The Conversation

Why LOLcats Matter in Politics

Professor Bill Jacobson at Legal Insurrection had a must read post this weekend that I felt compelled to draw to everyone's attention.  It brilliantly lays out a great example of how memes and internet culture pervade politics, especially when done intentionally and strategically.  This is a point in a larger picture that I myself have been trying to stress to activists in the movement - it's all about the culture.

There is nothing like Upworthy or BuzzFeed on the right.  The closest we have come is Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s brilliant website.

Are you surprised that Obama won the youth vote even though his policies are a complete disaster for the young?

We are losing the fight to the lowest of low information voters, who are pushed toward a liberal agenda by very smart and talented people who understand the power of social media in a way we don’t.

So often when I ask readers to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, I’m met with comments about privacy concerns on Facebook and “I don’t do Twitter” type responses.  Fair enough, but at least understand the swarm effect a website like Upworthy can create based on dumbed-down politically-savvy social media interactions, and how that swarm may result in Elizabeth Warren being on the Democratic 2016 ticket if Hillary doesn’t run.

When I read about plans for Republicans planning to narrow the digital divide, I can’t help thinking we are fighting the last war.

In 2002, when the Democrats felt woefully defeated and questioned the long term viability of their party's goals, they realized that their existence was dependent upon more than elections.  It would take a new permanent progressive infrastructure - one that included not only new donors, but new media, bloggers, activists and new technology innovation all its own.  And culture would become a driving force behind their new progressive movement and infrastructure.

As in-fighting in our own movement continues, I am reminded of the left's struggle and rebirth after 2002.  That's where we are now.  It's easy for many on our own side to lose sight of the long game, the perpetual fight - the fight against the left's permanent infrastructure, which is one that embodies a nexus of politics, media and culture combined.  The power of cultural memes and viral messaging to counter political ideology doesn't just happen autonomously. To speak to the low information audience today, you need to create the infrastructure of the future.

Our existence is about more than just the issue of the day that consumes our attention, or the candidate we're all fighting over today.  Our existence depends upon weaving technology, new media and culture into our messaging and into our mechanisms.  That's infinitely more than just "incorporating social media" or "bridging the digital divide." It requires creating a culture unto its own.  

When you do the permanent infrastructure right, tackling individual elections suddenly becomes easier.  Just remember, that LOLcat might mean more to politics than you ever imagined possible.

Andrew Breitbart used to say, "Politics is downstream from culture."  That should be the mantra of our movement, and of all who invest in it.

 

 


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