Memes take aim at Putin
Future. Nothing quite stings (or goes viral) like a meme on the Internet. And now meme-makers in Ukraine and abroad are using them to mock Russian President Vladmir Putin as he invades Ukraine. Memes could be a big part of convincing Russians to knock Putin off his high horse and his seat of power… if only they could access the Internet beyond their borders.
The last thing a dictator wants is to be made to look ridiculous. And no form of media quite has the power to do that quite like memes.
- Before he even invaded Ukraine, President Putin was targeted with memes making fun of the absurdly long tables that he uses to meet with advisors and foreign leaders.
- And as the invasion continues, the memes have begun to take on a new life — a way to skewer the supposed master chess player of foreign affairs to unmask him as nothing more than paranoid and isolated.
The memes themselves may be silly, but FastCompany noted that they are akin to “grass-roots, bottom information warfare” or, more simply, the “people’s propaganda.” And it’s that warfare that the Russians are clearly losing — NYT deemed that Russia is undergoing a “public relations catastrophe” — as a flood of memes, TikToks, and selfie videos have turned the Ukrainians into (rightly) international heroes.
The onslaught of pro-Ukraine and anti-Putin media has even led Russia’s government to close off its people from the global internet.
Satire has the ability to topple governments, going back to the 19th century when Harper’s Weekly’s Thomas Nast printed such scathing cartoons of corrupt New York mayor William “Boss” Tweed that it became one of the key forces that brought down his administration.
Memes are now the equivalent of the great political cartoon, and in the Internet age, anyone can now wage war with them. And to show that they really do have power, Russia has investigated its own citizens in recent years for sharing memes that the government didn’t approve of, labeling the creators “extremists.”