Adam Kinzinger continues support for Ukrainian ‘meme army,’ despite neo-Nazi ties

Over the past couple of months, the corporate press has inundated itself with endless articles celebrating a pro-Ukraine “meme army” called NAFO (short for the North Atlantic Fellas Organization), which has helped to raise money for a shadowy, unaccountable foreign organization to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia. The NAFO keyboard warriors, which label themselves the “fellas,” operate as internet attack dogs (who sport Shiba Inu logos) in the information war against Russia.

Over the weekend, however, NAFO ran into major controversy. Internet sleuths and researchers discovered that the founder of NAFO, a man named Kamil Dyszewski, identifies politically with neo-Nazi ideology, as an avowed antisemite, Hitler admirer, and Holocaust denier.

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A Good And Righteous Proxy War Wouldn’t Need Such Cartoonish PR

Star Wars megastar Mark Hamill was recently named an ambassador for United24, the fundraising platform of the Ukrainian government, where according to The Times his attention will center on “the procurement, repair and replacement of drones as well as pilot training.”

From The Times:

“In this long and unequal fight, Ukraine needs continuous additional support. That’s why I was honoured President Zelensky asked me to become an ambassador for the Army of Drones,” Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, said in a statement. “I know for certain that Ukrainians need drones to protect their land, their freedom and the values of the entire democratic world. Right now is the best time for everyone to come together and help Ukraine stand up in this war with the evil empire.”

In a statement thanking Hamill for his support, Zelensky said: “The light will win over darkness. I believe in this, our people believe in this. Thank you for taking on this difficult mission of being the first ambassador to help Ukraine raise funds for the Army of Drones to support our defenders. It is really important!”

Hamill, 71, is among an expanding list of celebrities who have lent their support to United24, which Zelensky launched in May. The website is reported to have raised nearly $188 million in donations, including a recent $5 million contribution from the Pfizer Foundation to support Ukraine’s medical needs.

Last week Barbra Streisand announced that she would also serve as an ambassador, hailing the “capability and courage” of the Ukrainian people as an “inspiration for all those worldwide who promote democracy and fight authoritarianism”.

So for the record if you were under the impression that this proxy war could not possibly get any more Disneyfied, you were wrong.

Hamill celebrated his new position by tweeting a graphic showing a Star Wars spaceship wearing the Ukrainian flag colors, which the actor captioned in Polish because Hollywood is brain poison.

Other recent Twitter PR shenanigans for this proxy war includes the Ukrainian government account talking to its “Crimea” account in the cringiest imitation of viral brand tweets you could possibly imagine.

“hey @Crimea what’s new?” tweeted the Ukraine account in lowercase letters just like the cool kids do.

“@Ukraine getting unchained, on my way home,” the Ukrainian government’s “Crimea” account replied.

Both of these accounts would of course be run by the same person, who would have been hired specifically for their understanding of social media, internet memes, and marketing. Because this is the most phony, PR-intensive proxy war of all time.

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The surprising power of internet memes

To most of the world they are just amusing pictures of an adorable cartoon bunny sitting beside, or sometimes inexplicably amidst, a bowl of rice. But in China, where these images have been circulating on social media, they carry a deeper, and more serious meaning.

“Rice bunny” (米兔), as this collection of images and emojis are known, emerged in 2018 as part of the global #MeToo movement among women to expose sexual harassment. In China, where state censorship saw hashtags related the campaign being blocked, internet users had to find an alternative to coordinate the movement in their country. Enter the rice bunny. As an image it looks innocuous enough, but when the words for the two seemingly unrelated subjects are said aloud, the true meaning becomes clear – they are pronounced “mi tu”.

Through the use of this translinguistic homophone, women in China were able for a time to share their stories and spread the word about the #MeToo movement within a country that can be highly suspicious of organised social movements.

On the surface, internet memes are a ubiquitous source of light entertainment – a way for people to express themselves through cleverly remixed templates of text, images and videos. They are arguably the wallpaper of our social media feeds and often provide us with a few minutes of idle, amusing fodder for procrastination during our day.

But memes also have a serious side, according to researchers looking at modern forms of communication. They are a language in themselves, with a capacity to transcend cultures and construct collective identities between people. These sharable visual jokes can also be powerful tools for self-expression, connection, social influence and even political subversion.

Internet memes “are one of the clearest manifestations of the fact there is such a thing as digital culture”, says Paolo Gerbaudo, a reader in digital politics and director of the Centre for Digital Culture at Kings College London.

Gerbaudo describes memes as a “sort of a ready-made language with many kinds of stereotypes, symbols, situations. A palette that people can use, much like emojis, in a way, to convey a certain content”.

According to social media site Instagram, at least one million posts mentioning “meme” were shared every day in 2020. But what is it that makes the internet meme so popular and why is it such an effective way of conveying ideas?

