I’ve been looking at political culture on Pinterest. I pulled these images from my feed today. Apologies that there are so many from the right and none from the left — that’s just what came up today. Political culture on Pinterest tends towards the Republican side of things (I’m training another Pinterest account to feed me liberal memes).
Not all of these are false, though many are, and some are a bit horrifying. And for the record, I’m not saying that “debunking” these is the best approach to Pinterest propaganda (it’s probably not — ‘debunking’ is usually not the right tone or approach). I’m just putting them here to start a conversation, and maybe as an input into your lesson plans.
Let’s talk briefly about a few varieties of the memes people pin on Pinterest.
First, the general lizard brain access point for a lot of these is “Man, my opponents are so dumb”, which how a lot of memes get propagated. And they aren’t meant to persuade as much as demonstrate how they’ve been right all along. That said, there’s a couple categories to look at.
The above pieces were likely pulled from different pictures, but if you go to Snopes you’ll find that the Obama one is fake and the Clinton-Gore one did not originate from the campaign (and possibly never existed at that time). The other two did not appear in any contemporary coverage, which they almost certainly would have.
It feels weird to debunk this though, right? That worries me about this sort of image based disinfo, the way verification always seems beside the point.
Photoshopped/Falsely Labeled Events
There’s a lot of this sort of thing. The photo above is actually from the 2009 riots in Greece, with the antifa logo photoshopped on:
A lot of effort to attribute things to people either out of context, or more usually, that they just didn’t say:
Yeah, he didn’t say that.
Hitler never said this and actually believed the opposite of it — for him, change came from violent and visible upheaval. But the idea, I think, is to somehow connect bans on guns, incandescent bulbs, and Kinder Eggs to creeping fascism. So someone wrote this to make it seem like an eerie parallel.
Incomplete, Deceptive, or Fictional Stats
This stat isn’t bad; it comes from a real academic paper, apparently. It doesn’t deal with the high natural variability of reported rapes in Orlando which doesn’t invalidate this point, but provides necessary context.
In images like this the main problem is that the image floats around devoid of not only context, but of any pointers to context. It doesn’t invite contextualization the way that text does.
That problem becomes a huge issue in cases like the above. This stat may be true, depending on the year to which it is referring. But the picture is provocative and the necessary context — people tend to shoot people local to them, and the black population is highly concentrated — is completely absent. There’s no context that the vast majority of deaths of white people are at the hands of other whites. It’s stats like this, incidentally, that radicalized Dylann Roof.
Not much to say here. But it’s popular to do this. Hey, man, they’re “just asking questions”. (You can read more about “leading question technique” here).
This one actually fooled a congresscritter or two. It reauthorizes powers that have been available to the president in a time of emergency since the 1950s. Every president has had these powers, and as a matter of fact, probably had these powers implicitly before, since FDR exercised broad control over resources in WWII. But paired with the Obama picture it feels ominous to a lot of people for reasons that we won’t go into here.
I don’t even want to dignify this. But no, he was not a frontrunner, he was not running, and the crash was textbook inexperience and recklessness.
Need I tell you this is not true?
Weird Stuff Plugging Into Some Belief System I Do Not Know
So this is actually a photo of a European fighting the Zulu in South Africa, not someone fighting Native Americans. For the life of me, though, I have no idea what weird point this is aiming to prove.
Anyway, that’s today’s batch. Sorry they were primarily far right memes, I’ll try to get a Pinterest account trained up to collect liberal stuff as well.
I have some deeper thoughts about the problems of media literacy and memes but maybe I’ll talk about that later.