Last night’s U.S. Vice Presidential debate is already inspiring a bevy of Internet memes. Memes are being yielded as blunt poltical instruments by partisans on social media, so much so that President Obama brought up Big Bird after Democrats seized on comments by Governor Romney about defunding PBS. The Big Bird meme had become popular on the Web, and the President’s team undoubtedly recognized its impact.
Could the meme have helped stop the bleeding from the President’s lackluster performance? It’s possible, because it refocused attention away from his opponent’s big night. Last night’s debate inspired a similar response by Republicans who were seizing on Vice President Biden’s penchant for smiling and laughter (BuzzFeed even devoted a Web page to the “Many Gesticulations of Joe Biden”).
Could negatively depicting Biden’s debate behavior diffuse the impact of his blows? That seems to be what Republicans are going for, and Democrats are firing back with counter memes. None of this is unprecedented - it was just done in print before. Colorful political posters have a long history in the United States - some were created to help elect candidates and win World War II while others reinforced Jim Crow racial stereotypes. There’s also are still mysterious election day leaflets that allege scandal and misdeeds by candidates.
Whether today’s memes are shared by people with common political viewpoints or actually influence undecideds is another matter, but thousands of people are ’sharing’ them virally. Some of the memes are even a bit funny. Here’s a few that are currently making the rounds on Facebook: