Memes And Symbolic Violence: #Proudboys And The Use Of Memes For Propaganda And The Construction Of Collective Identity

As a social media platform, Instagram has a strong influence on youth culture, identity, and perceptions of the world, with the application serving not only for youth to follow accounts that are aspirational but also for entertainment and identity building through memes. Meme accounts that are explicitly conservative and that espouse white supremacist, hateful ideology and subsequently, identity, are incredibly prevalent. Media serve as powerful institutions for the socialization of youth, and content on the platform reveals that memes are serving as building blocks of ideological meaning. This study conducted a discourse analysis of the memes and content circulated by the alt-right affiliate movement the ‘Proud Boys,’ which is being sold to young men as a fraternity-like organization to celebrate ‘Western ideals’. Proud Boys operate on an ideology that consists of both symbolic and physical violence, and the popularity of these groups is growing. Using Bourdieu’s work on language as a framework, this article is an exploration to their recruitment and world-building practices on Instagram using memes and will be necessary to understand the movement, and to gain further insight into how memes are being used as propaganda.

Tags: Extremism, identity, Instagram, memes, proud boys, Social Media