Are memes magical? You Can’t Kill Meme Reviews Meme Magicians

The new documentary You Can’t Kill Memeby director Hayley Garrigus, explains the convoluted and unconvincing idea that online “memetic magic” harnessed the power of the Egyptian frog-god Kek and hijacked comic book character Pepe the Frog to wreak havoc in the election of 2016, wanting Hillary Clinton to fall and Donald Trump to take over the presidency.

There’s plenty of evidence in the film that memetic magic is real – if you ever believed it.

Otherwise, you may not be convinced by Garrigus’ interviews with self-proclaimed authors and shamans, lightworkers and chaos magicians. She lets her subjects talk and talk, without judging them. It’s good journalistic restraint, but it can be exhausting for viewers who, like me, don’t find them at all persuasive.

The main weakness of the documentary, which just debuted at the Fantasia Film Festival, is that we hear so little about the pro-Trump chaos magicians themselves. We meet a lot of people who believe in magic – those lightworkers and shamans, for example – and not enough people who supposedly think they brought down Clinton.

Is it possible this is all just another troll?

Confirmation bias abounds among Garribus interview topics, as it is in many corners of the internet. Still, it helps to have so many theories about memetic magic laid out in an ambitious 80-minute documentary, where viewers can assess them fairly quickly instead of wasting hours (or more) descending rabbit holes on Internet.

Garrigus, making his feature film debut, seems to believe that trying to control what people can will only drive them to fiercer and more emotionally driven extremes. I tend to agree. Her documentary follows an inviting essay format, where she mixes the background with her own opinions, including this one:

“As demonstrated by the maintenance of the order of morality in Victorian England and during Prohibition in the United States, more you repress something, the more desperate people want to do it. Online cancel culture is having the same effect in America today. Most people, forced into this environment, will eventually yearn for a place where they can say absolutely anything.

Read also : How Pepe the Frog Became the Unwitting Mascot of Trolls, Racists and Incels

For some, these places were “chans” – online discussion forums – like 4chan and 8chan, which in this century became places where often socially isolated people sought community. Some reveled in speech they believed was banned by society as a whole, especially on the forum called /pol/, or politically incorrect. Participants tried to outdo themselves – some because they actually believed what they were typing, and others for the sake of it. lulz.

As best explained in last year’s terrific documentary Feels good manmany of the song contestants adopted a cartoon frog, Pepe, a character from a comic strip by artist Matt Furie who personified laid-back, harmless laziness. Feels good man Fascinatingly addresses the subculture of self-identified NEETS – young people not in education, employment or training. They are the stereotypical online dwellers who spend their days playing video games and “shitting” garbage on the internet, usually while living off their parents.

Feels good man explained that NEETS and others on the channels kissed Pepe, turning him into a meme. But when mainstream ‘norms’ began to embrace him, his online fans rebelled, trying to make him as repulsive as possible, creating memes associating him with Nazism, al-Qaeda and others. associated with hatred and violence. In their anonymity, Garrigus explains, some have espoused ideas like authoritarianism.

Some of these anonymous charmers really had racist, violent, and authoritarian beliefs, and others were happy to “trigger the libs,” and it could be hard to tell who was who. Liberals who took the bait were derided as dupes, or accused of trying to censor free speech, or worse.

At that time, according to you can’t kill me and Feels good manmany on the channels started embracing Donald Trump, as they saw him as a way to break a status quo that excluded them.

Step into chaos magic – and magician memes.

You Can’t Kill Meme argues that online chaos magicians latched onto a 2004 book by Seattle author R. Kirk Packwood titled Memetic magick: manipulation of the root social matrix and fabric of reality, in order to hurt Clinton and boost Trump.

The cover of the book included an image of a frog magician, which Kirkwood says, in hindsight, is significant. According to the theory, the magician memes combined the viral power of Pepe and the ancient powers of Kek, a god of darkness.

pepe the frog features prominently in You Can’t Kill Meme, directed by Hayley Garrigus.

How does it work exactly? Meme images quickly conjure up an idea – mischief, jealousy, suspicion, that person we all talk about a dirty bag – with a sense of humor, which helps them get their ideas across faster and more effectively than, say, a 1,100 word article about a documentary. The more they spread, the more powerful they become, or so the mind thinks.

But is it magic?

You Can’t Kill Meme argues that the pro-Trump chaos magic mob achieved what they considered a big victory on September 11, 2016. After spending months wishing Clinton ill health, she fell leaving a 9/11 Memorial Service. Good for the anti-Clinton forces was the fact that around the same time his website posted an explanation about Pepe being ‘a symbol of hate’.

Trump’s election in 2016 gave them an even greater sense of validation. You Can’t Kill Meme includes an unforgettable quote from a January 2017 This American Life segment recorded at a pro-Trump event called the Deploraball.

“We nominated him for president,” said a Trump supporter named Jay Boone. “We even have him in power. We screwed up our way to the future.

Have meme magicians tried many other things that didn’t work? Well, yes, a lot. And at some point in You Can’t Kill Memean affable “chaos magician/YouTube personality” named Billy Brujo helpfully reminds us that the scientific method demands that an experiment have observable, testable, and repeatable results.

But part of the appeal of memetic magic, Garrigus argues, is that it gives a sense of power to the powerless. Memetic magic is gaining popularity on the left, she says, as they too seek hope.

When we finally meet Kirkman, whose book we’re told was the start of it all, he comes across as kind, vulnerable, and human – like perhaps most people on the internet, behind all the noise.

You Can’t Kill Meme is currently playing at the Fantasia Film Festival. Utopia is planning an on-demand release this fall, according to Variety.

Main image: Billy Brujo in You Can’t Kill Memedirected by Hayley Garrigus.

Brian L. Hartfield