What I appreciated most about this excerpt from the book “Can Jokes Bring Down Governments,” was the point that so much power can be held in such a stupid, little well executed and designed idea that is: a joke. The design of a meme is one that seems so low-crafted and barely planned is one such design that is surprisingly perfect and fitting for its content. A meme does not have to be long, it does not have to be large-scale, it does not have to have display data, and it doesn’t even have to be beautiful. It simply gets its point across, and gets spread due to its ease of access (and lack of cost) on the Internet.

This book brings us through some historical context of how the joke came to be related, and eventually practically integrated in, to politics. The king’s jester, as Metahaven points out, brought jokes into the political realm; although was only allowed to share these jokes with the king. But, as Presidents at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner have found, utilizing humor with your power of speech allows for less judgment and doubt. It’s not just that we have lost a sense of seriousness with politics, Metahaven says, it’s even that “we’ve simply unlearned it.” And, even in a place like Egypt, jokes have become “bolder” with a sense of “nonchalance.” Playing with humor expresses coolness and the influence of wit.

As Metahaven expresses well, “The joke is the highest form of power. Activists have the action and they live the life. Theorists have the words and they know their stuff But the joke unites both perspectives. Jokes, when politically effective, perform what everybody knew but couldn’t say.”

For a while, design related to politics was found in the poster. How far we have come, now, with the jokes lining up with the design in its accessibility. The meme, in essence, is giving some more control into the hands of the people than ever before. In the New York Times article, “Memes, Myself and I: The Internet Lets Us All Run the Campaign,” the author Amanda Hess goes as far to say that “memes are more than just gags; they’re campaign opportunities.” Sharing one’s thoughts through memes became more than just a way to let off some political steam through laughter as soon as it got its first share. Now it becomes an influential item that may affect other’s perceptions on events and candidates.

If you need any more proof, look no further than the 2016 US Presidential Election. Easily the most meme-able run in history, due in part to our candidates who often acted more as performers than politicians, we can clearly see the impact that these jokes had on our experience of the election. We cried, we seethed, and we laughed last year, all with the help of these little memes.

NY Times Article: “Memes, Myself and I: The Internet Lets Us All Run the Campaign”

Secondary Research: Individual/Jessica Roach

How Cincinnati Salvaged the Nation’s Most Dangerous Neighborhood


Woodard, Colin, et al. “How Cincinnati Salvaged the Nation’s Most Dangerous Neighborhood.” POLITICO Magazine, 16 June 2016,


The historical OTR has seen many shifts in its days–from the early German settlers who were forced to leave after the beginning of WWI, to the Appalachian men who sought work during the Depression, to the African-Americans who were pushed to relocate from the West End in the late 60’s with the building of I-75. Now, beginning in 2002 with the birth of 3CDC, OTR is going through gentrification which is being both praised and criticized locally in the Cincinnati area.

  • 3CDC, or Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., has invested or leveraged more than half a billion dollars into Over-the-Rhine.
  • Some neighborhood advocates are not so sold on the cleanup, as activist Jai Washington says, “I’m personally not opposed to the gentrification of OTR for many reasons, including that the city will have to widen their tax base to survive, but it seems to me that there’s no planning for the people who are going to be displaced,”
  • OTR expands 362 acres, and is considered one of the largest historic districts of America
  • Population of 45,00 in 1900
  • Population of 12,000 in 1980
  • Population of 7,000 in 2007
  • Buddy Gray was a big activist in anti-gentrification
  • Bars and tech startups began opening in 1990s along Main Street
  • April 7, 2001 – 19-yr-old African-American Timothy Thomas was killed by white office Steven Roach, inciting riots
  • Clear plan was began in 2002 with 3CDC, after being provided $50 million by P&G to purchase building, with an annual contribution to $1.2 million for operation
  • From 2010 to 2014, OTR went from about 60 percent black to two-thirds white, while the still-undeveloped section north of Liberty Street has remained over 80 percent African-American.
  • 3CDC has begun improving homeless shelters (with $43 million), securing financing for low-income and subsidized housing, and building mixed-income projects throughout the area.

What’s Next for Affordable Housing in Over-the-Rhine?


