable spike in activity, and finally at Point E the search term peaks on May 4th. Let us now compare the data to the search term “Ted Cruz” (Figure 18).

a .b c

.d

e

Figure 18: Interest over time of search terms “Ted Cruz” (yellow); “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” (blue); “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer” (red). February 1 2016 – August 20 2016. Google Trends, 2016. 169

Google Trends. (2016a). Op. cit.

62

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Notably there is no correlation in interest at Points A, B, and C: the genre was developing independently of events in the election and reacting to events within memetic spaces. However, points D and E show simultaneous spikes of the search terms “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” and “Ted Cruz”. Point D (25 May, 2016) coincides with allegations about an extramarital affair which emerged in The National Enquirer; these were later dismissed by Cruz as a smear campaign instigated by Trump.170 As for Point E, at May 4th, the day prior was the day Ted Cruz dropped out of the Presidential race.171 It is important to differentiate between correlation and causation when examining this kind of data. It is possible that greater memetic activity occurred as a reaction to Cruz’s sex scandal and subsequent withdrawal. But it is also equally plausible that users seeking information about these political developments were led, through Google’s search results, to information about Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer, and carried out their own independent search of the information. That being said, the most likely reason for the spikes at Points D and E in Figure 18 is that when Cruz news trends, Cruz memes emerge. When prompted with news about Ted Cruz, internet users familiar with Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer are likely to react using the genre to maintain topicality. But this can only be enabled by previous cumulative surges in memetic activity, such as in A, B, and C. As I emphasised in Chapter I, memes can only be understood if we have seen memes before. Using Zodiac Killer memes in the period of lucid-memeing after Cruz’s withdrawal was only funny because people were already familiar with the genre. Just as we saw with Mmm Whatcha Say in Chapter II, memes need to cumulatively increase in power within intra-memetic spaces before they become reactive to external current events. But what was the effect of this meme genre on Ted Cruz’s bid for the Republican candidacy, if any? The first sign of the genre’s influence emerged when Public Policy Polling 170

Diamond, J. (2016). Cruz blames Trump and his 'henchmen' for tabloid story. [online] CNN. Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/25/politics/ted-cruz-national-enquirer-donald-trump/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 171 Sullivan, S. and Zezima, K. (2016). Op. cit.

63

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

asked 1,012 Floridian voters “Do you think Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, or not?” as part of a larger questionnaire about the Republican and Democratic candidates. Ten percent responded ‘Yes’, sixty-two percent responded ‘No’, and twenty-eight percent responded ‘Not Sure’.172 More than ten news sources including Rolling Stone, Gawker, and Fusion ran headlines proclaiming thirty-eight percent of Floridians believed Ted Cruz could be the Zodiac Killer.173 Although the articles themselves outlined the nuance of the statistics, the headlines inflated the genre’s influence. The next notable impact of the genre was raised by a Tumblr user who noticed that when they had typed “is Ted Cruz” into Google on 26 February 2016, the second search suggestion was “is Ted Cruz the zodiac killer”.174 However, by March 21st, this suggestion no longer appeared (despite Google Trends confirming rising interest in the phrase).175 It is unknown whether the suggestion was removed at the request of the Cruz campaign, or if someone within Google made the decision. There is no denying that the Cruz campaign was aware of the meme genre. On March 30th, Cruz was interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live but gave an unusual answer to a question in a quick-fire round: Kimmel: What’s your favourite cereal? Cruz: Cereal or serial killer?176

172

Public Policy Polling, (2016). Trump Leads Rubio in Florida – Even Head to Head. [online] Available at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_FL_22516.pdf [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. pp.1, 32. 173 Stuart, T. (2016). Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer? Maybe, Say Florida Voters. [online] Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/is-ted-cruz-the-zodiac-killer-maybe-say-38-percent-of-floridavoters-20160226 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Feinberg, A. (2016). Poll: Nearly 40 Percent of Florida Voters Think Ted Cruz Might Be the Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: http://gawker.com/poll-nearly-40-percent-of-floridians-think-ted-cruz-mi-1761428903 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. McDonough, K. (2016). Florida voters split on whether Ted Cruz was Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: http://fusion.net/story/273809/florida-ted-cruz-zodiac-killer/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 174 theinfinitebox. (2016). Tumblr. All searches relating “ted cruz” and “zodiac killer” have been removed from google. [online] Available at: http://theinfinitebox.tumblr.com/post/141453737241/all-searches-relating-tedcruz-and-zodiac [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. 175 Ibid. 176 Jimmy Kimmel Live. (2016b). Jimmy Kimmel Asks Senator Ted Cruz Random Questions. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmI6JQz2M10 [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016].

64

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

For those in the know, this response was a sly wink to Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer. But for the many viewers unaware of the meme genre, Cruz’s response was alienating and suspicious. Certainly, Cruz’s response indicates a desire to connect with the youth vote, but also displays an inability to know how to authentically deploy a meme. This was the first and only time that Cruz referenced the genre. Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer was addressed again at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, held on April 30th 2016. The traditional dinner hosts Washington’s media at the Hilton, and comic speeches typically riff on the year in media and politics. The 2016 guest speaker was Larry Wilmore, host of The Nightly Show, who dedicated two and a half minutes to jokes about the genre.177 There’s a joke going around the Internet that Ted Cruz is actually the Zodiac Killer? …Come on, that’s absurd — some people actually liked the Zodiac Killer… John Boehner came out of retirement and described Ted Cruz as ‘Lucifer in the flesh’! Lucifer! I mean, that is not fair, man. Lucifer is horrible, but he’s not the Zodiac Killer.178 Wilmore’s inclusion of Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer brought the genre not only to mainstream comedy, but also to the international limelight. Such was the magnitude of Wilmore’s speech that two days later, when interviewing Cruz’s wife Heidi, Yahoo News asked her opinion about Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer. “Well, I’ve been married to him for 15 years, and I know pretty well who he is, so it doesn’t bother me at all. There’s a lot of garbage out there,” she answered. 179 Vanity Fair responded to this statement saying, “This is, of course, exactly what the wife of the Zodiac killer would say.”180

177

Wilmore, L. (2016). White House Correspondents' Dinner Remarks. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IDFt3BL7FA [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016]. 178 Ibid. 179 Walker, H. (2016). Heidi Cruz responds to people who call her husband the Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: https://www.yahoo.com/news/heidi-cruz-responds-to-people-who-call-her-husband-175305796.html [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016]. 180 Nguyen, T. (2016). Heidi Cruz: My Husband Is Not the Zodiac Killer. [online] Vanity Fair. Available at: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/05/ted-cruz-zodiac-killer [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016].

65

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Just as he followed five Californians to their demise in the 1960s, the Zodiac Killer followed Cruz to his political end. On the same day that Heidi Cruz refuted Zodiac claims as “garbage”, Cruz withdrew his candidacy from the race.181 The internet’s shared joke united very diverse communities against Cruz; those aware of the genre did not take his bid for president seriously. Zodiac Killer jokes emerged from both liberal- and conservative-leaning spaces. It existed as a form of crowdsourced character assassination, but its implausibility freed users of accountability. Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer espoused Netzer et al’s values of participatory culture very clearly: it demonstrated deep “civic engagement” by reacting directly to moments during Cruz’s campaign and it was built on “sharing processes” across multiple communities.182 It mentored amateurs in alternative meme forms, and the broader public response to the genre enhanced “belief in the significance” of meme communities, which in turn increased a “sense of social connection.”183 While the genre was originally limited to one small corner of the internet, it was able to transcend cultural boundaries and shape broader American political culture. Through Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer it became clear that the power of caricature no longer rests purely in the hands of the comedy elite. The world no longer looks solely to late night television and comedy websites for comedic reactions to current affairs. The world makes its own comedy, in a world that has no defamation or censorship laws.

Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash Senator Bernie Sanders ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination on a far-left platform which emphasised economic and racial inequalities and appealed most strongly to

181

Sullivan, S. and Zezima, K. (2016). Op. cit. Netzer, Y., et. al. (2014). Op. cit. 183 Ibid. 182

66

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

young white millennials.184 The memetic success of Sanders’ campaign was observed quite early in the election (even though SNL called him a “human Birkenstock”).185 Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post described Sanders an “anti-establishment white dude,” and commented that his anti-Wall Street rhetoric resonated with white liberals who made up a large percentage of Reddit.186 Reddit posts about Sanders gained extraordinary traction as once-depoliticised users became martyrs of the Sanders campaign with rapid speed. Soon, the phrase “Bernie Bro” emerged, describing the young, white men who used aggression and misogyny in their online support of Sanders.187 In October 2015, Sanders’ cultural power on Reddit reached a high point: the subreddit /r/SandersForPresident housed memetic content, and described itself as “a grassroots for Sanders production”, already forging a connection between Sanders memes and political activism.188 Reddit’s entire politics subreddit was saturated with news about Sanders for many months.189 College Humor’s video “How Bernie Sanders is Actually Winning” addressed Reddit’s culture of Berniebros warping statistics to create a victory narrative.190 When it became clear that Reddit’s growing obsession with the candidate was not going to fade, Sanders was used to lampoon Reddit culture on the self-parody subreddit /r/CircleJerk.191 One post, accompanied by a picture of a Bernie Sanders doll, proclaimed “Someone brought a bunch of these lil Bernie dolls to the Bernie rally today. She told me she 184

Holmes, R. (2016). Bernie Sanders Beats Donald Trump at Social Media. [online] Available at: http://fortune.com/2016/04/18/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-social-media/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2016]. 185 Saturday Night Live. (2016b). A Hillary Christmas. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvSiH1eAF3s [Accessed 10 Jun. 2016]. 186 Dewey, C. (2016). Op. cit. 187 Meyer, R. (2016). Here Comes the Berniebro. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/here-comes-the-berniebro-bernie-sanders/411070/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. 188 SandersForPresident. (2016). Reddit. Bernie Sanders For President - 2016 • /r/SandersForPresident. 1st February 2016 via the Web Archive. [online] Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20160201002126/https://www.reddit.com/r/sandersforpresident [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. 189 Politics. (2016). Politics • /r/politics 1st February 2016 via the Web Archive. [online] Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20160201152857/https://www.reddit.com/r/politics [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. 190 College Humor. (2016b). Op. cit. 191 Circle Jerk. (2008). Reddit. a high quality subreddit for high quality redditors • /r/circlejerk. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/circlejerk [Accessed 4 Oct. 2016].

67

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

made 42,069 of them and donated profits to the campaign.”192 This joke invokes the tone of clickbait and the number “42,069” (referencing both 420, the numerical representation of marijuana, and the 69 sex position). The phrase “Bernie Sanders” thus became a part of Reddit’s self-reflexive memetic lexicon, setting the precedent for the type of memetic content about Bernie Sanders: hidden beneath thick layers of irony, yet conveying a generally positive stance about Sanders himself. Reddit’s love of Sanders as a memetic feature catalysed the nexus of memetic culture and Sanders politics. The public meme-sharing Facebook group Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash (hereon referred to as BSDMS) has over 432,000 members who are overwhelmingly between eighteen and twenty-one years of age.193 The group was one of the major distributors of Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer, but also incorporated Sanders into a variety of “dank” memes using “incongruous pop culture references.”194 BSDMS required members to understand the nuances of American politics in order to create more complex, niche, and dank content. “The group’s only overriding message,” Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post observed, “is that Bernie is ‘cool.’ The memes are far less concerned with policies [Sanders] has promoted, or statements he’s actually said, than they are with furthering his Internet-icon status.”195 And on the internet, iconography is what counts – BSDMS was the most popular Bernie Sanders Facebook group.196 Examples of BSDMS memes can be seen in Figure 19 below.

192

Devinchancexxx. (2015). Reddit. Someone brought a bunch of these lil Bernie dolls. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/circlejerk/comments/3nfemw/someone_brought_a_bunch_of_these_lil_bernie_dolls/ 193 Alexander, L. (2016). Blame it on the Zodiac killer: did social media ruin Ted Cruz's campaign? [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/04/ted-cruz-campaign-social-mediamemes-zodiac-killer [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. 194 Dewey, C. (2016). How Bernie Sanders became the lord of ‘dank memes’. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/02/23/how-bernie-sanders-became-the-lord-ofdank-memes/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. 195 Dewey, C. (2016). Op. cit. 196 Bereznak, A. (2016). The Bernie Bros rule the Internet. [online] Available at: https://www.yahoo.com/news/the-bernie-bros-rule-the-internet-180426111.html [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].

68

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Figure 19: Bernie Sanders is combined with lyrics from Smash Mouth's All Star, a song from Shrek; Bernie is inserted into a vaporwave style album cover; Bernie lays down some sick tracks for the kids. BSDMS, 2016.

The group’s early growth can be attributed to its viral spread. As Menczer observed, sharing content across multiple interest groups increases virality.197 BSDMS members spread pro-Sanders memes “across Facebook, on Reddit, in their Twitter and Tumblr feeds.” 198 This early community-building meant that BSDMS memes gained traction within the group and as reposts to other communities. No other candidate appealed to the liberal tastemakers of the 197 198

Lewis, G. (2016). Op. cit. Dewey, C. (2016). Op. cit.

