“Because of the strictures on speech in China, memes tend to be a really effective way to spread a political message,” An Xiao Mina, artist, meme expert and 88 bar blogger, explained in an interview with TLN. “You can’t really talk about Internet censorship directly in China, but if you talk about, say, a Grass Mud Horse [a classic insult in Chinese Web slang]–if you use off-the-cuff, remixed humor, it’s a little easier to talk about such critical topics.”
Firstly, thanks to Jessica Levine at the great Tea Leaf Nation for taking the time to look at China’s memescape. I’ve been looking at China’s political and social memes for a little while now (check out my China Meme Report on 88 Bar) but haven’t come across too many others in the English speaking world who are also looking at the role of memes in internet freedom. While Levine covers the internet freedom benefits of memes, namely, that they’re hard to censor, she also looks at their social value as a barometer of culture.
For more on this topic, check out my earlier blog post, On Hoodies and Sunglasses: Memes Engage in Social and Political Issues, and my corresponding essay in The Atlantic looking at the rise of two strikingly similar social/political memes–Chen Guangcheng and Trayvon Martin–in two vastly different contexts. Memetic protest is a growing phenomenon in China, the US and beyond, as evidenced by the memetic response to Pussy Riot’s sentencing. Glad to see this issue getting more attention.
And kudos to Tea Leaf Nation and The Atlantic on their new partnership! A win for both, methinks.