In Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? by Metahaven, Jokes & Design they argue that “Jokes, in the past, were considered for what they really are: incredibly dangerous political weapons.” Jokes are easily shareable and therefore spread faster than any other form of propaganda. These jokes also make some politicians more relevant than others. When you keep seeing the same politician over and over again on your timeline, that’s free publicity and no publicity is bad publicity.
I think that it is safe to say that meme culture played a huge role in the USA 2016 political election. The fact that this book was written in 2014 makes me wonder if the power of a meme has escalated even further than they bring up in this reading. Lets be honest with ourselves here and recognize that each and everyone of the candidates in the previous election was condensed into an easily digestible meme form. Hillary Clinton was that out-of-touch, power hungry, woman who just wanted to be one of the fellow kids. Trump was a coo-coo for cocopuffs rich guy with an attitude problem, no manners, and bizarre facial expressions. Then Bernie Sanders was your lovable socialist grandpa who, depending on who you asked, wants to give people free money. And plot twist, Trump won. He was easily the most publicized candidate throughout the entire election. He had skits about him on SNL, whole shows dedicated to him on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and memes, upon memes, upon memes about him. The man is a walking meme.
I would like to bring up the fact that Trump threatened to and has run for president before. His candidacy has always, at least to me, been a joke. I remember during the whole Obama birther movement, started by Trump, he floated the idea of running for president. I remember this because it was so heavily covered by the media. Why was it covered so heavily? Because the man is a one-liner gold mine and is a fairly entertaining meme. I don’t find it a coincidence that within a time of such heavy meme traffic that he decided to run again and won. Every single speech that this man had was televised because we were all waiting for him to do something outrageous again. Therefore people heard he viewpoints more than any other candidate. Then you pile on the publicity of the memes on the internet? Boom. You just became president.
These memes are so easily created and shared by everyone that it also does a lot of damage to the opposition as well. A lot of people will based their opinions on the influx of memes that they see. If they see a meme about Bernie Sanders and how he is a socialist who knows nothing about the economy, then that person might form their opinion based on said meme. Political memes are a form of propaganda. They are meant to sway opinions and this form of propaganda just happens to be more easily shareable than ever. Below is a personal favorite of mine that depicts Trump in the world of the Game of Thrones. It’s quite clearly propaganda and depicts him as a psychopathic tyrant, but here I am sharing it because it’s hilarious. Not to mention these memes help us all cope with the fact that he is now the ruler of the free world.
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An article by City Beat from January 2014 discussing the efforts and reasons against the redevelopment projects in OTR, specifically those of 3CDC.
A group in OTR called The People’s Coalition for Equality and Justice (TPCEJ) had formed in order to head an anti-redevelopment movement. They are concerned with the displacement of the poor and middle class minorities in order to benefit the incoming wealthy, white residents. They are not necessarily against the idea of redevelopment, but the current projects in Over-the-Rhine are more focused on building new luxury housing or niche bars rather than things that would actually benefit the existing community. The group feels as though they are more concerned with getting new people into OTR rather than help the current community. The group wants to fight for affordable housing, protections for renters, and rent control in an effort to keep people from being displaced from their homes. As organizations like 3CDC create more luxury apartments it drives up the rent of the surrounding neighborhood and makes it hard for the lower income and middle class families to keep up. One example of this displacement is the Anna Louis Inn where Western and Southern used legal attrition to move the building that housed women of low-incomes that have lived there since 1909 in order to create a new development. There was also the Metropole which was a building that housed hundreds of tenants. The building was displaced due to 3CDC and when they were sued they settled for a mere $80,000. 3CDC is the head organization of the redevelopment efforts and is a target for TPCEJ’s efforts. 3CDC claims that people “tend to over-romanticize what this neighborhood was” and they started doing “what development groups around the country do to bring back distressed neighborhoods affecting the rest of the city.” They say this was accomplished because they “Drove out criminal elements.” When approached about the lack of affordable housing for previous residents they claim that they have issues convincing officials the area is already “saturated with affordable housing, actually needed more.” They also bring up the renovation efforts of the Jimmy Heath House which was a building for lower-income residents. The renovation efforts managed to drive the rent up and made the building only affordable for people who made at least $25,000 a year, but a majority of the residents made $10,000 or less a year. Jenny Kessler, the treasurer of Cincinnatians for Progress, says the displacement is exaggerated and most of the buildings were already vacant. She makes the statement that she couldn’t afford rent as a middle-class resident in these new buildings and says she “I got lucky that I got in early.”
3CDC’s efforts to rehabilitate the area is more focused on bringing new people in and not helping the current community. Many of their efforts drive up rent for surrounding neighborhoods and cause people to be displaced from their homes.