69

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

internet quite like Sanders did. Dewey commented that “BSDMS has a pretty narrow definition of what it considers ‘dank’ or ‘cool’: this is quality as judged by white suburban stoners and nostalgic male nerds.”199 There were two major phases of Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash: the hopeful excitement of the primaries seen in Figure 19, and a tone of political angst after Sanders’ withdrawal and endorsement of Clinton. These represent two vastly different modes of memetic internet engagement. The first, full of irreverent caricature, is a loving form of political fandom. This kind of mediated political engagement follows Henry Jenkins’ five levels of fandom activity: (1) sharing and debating meanings between other members of a community (2) relating interpretations back to one’s own lives (3) “involves a base for consumer activism,” i.e. speaks back to the creator or performer (4) “an emphasis on loyalty, identity and belonging” expressed through aesthetic norms developed within the community (5) “functions as a social community [with] the ability to offer symbolic solutions to real world problems.”200 Fandom has the ability to build communities, and relies upon intertextuality as a means to communicate ideas about a text, the creator, and societal context. Fandom exists as a means to express ideology and celebrate creativity, central values of participatory culture according to Netzer et al.201 BSDMS became a mediated space of social connection, exemplifying another function of participatory culture as set forward by Netzer et al.202 The creation of BSDMS as a community catalysed political consciousness raising more than the memetic content itself. The group acted as a means of community building, and this is where the true power of BSDMS lay. 199

Ibid. Parikh, K. (2012). Political Fandom in the Age of Social Media: Case Study of Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. MSc. London School of Economics and Political Science. Available online at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/[email protected]/research/mediaWorkingPapers/MScDissertationSeries/2011/64.pdf [Accessed 3 Sep. 2016]. p.7 201 Netzer, Y., et al. (2014). Op. cit. 202 Ibid. 200

70

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Figure 20: Disillusioned memes and coping with Bernie's endorsement. BSDMS, 2016.

The second era of BSDMS was a reactionary period after Sanders’ withdrawal that attempted to incite political action through memes. Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton brought groupwide criticism of Sanders as a sell-out who had lost his integrity to satisfy the corporate political elite, as seen in Figure 20. Memes were more actively engaged with policy and political participation, and often implored members to write-in Bernie as a third-party candidate. Memetic support for Green Party candidate Jill Stein also emerged in the group.

Figure 21: Charged memetic activity of BSDMS, September 2016.

Figure 21, above, exemplifies the posts that flooded BSDMS in September 2016. It demonstrates the use of politically charged hashtags such as #OurRevolution and 71

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

#BernieOrJill (referring to Jill Stein). These hashtags signal a comedic space being used for activism in alignment with Krefting’s concept of charged comedy.203 A memetic space was now being co-opted to incite direct socio-political action. BSDMS was originally a memetic space first and a political one second, and it was this that gave it cultural power. Its transition into a political action group was largely ineffective. So what is the political efficacy of a fundamentally cultural memetic space? Longtime blogger Carles argued that for BSDMS to impress upon American political culture, it needed to engage with a wider audience: Does dankness translate to electability? …when it comes to non-Millennial demographics (who can be counted on to vote in primaries and general elections), perhaps the dankness of these memes could make Bernie Sanders seems unapproachable to those who prefer memes curated by their local radio station’s Facebook page.204 Within broader political culture, BSDMS alienates the uninitiated. It does not act as any traditional political group might; but then again, political action looks very different within modern mediated spaces. BSDMS is a manifestation of the notion of a personal “micro-politics”, as set forward by Jenkins et al.205 It becomes clear that memetic political groups do not necessarily impact upon broader political discourse, but upon memetic discourse and personal consciousness raising: the community facilitates a mediated micro-politics. While BSDMS did not directly influence traditional means of political activity (“voting, lobbying, or petitioning”), it had the power to mobilise a depoliticised segment of society – dispossessed youth – to interact with politics on a cultural and personal level.206 Jenkins et al emphasise that participatory politics “cannot in and of itself overcome structural inequalities that have historically blocked many

203

Krefting, R. (2014). Op. cit. p.23. Carles. (2016). Can Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash Swing the Election? [online] Available at: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/bernie-sanders-dank-meme-stash-facebook-page [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. 205 Jenkins, H., Itō, M. and boyd, d. (2016). Op. cit. 206 Ibid. 204

72

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

from participating in civic and political life,” but within mediated liberal spaces, BSDMS becomes a powerful tool for cultural activism.207 This cultural power was recognised by Clinton supporters, who saw the internet as a cultural battlefront that belonged to Bernie. On April 26, 2016, six pro-Sanders meme pages were temporarily suspended from Facebook. Jamie Peck of Death and Taxes Mag investigated these suspensions: while there was no immediate reason why they had occurred, “a number of members [reported] seeing explicit images, even child porn (!), posted by trolls for the likely purpose of getting the groups flagged and removed.”208 While not suspended, BSDMS was being barraged with pornography when Peck’s article was posted.209 Peck speculated that it may have been the work of David Brock, who led a Clinton Super PAC and formed “an online mob of paid trolls designed to attack any and every person who says one cross word about Hillary Clinton on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, or elsewhere.”210 Peck supported his allegation after finding evidence of a Brock supporter “bragging in the ‘Bros4Hillary’ [Facebook] group about getting a Sanders group taken down.”211 In addition to factional warring, BSDMS was also subject to leadership corruption. Administrator Will Dowd was shown to have filtered out as many as 100,000 posts, and charging $150 to promote clickbait articles by third parties.212 Dowd continued even when warned that his actions could lead to a lawsuit for accepting payments under another’s identity.213 Despite its non-normative engagement with political activity, the meme-sharing

207

Ibid. p.161. Peck, J. (2016). Did Hillary Clinton's super PAC pay trolls to shut down Sanders Facebook pages? [online] Death and Taxes. Available at: http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/288806/hillary-clinton-trolls-shut-downsanders-facebook-pages/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. 209 Ibid. 210 King, S. (2016). Hillary Clinton now paying trolls to attack people online. [online] Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/king-hillary-clinton-paying-trolls-attack-people-online-article1.2613980 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. 211 Peck, J. (2016). Op. cit. 212 benjaminwareing1998. (2016). Viral Group ‘Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash’ Owner Involved in Corruption. [online] Available at: https://nextgenerationblogs.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/viral-group-berniesanders-dank-meme-stashowner-involved-in-corruption/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. 213 Ibid. 208

73

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

community was still susceptible to political controversy, and was seen as a threat to the Clinton campaign.

Chillary Clinton, and Bernie or Hillary Nowhere was memetic disdain for Clinton more vocal than on BSDMS: Hillary Clinton’s character was routinely mocked in the group, and these memes quickly permeated the whole internet. Clinton ran on a moderate Democrat campaign emphasising the healthcare, education, and economic empowerment of women, and also supported immigration reform, gun law reforms, and (having been pushed further left by Senator Sanders) tax reform for Wall Street.214 Clinton’s campaign was plagued by numerous scandals as well as her lowest ever approval ratings.215 Her political history constantly resurfaced: she was criticised for her positions on Wall Street, the Iraq War, Benghazi, the war on drugs, a shifting stance on marriage equality, and her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.216 Clinton’s low approval ratings were further compounded within memetic spaces by her attempts to connect with young voters via memes and popular culture. Clinton was first perceived as being memetically unfashionable when the Hillary Clinton Snapchat account posted a video showing Clinton saying, “I’m just chillin’ in Cedar Rapids,” followed by a shot of a drink cosy that read “More like Chillary Clinton amirite?”217 Aside from the pun, Clinton made more attempts to connect with youth culture: on The Ellen Show, Clinton learned how to “dab” (a popular dance fad); her Twitter sent a tweet reading “How does your

214

Hillaryclinton.com. (2016a). Hillary Clinton on the issues. [online] Available at: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. 215 Blake, A. (2016). A record number of Americans now dislike Hillary Clinton. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/31/a-record-number-of-americans-now-dislikehillary-clinton/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. 216 Ibid. 217 itsmoi. (2015). Vine. Clinton Cedar Rapids. [video] Available at: https://vine.co/v/erQH0K9JthD [Accessed 23 Nov. 2015].

74

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

student loan debt make you feel? / Tell us in 3 emojis or less”; at a rally, she plead voters to “Pokémon Go to the polls” which was later described as “cringey”.218 Clinton had committed the cardinal sins of misusing teen slang and trying to use youth culture for political gain. The memetic persona of “Chillary” Clinton emphasised these popular culture faux pas. Chillary was not interested in learning what young voters wanted, but condescended to them with exploitative versions of their own subcultures. She was tacky, out of touch, and unsettling (Figure 22).

Figure 22: Sanders is presented as a candidate who speaks on important political issues, while Clinton patronises and panders. Twitter, 2015.

Clinton’s misuse of teen subcultures and memes is especially reminiscent of corporate exploitation of memes. I briefly touched upon corporate appropriation of meme culture in Chapter I; the hardest thing to mimic is memetic authenticity. Clinton’s inauthentic pandering re-emphasised her perceived similarities to the corporate world of Wall Street, but it also highlighted a seeming lack of empathy. Chillary was the perfect foil to the internet’s antiauthoritarianism. Saturday Night Live cleverly played off the genre. A December 2015 sketch united SNL’s two most recent Clinton impersonators (Kate McKinnon and her predecessor Amy

218

Future Media News. (2016). YouTube. [Slow Motion] Hillary Clinton Dabs On The Ellen DeGeneres Show. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1aYwQDqPDQ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. HillaryClinton (2016a). Twitter. "How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/631538115514007553 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. NERZ. (2016). Cringey Hillary Clinton Pokemon Go Joke. MEME-IFIED!!! "pokemon go to the polls". [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtTSp97EKRo [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].

75

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Poehler). In celebration of Clinton’s 2016 campaign, current-day-Clinton offers a fist bump to 2008-Clinton saying, “We’ll pound to that,” only to be met with confusion. She clarifies: Oh, I’m sorry, that’s how I have to talk in 2015. Not enough to just work hard: we have to be cool yet tough, soft but strong, a sweet old lady but a sweet old lady that says YAASSSS, KWEEEEEN.219 This is an instance where mainstream comedy played off memetic caricature. SNL subverted the Chillary genre, criticising a public that simultaneously judged Clinton for being too hard and mocked her attempts to soften herself. There was one instance where Clinton’s use of a meme was given an uproarious reception. Responding to a tweet by Donald Trump, Clinton’s Twitter deployed three now infamous words (Figure 23):

Figure 23: The tweet is Clinton’s most popular to date. Twitter, 2016.

The Delete Your Account meme genre was first used in 2008 as response to people displaying “social media faux pas and attention-seeking behaviors on Twitter.”220 What made it accessible for Clinton is that it can be understood separate from its original memetic

219

Saturday Night Live. (2016b). Op. cit. Know Your Meme. (2016b). Delete Your Account. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/delete-your-account [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. 220

76

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

context. It was ruthless, aggressive, and short – ideal for Twitter, and ideal for Clinton’s campaign.221 By dismissing Trump rather than engaging with him, Clinton communicated that Trump was unworthy of her time – she had more important things to do. It is important to note how Clinton uses her Twitter account, however; Clinton herself did not write “Delete your account”, as she signs her tweets with “–H”.222 In fact, much of Clinton’s “pandering” personality is likely due to misplaced campaign advice, but this overreliance on campaign staff plays even more into Clinton’s inability to connect with young voters. Clinton’s managed online persona comes in sharp contrast to Trump’s perceived authentic use of his Twitter account, but then, even this is up for debate. The authenticity of Trump’s tweets are negligible, as most of the accounts Trump retweets from are ‘ghost’ or ‘bot’ accounts that either tweet nothing at all, or tweet the same phrase over and over again.223 Additionally, data scientist David Robinson posited that tweets from Trump’s account were coming from different people. Robinson noticed that the tone of tweets from iPhone devices differed greatly from Android tweets (Trump being a noted Android user). After analysing one thousand of Trump’s tweets, Robinson concluded that “the Android tweets are angrier and more negative, while the iPhone tweets tend to be benign announcements and pictures.”224 While both Trump and Clinton’s Twitters sometimes present highly managed versions of themselves, sexist double standards ensure that only Clinton is judged for this practice, while Trump’s so-called authenticity remains intact.225

221

The genre was also reminiscent of the Texts From Hillary genre of 2012 which depicted Clinton as being in control. Know Your Meme. (2016c). Texts From Hillary. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/texts-from-hillary [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. 222 HillaryClinton. (2016c). Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) | Twitter. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 223 Sargent, J. (2016). The Laziest Lie Of Donald Trump's Entire Campaign (So Far). [online] Cracked.com. Available at: http://www.cracked.com/blog/trump-having-twitter-conversations-with-fake-accounts/ [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. 224 Robinson, D. (2016). Text analysis of Trump's tweets confirms he writes only the (angrier) Android half. [online] Available at: http://varianceexplained.org/r/trump-tweets/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 225 This may partially be due to the nature of Trump’s personal tweets: many are personal or nonsensical rants unleashed at odd hours of the day, like his tirade against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, where he invited his Twitter followers to watch a non-existent sex tape of Machado. Jacobs, B. (2016). Donald Trump

77

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

The next significant Clinton meme genre was “Bernie or Hillary”, which juxtaposes images of Sanders and Clinton accompanied by the candidates’ opinions about “the issues that matter.”226 It emerged in the wake of Tumblr and Reddit posts made by ObviousPlant, a comedian who distributes joke posters around Los Angeles.227

Figure 24: Some of the original Bernie or Hillary posters that were "left on the streets of Los Angeles" by ObviousPlant. Tumblr, 2016.

tries to distract from Machado sex tape accusations. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/30/donald-trump-alicia-machado-sex-tape-accusations-clinton [Accessed 4 Oct. 2016]. 226 Obvious Plant. (2016). Bernie or Hillary? Left on the streets of Los Angeles. [online] Available at: http://obviousplant.tumblr.com/post/138227198008/bernie-or-hillary-left-on-the-streets-of-los [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. 227 Ibid.

78

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

ObviousPlant’s posters, seen above in Figure 24, parody the candidates’ responses to campaign questions, but focuses upon irreverent topics. Hillary’s answer “is insufferable and cloying,” while Bernie answers with a ‘cool’ response – once again, cool “as judged by white suburban stoners and nostalgic male nerds.”228 As the genre developed beyond ObviousPlant’s initial posters, the form of the meme remained the same, but the content changed (Figure 25).

