CHENNAI: The season of memes has passed in the IT war rooms of political party offices in the State, passing the baton to short-form videos, says Information Technology wing secretaries of parties.
A typical day for BJP’s ‘NaMo warriors’, in the State starts by creating around 70 units of content. Of this, videos make up the maximum number (30) along with three or four cartoons, around 20 memes and 5-10 trolls.
“When we say trolls or memes, it’s content based on current affairs and what is trending that day. We take care to not target anyone based on their physical characteristics although this kind of below-the-belt abuse is often hurled at our leaders including our State President Tamizhisai Soundararajan,” said BJP state president of IT wing R Nirmal Kumar. The team, which has around 300 volunteers, divides its time between creating original content and responding to accusations online. As a rule of thumb, the team has been instructed to respond to accusations online within the ‘golden hour’ (one hour).
According to AIADMK IT wing secretary Singai G Ramachandran, the relevance of memes has dropped considerably this time around.
“You can feel the difference yourselves; compare the number of memes on your timeline from the time it was booming in 2016 and the number of memes you see today,” he said. From being looked at as the key element capable of tipping scales in their favour, memes, at best, are one among the many influencing factors. “If anything, it can be an influencer for the 18-25 age category. Videos are game changers. We are now looking to create targeted videos that are 15-20 seconds long to create a larger impact,” he said.
The AIADMK’s focus, this time, has been on projecting the party’s achievements and creating videos to show different categories of the population- students and working women, what the party has to offer.
The videos are not always original, he says, adding that all that it takes, sometimes, is a little nudge; the party also posts authentic videos, already doing the rounds in social media, that show their opposition in poor light.
The power of memes in the electoral process is and has been debatable, says Muhammed Afzal P, professor, Hyderabad Central University. “The classic argument against the consumption of news is that it makes you passive. The same applies to memes as well. Creating merely consumers of memes will work against the professed aim of political parties which aims to mobilise,” he said.
Another argument is that a meme that aims to drive a certain ideology will only be successful among those who already share the same ideology. “It’s like preaching to the converted,” he said.
The effect, in fact, could also be counter-intuitive- an individual who has been attacked or made fun of for a long time will soon be perceived as the victim. As for the DMK, it’s only fear is the demagoguery in WhatsApp, said its IT wing secretary, PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan
“The younger you are and the more connected you are to the average person, you will get the information. Our primary concern is the brainwashed upper caste followers of BJP who live in their own bubble- in a rich man’s world that is not connected to society,” he said.
“WhatsApp, despite its efforts to counter fake news, still serves as an echo chamber for lies. In the rest of the social media platforms, it is more difficult to be the purveyor of unadulterated lies than it is on WhatsApp,” he said.
The power of memes in electoral process is debatable, says Muhammed Afzal P, professor, Hyderabad Central University. “The classic argument against consumption of news is that it makes you passive. Creating merely consumers of memes will work against the professed aim of political parties which aims to mobilise.”