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An article by McClatchy Newspapers in November 2011 about the income-inequality due to gentrification
Between 2005 and 2009 Over-the-Rhine’s Tract 17 had the highest income inequality nationwide. The income breaks down as follows:
– 2/3s of Tract 17’s households earn less then $10,000 a year
– 6% earn $25,000 to $49,999 a year
– 3% earn $100,000 to $149,999 a year
– 3% earn over $200,000 a year
– 60% of the residents are on food stamps
As of the time this article was written 3CDC had built 200 condos, 70 rental units, and 100,000 square feet of commercial space, but all of their efforts stop at the southern border of Tract 17. They do, however, claim that only 6 buildings were not abandoned or vandalized. The CEO of 3CDC goes as far as to say that “new homeowners, business owners and residents of the area were heroes for taking a chance on a crime- and drug-filled neighborhood that many had left for dead.”
The gentrification of OTR has only exacerbated the problem of income inequality. It has driven up the rent of the area while not making situations any better for the current residents.
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An opinion piece written by David Hall in 2014 about the economics of Over-the-Rhine and its redevelopment.
Since 2010, the housing prices of Over-the-Rhine have shot up from $150,000 to $250,000. Since new housing in OTR is in short supply it is driving up rent due to high demand. 3CDC has taken advantage of this situation by upping prices by 10% to 12% per year. Hall estimates that the fair value of the housing should be $30,000 to $40,000 lower. 3CDC has stockpiled an estimate of around 300 to 500 units in order to drive up the pricing by creating more demand with less supply. If these units are not released in a responsible, steady manner then the housing bubble in OTR could pop. These actions hurt the surrounding community while driving up their own revenue. Its predicted that the home values in downtown Cincinnati will increase by 2% to 3% within the next year. The net income of 3CDC alone is thought to be worth $50–$100 million range and all of the profits are said to be poured back into new developments.
3CDC is a huge supplier of homes in OTR and have a stockpile of units. This withholding of supply increases the demand for housing which drives up the prices, not only for their homes but also surrounding neighborhoods. These actions are interesting considering they are an organization founded on helping the OTR community and rehabilitating the area, but it seems as though they are taking advantage of the situation.
While the redevelopment project in OTR is seen as a success and a model for rehabilitating communities, I would argue that they are not fixing the community, but trying to create a new one. These projects are focused on bringing new people in and not helping those who already live there. Many of these housing developments are even too expensive for middle class residents and seeing as a majority of OTR residents make $10,000 or less these developments are obviously not created to help them. The apartments also drive up rent in the surrounding areas causing residents to be displaced. At the head of these projects is the organization 3CDC who uses rhetoric such as saying they “Drove out criminal elements” and “new homeowners, business owners and residents of the area were heroes for taking a chance on a crime- and drug-filled neighborhood that many had left for dead.” There is no oversight of this organization because it is privately owned yet they act like a “shadow government.” This redevelopment of OTR is a delicate process that needs to be handled as such and 3CDC simply isn’t helping the community’s situation for current residents.
In the Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations stated that there were four major factors that caused the housing crisis of 2008. The first was high risk lending that was taken on by banks in order to increase their own profits. The second was the lack of oversight from regulatory organizations, such as The Office of Thrift Supervision. While they saw issues with lending practices and unethical business dealings, they simply informed the corporations of their concerns, thinking that they were self regulating enough to fix the problems without their interference. Once they decided to take action it was already too late and the housing crisis had already reached its peak. The third factor was predatory lending practices which included giving the borrower “teaser rates” which gives them a lower rate at first then increases them over time to a rate they can no longer afford, causing them to default. The fourth factor was investment bank abuse where the banks would purchase high risk loans knowing that whether or not they defaulted they would still make a profit, leaving the problem for someone else to deal with.
The 2008 Housing Crisis by the Center for American Progress had a clear bias that supported the government’s actions that led up to the economic crisis of 2008. They argue that the government’s incentives contributed to the housing bubble, but it did not have a large enough responsibility to be an accountable factor. However, the article fails to recognize the government’s lack of regulation and oversight in the matter. According to the Center for American Progress the main cause of the economic collapse was the predatory lending that targeted previous home owners and the profit mentality of Wall Street Banks.
The Senate’s report on the housing crisis provides a more neutral stance compared to that of the Center for American Progress. While they both agree that one of the leading factors was predatory lending practices and Wall Street’s profit based investments, the Center for American Progress fails to acknowledge the government’s lack of oversight and failure to intervene. Investors started to put their money into the mortgages due to their higher rate of return and lower risk compared to other markets. In order to gain more investors, more subprime loans were given in order to create more mortgages, knowing that they had a high probability of default. Due to a lack of regulation of standards and requirements, the rating organizations, such as the OTS, gave these unqualified mortgages AAA ratings making them seem like safer investments. This created a distrust of the housing market and forced investors to stop buying mortgages. Once they stopped buying the mortgages the banks were stuck with defaulted homes that could no longer be sold and created more supply than demand. This caused the banks to file for bankruptcy and a complete freeze of the housing market. In short, the government had faith in the banks’ ability to self regulate and have ethical business practices forgetting that Wall Street is based solely on profit. These banks had a “not my problem” mentality and did what was best for them short-term and not taking into account the effect it would have on the economy as a whole.