Figure 25: Development of the genre after users adapted ObviousPlant’s parent meme. Various, 2016.

228

Hess, A. (2016). Bernie vs. Hillary: The Weird, Ceaseless, Kind of Sexist Meme the 2016 Campaign Deserves. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/users/2016/02/the_bernie_vs_hillary_meme_is_weird_ceaseless_and_ kind_of_sexist_just_like.2.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016]. Dewey, C. (2016). Op. cit.

79

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

The new versions of the genre became more simplified: this version of Chillary is reminiscent of the 2010 Idiot Nerd Girl genre, which mocks a young woman for poor pop culture knowledge.229 The creators of these memes act as self-appointed cultural gatekeepers, excluding Clinton but welcoming Sanders. Bernie or Hillary drew criticism from Buzzfeed for sexism; Rodman for Vocativ countered that “this same joke structure also fits the not-necessarily-sexist criticism that Clinton… comes across as pandering.”230 But it was Amanda Hess writing for Slate whose dissection of the genre best revealed the pro-Sanders stance of the meme: The joke at the heart of this [genre] is the translation of Sanders’ passion and expertise in discussions of economic inequality to a meaningless cultural dispute he’d never actually address… The meme doesn’t exactly fight fair: It compares how Clinton fields soft questions with how Sanders replies to hard ones.231 This unfair comparison is a different kind of sexism: in addition to depicting Clinton as a cloying woman, Bernie or Hillary implies that Clinton is unworthy of being judged by the same metric as her male opponent. The memetic activity became self-reflexive about the genre’s dubious positioning, seen in Figure 26. Through this technique of self-parody, netizens were able to comment upon the sexism of the memetic genre as well as the sexism of the election. The metamemeing allowed for a criticism of memes as participatory politics whilst subverting the form of memetic participatory politics.

229

Hess, A. (2016). Op. cit. Broderick, R. (2016). There's A New "Bernie Or Hillary" Meme, But Is It Just Reinforcing Sexist Stereotypes? [online] Available at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/theres-a-new-bernie-or-hillarymeme-but-is-it-sexist-stereot?utm_term=.pkNEmlWq7#.orO2e4wOm [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Roudman, S. (2016). Decoding “Bernie or Hillary,” Your New Favorite Meme - Vocativ. [online] Available at: http://www.vocativ.com/279654/decoding-bernie-or-hillary-your-new-favorite-meme/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016]. 231 Hess, A. (2016). Op. cit. 230

80

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Figure 26: Meta-memes which reflect upon the nature of Bernie or Hillary. Transcription of second meme: “Issue: This meme. Bernie: Like many similar formats, it runs the risk of becoming increasingly meta (or ‘ironic’) to the point of total incomprehensibility, ruining the joke for everyone. Hillary: It’s funny! I like the thing that’s bad LOL”. Various, 2016.

Another important feature of Bernie or Hillary is that the visual keying of the genre is reminiscent of image macros: it uses block text and a simple, easily replicated pictorial template. Although its ideas and positioning are more complex than macro images, Bernie or Hillary is accessible to shallow users. Memes about bigger political personalities like Clinton are more traditional, and do not require deep memetic fluency – this was also a running theme with Trump memes. This suggests that it is not only deep netizens who engage with memes about bigger candidates, but that their memetic appeal is universal.

Trump and the Alt-Right Using his business acumen as a political resume, Donald Trump ran for the Republican Presidential nomination. He had a hard stance against immigration with plans to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, and his campaign was marked by a series of controversies. Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and said women who sought

81

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

abortions should face “punishment”.232 He mocked a disabled reporter and the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier.233 He hinted that gun rights supporters should assassinate Clinton and encouraged Russia to release intelligence about Clinton’s emails.234 John Oliver suggested that Trump’s sustained gaffes had numbed America like “a bed of nails”.235 Memetic activity about Trump took two prominent forms: simple caricature within liberal/centrist spaces, and memetic idolatry of Trump by a far-right online movement. Grotesque caricature of Trump was seen on Vine, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Chapter I details that these spaces feature higher rates of young, urban, black, Hispanic, and female users – demographics that tend to vote liberal.236 Trump memes on these liberal spaces were often redistributed Vines using audio manipulation and remix of speech excerpts. A moment that reverberated through meme communities came from early in Trump’s campaign. In a speech in August 2015, Trump said “You people know a lot about trucks,” then later mimicked political lobbyists and donors, pinching his fingers in the air as if he were distributing money, saying “Bing bing, bong bong bong, bing bing.”237 These moments

232

Lee, M. (2016). Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donaldtrumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Corrigan, S. (2016). My Issue With Trump’s Anti-Abortion Comments. [online] Refinery29. Available at: http://www.refinery29.uk/2016/04/107392/donald-trump [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. 233 Kessler, G. (2016b). Donald Trump’s revisionist history of mocking a disabled reporter. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/08/02/donald-trumps-revisionist-history-ofmocking-a-disabled-reporter/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Alexander Burns, M. (2016). Donald Trump’s Confrontation With Muslim Soldier’s Parents Emerges as Unexpected Flash Point. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/us/politics/khizr-khan-ghazala-donald-trump-muslim-soldier.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. 234 Smith, D. (2016). Donald Trump hints at assassination of Hillary Clinton by gun rights supporters. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/09/trump-gun-owners-clintonjudges-second-amendment [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Parker, A. and Sanger, D. (2016). Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/us/politics/donald-trump-russiaclinton-emails.html?_r=0 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. 235 Paschal, N. (2016). John Oliver Compares Donald Trump to Bed of Nails. [online] Available at: https://www.yahoo.com/tv/john-oliver-compares-donald-trump-to-bed-of-nails-083536827.html [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. 236 Pew Research Center. (2015). A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation. [online] Available at: http://www.peoplepress.org/2015/04/07/a-deep-dive-into-party-affiliation/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2016]. 237 Hathaway, J. (2015). Donald Trump Has Gone Completely Bing-Bong. [online] Gawker. Available at: http://gawker.com/donald-trump-has-gone-completely-bing-bong-1723877013 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016].

82

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

were juxtaposed on Vine by Actual GOP, who highlighted Trump’s nonsensical words by concluding with a soundbite of the rally’s closing music, We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister.”238 It sparked the Bing Bong genre, where Viners sampled the speech in song remixes, such as The Crazy Frog, Windows start-up music, and the Tetris theme song.239 This caricature was continued in pictorial memes, seen below in Figure 27.

Figure 27: Common themes include mocking Trump’s appearance and accent, referencing his proposed Mexican border wall, and his dislike of immigrants. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, 2016.

238

Actual GOP. (2016). Vine. Bing Bing and Twisted Sister. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/v/edrOxZUtAaa [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. 239 Know Your Meme. (2016d). Donald Trump's "Bing Bong" Speech. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/donald-trump-s-bing-bong-speech [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Dank Memes that almost Out Woob a Shoob. (2016a). Facebook. Crazy Frog Bing Bong Speech. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/yeastybread/videos/1706528252940727/ [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. WindowsXP_Vines. (2016). Twitter. Windows XP Bing Bong Speech. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/v/ivj3QIZhl63 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. ben, don't do that!. (2016). Vine. Tetris Bing Bong Speech. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/v/e0TWX6rXEqI [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016].

83

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

While the more mainstream and liberal spaces of the internet were happy to mock Trump with remix and grotesque caricature, online enclaves of the alt-right made him a mascot of anti-political-correctness. The alt-right (“alternative right”) is an online conservative movement housed in Reddit and its hostile predecessor 4chan. 4chan originally started as an anime forum, but developed into a haven for far-right ideologies: on 4chan, every user is anonymous and posts are frequently deleted, making it a bastion of short-lived activity that easily flies under the radar of civilised society.240 4chan hosts political actors ranging from the alt-right to hacktivist group Anonymous, however it is the actions of the altright that made a memetic impact upon the 2016 election. The alt-right contains many far-right ideologies: nationalism, pro-guns, antifeminism, anti-Semitism, anti-multiculturalism, and white supremacy. Writing for The Federalist, Cathy Young described the movement as “a mix of old bigotries and new identity and victimhood politics adapted for the straight white male.”241 Alt-right figurehead Milo Yiannopolous was banned from Twitter for targeted racism and sexism, and insists upon the movement’s playfulness: “it’s a mischievous, dissident, trolly generation who [performs antiSemitism] because it gets a reaction.”242 Young counters that despite this claim, there is a “consistent pattern of Jew-hatred and white supremacism, not general irreverence.”243 Many alt-right enclaves became “a major base of Trump's online support,” using hostile memes as a means to “annoy the pearl-clutching guardians of political correctness.”244 Pro-Trump memes swelled from 4chan, shouts of “Crooked Hillary” reverberated through

240

4chan.org. (2016). 4chan. [online] Available at: http://www.4chan.org/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Young, C. (2016). You Can’t Whitewash The Alt-Right’s Bigotry. [online] The Federalist. Available at: http://thefederalist.com/2016/04/14/you-cant-whitewash-the-alt-rights-bigotry/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 242 Yiannopolous, M., as quoted Ibid. 243 Ibid. 244 Matthews, D. (2016). The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way way weirder. [online] Vox. Available at: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/18/11434098/alt-right-explained [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Young, C. (2016). Op. cit. 241

84

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

/r/The_Donald on Reddit.245 100,000-person strong Facebook groups such as “Donald Trump for President!!!!!!” posted memes reading “Make America white again.”246 Part of the alt-right’s Trump fandom merged with an endeavour to restore 4chan’s socalled ownership of meme culture. Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast reported upon 4chan’s “campaign to reclaim Pepe” from mainstream internet culture (i.e. not 4chan).247 As I mentioned in Chapter I, male-dominated forums like Reddit and 4chan have constructed a self-made mythology wherein they believe they are tastemakers who “own” the internet.248 This perceived ownership led to possessiveness: “[The memetic character Pepe] belongs to us,” white supremacist @JaredTSwift told Nuzzi, “and we’ll make him toxic if we have to.”249 The alt-right “mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda,” to build an association between Pepe and white supremacy (Figure 28).250

Figure 28: Smug Pepe before alt-right reclamation (left) and after (centre, right). 4chan, 2011, 2016.

245

The _Donald. (2012 (2015). Reddit. Donald J. Trump, our glorious leader For President • /r/thedonald. Home. The_Donald. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/thedonaldthe_donald [Accessed 1621 Sep. 2016]. 246 Martel, W. (2016). 12,000+ Member Pro-Trump Facebook Group Posting Daily Stormer Articles. [online] Daily Stormer. Available at: http://www.dailystormer.com/12000-member-pro-trump-facebook-group-postingdaily-stormer-articles/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 247 Nuzzi, O. (2016). How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol. [online] Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/26/how-pepe-the-frog-became-a-nazi-trumpsupporter-and-alt-right-symbol.html [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 248 LtziZFLN. (2016). Reddit. /pol/ PEPE IS OURS!!! 88759104. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/88759104 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 249 Nuzzi, O. (2016). Op. cit. 250 Ibid.

85

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

While @JaredTSwift later dismissed his Daily Beast interview as trolling, Pepe nevertheless “became the avatar for racism, just as he was the avatar for sadness, for smugness and for 4chan itself in turn… [Pepe’s] new [white supremacist] context became the main context.”251 Combining Pepe with white supremacy may not have been a concerted effort to “reclaim” the genre, but the racialised trolling had that effect nonetheless; their narrative became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Forming around #FrogTwitter, the alt-right spread neo-Nazi Pepe to Twitter, and began integrating Trump imagery into the sub-genre.252

Figure 29: “You can’t stump the Trump,” but your memes can stump America. Twitter, 2015.

In October 2015, Trump retweeted the Trump Pepe image seen in Figure 29. Jonathon Morgan of The Washington Post posited that Trump’s continued retweeting of alt-right tweets “propelled the movement into the limelight”.253 251

McDonald, K. (2016). Who is Pepe, the cartoon frog Hillary Clinton is accusing of racism? [online] iNews. Available at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/columnists/who-is-pepe-the-cartoon-frog-hillary-clinton-is-accusingof-racism/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 252 Nuzzi, O. (2016). Op. cit. 253 Morgan, J. (2016). These charts show exactly how racist and radical the alt-right has gotten this year. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-

86

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

4chan created a pseudo-religion, ironically worshipping Pepe’s memetic power by incorporating religious imagery with Pepe to create a ‘demi-god’ named Kek (an old online abbreviation for laughter, derived from the video game World of Warcraft).254 This pseudoreligion was what 4chan boards dubbed “meme magic,” when memes impact the real world.255 The very idea of meme magic espouses Netzer et al’s fourth tenet of participatory culture: that is, enhanced belief in one’s own contributions.256 Having found considerable media attention following the debut of Trump’s Pepe retweet, the alt-right continued to position memes as a form of manifest destiny. 4chan did everything in its power to make Pepe more repugnant; images emerged of Pepe standing in front of gas chambers, brandishing the Confederate Flag, and anally raping decapitated women.257 The use of the Trump-Pepe sub-genre exploded, and began to gain attention from political figures. In a campaign speech in Reno, Clinton named the alt-right as perpetrators of “hardline, right-wing nationalism around the world.”258 At her mention of the alt-right, a man in the crowd yelled out “Pepe!” In an interview with alt-right news source Breitbart.com, the heckler identified himself as a member of 4chan’s alt-right movement.259 His disruptive yelp signalled the emergence of alt-right Pepe in a mainstream political space. Pepe re-emerged in the wake of Clinton’s comment that “you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” addressing the racism and

intersect/wp/2016/09/26/these-charts-show-exactly-how-racist-and-radical-the-alt-right-has-gotten-this-year/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. 254 BwKVaqRu. (2016). 4chan. /pol/ KEK: 88775645. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/88775645 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. 255 Know Your Meme. (2016g). Meme Magic. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/mememagic [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 256 Netzer, Y. et al. (2014). Op. cit. 257 NO3x7fHe. (2016). 4chan. /pol/ 88779123. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/88774029#p88774029 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. 258 Washington Post. (2016). Hillary Clinton’s alt-right speech, annotated. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/25/hillary-clintons-alt-right-speech-annotated/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 259 Nash, C. (2016). We Spoke To The Guy Who Yelled 'Pepe' During Hillary Clinton's Alt-Right Speech Breitbart. [online] Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/08/26/spoke-guy-shouted-pepe-hillarys-altright-speech/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016].

