Meme as Social Criticism

A meme is image footage from television shows, films, or homemade images modified by adding words or writings for the purpose of humorous and entertaining. Memes appear on various social media at almost every issue that appears in the community and people make it a tingling satire. Richard Dawkins, in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’, said that a meme is considered equal to culture as human genes. It considered capable to encourage cultural evolution, such as a pop culture of Darwinism. In 1993, Wired defined meme as a contagious idea just like a virus that jumps from one body to another. The meme phenomenon changes the concept of traditional mass communication. Facilitated by the internet, memes are free to spread the content of criticism and expression without going through official newspapers. Meme only substitutes people the personal expression of the situation through visual. If memes tend to fill with criticism and negativity, the positive side of memes should also be discussed. The meme can be a stimulant for young people to pay their attention to political issues and the environment that happens around them.

Social Criticism and Propaganda

Nukman Luthfie, a social media observer, in his investigation of Setya Novanto report of meme makers and spreaders about him, said that a meme is a form of social criticism. So it didn’t contain elements of humiliation and harassment. Until now there was actually no prohibition on making memes, but the government hopes that netizens would be wise in social media.

There are also work similar to memes, it is murals. But the mural media is a wall, and its criticism tends to be more universal. Meanwhile, memes are more explicit and the content is satire. A lot of memes contain critical and inspirational socio-political messages. Not everyone is able to make something like this, combining a sense of humor in socio-political issues, having the intelligence to choose diction, and being good at blending visual.

A wave of criticism and political movements on the internet can move without institutions. The power of criticism is now at netizen. By simply sharing the link, social media users have participated in raising the wave of public opinion. As with criticism, a meme has the greatest potential as propaganda material for the community. The simplicity of the visual format as well as verbal use that is easy to understand. The meme phenomenon is increasingly massive when the campaign period of the DKI Governor that happen not too long ago. At that time, Indonesia political climate was heating up and the presence of memes mobilize the masses to face the competition. Just like the propagandists would do. They used memes to become statements to fire the magic bullets as interesting ideas to understand. This method is also one of the mentioned in the Behaviorism theory. Stanley J. Baran expresses this theory said that propaganda action believes that most human behavior is the result of the establishment by the external environment. Individuals are conditioned to act in certain ways through positive and negative stimuli.

The propaganda theory looks very simple to accept, but the birth of social media explores the propagandist creativity that effectively stimulates netizens who are vulnerable to virtual propaganda. For the record, meme as propaganda, that still tend to be involved in offended issues and character assassination, shows that netizen is seen as an individual who is unable to control themselves rationally.