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Could the 2024 Election Be Decided by Memes?

Could the 2024 Election Be Decided by Memes?

Update: 2024-06-19
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This episode of The Political Scene delves into the impact of social media on American politics, focusing on the rise of TikTok as a news source for younger generations. The episode highlights how memes and short-form videos, particularly those targeting Joe Biden's age, are shaping political discourse and influencing voter perceptions. The conversation explores the virality of second-hand embarrassment, the role of conservative media influencers in amplifying these memes, and the potential for AI-generated misinformation to further complicate the political landscape. The episode also examines the evolution of political humor, noting how Donald Trump's personality has made him a more effective meme subject than Joe Biden, and how the right wing has gained an advantage in the meme war. The episode concludes by discussing the challenges of navigating a media ecosystem dominated by short-form content and the potential impact on political campaigns.

Outlines

00:00:00
Biden's Age and the Rise of Memes

This Chapter discusses the growing concern over Joe Biden's age as he runs for re-election, particularly in light of viral videos depicting him falling or struggling with his words. The conversation explores the factors driving the interest in these videos, including the widespread belief that Biden is too old and the increasing reliance on social media for news consumption.

00:17:46
The Rise of TikTok as a News Source

This Chapter examines the growing popularity of TikTok as a news source, particularly among younger generations. The conversation explores the reasons behind TikTok's appeal, including its addictive nature, its focus on virality, and its ability to provide a break from the often depressing news cycle. The chapter also discusses the challenges of navigating a media ecosystem dominated by short-form content and the potential for misinformation to spread on these platforms.

00:26:30
The Role of Conservative Social Media Platforms

This Chapter explores the role of conservative social media platforms like Truth Social in shaping political discourse. The conversation examines whether these platforms are simply right-wing echo chambers or if they pose a more significant threat to the political landscape. The chapter also discusses the impact of social media on political campaigns and how candidates are adapting their strategies to reach voters in this new media environment.

00:28:09
The Impact of Social Media on Politics

This Chapter examines the broader impact of social media on American politics, including the way candidates campaign, the role of memes and short-form videos in shaping voter perceptions, and the potential for misinformation to spread on these platforms. The conversation also explores the evolution of political humor and how the right wing has gained an advantage in the meme war.

Keywords

TikTok
TikTok is a short-form video-sharing social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It is known for its addictive nature, its focus on virality, and its ability to provide a break from the often depressing news cycle. TikTok has become a popular news source for younger generations, particularly in the United States, where it has been used to spread political memes and influence voter perceptions.

Memes
Memes are images, videos, or pieces of text that are shared and spread online, often with humorous or satirical intent. Memes have become a significant part of online culture and have been used to influence political discourse, particularly in the United States, where they have been used to target candidates, spread misinformation, and shape voter perceptions.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden is the 46th and current president of the United States. He is a member of the Democratic Party and has been in public office for decades. Biden's age has become a major topic of discussion in the 2024 presidential election, with viral videos depicting him falling or struggling with his words being used to question his fitness for office.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is a former president of the United States and a member of the Republican Party. Trump is known for his controversial statements and policies, and his personality has made him a popular subject of memes and satire. Trump has been accused of spreading misinformation and using social media to manipulate public opinion.

Misinformation
Misinformation is false or misleading information that is spread online or through other channels. Misinformation can have a significant impact on public opinion and can be used to influence elections. The spread of misinformation has become a major concern in the United States, particularly in the context of social media.

AI-generated content
AI-generated content is content that is created using artificial intelligence. AI-generated content can be used to create realistic images, videos, and audio, and can be used to spread misinformation. The use of AI-generated content in politics has raised concerns about the potential for manipulation and the difficulty of detecting fake content.

Conservative media
Conservative media refers to media outlets that promote conservative political views. Conservative media outlets have been accused of spreading misinformation and using social media to manipulate public opinion. The rise of conservative social media platforms like Truth Social has further amplified the reach of conservative media.

Political humor
Political humor is a form of humor that uses political events, figures, and issues as its subject matter. Political humor can be used to satirize politicians, criticize policies, and engage in political commentary. The evolution of political humor has been influenced by the rise of social media, with memes and short-form videos becoming increasingly popular forms of political satire.

Q&A

  • How has the rise of social media platforms like TikTok changed the way Americans consume political news?

    The rise of social media platforms like TikTok has led to a shift in how Americans consume political news, with younger generations increasingly relying on short-form videos and memes for information. This has created a new media landscape where virality and entertainment value are prioritized over traditional news sources.

  • What are some of the key factors driving the interest in memes and videos targeting Joe Biden's age?

    The interest in memes and videos targeting Joe Biden's age is driven by a combination of factors, including the widespread belief that he is too old for office, the increasing reliance on social media for news consumption, and the virality of second-hand embarrassment. These videos often exploit stereotypes about aging and tap into anxieties about Biden's ability to serve effectively.

  • How are conservative media influencers amplifying these memes and what impact does this have on the political landscape?

    Conservative media influencers are amplifying these memes by sharing them on their platforms and discussing them on their shows. This helps to spread the memes to a wider audience and reinforces the negative perceptions of Biden among conservative voters. This amplification can also contribute to the spread of misinformation and further polarize the political landscape.

  • What are the potential dangers of AI-generated misinformation in the context of the 2024 election?

    AI-generated misinformation poses a significant threat to the 2024 election, as it can be used to create realistic audio and video content that is difficult to detect as fake. This could lead to voters being misled about candidates' positions, policies, or even their personal lives. The potential for AI-generated misinformation to suppress voter turnout or influence election outcomes is a major concern.

  • How has the evolution of political humor been influenced by the rise of social media?

    The rise of social media has significantly influenced the evolution of political humor, with memes and short-form videos becoming increasingly popular forms of satire. This has led to a shift in the way political humor is consumed and created, with a greater emphasis on virality and shock value. The right wing has gained an advantage in this new media landscape, as their willingness to push boundaries and embrace subversive humor has resonated with a wider audience.

Show Notes

The New Yorker staff writer Clare Malone joins Tyler Foggatt to analyze how President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are being skewered on social-media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. She discusses our shifting media habits, why the 2016 election is surfacing in new contexts online, and how both campaigns are relying on algorithms to gain momentum ahead of November.

This episode originally aired on January 31, 2024. 

This week’s reading:

To discover more podcasts from The New Yorker, visit newyorker.com/podcasts. To send feedback on this episode, write to themail@newyorker.com.

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Could the 2024 Election Be Decided by Memes?

Could the 2024 Election Be Decided by Memes?

WNYC Studios and The New Yorker