87

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

sexism emanating from Trump supporters.260 In September 2016, Donald Trump Jr reposted the infamous meme in which he, Pepe, Milo Yiannopolous, and Trump are part of a team of “Deplorables”, seen below in Figure 30.

Figure 30: The meme that stopped a nation. Instagram, 2016.

Following this meme, Clinton’s campaign released a statement: Trump has been slow to disavow support from Ku Klux Klansmen and white supremacy groups… [Additionally,] Trump’s presidential campaign is posting memes associated with white supremacy online.”261 The responses to this press release varied from incredulous confusion on Tumblr to enraged frustration that Pepe had been destroyed at the cost of 4chan’s respectability. 262 Clinton 260

Blow, C. (2016). About the ‘Basket of Deplorables’. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/12/opinion/about-the-basket-of-deplorables.html [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 261 Hillaryclinton.com. (2016b). Donald Trump, Pepe the frog, and white supremacists: an explainer . [online] Available at: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/post/donald-trump-pepe-the-frog-and-white-supremacists-anexplainer/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016].

88

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

irrefutably solidified the link between Pepe and white supremacy that the alt-right had been clawing at for ages. She was able to use Pepe’s compromised nature for political leverage. While the alt-right had co-opted Pepe into a white supremacy symbol, many netizens were either unaware of the connection, or refused to legitimise it.263 Clinton’s campaign statement legitimised the claim; this level of exposure led to Pepe being listed as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League on September 28, 2016.264 In her Reno speech, Clinton condemned the actions of the alt-right but simultaneously empowered them by giving them nationwide coverage. The alt-right celebrated being depicted as a threat – being taken seriously was the ultimate victory for the alt-right who saw themselves as playful trolls. Galvanised by supposed political efficacy, an administrator on the subreddit /r/The_Donald announced Nimble America, an organisation that would use donations from memetic merchandise to fund pro-Trump television advertisements.265 The use of the word “nimble” refers to a YouTube mashup video where a voiceover from a nature documentary about centipedes is played over footage of Trump at a debate: the narrator says “despite its impressive length, [the centipede is] a nimble navigator.”266 The formation of this group is once again evidence of meme communities using charged humour as a means to mobilise politically. However, Nimble America was met with wide disdain from the community who felt it fundamentally opposed the purpose of irreverent shitposting. I posit that the primary purpose

262

balfies. (2016b). Tumblr. doomy: what did we do to deserve this election season? [online] Available at: http://balfies.tumblr.com/tagged/reference [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. wfFEYS23. (2016). 4chan. /pol/ thanks for fucking up a time honoured 4chan meme 89046506. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/89046506#q89046506 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. 263 balfies. (2016b). Op. cit. 264 Begley, S. (2016). Anti-Defamation League Declares Pepe the Frog a Hate Symbol. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://time.com/4510849/pepe-the-frog-adl-hate-symbol/ [Accessed 28 Sep. 2016]. 265 TehDonald. (2016). Reddit. Announcing Nimble America • /r/The_Donald. [online] Available at: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:6-3qm6OyY4J:https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/comments/5353i4/announcing_nimble_america/+&cd=1&hl= en&ct=clnk&gl=us [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. 266 Rose, A. (2016). Decoding the Language of Trump Supporters. [online] ATTN:. Available at: http://www.attn.com/stories/6789/trump-supporters-language-reddit [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016].

89

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

of political memeing within these alt-right spaces was to disrupt the confidence of the Democrats and canonise Trump as a memetic icon as BSDMS did for Bernie Sanders. Nimble America tried to use the power of a meme community which antagonised traditional media to fund campaigns in traditional media. This mode of political activity was incompatible with the mediated citizenship of the memetic community, because, as we saw in our examination of BSDMS, political memes become corrupted and inauthentic when coopted by mainstream acts of citizenry.

Conclusions This chapter has examined the prominent genres that emerged during the 2016 US Presidential election, organised around the candidates themselves. I first examined the caricature of Ted Cruz which sought to “Other” him. This in turn led to the Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer genre, and my analysis of Google Trends demonstrated that the genre became reactive to socio-political events only after it had gained cumulative memetic power over a matter of months. The political power of memes comes secondary to memetic power. My examination of the Facebook group Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash revealed that political fandom served as a better form of political mobilisation than charged comedy did. The employment of fandom allowed users to express a mediated micro-politics through cultural means, and ultimately this new mode of political action mobilised a depoliticised segment of society and instigated politically-based community-building. I next outlined how the memetic caricature of Hillary Clinton reinscribed the antiauthoritarianism of the internet but the Bernie or Hillary genre revealed a double standard by comparing the two candidates through different lenses. Clinton’s memes demonstrated that memes about bigger political personalities are more accessible to superficial shallow users and require less memetic fluency. This was also seen in liberal and centrist memes about 90

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Trump which used accessible caricature to parody him. Conversely, the alt-right constructed Trump’s memetic character as powerful; they connected Trump imagery with white supremacy to great effect. Clinton’s response to the alt-right’s memes fulfilled their intended purpose: to disrupt Democratic cultural power and canonise Trump into memetic fandom. Ultimately, all of these memetic genres demonstrate the breadth and variety of memetic political engagement. They engage with notions of parody, authenticity, and community, and reveal the efficacy of meme communities as cultural political powers rather than institutionally recognised political groups. In my next chapter, I will analyse how these discoveries impact our understanding of participatory politics as a cultural actor, and how these modes of political conversation might develop in future elections.

91

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Conclusion Politics as memes

W

here does this leave memes as participatory politics? Having mapped and analysed the impact of the popular meme genres of the 2016 election, it is clear that memetic activity can be a mediated act of citizenship, but only if

it remains separate from the voices of mainstream media. There is one simple explanation for this: meme culture is unpaid. Citizenship itself is an unpaid act. Citizenship is a duty that each of us puts thought into and performs. If we conceptualise citizenship as unpaid labour, then paid politicians exist almost as ‘professional citizens’. If we transplant this conceptualisation of citizenship onto the unpaid labour of participatory meme cultures, it becomes immediately clear why memetic politics cannot be co-opted by mainstream politics. The later stage of the Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash, where members implored people to vote #BernieOrJill, was unsuccessful as a political tool. The Nimble America project, which tried to exploit the memetic power of the alt-right to create traditional television advertisements, was also a failure. These two groups were built by similar processes: that is, a desire to improve the cultural capital of Sanders and Trump. When exterior forces attempted to transform these acts of cultural citizenship into traditional political ventures, there was resistance from within. The notions of political authenticity and memetic authenticity are woven within the fabric of participatory politics. We must be authentic in our memes to be authentic political actors: to go against the tone, purpose, and anti-capitalist aesthetic of the internet is not only fruitless, but harmful to

92

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

the true nature of these memetic communities. By introducing notions of conventional politics, the memes become inauthentic, exploited, and unfashionable. Traditional comedy media have been gradually teaching political literacy – content producers like College Humor and Cracked have shifted from pure humour sites to spaces that present political knowledge alongside comedy. They have shown that comedy and politics need each other, proving Krefting’s comment that “all humor locates itself in social and political contexts.”267 Like memetic comedy, political comedy engages with notions of authenticity. The disdain for The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live hosting Donald Trump after each program had broadcast anti-Trump sketches is the perfect example of that. Within comedy culture, there is a desire for political comedy to be authentic and to have integrity. The same applies within memetic communities. Take, for example, Clinton’s tweet asking indebted college students to express their feelings “in 3 emojis or less” as an example.268 A meme that is created with intentions of political efficacy fails quickly because its ulterior political motives annul any authenticity. Memes are at their most powerful when they are irreverent: purposeful memes cannot exist meaningfully. The true power of memes, then, is their unintended cultural shaping. Political memes have reframed cultural dialogue as a form of participatory politics. It is this cultural dialogue that in turn shapes direct political action (voting, lobbying). If we consider autonomous political groups to operate at a grassroots level, then memetic political groups operate at a level below that – soil level, perhaps. If the subterranean soil of a community is fertilised with cultural capital and memetic community-building, then roots can form. One of the reasons political memes have such a deep cultural impact upon online communities is because the processes of memes and the processes of politics are so similar. 267 268

Krefting, R. (2014). Op. cit. HillaryClinton (2016a). Op. cit.

93

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Politics reifies ideas, plays with familiar and popular iconography, and inscribes ideologies that permeate throughout American culture. Similarly, memes propagate themselves through reification; they are strengthened through remix and mashup with familiar and popular iconography; they inscribe ideologies that, through the processes of sharing and re-uploading, can permeate every corner of the internet. I sought to describe memes as a form of politics, but ultimately it seems as though politics is memetic. During the 2016 election, meme communities began to understand their actions as part of a bigger story. Whilst meme encyclopaedia Know Your Meme has been around for years, smaller site-specific meme catalogues arose.269 Countless thinkpieces tried accounting for the purpose, form, and origin of memes. The 2016 Presidential election allowed the internet to realise the potential of memetic power. This thesis not only comes with a conclusion, but also with a prediction: in future elections, memes will become even more influential. Establishment politics has attempted to co-opt memes for political gain; this is counter-productive. Memes are a language mediating internet comedy culture and grassroots politics – the establishment recognises the cultural significance of memes, but does not yet understand how best to approach them. In 2016, the Democrat Party has had difficulty reckoning with young politically mobilised Sanders groups that were facilitated by memetic communication. Although these communities used memes amongst themselves, political exploitation of memetic language was perceived as inauthentic. Political memetic communities do not want a memetic dialogue with politicians: they want a political one.

269

Know Your Meme. (2016h). Know Your Meme. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Memedocumentation. (2016). Tumblr. Meme Documentation. [online] Available at: http://memedocumentation.tumblr.com/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016].

94

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Memes are the indestructible anti-authoritarian voice of the people. In future elections, memes will become the subterranean cultural soil of grassroots campaigns, forming the foundations of a truly autonomous political comedy culture.

95

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Figure References Figure 1: Know Your Meme. (2015a). [online] Story of Pepe. Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/937186-pepe-the-frog [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016]. Figure 2: Know Your Meme. (2016a). Dat Boi. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/datboi [Accessed 17 Jul. 2016]. Figure 3: therealfrypan. (2016). Instagram. When you’re playing pokemon go. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHx1d2UhwTc/?taken-by=therealfrypan [Accessed 21 July 2016]. drgrayfang. (2016). Instagram. Waiter: sir, no service dogs allowed. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKXB6q0A32Y/?taken-by=drgrayfang [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. smh. (2016). Instagram. Nicki Minaj and Flik. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHBMA35B1JH/?taken-by=smh [Accessed 21 July 2016]. Figure 4: jon_snow_420. (2015). Twitter. "god: i have made Mankind / angels: you fucked up a perfectly good monkey is what you did. look at it. it's got anxiety" Available at: https://twitter.com/jon_snow_420/status/659443020908003328 [Accessed 21 July 2016]. Figure 5: Bownuggets. (2016). Twitter. "[God creating praying mantis] / Make an insect that does karate / Angel: k / Now make it bite her husband's head off / Angel: dude we need to talk" Available at: https://twitter.com/bownuggets/status/686588032586256389 [Access 21 July 2016]. themiltron. (2015). Twitter. "[god creating jellyfish] how bout an evil bag" Available at: https://twitter.com/themiltron/status/680655814554554370 [Accessed 21 July 2016]. Figure 6: balfies. (2016a). Tumblr. Star Wars Anxiety meme. [online] Available at: http://balfies.tumblr.com/post/150439748637 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Figure 7: A Song of Memes and Rage. (2012). Reddit. /r/aSongOfMemesAndRage Homepage. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/aSongOfMemesAndRage [Accessed 22 July 2016]. Figure 8: Rudy Mancuso. (2014). Uptown Funk Slapstick. Available at: https://vine.co/v/OHppxZabE77 [Accessed 22 July 2016]. Figure 9: RepThomasMassie. (2013). Twitter. "Much bipartisanship. Very spending. Wow. #doge http://reut.rs/1bml7Pf " Available at: https://twitter.com/repthomasmassie/status/415145732661059584?lang=en [Accessed 19 July 2016]. Figure 10: Google Trends. (2016b). Mmm whatcha say Jan 2005 – August 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=2005-01-01%202016-08-13&q=Mmm%20whatcha%20say [Accessed 14 Aug. 2016]. Figure 11: softmetalalchemist. (2016). Tumblr. Avatar the Last Airbender Cinnamon Roll. [online] Available at: http://softmetalalchemist.tumblr.com/post/125193784336/looks-like-a-cinnamon-roll-but-could-actually-kill [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. Figure 12: College Humor. (2016f). What's Inside Bernie Sanders' Pockets. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbXF9WtPGaY [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016].

