It has happened during and after every debate or public appearance made by Governor Romney or President Obama, although Romney has definitely been getting hit much harder lately. It started with the 47%, continued with Big Bird and being “completely wrong,” and continues even further with the already infamous “binders full of women.” The creation of memes based on initially innocuous statements made by the candidates has proliferated and become standard in post-debate analysis.
It is safe to say that many of the articles written about the second presidential debate contain a reference to the “binders full of women” comment made by Governor Romney. At the second presidential debate, one of the questions was about what the candidates would do about gender inequalities in the workplace. In his answer Romney relayed an anecdote about how he once wondered why there were significantly more men on his cabinet than women. He continued to say that he had wanted people to bring him more qualified women candidates and ended up receiving “binders full of women.” In the immediate five minutes after this comment, social media devoured it. A Facebook page titled “Binders full of women” already has hundreds of thousands of likes; a tumblr page filled with memes has been created; and, the hashtag for bindersfullofwomen instantly started to trend on Twitter. Of course, these binder memes pursue a fleet of other memes that originated at the moment Romney said the statement. The 47% meme, the Big Bird meme (in reference to how Romney “likes Big Bird” but is going to cut funding to PBS), the meme about Romney talking over the moderators, and the meme in reference to Romney pictures flooding a search of “completely wrong” (because of his claims that the 47% video was “completely wrong”) were launched minutes after they occurred in real time and only now are starting to dwindle down.
What is it with all these memes infiltrating the media and election coverage? First of all, an appropriate definition of a meme, as given by PhD candidate Patrick Davison of NYU, is “a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission.” All of the memes that were listed above had been created by isolating a statement to the point of ridicule, applying it to different freeze frames, and sharing them on social networking websites.
Though our textbook focused on the original and most politically correct purpose of the media—to keep the public informed and give a certain level of transparency to the government—we know that it has ulterior motives. The media has turned to infotainment to captivate a larger audience for longer periods of time because this is how they make a profit. In the case of media on the internet, memes are the ideal embodiment of infotainment. While some may argue that memes distract from proper election coverage, I feel that the one-liners used for the memes epitomize a certain personality trait or ongoing theme of the election. For example, the “binders full of women” comment reminds people of Romney’s so called “war on women,” his conservative views of social issues, and his perceived insensitivity to women’s issues. The endless combinations of pictures and quotes are meant to be funny jokes that ring with truth.
Much of the time, anyone who has a general understanding of the candidates and what they stand for share and understand political memes. Plenty of people who did not watch the debate probably shared Jim Lehrer memes and the binder meme because they could still imagine the candidate saying or doing those things. The sharing and liking of memes usually only lasts about a week after the incident occurs, dying down as suddenly as they sprung up. However, plenty of fodder for more memes is never far from reach, especially with the third debate and the election itself coming up.