Misunderstanding Memes as a Vessel for Fascism

The Strick article for this week was a particularly interesting case as we touched a bit on this topic in our first class week if I am not mistaken. I mentioned back then that it came as a complete surprise to me that what I had perceived as a harmless medium for people to get a cheap laugh could be utilized in a way that “repeats or reiterates historical fascism.” (Strick) What I feel is of utmost importance to remember is that we should not use the term fascism lightly. Like Strick notes, before applying fascism to any contemporary issue, we must acknowledge that the scenario we are applying it to may not necessarily match the circumstances for which the term “fascism” was born from. (Strick) On a side note, Özçetin also notes that populism is in a similar basket where it is a very vague term that is hard to pin onto things. (Özçetin)

Image from https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy.library.carleton.ca/doi/10.1177/16118944221110451#fig1-16118944221110451.

On this one I’m going to play a little “devils advocate.” After reading the passage the author gave on this image, I couldn’t help but think that this meme was being made to be a lot more than it is. Strick deeply analyses and attempts to explain the meaning behind the meme, and its connection to the far-right. While I don’t think he is necessarily wrong about any of that, I do not think that an internet s***post is going to be the catalyst for some kind of far-right revolution within America. The actual underlying image of Schwarzenegger and Weathers grasping each others hands has no direct connection to linking the war of independence to the present “anti-gun war” It is nothing more than a meme template that is also used for things like the following image… I mean look at the title of the original post, even the author acknowledges that it is nothing more than a s***post.

Image from https://knowyourmeme.com/editorials/collections/the-best-of-epic-handshake

I think that the big takeaway here is that memes can serve as a potential host for political rhetoric, but we must remember that in the end they are mostly if not entirely harmless s***posts that no one should give the time of day to. Because that is where the real problem can arise. If you give these posts your time of day, you are doing exactly what their creator wants you to do (aka reading and trying to understand their discourse).


Simon Strick, “Reflexive Fascism in the Age of History Memes” Journal of Modern European History 22 (2022) https://doi-org.proxy.library.carleton.ca/10.1177/16118944221110451

Özçetin B, “‘The show of the people’ against the cultural elites: Populism, media and popular culture in Turkey” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 22(5-6) (2019):942-957.


One Reply to “Misunderstanding Memes as a Vessel for Fascism”

  1. Can we just acknowledge that Strick took that screenshot with 2% battery left on his phone? Why do I find this funny?

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