96

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Figure 13: Mic. (2016). Ted Cruz Comparison Images. [online] Available at: http://micdotcom.tumblr.com/post/142827247523/so-many-lookalikes-only-one-ted-cruz [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Figure 14: Banderboucher. (2016). Tumblr. This Man Ate My Son. [online] Available at: http://banderboucher.tumblr.com/post/140106806324 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. lubchansky. (2016). Twitter. ""okay ted, do some standing" "got it. normal human standing" https://t.co/wwORslEUdb". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/lubchansky/status/694964657384198145 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Nobonestedcruz. (2016). Twitter. "I was made in a laboratory and I have no bones in my body". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/NoBonesTedCruz/status/668602875300421632 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Ted Cruz for Human President. (2016). Home. [online] Available at: http://www.tedcruzforhumanpresident.com/#home [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Figure 15: Google Trends. (2016c). March 2013-August 2016 comparison of “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” and “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer”. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=2013-0314%202016-08-20&q=Ted%20Cruz%20Zodiac%20Killer,is%20ted%20cruz%20the%20zodiac%20killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Figure 16: lashtonshipslarry. (2016). Tumblr. Zodiac Apps. [online] Available at: http://lashtonshipslarry.tumblr.com/post/141726473153/i-spit-my-drink-out [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Mic. (2016). Op. cit. memeufacturing. (2016). Tumblr. Thankyou for speaking to us Ted. [online] Available at: http://memeufacturing.tumblr.com/post/140033911403/interviewer-thanks-you-for-speaking-with-us-ted [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. ZeppoWilbury. (2016). Twitter. "Ted Cruz was born in CALGARY. The Zodiac Killer's first two victims were named CAL and GARY. #ZodiacTed". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/ZeppoWilbury/status/689935830908047361 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. adamzopf. (2016). Twitter. "https://t.co/mivP6wiQHw". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/adamzopf/status/727669693226475520 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. gotitforcheap. (2016). Tumblr. Ted Cruz/Life of Pablo Mashup. [online] Available at: http://gotitforcheap.tumblr.com/post/139295137699 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Figure 17: Google Trends. (2016d). February 2016-August 2016 comparison of “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” and “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer” [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=201602-01%202016-08-20&q=Ted%20Cruz%20Zodiac%20Killer,is%20ted%20cruz%20the%20zodiac%20killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Figure 18: Google Trends. (2016e). February 2016-August 2016 comparison of “Ted Cruz” and “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” and “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer”. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=2016-02-01%202016-0820&q=Ted%20Cruz%20Zodiac%20Killer,is%20ted%20cruz%20the%20zodiac%20killer,zodiac%20killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Figure 19: Dewey, C. (2016). How Bernie Sanders became the lord of ‘dank memes’. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/02/23/how-bernie-sanders-became-the-lord-ofdank-memes/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. Figure 20: Tiven, L. (2016). These Memes Reveal How Bernie Sanders' Supporters Are Turning on Him. [online] ATTN:. Available at: http://www.attn.com/stories/9863/sanders-supporters-react-clinton-endorsementwith-memes [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016].

97

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Figure 21: Joanna. (2016). Facebook. Garbage trucks have evolved so much over the years. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/berniesandersmemes/permalink/1268027016551155/?match=am9hbm5h [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Figure 22: robfee. (2015a). Twitter. ""Bernie Sanders: Let's raise minimum wage. / Hillary Clinton: *tries to kickflip & tumbles offstage* Lets raise that whip & nae nae! It fleek!"" Available at: https://twitter.com/robfee/status/654062380167462912 [Accessed 7 Sept 2016]. robfee. (2015b). Twitter. ""Bernie Sanders: Let's talk about the economy. / Hillary Clinton: *riding by on Heelys* Yo yo bae who loves to vape yolo hashtags? Yaassss fam!"" Available at: https://twitter.com/robfee/status/654032970764779520 [Accessed 7 Sept 2016]. Figure 23: HillaryClinton. (2016b). Twitter. "Delete your account. https://t.co/Oa92sncRQY". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/740973710593654784 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Figure 24: Obvious Plant. (2016). Bernie or Hillary? Left on the streets of Los Angeles. [online] Available at: http://obviousplant.tumblr.com/post/138227198008/bernie-or-hillary-left-on-the-streets-of-los [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Figure 25: SassySenSanders. (2016). Twitter. ""an authentic Italian restaurant for the whole family!" https://t.co/vl45Mt4PL5". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/SassySenSanders/status/693293998493032448 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. BrahNick. (2016). Twitter. "https://t.co/NWFd3YHJf9". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/BrahNick/status/693184475895894017 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Hess, A. (2016). Bernie vs. Hillary: The Weird, Ceaseless, Kind of Sexist Meme the 2016 Campaign Deserves. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/users/2016/02/the_bernie_vs_hillary_meme_is_weird_ceaseless_and_ kind_of_sexist_just_like.2.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016]. godfatherofgreenbay. (2016). Tumblr. Bernie or Hillary Toilet Paper Meme. [online] Available at: http://godfatherofgreenbay.tumblr.com/post/138760420510#notes?ref_url=http://www.smosh.com/smoshpit/photos/22-best-and-dumbest-examples-bernie-or-hillary-meme#_=_ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. Figure 26: Hess, A. (2016). Op. cit. sam_kriss. (2016). Twitter. "https://t.co/BNEuIK1CGA". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/sam_kriss/status/694147243432153088 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Figure 27: Watson, D. (2016). Facebook. When you drunk as fuck in the Uber and u see a McDonald’s 😂😂😂. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/dannywatson19/posts/10209691045408321 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Edgy Teens. (2016). Facebook. Dios mio that was close. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/edgyteens5/photos/a.925927347496855.1073741827.899949696761287/107376878 9379376/?type=3&theater [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Dank Memes that almost Out Woob a Shoob. (2016b). Facebook. 11pm. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/yeastybread/photos/a.1633100933616793.1073741828.1630565930536960/1729760 747284144/?type=3&theater [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. thefunnyintrovert. (2016). Instagram. When your Spanish teacher makes you repeat a word. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BIa8GamgeID/?taken-by=thefunnyintrovert [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Figure 28: Know Your Meme. (2016f). Smug Pepe. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/862065-smug-frog [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016].

98

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Know Your Meme. (2016g). Smug Nazi Pepe. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/861025smug-frog [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Sizzle. (2016). Extremely Rare Trippy Nazi Pepe [online] Available at: https://onsizzle.com/i/%EB%82%AD%E7%BB%87%E5%85%AE-extremely-rare-trippy-nazi-pepe-1252630 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Figure 29: realDonaldTrump. (2016). Twitter. “@codyave: @drudgereport @BreitbartNews @Writeintrump “You Can't Stump the Trump” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKH6PAoUuD0…” [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/653856168402681856 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Figure 30: DonaldJTrumpJr. (2016). Instagram. The Deplorables. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKMtdN5Bam5/?taken-by=donaldjtrumpjr [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016].

99

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour

Works Cited 4chan.org. (2016). 4chan. [online] Available at: http://www.4chan.org/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. A Song of Memes and Rage. (2012). Reddit. /r/aSongOfMemesAndRage Homepage. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/aSongOfMemesAndRage [Accessed 22 July 2016]. ABC News. (2016). Boy easily entered Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure: witness. [online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-01/witness-describes-harambe-incident/7468716 [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. Abraham, J. (2016). Jack O'Brien, Cracked.com. [online] Gothamist. Available at: http://gothamist.com/2005/10/12/jack_obrien_crackedcom.php [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016]. Actual GOP. (2016). Vine. Bing Bing and Twisted Sister. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/v/edrOxZUtAaa [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. adamzopf. (2016). Twitter. "https://t.co/mivP6wiQHw". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/adamzopf/status/727669693226475520 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Aldiss, B. (1995). The detached retina. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, p.78. Alexander Burns, M. (2016). Donald Trump’s Confrontation With Muslim Soldier’s Parents Emerges as Unexpected Flash Point. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/us/politics/khizr-khan-ghazala-donald-trump-muslim-soldier.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Alexander, L. (2016). Blame it on the Zodiac killer: did social media ruin Ted Cruz's campaign? [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/04/ted-cruz-campaign-social-mediamemes-zodiac-killer [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. Allington, W. (2014). New Media, Old Hatred: The Rise of Holocaust Denial on the Internet. Honours. University of Sydney. p.45 Altman, R. (1999). Film/genre. London: BFI Pub., p.12. Anderson, N. (2016). Did "Lazy Sunday" make YouTube's $1.5 billion sale possible? [online] Available at: http://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2008/11/did-lazy-sunday-make-youtubes-1-5-billion-sale-possible/ [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. Anti-Defamation League Hate Symbol Database. (2016). 14 Words. [online] Available at: http://www.adl.org/combating-hate/hate-on-display/c/14words.html#.VfCCOM5Z9pk?referrer=https://en.wikipedia.org/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Anti-Defamation League Hate Symbol Database. (2016). 88. [online] Available at: http://www.adl.org/combating-hate/hate-on-display/c/88.html#.V9ukuph9600 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Aunger, R. (2000). Darwinizing culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Introduction. balfies. (2016a). Tumblr. Star Wars Anxiety meme. [online] Available at: http://balfies.tumblr.com/post/150439748637 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. balfies. (2016b). Tumblr. doomy: what did we do to deserve this election season? [online] Available at: http://balfies.tumblr.com/tagged/reference [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. Banderboucher. (2016). Tumblr. This Man Ate My Son. [online] Available at: http://banderboucher.tumblr.com/post/140106806324 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Baumgartner, J. et. al. (2012). The Fey Effect: young adults, political humor, and perceptions of Sarah Palin in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Public Opinion Quarterley, [online] 76(1), pp.95-104. Available at: http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/76/1/95.full.pdf [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. p.95.

100

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Begley, S. (2016). Anti-Defamation League Declares Pepe the Frog a Hate Symbol. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://time.com/4510849/pepe-the-frog-adl-hate-symbol/ [Accessed 28 Sep. 2016]. ben, don't do that!. (2016). Vine. Tetris Bing Bong Speech. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/v/e0TWX6rXEqI [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. benjaminwareing1998. (2016). Viral Group ‘Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash’ Owner Involved in Corruption. [online] Available at: https://nextgenerationblogs.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/viral-group-bernie-sanders-dankmeme-stashowner-involved-in-corruption/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Bereznak, A. (2016). The Bernie Bros rule the Internet. [online] Available at: https://www.yahoo.com/news/thebernie-bros-rule-the-internet-180426111.html [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Black People Twitter. (2016). Reddit. /r/blackpeopletwitter. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/BlackPeopleTwitter/ [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016]. Blake, A. (2016). A record number of Americans now dislike Hillary Clinton. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/31/a-record-number-of-americans-now-dislikehillary-clinton/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Blow, C. (2016). About the ‘Basket of Deplorables’. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/12/opinion/about-the-basket-of-deplorables.html [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Boggioni, T. (2015). John Oliver destroys lying, hypocritical GOP ‘idiot’ who wants to gut Medicaid. [online] Rawstory.com. Available at: http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/john-oliver-destroys-lying-hypocritical-gopidiot-who-wants-to-gut-medicaid/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Bownuggets. (2016). Twitter. "[God creating praying mantis] / Make an insect that does karate / Angel: k / Now make it bite her husband's head off / Angel: dude we need to talk" Available at: https://twitter.com/bownuggets/status/686588032586256389 [Access 21 July 2016]. BrahNick. (2016). Twitter. "https://t.co/NWFd3YHJf9". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/BrahNick/status/693184475895894017 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Broderick, R. (2016). There's A New "Bernie Or Hillary" Meme, But Is It Just Reinforcing Sexist Stereotypes? [online] Available at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/theres-a-new-bernie-or-hillary-meme-but-is-itsexist-stereot?utm_term=.pkNEmlWq7#.orO2e4wOm [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Browne, L. (1945). The wisdom of Israel. New York: Random House, pp.495-510, 521-530. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. [online] Available at: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Buxbaum, K. (1927). Mark Twain and American Dialect. American Speech, [online] 2(5), p.233. Available at: http://jstor.org/stable/452316 [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. BwKVaqRu. (2016). 4chan. /pol/ KEK: 88775645. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/88775645 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Carles. (2016). Can Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash Swing the Election? [online] Available at: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/bernie-sanders-dank-meme-stash-facebook-page [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. Chandler, D. (1997). An Introduction to Genre Theory. [online] pp.1-15. Available at: http://visualmemory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/intgenre/chandler_genre_theory.pdf [Accessed 16 Jul. 2016]. P.2 Change.org. (2016a). Ted Cruz: Make Ted Cruz answer the question "are you the zodiac killer". [online] Available at: https://www.change.org/p/ted-cruz-make-ted-cruz-answer-the-question-are-you-the-zodiac-killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Change.org. (2016b). Barack Obama: Formally Investigate Ted Cruz: Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-formally-investigate-ted-cruz-zodiac-killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

101

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Change.org. (2016c). Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz to admit he's the zodiac killer. [online] Available at: https://www.change.org/p/ted-cruz-ted-cruz-to-admit-he-s-the-zodiac-killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Circle Jerk. (2008). Reddit. a high quality subreddit for high quality redditors • /r/circlejerk. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/circlejerk [Accessed 4 Oct. 2016]. Clickhole. (2014a). Problem Solved! This Panda Has Been Giving Birth Over And Over Without Stopping Since Last Month! [online] Available at: http://www.clickhole.com/article/problem-solved-panda-has-been-givingbirth-over-an-822 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. Clickhole. (2014b). Which One Of My Garbage Sons Are You? [online] Available at: http://www.clickhole.com/quiz/which-one-my-garbage-sons-are-you-1458 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. Clickhole. (2016). ClickHole, Home. [online] Available at: http://www.clickhole.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Clmazin. (2016). Twitter. “As a freshman, I would get into senior parties because I was Ted's roommate. OUT OF PITY. He was that widely loathed. It's his superpower.” [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/clmazin/status/686241061329485824 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. CNN. (2016). 'Church Lady' returns to 'SNL,' takes on Trump ... again. [online] Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/videos/entertainment/2016/05/10/snl-church-lady-moos-pkg-erin.cnn/video/playlists/snlpolitics/ [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2007). Hand - Vagina. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQtKnDGhxmk [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2008). If The Other Party Wins. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_JhRJ0tWA [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2014a). YouTube Closed Captioning Experiment (All-Nighter 2014). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txvud7wPbv4 [Accessed 14 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2014b). A Political Ad For Your Friend Who Doesn’t Vote. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeGAnQ6DyJs [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. College Humor. (2015a). When Coming Out Goes Better Than You Thought. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgHwF4CNiJA [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2015b). Are You Asian Enough? [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVR3B01NxiM [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2015c). Coming Out As Trans-Everything. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMUl6w1efXI [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2015d). Go To College Music Video (with FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA!). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1yAOK0nSb0 [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. College Humor. (2016a). CollegeHumor YouTube Home. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/collegehumor [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2016b). CollegeHumor. [online] Available at: http://www.collegehumor.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. College Humor. (2016c). Donald Trump Will Never Be President… Or Will He? [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxSAHqFqG58 [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2016d). Why Bernie Sanders is Actually Winning. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHS-K7OuLAc [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. College Humor. (2016e). Donald Trump: Show Us Your Penis. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG5kSgJtyQg [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016].

