As the old conventional media continue to lose their credibility and are increasingly viewed as obsolete, a new digital form of communication has become an ever more powerful tool for drastically altering the institutional news calculus of which the establishment has grown accustomed.
Grassroots organizations as well as individuals now have an avenue that can be used to articulate and communicate ideas, and the opportunity for such a freewheeling exchange, the type of which was wholly unavailable until the most recent past, is a salient one.
Political and cultural Internet memes, often generated by a relatively powerless individual or grassroots organization, provide a compelling way to connect with the public. With the explosion of social media use, the digital realm has become the principal meme platform.
Although many influential political and cultural figures have been adept at meme production, President Donald J. Trump has taken things to an extraordinary level, exhibiting an uncanny knack for creating effective memes on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media applications.
The word "meme" was created by biologist Richard Dawkins in a 1976 book, "The Selfish Gene." He borrowed from his genetics studies to explain the way ideas are spread through the culture. Dawkins surmised that ideas emanate from a single location, the brain, and are disseminated while competing for attention with other ideas. The fact of the matter is simply that some ideas are more successful, have a further reach, and are more enduring than others.
The key to an idea’s success, according to Dawkins, was the biological concept of replication. The scientist was originally going to call his construct a "mimeme," which is Greek for "that which is replicated," but he shortened the word to meme.
As it pertains to the Internet, a meme is a concept, word, phrase, or other content that spreads through the digital universe. The Internet meme arrives as an image, video, website, hashtag, or hyperlink, among other forms, and meme ideas are distributed via social networks, apps, e-mail, blogs, chat platforms, etc.
Internet technology facilitates hyper-accelerated word-of-mouth communications that move and grow (sometimes within a matter of minutes) throughout the global web. Meme ideas that genuinely work are transmitted in highly compacted, clear and simple components, which are capable of being immediately copied.
The resultant effect is that an amazing power exchange has taken place in our society. Communicative power pops onto the web almost instantly from individual users on social media. At the speed of digital lightning, it then undergoes a geometric distribution.
What this means is that an individual or grassroots group can now wield either the same communicative ability, or possibly have even more influence, as a broadcast television network, cable news channel, newspaper, magazine, or other sources. Additionally, the mass replication that occurs allows ideas to reach formerly unreachable audiences.
Interestingly, there is a battle of the memes, which is fierce in character and intense in purpose. And in taking on the monopolies that were once held by institutional authorities, it is the grassroots insurgencies that actually have the meme advantage now.
The point of any meme is to be grasped quickly by the intended audience. It is then that it can freely multiply.
President Trump has clearly demonstrated his understanding of this essential element of meme creation and has come to represent an insurgent movement against the conventional media, the political establishment, and political correctness itself. His Twitter memes are undoubtedly unique in the history of media.
Establishment news outlets have always enjoyed the exclusive capacity to set the narrative for media discussion on any given news item. However, with his expert meme creation the president has ended the conventional media’s exclusivity.
President Trump’s tweets have demonstrated the power for a very tiny missive to create a virtual firestorm of media activity, and in the process dominate the narrative.
In a branch of scientific research known as chaos theory, there is a concept called "the butterfly effect." This refers to the notion that the small movements of a butterfly’s wings occurring in one part of the world can cause a massive windstorm to take place in another part of the globe. This is a perfect metaphor for the immense media power that the president wields through the use of his Twitter account.
It is no wonder that the mainstream media, which are on the losing side of the meme battle, continue to strongly express the opinion that it would be best if the president give up his Twitter advantage.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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