This is the weekly column written by Blavity:Politics Senior Editor Kandist Mallett.
Nickelback, an early 2000s rock band, was brought into Trump’s political circus this week. The president's meme machine, as I like to refer to his communications department, created a meme using a screenshot of the band’s music video for their song, “Photograph,” in which they depicted a picture of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son golfing with a man who Trump alleged was a Ukraine oil executive. The “Ukraine oil executive” in question was actually an American business partner of Biden Jr., and the meme itself was nothing more than fake news.
This wasn’t Trump's first time using memes against whom he presumes will be his opponent in the general election. In April, when Biden released a video defending himself against the allegations that he was a bit handsy in his past, Trump took that video and memed it to mock him in the midst of the scandal.
While attacks in campaigns are nothing new, the use of memes from a presidential opponent is quite different than what we’ve seen in the past. And this isn't just any presidential opponent but a sitting president.In essence, Trump has modernized campaign ads for the digital age. Trump takes to the internet in full troll mode. And while trolling may be beneath most of us, in this new political field that Trump has created, it is not something we can just ignore.
Like the use of Russian bots, we should expect the incumbent president to use social media as a way to manipulate Americans and the general election for his own benefit. If the Democrats plan on defeating Trump in November 2020, then they need to make sure the chosen nominee has their own “meme machine” to counter Trump.Now, I know this goes against the saying “when they go low, we go high,” but ignoring Trump and assuming that being the morally superior party will be enough to win against him is part of the reason why Democrats lost in the 2016 election.
Trump is an internet troll, and the only way to beat a troll is to out-troll them. Meaning, if your communications team doesn’t have a strategy that also includes creating memes to debunk or counter the information coming from President Trump, then you are not well equipped for this upcoming election.It would be like the FBI not having a unit dedicated to understanding meme culture while trying to fight the alt-right. Memes are powerful tools of propaganda that have expanded past just internet sub-cultures. We see this in today's business world, where advertisers have adopted meme culture in their marketing strategies, though few are able to get it right.
As despicable as Trump is, his ability to get even those who don’t support him to laugh at his pettiness is a skill that has payed him well. For Dems to do this, they must approach this like any brand wanting to tap into the internet culture for their own benefit. Trump is a joke with so many skeletons in his closet. Reveal those skeletons in a way that even the most apolitical person would be interested in: through wit and humor. Do this alongside having sound policies in place, and this country just might avoid a second round of Trump.