102

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour College Humor. (201f). What's Inside Bernie Sanders' Pockets. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbXF9WtPGaY [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. Collins, S. (2016). The Creator of Pepe the Frog Talks About Making Comics in the Post-Meme World. [online] VICE. Available at: http://www.vice.com/read/feels-good-man-728 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2016]. Corrigan, S. (2016). My Issue With Trump’s Anti-Abortion Comments. [online] Refinery29. Available at: http://www.refinery29.uk/2016/04/107392/donald-trump [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Cracked.com. (2009). Boobs: The Closest We've Come to the Jedi Mind Trick. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/funny-212-boobs/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Cracked.com. (2016a). Cracked.com - America's Only Humor Site | Cracked.com. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016]. Cracked.com. (2016b). Obvious Ways To Solve Famous Movie Plots In Seconds. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_2210_12-movie-plots-settled-with-basic-household-products/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016]. Cracked.com. (2016c). Bayer Purchased Monsanto (And We Are All Screwed). [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/article_24346_bayer-purchased-monsanto-and-we-are-all-screwed.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Dank Christian Memes. (2015). Reddit. memes god would upswag • /r/dankchristianmemes. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/dankchristianmemes [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. Dank Memes that almost Out Woob a Shoob. (2016a). Facebook. Crazy Frog Bing Bong Speech. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/yeastybread/videos/1706528252940727/ [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Dank Memes that almost Out Woob a Shoob. (2016b). Facebook. 11pm. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/yeastybread/photos/a.1633100933616793.1073741828.1630565930536960/1729760 747284144/?type=3&theater [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 11 - Memes: the new replicators. p.203. DeAmicis, C. (2015). Vine rings in its second year by hitting 1.5 billion daily loops. [online] Gigaom. Available at: https://gigaom.com/2015/01/26/vine-rings-in-its-second-year-by-hitting-1-5-billion-daily-loops/ [Accessed 22 Jul. 2016]. Dean, M. (2002). Anthrax Attack and Distribution Troubles, Cracked Awaits Salvation. [online] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20060505022532/http://www.tcj.com/242/n_cracked.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Derulo, J. (2009). Whatcha Say. Jason Derulo. Beluga Heights. Devinchancexxx. (2015). Reddit. Someone brought a bunch of these lil Bernie dolls. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/circlejerk/comments/3nfemw/someone_brought_a_bunch_of_these_lil_bernie_dolls/ Dewey, C. (2014). The Onion launched a parody site called Clickhole, and not everyone got the joke. (What happened next will not surprise you.). [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theintersect/wp/2014/06/24/the-onion-launched-a-parody-site-called-clickhole-and-not-everyone-got-the-jokewhat-happened-next-will-not-surprise-you/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. Dewey, C. (2016). How Bernie Sanders became the lord of ‘dank memes’. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/02/23/how-bernie-sanders-became-the-lord-ofdank-memes/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. Diamond, J. (2016). Cruz blames Trump and his 'henchmen' for tabloid story. [online] CNN. Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/25/politics/ted-cruz-national-enquirer-donald-trump/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. DiGrazia, J., McKelvey, K., Bollen, J. and Rojas, F. (2013). More Tweets, More Votes: Social Media as a Quantitative Indicator of Political Behavior. PLoS ONE, Vol 8, Issue 11.p.4.

103

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour DonaldJTrumpJr. (2016). Instagram. The Deplorables. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKMtdN5Bam5/?taken-by=donaldjtrumpjr [Accessed 16 Sep. 2 dork-larue. (2015). Tumblr. [online] Available at: http://dork-larue.tumblr.com/post/122264549961/i-love-howbecause-of-that-beautiful-cinnamon [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. Douglas, N. (2014). It's Supposed to Look Like Shit: The Internet Ugly Aesthetic. Journal of Visual Culture, 13(3), Available at: http://vcu.sagepub.com/content/13/3/314.abstract pp.314-339. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. drgrayfang. (2016). Instagram. Waiter: sir, no service dogs allowed. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKXB6q0A32Y/?taken-by=drgrayfang [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Duggan, M. (2015). Mobile Messaging and Social Media 2015. [online] Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/19/mobile-messaging-and-social-media-2015/ [Accessed 26 Jun. 2016]. Edgy Teens. (2016). Facebook. Dios mio that was close. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/edgyteens5/photos/a.925927347496855.1073741827.899949696761287/107376878 9379376/?type=3&theater [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Evans, R. et al. (2016). 5 Ways Life as a Prostitute is Nothing Like You Expect. [online] Available at: http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-1490-5-ways-life-as-prostitute-nothing-like-you-expect.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Facebook. (2016). Facebook. Facebook - Log In or Sign Up. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Feinberg, A. (2016). Poll: Nearly 40 Percent of Florida Voters Think Ted Cruz Might Be the Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: http://gawker.com/poll-nearly-40-percent-of-floridians-think-ted-cruz-mi-1761428903 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Felder, A. (2016). What Does a John Oliver 'Evisceration' Really Accomplish? [online] The Atlantic. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/04/late-night-comedy/475485/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016]. Feldman, B. (2016). The Dark Internet Humor of Harambe Jokes. [online] Available at: http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/07/harambe-forever.html [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016]. Fellow Kids. (2014). Reddit. How do you do, fellow kids? • /r/FellowKids. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/fellowkids [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. Flegenheimer, M. (2016). Before Rise as Outsider, Ted Cruz Played Inside Role in 2000 Recount. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/us/politics/before-rise-as-outsider-ted-cruzplayed-inside-role-in-2000-recount.html [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Fox News. (2006). Business at Collegehumor.com Is No Joke [online] Available at: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/06/15/business-at-collegehumorcom-is-no-joke.html [Accessed 12 Aug. 2016]. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016a). Rape Kit Backlog. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrxTrR5_8Zo [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016b). Abortion, Texas-Style. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSMXwzH-moc [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016c). R.I.P. GOP (Part 1). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkvp6Syvv9c [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016d). Cruz 101. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMgaqhTZBlg [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. (2016e). Cruz Bows Out / Michelle Branch. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtZF007Lep4 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016].

104

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Future Media News. (2016). YouTube. [Slow Motion] Hillary Clinton Dabs On The Ellen DeGeneres Show. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1aYwQDqPDQ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Geers, J. (2016). The 50 Greatest Harambe Memes Of All Time. [online] Available at: http://thoughtcatalog.com/jacob-geers/2016/08/the-50-greatest-harambe-memes-of-all-time/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. godfatherofgreenbay. (2016). Tumblr. Bernie or Hillary Toilet Paper Meme. [online] Available at: http://godfatherofgreenbay.tumblr.com/post/138760420510#notes?ref_url=http://www.smosh.com/smoshpit/photos/22-best-and-dumbest-examples-bernie-or-hillary-meme#_=_ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. Google Trends. (2016a). Dat Boi Frog vs Dat Boi Pacman, 24 September 2012-24 September 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.in/trends/explore?q=dat%20boi%20frog,dat%20boi%20pacman [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016]. Google Trends. (2016b). Mmm whatcha say Jan 2005 – August 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=2005-01-01%202016-08-13&q=Mmm%20whatcha%20say [Accessed 14 Aug. 2016]. Google Trends. (2016c). March 2013-August 2016 comparison of “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” and “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer”. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=2013-0314%202016-08-20&q=Ted%20Cruz%20Zodiac%20Killer,is%20ted%20cruz%20the%20zodiac%20killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Google Trends. (2016d). February 2016-August 2016 comparison of “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” and “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer” [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=2016-0201%202016-08-20&q=Ted%20Cruz%20Zodiac%20Killer,is%20ted%20cruz%20the%20zodiac%20killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Google Trends. (2016e). February 2016-August 2016 comparison of “Ted Cruz” and “Ted Cruz Zodiac Killer” and “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer”. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore?date=2016-02-01%202016-0820&q=Ted%20Cruz%20Zodiac%20Killer,is%20ted%20cruz%20the%20zodiac%20killer,zodiac%20killer [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Gorman, T. (2016). Tumblr’s Best Practices for Building Community and Spreading Stories [VIDEO]. [online] Digitalservices.npr.org. Available at: http://digitalservices.npr.org/post/tumblrs-best-practices-buildingcommunity-and-spreading-stories-video [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. gotitforcheap. (2016). Tumblr. Ted Cruz/Life of Pablo Mashup. [online] Available at: http://gotitforcheap.tumblr.com/post/139295137699 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Gottfried, J. et al. (2016). The 2016 Presidential Campaign – a News Event That’s Hard to Miss. [online] Available at: http://www.journalism.org/2016/02/04/the-2016-presidential-campaign-a-news-event-thats-hardto-miss/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. Gray, S. (2015). John Oliver eviscerates Congress over America’s crumbling infrastructure. [online] Salon. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/02/john_oliver_eviscerates_congress_over_americas_crumbling_infrastructure/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Gurney, D. (2011). Recombinant Comedy, Transmedial Mobility, and Viral Video. The Velvet Light Trap, 68(1), p. 11. Hathaway, J. (2015). Donald Trump Has Gone Completely Bing-Bong. [online] Gawker. Available at: http://gawker.com/donald-trump-has-gone-completely-bing-bong-1723877013 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Hess, A. (2016). Bernie vs. Hillary: The Weird, Ceaseless, Kind of Sexist Meme the 2016 Campaign Deserves. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/users/2016/02/the_bernie_vs_hillary_meme_is_weird_ceaseless_and_ kind_of_sexist_just_like.2.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016].

105

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Hicks, W. (2016). Reddit Changing Algorithm to Increase Frontpage ‘Diversity,’ Neuter The_Donald. [online] Heat Street. Available at: https://heatst.com/tech/reddit-changing-algorithm-to-increase-frontpage-diversityneuter-the_donald/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Highfield, T. (2015). Tweeted Joke Life Spans and Appropriated Punch Lines: Practices Around Topical Humor on Social Media. International Journal of Communication, [online] 9. Available at: http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3611/1450 [Accessed 29 Jun. 2016]. p.2716. HillaryClinton (2016a). Twitter. "How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/631538115514007553 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. HillaryClinton. (2016b). Twitter. "Delete your account. https://t.co/Oa92sncRQY". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/740973710593654784 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. HillaryClinton. (2016c). Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) | Twitter. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Hillaryclinton.com. (2016a). Hillary Clinton on the issues. [online] Available at: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Hillaryclinton.com. (2016b). Donald Trump, Pepe the frog, and white supremacists: an explainer. [online] Available at: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/post/donald-trump-pepe-the-frog-and-white-supremacists-anexplainer/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Holmes, R. (2016). Bernie Sanders Beats Donald Trump at Social Media. [online] Available at: http://fortune.com/2016/04/18/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-social-media/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2016]. Huffington Post, (2012). Social Media By Gender: Women Dominate Pinterest, Twitter, Men Dominate Reddit, YouTube (INFOGRAPHIC). [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/social-media-bygender-women-pinterest-men-reddit-infographic_n_1613812.html?ir=Australia [Accessed 22 Nov. 2015]. Humans of Tumblr. (2016). Facebook. Humans of Tumblr. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/humansoftumblrcom/ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. Instagram.com. (2016). Instagram. Instagram Home. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. itsmoi. (2015). Vine. Clinton Cedar Rapids. [video] Available at: https://vine.co/v/erQH0K9JthD [Accessed 23 Nov. 2015]. Jacobs, B. (2016). Donald Trump tries to distract from Machado sex tape accusations. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/30/donald-trump-alicia-machado-sex-tapeaccusations-clinton [Accessed 4 Oct. 2016]. JasonRRocha. (2016). Twitter. "THEODORE CRUZ = 12 LETTERS ZODIAC KILLER = 12 LETTERS 12 SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC It's almost too perfect...almost #ZodiacTed". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/JasonRRocha/status/700712012620238848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Jenkins, H., Itō, M. and boyd, d. (2016). Participatory culture in a networked era. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.154. Jimmy Kimmel Live. (2016a). Jimmy Kimmel Live – YouTube Home. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/JimmyKimmelLive [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. Jimmy Kimmel Live. (2016b). Jimmy Kimmel Asks Senator Ted Cruz Random Questions. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmI6JQz2M10 [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016]. Joanna. (2016). Facebook. Garbage trucks have evolved so much over the years. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/berniesandersmemes/permalink/1268027016551155/?match=am9hbm5h [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016].

