Political Persuasion

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The article analyzes the power of persuasion and structure in political media memes in society. Memes are not only humorous but also impact society on the persuasion of election propaganda. The originator of the term “meme” Richard Dawkins defines a meme as “a new replicator, a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation, which propagates itself in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.” The problem others have with it is how broad of a definition it is. The article breaks down memes into classifications to help better define memes to understand their influence and power.

A meme has two points of structure: appearance to get the reader’s attention and a semantic core a message meant to have an impact its audience. A media theorist Douglas Rushkoff refers to memes as “media viruses”. He compares it to the Greek Trojan Horse story because an unsolicited media virus can infect human brain leaving unwanted media influence. While they are marketed as entertainment content, they hold an intense amount of persuasive power.

The classifications were broken down further into four categories: (1) Verbal Media Memes, (2) Audial Media Memes, (3) Visual Media Memes, and (4) Hybrid Media memes. Verbal Media Memes are text, words, or hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and Make America Great Again. Audial Media Memes are melodies or songs associated to political discourse. An example would be songs used in political rallies such as Twisted Sisters sing “We’re Not Gonna Take it” played at President Trumps political rallies inspiring a sort of revolution from your average corrupt politicians. Visual Media Memes are probably the most common being all over social media platforms such as the Pepe the Frog memes and the “Donald Trump is Biff Tannen” meme that is saying the character is based off Trump in the Back to the Future trilogy. Lastly Hybrid Media Memes are memes verbal and non-verbal parts such as “The Hackers Did It” meme series or GIFs like “Donald Trump mocking reporter Serge Kovalevski”. This research was based off scientific articles from Russia, Ukraine, US and several other countries in collaboration.

Next, it’s broken down in Meme Aggressors or Protectors. Is the memes overall goal to maintain or destroy the status quo? An aggressor would be Alec Baldwins mockery of Trump diminishing his authority. Protectors are commonly motivational slogans used by candidates in repetition to provide assurance and crate a positive mental association.

Once the functions are understood it’s time to analyze the effects of persuasion. Richard Petty’s Elaborations Likelihood Model (ELM) theory explains alternative ways of producing stimuli, usage, and outcome of changes in attitude. There is a central route and peripheral routes for persuasion. Central is more long term and deep thought and analyzed with careful consideration. Peripheral is short term triggering cues of positive or negative emotions and not based on logic like central. Peripheral is widely used in political campaigns to not have a long-term effect and tend to create less quarrels. They counter the short-term effects with increasing the quantity of memes such as the Obama-Biden memes to keep producing stimuli with making the reader less argumentative.

A UCLA study done in 2013 “mapped brain regions associated with contagious information”. The temporoparietal junction (TPJ) section was shown to be the most active when the person saw “viral information and ideas that could spread more effectively” also known as the Salesperson Effect. It’s said that media memes are persuasive because the TPJ is highly active when exposed to viral information. The discovery of contagious ideas could very much be used for promotional purposes like campaigns framing the audience’s perception. The increase of media meme volume has increased significantly over the years evolving it from entertainment to propaganda.

In conclusion the evolving online culture has advanced media memes from humor to the marketing of ideas. Memes are a cost-effective way of branding and leave a short-term footprint but can reframe and sway an audience. The article describes it as an “effective tool of media effects, agitation, propaganda and political discourse”. The study of the neurological and psychological effects could further impact the way media is perceived and campaigns are advertised. Users can now be aware of the influences that are exposed to while on social networks.


  1. Kuznetsov, I., & Soldatkina, Y. (2017, April 3). POLITICAL MEDIA MEMES’ PERSUASION AND FUNCTIONING IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Retrieved from RUDN Journal of Studies in Literature and Journalism: http://journals.rudn.ru/literary-criticism/article/view/16753/14861
  2. Lee, B. (2015, October 23). Back to the Future writer: bad guy Biff was based on Donald Trump. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/oct/23/back-to-the-future-writer-bad-guy-biff-was-based-on-donald-trump
  3. Tani, M. (2016, January 9). The songs that Donald Trump rallies blast to pump up supporters. Retrieved from Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-rally-songs-2015-12#were-not-gonna-take-it–twisted-sister-10

Cite this paper

Political Persuasion. (2021, Oct 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/political-persuasion/

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