It is interesting both to see how short of a time it takes for a meme to become popular as well as how sort of a time it takes for there to be backlash about some new internet phenomenon [1]. Neither popularity nor backlash appear to be very time-consuming today. Over the past week I have seen many of the pictures for the “What People Think I Do.” Some of them are extremely hilarious, such as the ones for historians [2] and pastors [3]. Others are clearly biased, such as the libertarian [4] one. There are huge amounts of these rather dumb little images around, including for things like pilots and pagans and atheists and tarot card readers, as well as homeschooling, President Obama, living in Philadelphia, and many other ones that are too many to mention, much less discuss.

Nonetheless, there is one quality, aside from the simplicity of the message, that connects all of them together. For one, all of them are propagandistic. The whole meme, such as it is, combines either four or six different views of some given quality, one that is presumably created by someone who claims a particular identity or supports a particular perspective. There is often some sort of disconnected between the way society, friends, enemies, family, and we see ourselves, no matter what we are. It does not take a meme to judge that.

Likewise, there are often multiple different images for the same drawings. For example, the drawing I liked for libertarians was different than the one I originally saw, which showed a well-dressed and presumably well-spoken person face-palming after reading online idiocy. This is clearly a biased view of a Libertarian, but so is my own perspective of them. If there is one good thing about this meme, which will probably be fairly short-lived, it is the reminder to all of us that there is no neutrality in how our identities are seen.

This reminder is somewhat necessary. If I make one of these images for myself, or for something I support, it looks a lot difference than one that I make for my enemies. For example, there was an “occupier” version of this image that I was unable to find, probably because the image was deemed offensive by google, that showed “what an occupier really did” as defecating on a police car, and “what an occupier thinks he does” as being like Martin Luther King Jr. leading a peaceful protest on Washington DC. This rather incisive picture is nonetheless the picture of the Occupy Movement by its enemies. Clearly they themselves, if they were able to occupy a wifi hotspot, would paint a much more flattering picture of themselves. And that is the point. Our understanding of ourselves and others is inherently biased.

If this particular meme does one good thing, it reminds us of those facts. What we say about ourselves, and what we say about others (particularly those whom we dislike) tells a lot about the way we see the world. Neither our perceptions of ourselves nor of our enemies are inherently better or worse than what our friends or enemies see about ourselves. The facts themselves are in dispute, and often far more complicated than a simple image can convey. Furthermore, the groups of people included are themselves so diverse that they cannot easily be determined either, though it is easier to the extent that those groups are smaller and more homogeneous.

And it is the limitations of the form, and their highly biased nature, that probably influences both the popularity of the meme as well as the inevitable backlash against it. Some people, indeed, are no doubt offended by the very simplicity of the presentation and its ease of sharing. These people probably find fault in memes in general, especially those which are easily accessible to others. On the other hand, the obvious selectivity of the pictures need not be a barrier to its humor (provided we share the basic worldview of the original creator of the drawing) or to its being able to provide limited but still worthwhile insights. If a picture can say a thousand words, four or six pictures ought to be enough for a small essay, after all.





About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Backlash

  1. Pingback: All Your Base Are Belong To Us | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: You Had One Job | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: The Customer Is Always Right | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: How To Take Over Teh Wurld | Edge Induced Cohesion

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