Mufflerman to Pepe Le Pen, how memes became a political weapon

Abhijit Majumder
Abhijit MajumderApr 23, 2017 | 12:33

Mufflerman to Pepe Le Pen, how memes became a political weapon

Do not underestimate the power of memes in today’s popular culture, and certainly not their ability to capture the imagination of young voters across the world today. There are strong meme themes in two important elections happening 6,500km apart on Sunday — the civic elections in Delhi and the presidential elections in France.

Arvind Kejriwal and his unsexy muffler was a matter of much ridicule for his opponents till his canny image-makers spun it into the Mufflerman meme. It immediately connected with ordinary, struggling Delhiites who have no time (and sometimes, money) to be fashionable. Mufflerman was the superhero who looked and spoke like them, but seemingly had powers to whip a corrupt system into shape and shrink their bills.


Today, many controversies, some failures to deliver on promises and a few stark electoral defeats later, Mufflerman’s superpowers are in doubt, his campaign much muted, and the once-electric meme seemed to have been folded, mothballed and locked up in the rusty trunk of the past. The Mufflerman meme may not be dead, but the buzz around it seems muffled. Wednesday’s results will decide whether that costume will come out with its old sheen anytime soon.

Pepe Le Pen.

But from Paris to Provence, the green memes of Pepe the Frog morphed into Marine Le Pen are burning up the airwaves and optic lines. A great meme war erupted after the American "alt-right" had starting responding anti-Donald Trump images and jokes. Trump’s supporters hijacked the fictional green frog with a humanoid body from the comic series Boy’s Club created by US artist Matt Furie. Soon, it became a cult.

And now, the cult has exploded in Europe whether the US alt-right offered it to the French extreme Right as a weapon to galvanise the young ahead of the presidential election and push the themes of uncontrolled immigration, Islamist terror, alleged takeover of native cultural space, and torchbearer of white nationalism.


“On November 10, two days after the election of Trump, a Reddit user posted an image to a subreddit for supporters of Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader running for President of France. ‘I understand you require memes,’ the user, globalism_ sux, wrote. ‘I bring you Pepe Le Pen. Rare, from across the pond,’” said a piece in the online The Verge.

“The image attached to the post portrayed Pepe the frog as Le Pen — with long blond hair and a dark blouse — against a tri-colour, French flag backdrop. In a comment on the post, the Reddit user called on others to ‘spread it far and wide.’”

Pepe Le Pen has since been a green bushfire on the internet. It caught on to forums like Reddit and 4Chan, blazed across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It has snowballed into a full-blown cult of Kek, in which the imaginary land of Kekistan is populated by "shitposters".

Whether the meme can leapfrog Le Pen to power time will tell, but the formidable connect it has with a large section of young voters is evident. Memes are already ace weapons in political warfare, and their creators could be the hot new things in the future job market.


(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: April 24, 2017 | 15:28
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