“Not that much attention is paid to the relationship between populism, media and popular culture” (Özçetin, 2019).
I find this to be a statement that is both true and false at the same time, true in the fact that there is a general problem with scholars ignoring the power media and popular culture has on the masses, being a central tool in populist rhetoric in modern times. However, on the flip side I think on a much lower level populist formations are well known with the younger demographic, these being the people who are not yet old enough to have obtained PhD, and do not have the experience of an acclaimed researcher. In a digital age you would think that their populist formations would be under more intense scrutiny due to how the internet makes this type of platform dangerously accessible to anyone anywhere, but even as global societies become more interconnected than ever before it becomes a readily expanding force that is impossible to control and more importantly keep up. It has become a tool for the far-right to make subtler, hidden behind “other messages.” These messages can come mainly in social media content, but can also arise from social & political movements of the 2010’s, such was the case for the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. The attack against the satirical French newspaper was arguably for some the point where an increasing amount of far-right hate was generated as a backlash response. Furthermore, facism has been able to crowdsurf and lock in on easy exploits through easily corruptible continent, which is becoming increasingly easier to do with even the tamest of topics.
Below is a link to a source about the right-wingafying (if that even is a word) of cottagecore. An aesthetic that has grown popular through its romanticization of a simple life. With many mommy bloggers using this aesthetic to reaffirm domesticity and gender roles:
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)
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.
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).
This week’s readings focused heavily on media and the transmission of far-right ideas therein. Popular culture and the internet feature heavily in nearly every article. One of the things that I found most intriguing was the construction of popular culture, social media, and the internet as a political space, one which can be connected to but is ultimately distinct from legacy media. The characterizations of the internet/pop culture as flexible, transmissible, and translatable are recurrent in these articles and are, particularly in Doerr’s article, constructed as something conducive to the spread of far-right ideas. While I do agree with these authors that the internet is a space where knowledge can be transferred more rapidly, I nonetheless found myself wondering how these subcultures deal with a ‘containment breech’ so to speak, when these memes/images/narratives are shared outside of their intended audiences and used in ways other than the intended. As these authors highlight, these images/tv shows/memes/etc are manifestations of and situated within particular discourses that are familiar to and therefore legible to a particular person/group. Yet, they are put into a space that is not exclusively occupied by people of that mindset. For example, I was particularly shocked to see the ‘I know the feel bro’ meme in this context, as I have seen similar ones spread in leftist/left-leaning Indigenous online spaces to poke fun at and highlight the irony of settlers panicking about ‘invaders’. While I think the plurality of interpretations can act as a shield from criticism, I do think that the transmissibility of the internet is multifaceted. As such we should consider how it can also be muddling and how that might affect politics.
The Neffati piece focuses on print journalism and specifically the editorial reign of Philippe Val at Charlie Hebdo. This is old media at its richest: Charlie Hebdo had a loud voice in France and an engaged readership. During the Second Intifada in late 2000, Val engaged in a public debate via sequential weekly columns with other Charlie Hebdo journalists. It concerned the left’s support for Palestinians against Israel. Val received an “abundance of angry letters” (how clunky is that?!) from his readers due to his Islamophobic stance. Did his work aid populist villainization of Muslim immigrants? Not directly: the medium uses too many words and too much subtlety.
In the Doerr piece, we see the (right-wing) Swiss People’s Party’s use of a cartoon with white and black sheep to promote deportation of immigrants who commit crimes. This cartoon was important because it was adopted and applied by right-wing operators “across Western Europe”. These groups felt they were engaged in a transnational community of like organizations. This use of “visual communication” was powerful and re-usable: its full message could be understood easily by a mass of people.
The Ozcetin article introduces a multi-season TV show built to spread the government’s message on Turkish pride. A perceived slight of the show at an awards ceremony by “cultural elites” was seized on to make the populist message even stronger. Television is the insidious medium: a long-running show can bend the cultural fabric over time, establishing a new reality for the masses.
Finally, the Strick article, separate from its bewildering definition of fascisms as based on reaction to developments (isn’t that just regular – admittedly reactionary – politics?), introduces us to memes used by far-right actors. Similar to the sheep cartoons above, these are easy to create and share broadly; and they can deliver powerful messages. As internet memes these can go viral and be seen by huge numbers of people, beginning with radicals, and spreading to the potentially radical-izables.
You’ve probably seen someone say the title of this post before. You’ve probably thought about how “”jokes”” can still carry political messages (political cartoons are a thing after all). Maybe you’ve even applied the term “post-irony” to it. This is the underlying theme I noticed in the readings this week.
The Doerr article makes this point the most clearly in discussing the ‘black sheep’ political ads. The ads are creating a moral panic over an issue that doesn’t really exist, and are doing so using subtly racist dogwhistles. However, they can get away with this by playing up the cartoon aspect and using a logo with a cute sun rising over a field. If anybody sees through this facade, the ad’s creators can simply deploy “it’s just a joke” and a series of rehearsed “”free speech”” soundbites.
This series of rhetoric is also present with Charlie Hebdo as shown in the Neffati article. Under Philippe Val, Hebdo published comics portraying muslims as dark, barbarian invaders aiming to colonize Europe. When this was criticized, Val simply labelled his critics as anti-semites. Val’s reaction exemplifies the next stage of this rhetoric: the victim complex.
Present in both Hebdo and the online circles discussed in the Strick article are islamophobes comparing themselves to Holocaust victims. Obviously, none of these people are anywhere near as oppressed as Jews were, but as Strick points out they still (falsely) claim to be victims of a genocide – the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. The great replacement conspiracy theory was already present in Hebdo, but it takes much longer to write and debate these ideas in magazines than it does online, so these online discourses accelerate the conspiracy theory.
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