The Right’s Meme Illiteracy

The other day, I saw some memes.

One of the first people in the UK to get a COVID vaccine was denounced by online conspiracists because she once posted a copypasta meme. Instead of recognising the meme as a meme, her oft-replicated words revealed her to be a bot deployed by the deep state to get people to willingly vaccinate themselves.

Later, Crit Drip’s marvellous Deleuze & Guattari Tree Removal t-shirt was held up as an example of a leftist “front”.

It’s funny, but it’s also points to an interesting shift in how the online right thinks.

Back in 2016, you had Richard Spencer gloating to Vice that meme magick had hyperstitioned Trump into the White House. In 2020, QAnon shows how right-wing cunning has eaten itself.

This was already apparent in orbit of the 2020 US presidential election. The right reacted to their loss far worse than the left had done four years previously. But the left hadn’t memed Trump out of the White House; the right had simply kept undermining their own reality until they fell in the hole they had dug for themselves.

Whereas the right previously wrote the playbook on using memes to undermine (on the left) — as well as build (on the right) — political consciousness online, now they’ve come to exemplify their own postmodern brain rot, where nothing is true and everything is permitted. This old maxim is less a tactic for psychological warfare and more a way to dismantle their own agency.

They had allowed Trump to sweep into power on the coat-tails of chaos only to keep churning that chaos until they lose all grip on their own reality; their own principles.

I say “their own” reality because what sort of state must the right be in if it can’t distinguish memes from conspiracies? I thought that was how they had previously trolled the left? Now their cries that “the left can’t meme” seem moot. The right doesn’t even know what a meme is anymore.

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