Our culture has become celebrity-obsessed. Too often, what’s cool is more important than what is right.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where our President calls Sandra Fluke on the phone, but ignores the families of Benghazi. Where he immediately comments on a basketball player coming out as gay, but has to read in the paper about his IRS targeting conservatives. Where the office of the President of the United States puts out memes to promote policy positions, but doesn’t meet with members of Congress or the media to discuss those proposals.
To some in an older generation who are used to seeing the presidency treated with respect, this is jarring. To a generation more used to seeing Obama yukking it up on a late night talk show or on Comedy Central than working in the Oval Office, it’s perfectly normal.
The millennial generation is one that communicates in texts, tweets, and Snapchat. Not only do we want to consume information quickly, we also want to be entertained. So, how do conservatives communicate our message in a quick, simple way that will resonate with youth?
The short answer: Internet memes (defined by Techopedia as an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media that gains popularity and spreads rapidly via the Internet.)
2012 has been called “the meme election.” Instead of iconic debate moments or television commercials being what stood out in people’s minds (think George H. W. Bush looking at his watch, Al Gore sighing, or John Kerry windsurfing), it was viral images of binders, Big Bird, and bayonets online.
What pro-Obama forces were able to do in the last election cycle was turn Mitt Romney’s legitimate talking points (He sought out strong women to work in his administration; We shouldn’t borrow money from China to fund PBS; and Obama is wrong about bayonets still being used in our military) into a laughingstock.
Conservatives, and pro-lifers specifically, need to learn from this and adapt to this new reality. The anti-abortion message is a winning message, and we need to get it out because the fight isn’t over yet. A recent College Republican National Committee survey showed what we at Students for Life have been saying for years – that this is a pro-life generation and that being pro-life doesn’t mean you’re going to lose votes. In the CRNC’s poll, 51% of young people thought abortion should be illegal with few or no exceptions. The report also cited a Harvard Institute of Politics Fall 2012 study that found 50% “lean toward prohibiting abortion in the vast majority of cases.” And yet 60% of this young generation voted for Obama, the most pro-abortion president in history.
We cannot be afraid to step into modern pop culture and talk about these issues in a way that people are going to want to share with their friends. So that people aren’t afraid to click ‘share’ or ‘like’ on Facebook and get beat up about it because it’s the same old and tired talking points. Not only do we need to be in the social media and memes playing field, we have to be doing it well.
Our team has been striving to create edgy content to appeal to a broader base, outside of the usual conservatives and pro-lifers. And it’s controversial. This is not your grandmother’s pro-life movement anymore. We’ve found that what sells on social media is often sarcasm and snark. We need to make being pro-choice funny; something to be laughed at and dismissed because, when they are screaming hysterically about the GOP’s ‘War on Women,’ that shouldn’t be taken seriously. Their position should be exposed for just what it is – a minority that is so extreme it is laughable.
As we saw with last year’s Komen debacle, Planned Parenthood is a bully. And what is the best way to cut down a bully? Make them the butt of a joke. One of the best pro-life memes to come out of that was a snarky “someecard” that said, “Welcome to Planned Parenthood where we don’t do mammograms, but we will gladly give you birth control pills that cause Breast Cancer.”
In one brief image with text, the lies and hypocrisies of Planned Parenthood and the Komen controversy were laid bare. Planned Parenthood does NOT do mammograms (even though their president and the President of the United States have claimed it to be so), and the Birth Control Pill is a Group 1 Carcinogen just like cigarettes – they have no business being funded by a breast cancer awareness organization.
This is the stuff the best political memes are made of: witty, informative, and cuts your opponent to the core.
And before you say that memes represent a deplorable cheapening of our political discourse, remember, America has a rich history of political satire and insults going back to our founding. Back then it was expressed most often in pamphlets and cartoons, and now the 21st century equivalent is Internet memes.
Remember, Saul Alinsky, the leftist social activist of Chicago? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have studied and imitated his grassroots organizing tactics since college. Memes would have been his best friend, as he wrote in Rules for Radicals, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition who then react to your advantage.”
Think about John Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central, one of the top places this generation receives their news. The show is vicious to conservative ideals and conservatives, no wonder we are considered so uncool and unpopular! It is time to respond in kind.
By no means are memes and snark the appropriate response for all occasions. Abortion cannot be brought down by a single image. But it is a starting point for a larger conversation that can disarm a new audience and reach them in a way never attempted before. Let’s finally make what is right, what is cool.