106

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour jon_snow_420. (2015). Twitter. "god: i have made Mankind / angels: you fucked up a perfectly good monkey is what you did. look at it. it's got anxiety" Available at: https://twitter.com/jon_snow_420/status/659443020908003328 [Accessed 21 July 2016]. Jones, F. (2016). Is Twitter the underground railroad of activism? [online] Salon. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2013/07/17/how_twitter_fuels_black_activism/ [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016]. Kessler, G. (2016a). Donald Trump and David Duke: For the record. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/03/01/donald-trump-and-david-duke-for-therecord/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Kessler, G. (2016b). Donald Trump’s revisionist history of mocking a disabled reporter. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/08/02/donald-trumps-revisionist-history-ofmocking-a-disabled-reporter/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. khaleesi-mother-of-fandoms. (2016). Tumblr. Frankenstein Anxiety. Available at: http://khaleesi-mother-offandoms.tumblr.com/post/137616405637/dr-frankenstein-its-alive-i-have-created [Accessed 22 July 2016]. King, S. (2016). Hillary Clinton now paying trolls to attack people online. [online] Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/king-hillary-clinton-paying-trolls-attack-people-online-article1.2613980 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Kissell, R. (2016). Ratings: Jimmy Fallon Caps Dominant Year Two on NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ [online] Available at: http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/ratings-jimmy-fallon-two-years-nbc-tonight-show-host1201702314/ [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2013). Doge. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/doge [Accessed 4 Oct. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2014). Dank Memes. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/dank-memes [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2015a). [online] Story of Pepe. Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/937186pepe-the-frog [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016a). Dat Boi. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/dat-boi [Accessed 17 Jul. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016b). Delete Your Account. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/delete-your-account [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016c). Texts From Hillary. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/texts-from-hillary [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016d). Donald Trump's "Bing Bong" Speech. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/donald-trump-s-bing-bong-speech [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016e). Smug Pepe. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/862065smug-frog [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016f). Meme Magic. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/mememagic [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016g). Smug Nazi Pepe. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/861025smug-frog [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Know Your Meme. (2016h). Know Your Meme. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Koblin, J. (2016). John Oliver Sells Out of ‘Make Donald Drumpf Again’ Caps. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/business/media/trump-segment-on-john-oliver-showexplodes-on-youtube.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016].

107

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Krefting, R. (2014). All Joking Aside: American Humor and Its Discontents. Johns Hopkins University Press. Kreps, D. (2015). John Oliver Shuts Down Fake Church Over Unsolicited Semen. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/john-oliver-shuts-down-fake-church-over-unsolicitedsemen-20150914 [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. lashtonshipslarry. (2016). Tumblr. Zodiac Apps. [online] Available at: http://lashtonshipslarry.tumblr.com/post/141726473153/i-spit-my-drink-out [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Last Week Tonight. (2014a). Miss America Pageant. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDPCmmZifE8 [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Last Week Tonight. (2014b). Dr. Oz and Nutritional Supplements. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA0wKeokWUU [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Last Week Tonight. (2015). FIFA II. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr6ar3xJL_Q [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Last Week Tonight. (2016). Donald Trump. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnpO_RTSNmQ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Lee, M. (2016). Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donaldtrumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Lewis, G. (2016). We Asked an Expert if Memes Could Determine the Outcome of the Presidential Election. [online] VICE. Available at: http://www.vice.com/read/we-asked-an-expert-if-memes-could-determine-theoutcome-of-the-presidential-election [Accessed 28 Mar. 2016]. Limon, J. (2000). Stand-up comedy in theory, or, Abjection in America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Locker, M. (2015). John Oliver Starts Own Church. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://time.com/3999933/john-oliver-televangelist-church-alst-week-tonight/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. LtziZFLN. (2016). Reddit. /pol/ PEPE IS OURS!!! 88759104. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/88759104 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. lubchansky. (2016). Twitter. ""okay ted, do some standing" "got it. normal human standing" https://t.co/wwORslEUdb". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/lubchansky/status/694964657384198145 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Marino, N. (2016). Six Insights From an Editor at The Onion. [online] Available at: https://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2009/07/six-insights-from-an-editor-at-the-onion.html [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. MarketingCharts. (2016). Traditional TV Viewing: What A Difference 5 Years Makes. [online] Available at: http://www.marketingcharts.com/television/are-young-people-watching-less-tv-24817/ [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. Martel, W. (2016). 12,000+ Member Pro-Trump Facebook Group Posting Daily Stormer Articles. [online] Daily Stormer. Available at: http://www.dailystormer.com/12000-member-pro-trump-facebook-group-postingdaily-stormer-articles/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Martin, J. (2016). Republicans Using Shutdown to Stake Positions for Potential 2016 Bids. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/10/us/politics/republicans-use-shutdown-to-stakepositions-for-2016-bids.html?_r=0 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Matthews, D. (2016). The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way way weirder. [online] Vox. Available at: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/18/11434098/alt-right-explained [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016].

108

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour McDonald, K. (2016). Who is Pepe, the cartoon frog Hillary Clinton is accusing of racism? [online] iNews. Available at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/columnists/who-is-pepe-the-cartoon-frog-hillary-clinton-is-accusingof-racism/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. McDonough, K. (2016). Florida voters split on whether Ted Cruz was Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: http://fusion.net/story/273809/florida-ted-cruz-zodiac-killer/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Memedocumentation. (2016). Tumblr. Meme Documentation. [online] Available at: http://memedocumentation.tumblr.com/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. memeufacturing. (2016). Tumblr. Thankyou for speaking to us Ted. [online] Available at: http://memeufacturing.tumblr.com/post/140033911403/interviewer-thanks-you-for-speaking-with-us-ted [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Meyer, R. (2016). Here Comes the Berniebro. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/here-comes-the-berniebro-bernie-sanders/411070/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Mic. (2016). Ted Cruz Comparison Images. [online] Available at: http://micdotcom.tumblr.com/post/142827247523/so-many-lookalikes-only-one-ted-cruz [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Miltner, K. (2015). Memeology Festival 02. From #Feels to Structure of Feeling: The Challenges of Defining “Meme Culture” – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at: http://culturedigitally.org/2015/10/memeology-festival-02-from-feels-to-structure-of-feeling-the-challenges-ofdefining-meme-culture/ [Accessed 27 Jun. 2016]. Morgan, J. (2016). These charts show exactly how racist and radical the alt-right has gotten this year. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/09/26/thesecharts-show-exactly-how-racist-and-radical-the-alt-right-has-gotten-this-year/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. Morris, A. (2016). How Samantha Bee Crashed the Late-Night Boys' Club. [online] Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/features/how-samantha-bee-crashed-the-late-night-boys-club-20160630 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016]. Murphy, P. (2013). Ted Cruz at Princeton: Creepy, Sometimes Well Liked, and Exactly the Same. [online] Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/19/ted-cruz-at-princeton-creepy-sometimes-wellliked-and-exactly-the-same.html [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Nash, C. (2016). We Spoke To The Guy Who Yelled 'Pepe' During Hillary Clinton's Alt-Right Speech Breitbart. [online] Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/08/26/spoke-guy-shouted-pepe-hillarys-altright-speech/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. Nassim A. (2013). Gender and the Internet. [online] Internet Ascent. Available at: http://internetascent.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/gender-and-internet.html [Accessed 22 Nov. 2015]. NERZ. (2016). Cringey Hillary Clinton Pokemon Go Joke. MEME-IFIED!!! "pokemon go to the polls". [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtTSp97EKRo [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016]. Netzer, Y., Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. and Shifman, L. (2014). The Construction of Participation in News Websites. Journalism Studies, [online] 15(5), pp.619-631. Available at: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/12/8/1348.abstract [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. Nguyen, T. (2016). Heidi Cruz: My Husband Is Not the Zodiac Killer. [online] Vanity Fair. Available at: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/05/ted-cruz-zodiac-killer [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016]. no chill will. (2016). Vine. Thomas the Tank Engine Bing Bong Speech. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/v/iBv62aTFQp5 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. NO3x7fHe. (2016). 4chan. /pol/ 88779123. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/88774029#p88774029 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016].

109

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Nobonestedcruz. (2016). Twitter. "I was made in a laboratory and I have no bones in my body". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/NoBonesTedCruz/status/668602875300421632 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Not The Onion. (2016). Reddit. Sadly, this is not the Onion. • /r/nottheonion. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/nottheonion/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Nuzzi, O. (2016). How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol. [online] Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/26/how-pepe-the-frog-became-a-nazi-trumpsupporter-and-alt-right-symbol.html [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Obvious Plant. (2016). Bernie or Hillary? Left on the streets of Los Angeles. [online] Available at: http://obviousplant.tumblr.com/post/138227198008/bernie-or-hillary-left-on-the-streets-of-los [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. O'Connell, E. (2016). “We fostered something chaotic and irresponsible”: Elliot Rodger, Isla Vista & the echoes of a tragedy. [online] Salon. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2015/05/22/we_fostered_something_chaotic_and_irresponsible_elliot_rodger_isla_vista_ the_echoes_of_a_tragedy/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. officialnoot. (2016). Tumblr. “NO ONE TOLD ME IT WAS A REAL MEME” [online] Available at: http://officialnoot.tumblr.com/post/106778349255/demiboyclintbarton-mmm-whatcha-say-is-like [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. Pang, K. (2016). Jimmy Fallon: Host for a Twittering society. The Chicago Tribune. [online] Available at: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-03-02/entertainment/0903010190_1_astral-weeks-talk-tonight-show [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. Parikh, K. (2012). Political Fandom in the Age of Social Media: Case Study of Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. MSc. London School of Economics and Political Science. Available online at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/[email protected]/research/mediaWorkingPapers/MScDissertationSeries/2011/64.pdf [Accessed 3 Sep. 2016]. p.7 Parker, A. and Sanger, D. (2016). Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/us/politics/donald-trump-russiaclinton-emails.html?_r=0 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. Paschal, N. (2016). John Oliver Compares Donald Trump to Bed of Nails. [online] Available at: https://www.yahoo.com/tv/john-oliver-compares-donald-trump-to-bed-of-nails-083536827.html [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Peck, J. (2016). Did Hillary Clinton's super PAC pay trolls to shut down Sanders Facebook pages? [online] Death and Taxes. Available at: http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/288806/hillary-clinton-trolls-shut-downsanders-facebook-pages/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016]. pedrobosox. (2016). This is the Zodiac Speaking. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI0jnsbZwys [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Pew Research Center. (2013). 6% of Online Adults are Reddit Users. [online] Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media/Files/Reports/2013/PIP_reddit_usage_2013.pdf [Accessed 22 Jul. 2016]. Pew Research Center. (2014). Internet Use Over Time. [online] Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/datatrend/internet-use/internet-use-over-time/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Pew Research Center. (2015). A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation. [online] Available at: http://www.peoplepress.org/2015/04/07/a-deep-dive-into-party-affiliation/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2016]. Phillips, W. (2015). Memeology Festival 03. Memes, Cool Traps, and Performing Legitimacy: Where the Researcher Fits in All This – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at: http://culturedigitally.org/2015/11/memeology-festival-03-memes-cool-traps-and-performing-legitimacy-wherethe-researcher-fits-in-all-this/ [Accessed 1 Jul. 2016].

110

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Politics. (2016). Politics • /r/politics 1st February 2016 via the Web Archive. [online] Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20160201152857/https://www.reddit.com/r/politics [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. PSY (2012). GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일 ) M/V. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0 [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Public Policy Polling, (2016). Trump Leads Rubio in Florida – Even Head to Head. [online] Available at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_FL_22516.pdf [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. pp.1, 32. realDonaldTrump. (2016). Twitter. “@codyave: @drudgereport @BreitbartNews @Writeintrump “You Can't Stump the Trump” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKH6PAoUuD0…” [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/653856168402681856 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Reddit.com. (2016). Reddit. reddit: the front page of the internet. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. RedPillAmerica. (2013). Twitter. “#CPAC Alert: Ted Cruz is speaking!! His speech is titled: ‘This Is The Zodiac Speaking’”. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/RedPillAmerica/status/312323787091755009 [Accessed 18 Aug. 2016]. RepThomasMassie. (2013). Twitter. "Much bipartisanship. Very spending. Wow. #doge http://reut.rs/1bml7Pf " Available at: https://twitter.com/repthomasmassie/status/415145732661059584?lang=en [Accessed 19 July 2016]. Richter, F. (2014). Infographic: Key Facts on Vine Usage. [online] Statista Infographics. Available at: https://www.statista.com/chart/2456/key-facts-on-vine-usage/ [Accessed 22 Jul. 2016]. robfee. (2015a). Twitter. ""Bernie Sanders: Let's raise minimum wage. / Hillary Clinton: *tries to kickflip & tumbles offstage* Lets raise that whip & nae nae! It fleek!"" Available at: https://twitter.com/robfee/status/654062380167462912 [Accessed 7 Sept 2016]. robfee. (2015b). Twitter. ""Bernie Sanders: Let's talk about the economy. / Hillary Clinton: *riding by on Heelys* Yo yo bae who loves to vape yolo hashtags? Yaassss fam!"" Available at: https://twitter.com/robfee/status/654032970764779520 [Accessed 7 Sept 2016]. Robinson, D. (2016). Text analysis of Trump's tweets confirms he writes only the (angrier) Android half. [online] Available at: http://varianceexplained.org/r/trump-tweets/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Rose, A. (2016). Decoding the Language of Trump Supporters. [online] ATTN:. Available at: http://www.attn.com/stories/6789/trump-supporters-language-reddit [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. Rosen, R. (2011). So, Was Facebook Responsible for the Arab Spring After All? [online] The Atlantic. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/09/so-was-facebook-responsible-for-thearab-spring-after-all/244314/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2016]. Roudman, S. (2016). Decoding “Bernie or Hillary,” Your New Favorite Meme - Vocativ. [online] Available at: http://www.vocativ.com/279654/decoding-bernie-or-hillary-your-new-favorite-meme/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016]. Rudy Mancuso. (2014). Uptown Funk Slapstick. Available at: https://vine.co/v/OHppxZabE77 [Accessed 22 July 2016]. sam_kriss. (2016). Twitter. "https://t.co/BNEuIK1CGA". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/sam_kriss/status/694147243432153088 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Sanders, S. (2016). #MemeOfTheWeek: Ted Cruz And The Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: http://www.npr.org/2016/02/26/468153952/-memeoftheweek-ted-cruz-and-the-zodiac-killer [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. SandersForPresident. (2016). Reddit. Bernie Sanders For President - 2016 • /r/SandersForPresident. 1st February 2016 via the Web Archive. [online] Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20160201002126/https://www.reddit.com/r/sandersforpresident [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016].

