The Left Can’t Meme

It’s an old meme at this point that the left can’t meme. I had a great discussion last week with Brian Niemeier about his book, Don’t Give Money to People Who Hate You, and in it the subject of memeology of the left came up:

I mentioned a former friend that had an image of her turned into a meme, so she started trying to make her own memes of herself as some sort of gatcha. The results were as you would expect – a wall of text trying to explain something crowding out (and thus reducing the impact of) the picture.

Why is this?

My theory is that the left’s ideas are built on complex semiological constructs that point away from truth and thus require large formats to communicate properly. Or to put less succincly but more clearly:

To make an anology, one need not use words to explain beauty – all you need to do is point at the beautiful thing. A great painting needs no context:

Compare this to a pile of literal shit, which is something I assume has been done at least 100 times in the last 50 years by edgy “artists.” The “piece” will invariably be accompanied by a long caption explaining its meaning and significance.

This is because literal shit is not beautiful. You have to construct a large set of interrelated and often contradictory symbols for the viewer to “interpret” the “meaning” behind the art properly.

As my friend Jesse White tells me, “Art simply represents truth.”

Here’s a concrete example:

Get it? The towel is made of legos. I forgot to snap a picture of the caption explaining it, but the whole exhibit was like that. Absent an explanation, what does it MEAN?

This really points to the power of memes to point to the truth. All you need is an image and simple message.

The truth is usually contained in simple to understand concepts, and part of the complexity of leftist thought is trying to change the meaning of those simple words so that they become more subtle and, eventually, become impossible for anyone besides a priest of the cult to undertand and communicate properly.

“Justice” becomes modified to “Social Justice”

“Racism” no longer means the simple, easy-to-understand concept of “You no like because skin is different” to mean something full of inherit contradictions like “you can’t be racist against white people.” Just throw that bone to a lefty and get ready for an essay about a truckload of other concepts (such as “colonization” and “priviledge”), all of which are corrupted and redefined in order to provide a foundation for the larger idea.

You can’t easily communicate this sort of thing in a meme, or a comic, or in another format that facilitatles quick uptake and transmission of ideas.

Now, it’s not that the right-wing is totally free of these same semiological tendencies, but it is true that the communicators of the center and right don’t try to meme them. They meme the truth, and like a good joke by a stand-up commedian, people “get it.”

Another Explanation

I want to flip over and offer an alternative to my theory, which is not contradictory to my own and is, I think, also spot-on:

The gist is that the left is focused entirely on the message to the exclusion of entertaining the audience, whereas the center and right are emphasizing the humor and bringing a message with it. They wouldn’t attempt to force the humor in deference to the message.

I think this is true, and it explains why hollywood movies seem so un-funny now, as well as ham-fisted with their politics. I’m not a believer in being “apolitical” – we are all political beings and have desires directed toward the body politic – but how those messages are attached, and where the emphasis is, matters.

Are you trying to tell a good story, and the message arises from that naturally, or are you starting with a message and trying to make the story “fit”? Even worse, are you taking another’s story and shoving your own politics up its ass (Looking at you, Star Wars)?

Audiences can smell the difference. That’s why so many gamers are upset about what The Last of Us 2 is going to deliver.

I write books. Politics exist in them, but I always seek to either tell a good yarn or inform first:

Also you should get this FREE ebook of me and a bunch of other cool authors:


  1. Great commentary on the OP, David! An insightful angle from Kukuruyo as well.

  2. Memes use rhetoric to point to truth. When your truth is, you know, actually THE TRUTH, the rhetoric almost writes itself.

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