Metahaven’s Can Jokes Bring Down Governments presents not-so-surprising outlook on the power of a joke. Simply put, a child learns early on that jokes are but thoughtfully crafted words, which create a point—be it positive or negative. Some of the earliest personal struggles we go through as humans, are due to the repercussions of a ‘joke’. Therefore when the question is posed: Can jokes bring down governments? The answer is, without question, yes. Frequently, it is in the absence of respect, that jokes, memes, and satire lie.
According to Metahaven, “Jokes, in the past, were considered for what they really are: incredibly dangerous political weapons.” Historically, the political joke originated from the court’s jester, who was employed by the king to say whatever he wanted. As time passes, the formal “jester” has transformed to and everyday “Jokester” which gives each person the power to make an impact using words. This transition has only been amplified by the increases in technology and the transformation of traditional design. There has been a dramatic decline in the emphasis on political cartoons and more emphasis on viral “memes” and trending tweets. Memes have always been in existence but the “Specific media pathways these memes must travel and the culture with which they must connect” (Boyd) changes over time, according to Andrew Boyd, twenty-five-year veteran of creative campaigns for social change. He continues: “A vital movement requires a hot and happening meme.” Boyd goes on to compare the Declaration of Independence and Internet Memes as similar ways to influence government and social change. Read more about his analysis click here.
In parallel, Metahaven states that a meme serves as a “‘cultural gene’ … Memes are units of culture and behaviour, which survive and spread via imitation and adaptation” (Metahaven). By definition, a meme sounds eerily similar to a rumor—which draws an unsurprising connection between a joke’s ability to bring down an individual person and a joke’s ability to evoke a change in a government. Commentary and opinions spread quickly be it positive or negative, when there are many “jokesters” and no true “jesters”.