There is hardly a day in the country when memes of the Prime Minister are not shared on social media. The volume of these memes surely would have broken some kind of record. Post 2014, content against him started cropping up because of his frequent faux pas. Some were not even faux pas, but outright lies. Like when he said no Congress leader met Bhagat Singh when he was in prison.
So the question is why on earth would the most powerful person in the country embarrass himself by routinely committing these mistakes? Why on earth would the PM give people multiple opportunities to ridicule him, via memes? The answer, I believe, is this: Modi is in no way making mistakes. He does things deliberately so as to play with our minds.
According to a study, a meme that arouses high emotion, whether negative or positive, tends to be shared with greater frequency. Meg Thoma—in her article “Negative Effects of Memes”—writes, “Memes make up your mind for you. Instead of reading a news article about the details of a 130 mph hurricane whipping through and wreaking havoc on the Southern U.S., I usually first hear about these things through a twisted graphic of the incident with a caption trying so hard to relate to teen problems. The headline ‘Hurricane Harvey Death toll Rises’ is replaced with ‘That moment when your mom yells at you for not cleaning your room’.”
Meme culture is gradually reducing our sensitivity.
Only recently, the BJP has gone on a name-changing spree across several cities, mostly from Uttar Pradesh. In a parallel (virtual) world, memes started circulating in which Yogi Adityanath was seen talking to some celebrities on a mobile phone, requesting that they change their names too.
By sharing those memes one might have felt temporary joy, especially after getting some likes and retweets, but in reality, the sensitivity of the matter was lost. And for the BJP? It was like a win-win situation. They got names changed, and, as a result, pacified their right-wing supporters. On the other hand, many from the left-wing got some short-term “peace of mind” by sharing ‘Aaj Se Tumhara Nam’ memes. The real and important issues were sidelined. Consequently, it was the BJP that made headlines across mainstream as well as social media.
While searching for matters regarding human psychology on memes, I came across a thesis of Heidi E. Huntington, “The affect and effect of Internet memes – Assessing perception and influence of online user-generated political discourse as media”. On page 45, he writes, “Scholars suggest that motivated reasoning is manifested through three biased cognitive processes: selective exposure, selective judgment, and selective perception. Selective exposure is an information-searching bias. That is, people choose information sources that support their existing beliefs or opinions about a given issue. Selective judgment is a type of confirmation bias and is sometimes called motivated scepticism. It can also contribute to polarization, as a person engaging in selective judgment will scrutinize new information critical to their beliefs, while easily accepting information that supports their existing beliefs or opinions. Finally, selective perception is the act of interpreting information that is unfavourable to an individual’s existing opinions in such a way as to be supportive of those 46 opinions, also contributing to polarization.”
It is not that memes about the opposition parties are not shared, but the amount of memes against the BJP are much more. All the Peacock-reproduces-from-tears to Internet-existed-during-Mahabhartha kind of statements were made just to engage people in making and sharing jokes on it. How many of us know about Finance Bill (through which corruption within the political parties is legalised by introducing an amendment on foreign funding)? But most of us would surely heard about ‘Prime Minister Pakoda’ interview.