111

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Sargent, J. (2015). 6 Ways Critics Of Political Correctness Have It Backwards. [online] Cracked.com. Available at: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-ways-critics-political-correctness-have-it-backwards/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Sargent, J. (2016). The Laziest Lie Of Donald Trump's Entire Campaign (So Far). [online] Cracked.com. Available at: http://www.cracked.com/blog/trump-having-twitter-conversations-with-fake-accounts/ [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. SassySenSanders. (2016). Twitter. ""an authentic Italian restaurant for the whole family!" https://t.co/vl45Mt4PL5". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/SassySenSanders/status/693293998493032448 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2016]. Saturday Night Live. (2012). The Californians: Drama Off the 405. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt-tG6ufH90 [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Saturday Night Live. (2016a). Jimmy Mirror. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGGIkG4gMlI [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. Saturday Night Live. (2016b). A Hillary Christmas. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvSiH1eAF3s [Accessed 10 Jun. 2016]. Sella, M. (2000). The Stiff Guy vs. the Dumb Guy. [online] New York Times. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/24/magazine/the-stiff-guy-vs-the-dumb-guy.html?pagewanted=all [Accessed 4 May 2016]. Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in a Digital World: Reconciling with a Conceptual Troublemaker. J Comput-Mediat Comm, [online] 18(3), pp.362-377. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcc4.12013/full [Accessed 18 Nov. 2015]. Shifman, L. (2015). Memeology Festival 05. Memes as Ritual, Virals as Transmission? In Praise of Blurry Boundaries – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at: http://culturedigitally.org/2015/11/memeology-festival-05-memes-as-ritual-virals-as-transmission-in-praise-ofblurry-boundaries/ [Accessed 29 Jun. 2016]. Shifman, L. and Blondheim, M. (2010). The medium is the joke: online humor about and by networked computers. New Media & Society, [online] 12(8), pp.1348-1367. Available at: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/12/8/1348.abstract [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. p.1349. Silvestri, L. (2015). Memeology Festival 08. Beneficent Memes – Culture Digitally. [online] Culturedigitally.org. Available at: http://culturedigitally.org/2015/11/memeology-festival-08-beneficent-memes/ [Accessed 30 Jun. 2016]. Sizzle. (2016). Extremely Rare Trippy Nazi Pepe [online] Available at: https://onsizzle.com/i/%EB%82%AD%E7%BB%87%E5%85%AE-extremely-rare-trippy-nazi-pepe-1252630 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. smh. (2016). Instagram. Nicki Minaj and Flik. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHBMA35B1JH/?taken-by=smh [Accessed 21 July 2016]. Smith, C. (2013). Tumblr Offers Advertisers A Major Advantage: Young Users, Who Spend Tons Of Time On The Site. [online] Business Insider Australia. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/tumblr-andsocial-media-demographics-2013-12?r=US&IR=T [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Smith, D. (2016). Donald Trump hints at assassination of Hillary Clinton by gun rights supporters. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/09/trump-gun-owners-clinton-judgessecond-amendment [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. softmetalalchemist. (2016). Tumblr. Avatar the Last Airbender Cinnamon Roll. [online] Available at: http://softmetalalchemist.tumblr.com/post/125193784336/looks-like-a-cinnamon-roll-but-could-actually-kill [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. Statesman.com. (2016). U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. [online] Available at: http://www.statesman.com/s/news/politics/ted-cruz/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2016].

112

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Statista. (2016). Facebook users worldwide 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. Stedman, A. (2016). Watch: ‘SNL’ Mocks Racist Donald Trump Supporters With Fake Campaign Ad. [online] Variety. Available at: http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/snl-donald-trump-racists-campaign-ad-1201723795/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Stephenson, B. (2016). How Black Lives Matter Uses Social Media to Fight the Power. [online] WIRED. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2015/10/how-black-lives-matter-uses-social-media-to-fight-the-power/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Stockwell, S. (2004). Reconsidering the Fourth Estate: The functions of infotainment. [online] Adelaide: University of Adelaide. Available at: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/apsa/docs_papers/Others/Stockwell.pdf [Accessed 18 Nov. 2015]. Stuart, T. (2016). Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer? Maybe, Say Florida Voters. [online] Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/is-ted-cruz-the-zodiac-killer-maybe-say-38-percent-of-floridavoters-20160226 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. stupidfuckingquestions. (2012). Tumblr. Dear Sister, accessed via Wayback Machine. [online] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20121016020359/http://stupidfuckingquestions.tumblr.com/post/30118256714 [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Suebsaeng, A. (2014). ‘Last Week Tonight’ Does Real Journalism, No Matter What John Oliver Says. [online] Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/29/last-week-tonight-does-real-journalism-nomatter-what-john-oliver-says.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Sullivan, S. and Zezima, K. (2016). Ted Cruz drops out of the Republican presidential race. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ted-cruz-drops-out-of-the-republican-presidentialrace/2016/05/03/8f955a06-0fe7-11e6-81b4-581a5c4c42df_story.html [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Ted Cruz for Human President. (2016). Home. [online] Available at: http://www.tedcruzforhumanpresident.com/#home [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. (2016). Facebook. Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/TedCruzIsTheZodiacKiller/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. Ted Cruz is Zodiac Killer. (2016). Reddit. /r/tedcruziszodiackiller. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/tedcruziszodiackiller/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. TehDonald. (2016). Reddit. Announcing Nimble America • /r/The_Donald. [online] Available at: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:6-3qm6OyY4J:https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/comments/5353i4/announcing_nimble_america/+&cd=1&hl= en&ct=clnk&gl=us [Accessed 23 Sep. 2016]. The _Donald. (2012 (2015). Reddit. Donald J. Trump, our glorious leader For President • /r/thedonald. Home. The_Donald. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/thedonaldthe_donald [Accessed 1621 Sep. 2016]. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (2016a). It's Do Or Die For Ted Cruz... Probably The Latter, May 4. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iQCq_Bdlr8 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. The Lonely Island. (2014). The Shooting AKA Dear Sister. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmd1qMN5Yo0 [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. The Onion. (2013). Man On Cusp Of Having Fun Suddenly Remembers Every Single One Of His Responsibilities. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/man-on-cusp-of-having-fun-suddenlyremembers-every-32632 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. The Onion. (2014a). ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-to-prevent-this-says-only-nation-where-this-36131 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016].

113

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour The Onion. (2014b). Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/beautiful-cinnamon-roll-too-good-for-this-world-to-35038 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. The Onion. (2015a). ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-prevent-says-only-nation-where-regularly-ha-51443 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. The Onion. (2015b). ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-prevent-says-only-nation-where-regularly-ha-51444 [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. The Onion. (2016). Brutal Anti-Cruz Attack Ad Just 30 Seconds of Candidate’s Photo Displayed Without Any Text, Voiceover, Music. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/video/brutal-anti-cruz-attack-ad-just30-seconds-candida-52562 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. The Onion. (2016). The Onion, Home. [online] Available at: http://www.theonion.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016a). Donald Trump's Phone Call with Hillary Clinton. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONRQZshyrPI [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016b). Hillary Clinton Explains What's in Her Classified Emails. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l_NECN1lK4 [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016c). Rapid-Fire Interview with Hillary Clinton. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey7GdZVtdkM [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016d). Donald Trump Interviews Himself in the Mirror. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2DgwPG7mAA [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016e). "Mitt in the Mirror" with Mitt Romney & Jimmy Fallon. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHCFqjxpuPY [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (2016f). Donald Trump Lets Jimmy Fallon Mess Up His Hair. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0BYqzdiuJc [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. thefunnyintrovert. (2016). Instagram. When your Spanish teacher makes you repeat a word. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BIa8GamgeID/?taken-by=thefunnyintrovert [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. theinfinitebox. (2016). Tumblr. All searches relating “ted cruz” and “zodiac killer” have been removed from google. [online] Available at: http://theinfinitebox.tumblr.com/post/141453737241/all-searches-relating-tedcruz-and-zodiac [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016]. themiltron. (2015). Twitter. "[god creating jellyfish] how bout an evil bag" Available at: https://twitter.com/themiltron/status/680655814554554370 [Accessed 21 July 2016]. therealfrypan. (2016). Instagram. When you’re playing pokemon go. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHx1d2UhwTc/?taken-by=therealfrypan [Accessed 21 July 2016]. thestereotypebuster. (2014). Tumblr. “How to turn Hamlet into a comedy: mmm whatcha say” [online] Available at: http://thestereotypebuster.tumblr.com/post/106422891325/how-to-turn-hamlet-into-a-comedymmm-whatcha [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016]. Thompson, E. and Tussey, E. (2013). Andy Samberg’s Digital Success Story and Other Myths of the Internet Comedy Club. In: N. Marx, M. Sienkiewicz and R. Becker, ed., Saturday Night Live and American TV, 1st ed. Indiana University Press. Tiven, L. (2016). These Memes Reveal How Bernie Sanders' Supporters Are Turning on Him. [online] ATTN:. Available at: http://www.attn.com/stories/9863/sanders-supporters-react-clinton-endorsement-with-memes [Accessed 27 Aug. 2016].

114

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour Traister, R. (2016). Smirking in the Boys’ Room With Samantha Bee. [online] Available at: http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/01/samantha-bee-full-frontal-c-v-r.html [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016]. triangular. (2016). Tumblr. Hal 9000 Anxiety. Available at: http://triiangular.co.vu/post/137251162953/drchandra-i-have-made-the-hal-9000-unit-other [Accessed 22 July 2016]. Tubekatt. (2007). Dear Persian (SNL Digital Short Spoof). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLyzscHXtWM [Accessed 13 Aug. 2016]. Tumblr.com. (2016). Tumblr. Log in | Tumblr. [online] Available at: https://www.tumblr.com/dashboard [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Twitter.com. (2016). Twitter. Twitter. It's what's happening. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Utwente.nl. (2016). Hypodermic Needle Theory. [online] Available at: https://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20Clusters/Mass%20Media/Hypodermic_Needle_Theor y/ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016]. VanNest, A. (2015). Measuring the Impact of "The John Oliver Effect" | Parse.ly. [online] Available at: http://blog.parsely.com/post/2380/measuring-the-impact-of-the-john-oliver-effect/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016]. Vine.co. (2016). Vine. Home. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Vitali, A. (2015). 'I Know How to Take a Joke': Donald Trump Hosts 'SNL'. [online] Available at: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/donald-trump-hosts-saturday-night-live-amid-protests-n459341 [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]. Walker, H. (2016). Heidi Cruz responds to people who call her husband the Zodiac Killer. [online] Available at: https://www.yahoo.com/news/heidi-cruz-responds-to-people-who-call-her-husband-175305796.html [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016]. Washington Post. (2016). Hillary Clinton’s alt-right speech, annotated. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/25/hillary-clintons-alt-right-speech-annotated/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Watson, D. (2016). Facebook. When you drunk as fuck in the Uber and u see a McDonald’s 😂😂😂. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/dannywatson19/posts/10209691045408321 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016]. wfFEYS23. (2016). 4chan. /pol/ thanks for fucking up a time honoured 4chan meme 89046506. [online] Available at: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/89046506#q89046506 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016]. Wiggins, B. and Bowers, G. (2014). Memes as genre: A structurational analysis of the memescape. New Media & Society, [online] 17(11), pp.1886-1906. Available at: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/17/11/1886.full [Accessed 4 Jul. 2016]. Wilmore, L. (2016). White House Correspondents' Dinner Remarks. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IDFt3BL7FA [Accessed 21 Aug. 2016]. WindowsXP_Vines. (2016). Twitter. Windows XP Bing Bong Speech. [online] Available at: https://vine.co/v/ivj3QIZhl63 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016]. Wolfers, J. (2016). ‘Donald Drumpf’ Is Beating Rubio and Cruz for Second in Google Searches. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/upshot/donald-drumpf-is-beating-rubio-andcruz-for-second-in-web-searches.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2016]. Wolske, M. (2016). Make America Dank Again: Why Political Memes Don’t Work | In Media Res. [online] Available at: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/2016/09/06/make-america-dank-again-whypolitical-memes-don-t-work [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016]. Young, C. (2016). You Can’t Whitewash The Alt-Right’s Bigotry. [online] The Federalist. Available at: http://thefederalist.com/2016/04/14/you-cant-whitewash-the-alt-rights-bigotry/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2016].

115

Memes as Participatory Politics | Emma Balfour ZeppoWilbury. (2016). Twitter. "Ted Cruz was born in CALGARY. The Zodiac Killer's first two victims were named CAL and GARY. #ZodiacTed". [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/ZeppoWilbury/status/689935830908047361 [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]. ZodiacTed. (2016). Twitter. @ZodiacTed. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/ZodiacTed [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

116

View more...

Comments

Copyright ©2017 KUPDF Inc.