Caitlin Koenig. “What’s Next for Affordable Housing in Over-the-Rhine?” Soapbox Cincinnati, 17 January 2017,


Several groups, including 3CDC, Model Group, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, and Cornerstone Corporation for Shared Equity are working to fix up and develop low-income and affordable housing.

  • 550 units alone this year are being developed, most of which are affordable housing
  • 276 units will be available to those who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income
  • 71 units for those who earn less than 80 percent of the area median income
  • Other 200 units will be market-rate.


Unrest in OTR: 15 Years Later


Nick Swartsell. “Unrest in OTR: 15 Years Later.” CityBeat, 5 April 2016,


OTR has seen its fair share of civil unrest, especially from the treatment of low-income black families. After the 2001 shooting of Timothy Thomas from cop Steven Roach, the neighborhood has rioted and called for action on the treatment of blacks in the community. Instead, there have been many changes in the residency and structure of OTR, lending way for more middle-to-high-class white people to move in to expensive new apartments and fancy bars and restaurants. The economic divide has been noticed, and the black community that is being pushed out recall their mistreatment from the past 15 years.

  • “Without the civil unrest of 2001, the progress and change in our city, and the dramatic nature of the change, would have been less,” – former Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken
  • 3CDC has poured more than $400 million into the neighborhood
  • Number of affordable housing has decreased 73 percent, going from 3,235 units in 2000 to just 869 in 2015 (around $400 one bedroom cost)
  • South of Liberty Street, the median household income for the once-impoverished neighborhood is now $40,000
  • South of Liberty, the median is $11,000
  • 1400 black residents left the neighborhood between 2000 and 2010

Reading Response 1/Jessica Roach

In the article, The 2008 Housing Crisis: Don’t Blame Federal Housing Programs for Wall Street’s Recklessness, written by members of the Center for American Progress, we are provided with explanations and examples of how federal government’s policies and programs could not have been major contributors to the 2008 market crash—and thus, should not be eliminated or restricted from our government. The article highlights the Federal Housing Administration, the Community Reinvestment Act, and GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as being at major odds with conservatives who seek to get rid of them. The stance is, however, that this would be largely detrimental to how far our country has come in allowing homeownership to become available. The true risk and cause of the crisis, they state, is from private mortgage lending and unregulated markets.

While The 2008 Housing Crisis article took a more pointed and defensive approach, the report Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse went more into specific case studies and laid out some steps to avoid another similar financial disaster. The report was more educational than persuasive in its approach.

The 2008 Housing Crisis was quick to note that there were many factors that led up and contributed to the Collapse. The change in our country from having many small, local banks and broker-dealers, to then having a very small amount of gigantic financial institutions created a dependency on those institutions to perform well. There was a rise in new financial products with hidden risks that were hard to track and understand even from experts, including residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) and hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (Hybrid ARMs). Lenders were focused more on issuing more loans at a fast speed for quick money, but were not focusing on creditworthiness, allowing for things like stated income loans, which only required borrowers to state their income.

Government oversight and regulation at this same period of time was “increasingly incoherent and misguided.” Credit Rating Agencies, primarily Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch, would issue AAA credit ratings that were completely inaccurate, but because they would profit from maintaining relationships with Wall Street firms if they falsely ensured that a loan was secure even if it was actually high risk. On top of all of that, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) detected hundreds of deficiencies in the thrifts that they supervised, including Washington Mutual Bank, which they failed to take action on.

Both the 2008 Housing Crisis article and the Wall Street and the Financial Crisis report lay out some causations of the 2008 Collapse, and in my opinion take on similar claims. They each call to private mortgage lenders and the increase in unregulated and complicated financial products as the primary leaders of the downfall, albeit in different ways. Although the report doesn’t specifically note the lack of influence that the federal government’s policies and programs had on the Collapse, they are also not listed outright in the examples of the leading causes. The article, obviously is in defense of those policies and programs—so we can also synthesize the two readings’ agreement in the viewpoint of the federal government not being responsible.

An additional reading I found to understand Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s roles, was the article “Did Fannie and Freddie Cause the Mortgage Crisis?” Similar to the 2008 Housing Crisis article, it lays out the reasons of how these government-sponsored entities were set up in order to prevent some of the high risk-high reward competition that the private companies fell into. The link to the article is below: