At transmediale festival 2018 in Berlin, OILab hosted a 4-hour workshop on “The Great Meme War”: the semi-ironic title of a grass-roots information war, predominantly orchestrated on 4chan’s /pol/ “Politically Incorrect” image board and the subreddit “The_Donald.” The Great Meme War was, allegedly, waged by a loose-knit collective of individuals who like to imagine that they elected a meme as President of the United States. Initially, political memes were thought to increase political activism by lowering its transaction costs. When they became mainstream on 4chan, however, memes turned out to be much much darker than expected. Political events, too, started to become memetic, and therefore much more influential. This formed the set-up for an inspiring group discussion.
The Meme War Lab at transmediale 2018 offered a digital autopsy of the political subcultures of the deep vernacular web, and how they make use of internet slang and image-based memes in order to formulate political ideologies. After offering the participants the choice to take the blue or the red pill, it was proposed, as a set-up for further exploration, to consider Vernacular Web-platfoms as being part of a hierarchic diagram where memes spill over to other platforms. As such, the group started ‘digging’ into the depths of the Vernacular Web. The journey started by discussing Facebook pages, such as Polandball, Prestigious Prussian Memes and Architectural Revival. It continued into Reddit, where especially The_Donald was object of scrutnity, with the vernacular language employed by many of its self-described ‘pedes’. Afterwards, the ‘lowest level’ was reached with 4chan/pol/, being the breeding ground of equally troublesome and influential memes.
Alongside the discussion, a feed of 4chan/pol/ memes was displayed, together with the project 4chan/Wikipedia.