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There’s a conspiracy theory that the CIA invented the term ‘conspiracy theory’ – here’s why

Conspiracy theories have a long history, but the actual term “conspiracy theory” emerged much more recently. It was only a few decades ago that the term took on the derogatory connotations it has today, where to call someone a conspiracy theorist functions as an insult.

So it may come as no surprise that there is even a conspiracy theory about the origins of the label. This conspiracy theory claims that the CIA invented the term in 1967 to disqualify those who questioned the official version of John F Kennedy’s assassination and doubted that his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, had acted alone.

There are even two versions of this conspiracy theory. The more extreme version claims that the CIA literally invented the term in the sense that the words “conspiracy” and “theory” had never been used before in combination. A more moderate version acknowledges that the term existed before, but claims that the CIA intentionally created its negative connotations and so turned the label into a tool of political propaganda.

The more moderate version has been particularly popular in recent years for two reasons. First, it is very easy to disprove the more extreme claim that the CIA actually invented the term. As a search on Google Books quickly reveals, the term “conspiracy theory” emerged around 1870 and began to be more frequently used during the 1950s. Even die-hard conspiracy theorists have a hard time trying to ignore this. Second, the more moderate version received a big boost in popularity a few years ago when American political scientist Lance DeHaven-Smith propagated it in a book published by a renowned university press.

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Reuters Runs Cover for Dementia Joe and ‘Fact-Checks’ Funny Meme Showing Biden Being Distracted by Ice Cream Truck Music

Reuters actually ‘fact-checked’ a funny meme of Joe Biden getting distracted by ice cream truck music.

Last September Joe and Jill Biden pushed Covid vaccines at Brookland Middle School in Washington DC.

At one point Dementia Joe got distracted by a shiny button and wandered off as Jill Biden was speaking.

Biden shuffled away then made his way back as Jill Biden addressed the school officials.

Twitter users made fun of Joe Biden by adding ice cream truck music to the video of dummy Joe wandering around.

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AP Fact Checks Meme Joking About Shinzo Abe Having Information That Could Lead to the Arrest of Hillary Clinton

The Associated Press ran a “fact check” on a meme joking about Shinzo Abe having information that could lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton.

The meme has been around for ages due to the amount of mysterious and arguably convenient deaths surrounding the Clintons.

Following the tragic assassination of Shinzo Abe, comedian and podcast host Michael Malice tweeted a fake screenshot of the former Japanese prime minister saying “I have information that will lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton.”

The tweet was “liked” by over 12,000 people who understand jokes.

The Associated Press was apparently very concerned that some people might not understand that it was a meme.

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Reddit warns US Copyright Office internet upload filters would harm memes

Reddit has warned the US Copyright Office against internet upload filters, arguing the technology will harm free expression.

The US has been looking to update the DMCA to keep up with the copyright issues found online. Many proposals have come and gone, but the US Copyright Office is now looking into automated tools that can prevent content from being re-uploaded, aka upload filters.

In a submission to the US Copyright Office, Reddit, a platform known for user-submitted content, warned against Standard Technical Measures (STMs), including upload filters.

We obtained a copy of the submission for you here.

“Filtering technologies and STMs ill-suited to the variety of content on Reddit would limit the vitality of some of our platform’s most active communities,” Reddit said.

In its subreddits users post copyrighted content, taking advantage of the fair use principles to create memes and more. An upload filter would substantially harm the free flow of thought.

“Filtering technologies have difficulty merely identifying copyrighted material, let alone assessing the specific context the content was found. They cannot make nuanced judgments about fair use or transformative works,” the platform said.

The automated filters and the false positives they would bring will significantly harm free speech, Reddit argues.

“As a result, standardized measures are likely to remove non-infringing content and suffer from false positives. Worse, these over-removals would strike at the heart of the transformative user-generated content that makes Reddit communities unique,” Reddit explained.

“That is a severe, unnecessary, and unacceptable cost to the free expression of our users and the communities they build.”

Google has implemented such a measure through YouTube’s Content ID system, which is notorious. According to Reddit, Content ID cannot work for every type of platform or site.

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Swedish Agency Warns of Dangerous ‘Hidden Agenda’ Memes

Sweden’s Agency for Psychological Defence has launched a campaign against disinformation online, warning Swedes about internet memes that could be used to spread misleading information.

The warning comes as part of a larger campaign entitled “Don’t Be Deceived,” which was launched by the Swedish Agency for Psychological Defense, a new agency established by the Swedish government to identify and analyse misleading information in January of this year.

“Humor, parody, and satire are usually harmless forms of entertainment that can sometimes be used to spread misleading information and ridicule or criticize people or opinions — for example, in the form of memes,” the agency writes on the campaign’s website.

“Memes can be used to shift the focus away from a particular issue, take over and change the direction of a debate, or to support a hidden agenda,” the agency adds.

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