David Garcia on Fri, 13 Jan 2017 17:02:15 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Meme Wars

The Meme Wars 

Although it has not been flagged up on the list I am sure that many will already know 
that just over a month ago the writer and researcher Florian Cramer gave a lecture  
in which he shared his extensive research into little known factors influencing the rise of Alt.right. 

The force of his lecture was such as to throw down the gauntlet to the left to regain the initiative on 
the influential message board sub-cultures where a new generation of charismatic and educationally 
privilged white supremacists were actually succeeding in making facism “cool”.   

The lecture did not need to resort to hyperbole. It was chilling enough as a detailed mapping of the 
emergence of a large white supremacist sub-culture. He succeeded in shining a light on the complex 
origins of the cultist language and image codes that had evolved on the so called message/image boards.

What separates Cramer’s work from that of other reserachers working in a similar area is his 
emphasis on the importance of the cultural and media dimension by taking the role of meme culture 
seriously. And showing alt.right's emergence and growth on the message/image boards, particularly 4Chan 
and later 8Chan, along with the ways it had succeeded in creating a subteranean groundswell that has 
to some degree succeeded in making facism fashionable (or Fashy as alt.right call it). 

Cleverly these groups have connected the popular Pepe the Frog meme to both Trump (as Lord of 
mis-rule) and to Kek - the Egyptian God of chaos, thereby providing a kind of ocultist glamour to the 
movement and further spicing up the noxious brew with additional cultist terminlogy such as 
"meme magic”. 

All of this would be laughable if it had not been so successful. Moreover there is aparently no equivalent 
sub-cultural energy on the left.. where once memes such as the Anonymous V Victory -Guy Fawks, 
masks were everywhere, the anarchist/left has been strangely absent in the US meme wars of 2016, whilst 
alt.right has succeeded in transforming the spectacle of protest into the reality of power. 

Now I want to get a bit personal.  I have been involved in co-organising an exhibition on the “media 
artist as trickster”..“fiction as method”.. opening in Amsterdam next week.  As show that has been in development 
for more than a year. But (from one perspective) these tricksters had (on the surface) been completely outflanked by 
alt.right. And when I asked Florian whether he knew of any leftist meme magicians that we could include he declared 
that he could not. And added that in his view, this deficit represents a very real problem. 

So nettimers is there anyone out there who knows any better ? Can anyone suggest the sources of a possible 
meme inflected counterblast? In the mean time we are using the platforms of this touring exhibition and related events to 
pragmatically build on Florian's research looking for a way forward in identifying or even contributing to any possible counterbalst 
to alt. rights current dominannce. Meme Labs in other words. Hopefully other more embedded initiatives that are organically 
based within existing message board culture will emerge. Hopefully they already have!

On a related note, I think that an important part of this discussion will be to challenge the shallow discourse of "fake news" and 
"post-truth” which only serves to set up a smoke screen covering the actual dynamics at play, though others may dis-agree. 

As well as Florian’s talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w94mQjxHkRs

let me also recomend Dr. Mark Tuters who is developing a program of empirical research in
 this area with Florian and an extended lecture ca be found here:

And lets not forget Susan Sontag Essay Fascinating Facism (1975): 

If any of you are around in Amsterdam next Thursday Jan 20th 10.00hrs -13.oo hrs and would like to join us please 
register at: E-mail: meme-lab@hotmail.com


David Garcia

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