You Are Not Immune to Propaganda

Memes are propaganda. I mean of course they are, but really think about that.

Memes. Are. Propaganda.

There is an inherently insidious overtone to the word propaganda. Understandably so, propaganda has been a tool for totalitarian rule for as long as the concept of totalitarianism has existed. It makes sense to collate the two. All propaganda creates and operates within its own constructed language, like memes.

Propaganda, when used properly, can co-opt any type of cultural shorthand. Take for instance the visual language of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. It uses the iconography of Judea-Christianity, Ancient Rome, Greece, and Sparta to form a visuals which prompts the way the consumer responds.

This process of reusing and re-contextualising iconography to direct and limit thought is propaganda, whether it is totalitarian in application or otherwise. Take for example, the way imagery from Triumph of the Will has been reapplied in Star Wars. The overtones of heroism and the strength of the mass coalescing in the individual can be clearly seen.

In that sense everything is propaganda, which also makes everything a meme. Anything that exists relies upon creating a shorthand which directs use and understanding. Take these bathroom signs for example.

Nowhere is it explicitly stated that women go left, men go right, but we Know. It relies upon a series of visual shorthands and codes to direct thought and lead us to conclusions. Propaganda.

In that way memes, at least the way we think about them, are perhaps the purest form of propaganda. A meme “format” is a preconceived sets of rules, which we can add iconography into, but ultimately it always is defined by the codes and shorthands inherent to the “format” of that given meme.

Memes are propaganda.

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(edit: my initial remediation used some totalitarian images and played Star Wars music layered over. It resembled propaganda to such a degree that it got reported and Youtube blocked it. So, I’ve had to do a new remediation. Point proven but alas.)

4 thoughts on “You Are Not Immune to Propaganda

  1. lachlanuni says:

    that gender sign link is hilarious ahahaha. propaganda. I’m definitely going to annoy everyone in public by shouting whenever I see something remotely propagand-ic. I’m bummed I didn’t get to see your original remediation, but the meme is sufficient anyway for the point. I love how you build all these components through the post, one by one, and combine them all at the end for your remediation. strong connection, awesome job. you should think about adding some hyperlinks throughout next time, just to add another layer of engagement. I also think its interesting to think about how companies literally use memes to advertise, and that’s one of the strongest forms of meme propaganda in todays age, I touched on that a bit on my blog. your use of sentence structure is spot on too, hilarious at points and kept my interest. good shit josh, bring on the next post 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mitchell Gibson says:

    Both of your examples here are really strong!! I think your understanding of ‘semiotics’ when it comes to propaganda is really evident – you can clearly identify examples and distinguish them between legacy media frameworks and frameworks that manipulate the mind to believe a certain custom (aka, memes).
    I also liked your touch on the ‘negative’ aspects of propaganda, with the totalitarian focus of a regime being that classic example. You’ve really put things in perspective for me – asking myself, what propaganda have I myself mindlessly agreed with?


  3. jessicaleaolson says:

    Wow! Both of your examples were really strong and I felt your blog post gave a great topic explanation to really help further understand how exactly memes are propaganda. I definitely find this topic a lot clearer now since reading your post!

    Congratulations on creating a remediation that resembled propaganda to such a degree that it got reported and blocked! It also is an interesting example on Internet censorship and YouTubes control over what we are sharing. In this case I feel it can be seen as both a negative and positive as we don’t want dangerous propaganda shared, but is there a better way to review these items whereby University work isn’t mistakenly removed?


  4. rubylanzi says:

    Hey there,
    I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I love how engaging it was at the beginning which was then carried out throughout the rest of the post. It felt personal yet informative. I loved the use of examples as it really helped me to understand the concept of ‘propaganda’. As, I agree with you, the word propaganda is just terrifying honestly and I really didn’t want to learn about it. But you know BCM 112 always finds a way to make things interesting. Anyways, I overall really liked this post and happy with your edit as you were improving upon your writing.
    Well done!!


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