The Meme Is the Method: Examining the Power of the Image Within Extremist Propaganda

As contemporary society becomes immersed in a visual culture, extremist imagery is becoming progressively organized around a network of symbols, rituals, and collective meanings. The research presented here employs one distinctive meme of the Waco Siege as a template to guide the reader through three different manifestations of anti-government extremism, and provides a conceptual framework on which future research can build. The significance of this approach lies in its ability to capture both the universality of an individual meme—its overarching message on which all viewers can agree—and its peculiarity—the inherent crystallizations and contrasting narratives perceived by individual users, operating on different social media platforms, at particular moments in time. This chapter will also outline the primary methodological and ethical considerations that need to be taken into consideration by researchers using memes as the primary object of study.

Tags: memes, Propaganda