Beware the snarky meme

A SYTYCB entry
A SYTYCB entry

Something happened while we were re-tweeting clever Akin-related memes.  Anti-abortion rhetoric stepped a little closer to all-out woman-hating, and the whole debate became a little bit more violent.

That the pro-choice brand has been eroding for decades is no secret.  Social conservatives and religious fanatics have succeeded in pushing the wall of public perception of the political and moral implications of abortion.  Polls consistently show that fewer voters identify as pro-choice, no doubt a response to relentless conservative fear-mongering and faux-scientific reporting.

Public outcry against Akin’s comments were swift, furious, and…hilarious.  Memes posted and tweeted immediately were among some of the cleverest I’ve seen in months.  The funniest, of course, mocked the representative’s understanding of anatomy, and many included a photo of him looking hapless and out of touch with a comb-over and pained expression.

I laughed out loud as I read and reposted them again, and again, and again.But comedy is a mixed bag.  Among friends, viral snarkiness may knit bonds of friendship, cultivating an affectionate we’re-all-in-this-shit-together chagrin.  And if you feel personally threatened by such verbal violence – as do I- laughter can be a welcome salve.

So humor is invaluable, I think.  But when humor is one of the primary public responses?  I’m not so sure.  We know that we’re intelligent, resilient and fucking fierce – but memes go viral in part because they publicly highlight the intelligence and wit of the poster – people to repost political messages that make them look good in the process. And who doesn’t want to flaunt how intelligent they are in the face of such democratically-elected stupidity?

There is such a thing as being too clever, though.  Without diving into the debate over the perils and pleasures of ‘clicktivism’, such viral witticisms take the debate further into the rational terrain from which well-meaning and over-educated liberals have been slowly losing political ground since the 1970s.

Unfortunately, rational arguments – even those that blend humor and media savvy – rarely win hearts and minds.  If they did, we probably wouldn’t be in this mess.  Conservatives and bigots have succeeded in pushing the abortion debate to the right particularly because they have appealed to primal fears of this still-majority-Christian country.

There is a place for humor in all of this – sweet jesus, we all need something to laugh at.  But political humor that riffs off of the complete idiocy of people like Akin risks missing the point – Akin was never trying to make a rational argument in the first place.  We ignore the strategic communication choices of religious conservatives at our peril.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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