Persuasion Through Bitter Humor: Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Rhetoric in Internet Memes of Two Far-Right Groups in Finland

This study focuses on the role of Internet memes in the communication of two far-right groups in Finland. The material consists of 426 memes posted by Finland First and the Soldiers of Odin between the years 2015 and 2017 on Facebook. Multimodal discourse analysis was applied to understand the contents, forms, and rhetorical functions communicated via the Internet memes. The analysis shows that the contents of the memes revolve around six themes: history, humor, mythology, symbols, news and mottos. By using Internet memes, the groups aim to construe a heroic imagined past, to lend legitimacy to the nationalist cause, to arouse moral anger and hate toward refugees, and to encourage the movements’ followers to fight. We argue that, for the extreme groups, Internet memes are tools to crystallize their arguments in an easily shareable and concise form, which makes the memes useful tools in persuasion and mobilization, as well as attracting new audiences.

Tags: internet memes, multimodal analysis, nationalism, rhetoric, Social Media