Memes of Mass Destruction
A research article on memes and propaganda in India from a visual design lens. Are memes aestheticised politics? Have political actors co-opted memes as weapons of mass distraction?
/ Published September 2021
/ Published by Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam
/ Collaborator: Ajitesh Lokhande
VIRAL IMAGE CULTURE ︎ POST TRUTH ︎ JUST A MEME ︎ COMMUNICATION RESEARCH ︎ VIRAL IMAGE CULTURE ︎ POST TRUTH ︎ JUST A MEME ︎ COMMUNICATION RESEARCH ︎ VIRAL IMAGE CULTURE ︎ POST TRUTH ︎ JUST A MEME ︎ COMMUNICATION RESEARCH ︎ VIRAL IMAGE CULTURE ︎ POST TRUTH ︎ JUST A MEME ︎ COMMUNICATION RESEARCH ︎
Summary & ExcerptView Writing Sample ︎︎︎
This essay looks at the real-life consequences of memes as manufactured truths that sway governments, radicalise citizens and alter politics within echo chambers. These malicious memes are for post-truth teens.
“Memes are a ubiquitous part of internet culture. However, we have recently been witness to the impact of memes in real life as well. From the way we talk, the things we laugh at to the political opinions we have and thus the very functioning of various democracies. In this way, memes have become key drivers of post-truth politics.
This influence of memes warrants a deep examination of their functioning. While there is plenty of existing research that examines memes from a sociological, political, and quantitative viewpoints, analyses using a visual design lens are sparse. Moreover, in the case of memes from India, such an analysis is virtually non-existent. We trace the context in which Indian meme culture has evolved so far and dive further into the phenomenon of right-wing memes from India.
By breaking down a varied selection of these memes into their constituent visual components, we look at the symbolism, cultural references, messages, and subtexts they propagate. We understand how these memes attack veracity with virality. Thereby morphing our very perception of political and social realities. The creators of these memes from India exploit visual design tactics to mass manufacture alternative truths. This essay looks at the real-life consequences of these manufactured truths. These are malicious memes for post-truth teens.”