How did this cat get over 40,611,000 hits on Youtube? More ominously, is this feline a threat to humankind as it propagates itself through cyberspace? It’s time to investigate the debate over the nature of memes. These infectious bits and pieces of culture spread information from one group to another. Viral marketers often believe that the videos they produce will get a million hits based on a formula. The strategy is designed around how to spread content, regardless of that content’s character. This seems to echo the sentiment of evolutionists like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Susan Blackmore who see memes as “self-replicating life forms that spread via human consciousness.” In their view, memes can be parasites and humans are just passive carriers.
In contrast, Garret LoPorto, a media consultant for John Kerry and one of the speakers in “New Media, Old Politics,” demonstrated viral marketing very differently a few years back. He argued that support for Kerry went viral when niches of like-minded people used the campaign’s social media as tools to enhance their own identities and build networks around common concerns. Obviously Kerry didn’t win the election, but the seeds were planted. Barack Obama’s use of social media was a key campaign strategy that, some argue, was a decisive element in his victory.
Likewise, Henry Jenkins believes that memes aren’t the viruses as defined by Dawkins, but appropriated by individuals to promote their own self-expression. Memes don’t self-replicate in a cookie cutter fashion, but are remixed and take on new contexts each time that they are shared. Who controls who? Do memes control humans or do humans control memes? Furthermore, what drives this copycat phenomenon?
For more on the origins and spread of the Surprised Kitty check out Know Your Memes’ exhaustive research.
1.Thou shalt always holla a “whoop whoop” to let thy neighbor know you’re around
2.Thou shalt not take the Dark Carnivals name in vain,else shall have ye head sliteth
3.Always stay true to thy Family as they shall be true to you
4.Thou shalt not base ye life or looks on mainstream perceptions
5.Thou shalt always keep ye shyt wicked and wild
6.If called a “Freak, Crazy, Psycho, or Deranged, etc.” thou shalt raise both middle fingers and say thanks
7.Thou shalt keep ye hatchet sharp and ready for haters
8.If thou be a true Juggalo/lette, Thou shall always represent with pride
9.Thou shalt not pass judgement on another, lest it is passed on you first
10.Thou shalt always keep a blunt rolled and a beer ready for thy Homies
11.Remember if thou art faketh, we shall braketh thy *** in half
12.We are not against the world, the world is against us. So remember to keep them middle fingers ready
13.Be wut we wanna be,act how we wanna act,see wut we wanna see.
After all 6 have risen, the end will consume us all.
Down with the Clowns
Violent J with Fudgcicle (L); Shaggy 2 Dope as Good Humor Man (R).
Scattered around the Internet are fan sites devoted to the Detroit rap duo Insane Clown Posse. On many you can find the 13 Juggalo Commandments written in graffiti font against the band’s logo of a cleaver wielding cartoon character (StickyStoned, 2009). The commandments are not lyrics to the group’s songs, but are instead guidelines that come out of a complex folklore created by ICP called the Dark Carnival. The mythology features a Tarot-esque deck of joker’s cards with prophetic meanings and symbols that would be vaguely religious in nature if it weren’t for their Hell-bound serial killing content (Rabin, 2010, September 21). While mainstream media claims to despise them, ICP’s fans, who call themselves Juggalos, seem be drawn in by the band’s ambiguity. This is most pronounced in the features of the band’s appearance. Their faces are painted in clown make-up like entertainers at a children’s birthday party, but their performances are known for displays of violence.
At one time, Detroit used to make cars instead of stripping them for scrap metal.
There are many legends of the Insane Clown Posse. One goes that, once upon a time, the members were normal guys who grew up in impoverished Detroit, but times were so bad that they could only find work at a toxic waste processing facility. They spent too long sludging around in the biohazardous by-product and went insane. Another story is that ICP used to be the band member’s graffiti tag for their gang Inner City Posse. ICP wasn’t very tough and rival gangs regularly beat them up so they decided to change their name to Insane Clown Posse and start a band (Island, 1998).
However the tale is told, ICP represents the underdogs of society. They are the self-proclaimed outcasts trying to survive in the wasteland of Detroit, a city ravaged by the negative impacts of globalization. Juggalo fans identify with their weakest member of society status and see them as the only true choice in an increasingly consumer driven society.
These six companies own nearly everything you see and hear. Pychopathic Records is distributed by Universal Music Group (upper left hand corner).
However, if one looks underneath the paint they’d find that ICP is actually just another cultural appropriation of the mainstream media conglomerates. This is hard to believe at first. ICP embodies the disillusions of a modern day working class that does not hold much power in society. What’s more is that the music’s ultra violent and misogynist content is intended by the band to be unmarketable. The aggression manifested is not just theatrical, but at times very real. Fans and performers alike are assaulted and out of it all a buck is made. The Insane Clown Posse represents an overall trend of culture towards this direction and so the question must be asked, how does the media turn acts of violence into marketable commodities?
A media survey through the lens of critical theory explains how cultural feedback loops in communication can lead to increasingly violent behavior. The phenomenon happens through repetitive encoding and decoding of texts produced by media corporations and interpreted by audience consumers. Preferred and negotiated readings of the dominant discourse are cycled back and forth against the backdrop of the political economy. Continue reading →