How memes became weapons in culture wars

Internet memes seem fairly harmless. Some images of cats with grammatically incorrect text, what could go wrong? Well, memes have come a long way since the early days of the internet. For over a decade, memes have been deployed as a weapon in culture wars. And they’re even more convincing than most people think. A well-placed meme on someone’s social media timeline can lead them into a den of radicalization, disinformation, and extremism.

This week on Gadgets Lab, we chat with Emily Dreyfuss, editor-in-chief at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, about how memes have shaped politics and culture.

Show Notes

Learn about all kinds of misinformation at the Harvard Shorenstein Center Media manipulation casebook. Read Angela Watercutter’s story on the Bernie Sanders mittens memes.


Emily recommends that you research what happens to an artichoke if you let it bloom, and also American Nations by Colin Woodard. Mike recommends r / random, which will take you to a different subreddit each time you click. Lauren recommends the HBO show White lotus.

Emily Dreyfuss can be found on Twitter @Emilydreyfuss. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snack. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our musical theme is Solar keys.

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