Why Johnson’s Setback Means More Russian Memes

One of millions of memes pushed onto gullible Brits by Russian troll factories

Now that Boris Johnson’s attempt to ram a no-deal Brexit down the throats of the British people has met with significant setbacks, the one thing we can be certain about is that we will now see a huge increase in the number of pro-Brexit and anti-Remain memes being churned out by Russian troll factories.

Putin’s Kremlin long ago realized the value of cheap memes in destabilizing his enemies. It costs very little to have a couple of hundred young people churning out a hundred or so memes each per day. While only a tiny fraction of these memes ever gets picked up and retweeted, reposted, and repeated, that tiny fraction can make a lot of difference.

We humans are rather dull-witted and we readily imagine that by reposting an “amusing” meme that amplifies our unthinking prejudices we’re being “clever.”

Thus Russian troll factory memes can spread across the pro-Brexit population, reinforcing their attitudes and causing ever-greater division in British society. We’ve seen the same thing in the USA with Russian support of Trump and in France and Germany (among many other countries) with Russian support for Le Pen and the AfD.

These memes don’t have to be clever. In fact, because so many people aren’t very bright, stupid memes tend to be the most efficacious. Hence memes about how if Switzerland doesn’t need a backstop then the UK doesn’t need one either, about how Remoaners need to learn to “lose gracefully,” about how there isn’t a border between England and Scotland, and about how we don’t replay sports matches just because our team lost, and on and on and on. All extremely stupid memes, but all very popular among Brexiteers.

Provide the meme is simple and vaguely amusing, its probability of being reposted is adequate enough to be worth Russia’s tiny investment of time and Rubles.

It’s depressing how many “patriotic” Brits so easily become nothing more than dupes, unconscious collaborators in the Russian destabilization program. But the lesson is clear: in our present age of mindless social media, asynchronous warfare rules and old-style approaches to maintaining civil society are largely ineffectual.

Remember this the next time you see a “funny” meme about anything of any importance whatsoever. Chances are, you’re being played for a sucker.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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