Online disinformation expert Joan Donovan on the power of memes
Do you recognize a meme when you see one?
Online disinformation expert Joan Donovan defines memes as pithy words or images — like “Black Lives Matter” or “Build That Wall” — that contain a coded meaning. They often work as badges of identity, and they can be powerful shortcuts to provoking an emotional response in the viewer. And thanks to the internet, they’re more influential than ever.
Her new book, “Meme Wars,” details how memes and the online communities that produce them intensify the culture wars, erode trust in institutions, and even drive acts of violence, like the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
On the anniversary of that attack, MPR News host Kerri Miller talks with Donovan about the history of memes in America, how various conspiracy theorists use them to advance their ideologies, and how the current power of memes threatens to undermine democracy.
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Joan Donovan is the research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her new book, which she co-wrote with Emily Dreyfuss and Brian Friedberg, is "Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America."
To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.
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