The Memeification of International Security

January 13, 2020
Jamie Withorne

The following is an excerpt from Inkstick.

I spent Thursday night staring at Twitter, refreshing my home feed every few seconds to try and figure out what was going on: Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force was killed in Iraq. As more time passed, it became clear that he was killed in a drone strike carried out by the United States… and it was a big deal.

Conversely, I spent Friday night staring at Twitter, refreshing my home feed every few seconds in hopes of a new meme.

Following Soleimani’s death, “WWIII,” “World War III,” and “Iran,” instantly started trending on social media, with over 10 million+ mentions on Twitter alone. This is perhaps the first time in history that an international crisis not only directly involved memes, but also almost instantaneously resulted in an influx of memes across numerous new media platforms.

Within just 48 hours, I personally came across at least 300* different memes and humorous social media posts regarding the possibility of entering into an international conflict with Iran. After collecting and scrolling through this content — and watching nearly every person I follow on Twitter transform into a Middle East security expert — I decided I could contribute to the analysis by doing what I do best: analyzing memes. More specifically, I wanted to answer the question: What can the next generation’s use of new media tools tell us about public perceptions and awareness of national security policies?

Read the article in Inkstick.

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