For all the discussion over fake news on Facebook, memes have dodged much of the blame thus far. While Pepe the Frog’s white nationalist appropriation is perhaps the most visible case of memes gone wrong, plenty of others have been tainted by political agendas. Last week, satirical Facebook page Christians for Michele Bachmann posted an image of President Obama and “the leader of ISIS,” who was actually hip-hop musician, Snapchat personality, and occasional brand ambassador DJ Khaled. While the photo might have been intended as a joke, it went wrong quickly as scores of people took it seriously. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, but:
1. DJ Khaled, writer of “All I Do Is Win” is not actually the leader of ISIS, a collective of terrorists that doesn’t have any single leader.
2. People keep falling for fake news on the internet.
The social effect of memes that spread like wildfire across the social web might be as minor as causing some trouble for a police union or be so sweeping that the White House gets involved. Memes undoubtedly have impact.
Just look at it. It’s a pretty damn ridiculous meme, especially the “Shakira Law” part. (This is Shakira.) But not everybody’s tuned in to popular culture, especially people who don’t listen to pop music or aren’t plugged into the latest style of internet satire. If anything, this past election has also exemplified the glaring inability of people to sort fake news from the real deal — especially if the fake stuff supports the reader’s opinion — on social networks. Fake news has become a cottage industry.
While many got a good chuckle from the idea that DJ “Another One” Khaled was the leader of ISIS, others took it at face value:
This isn’t the first time that a brown celebrity has been associated with ISIS because of their ethnicity. Last year, Zayn Malik was falsely connected to the group. It’s a stereotype that likely won’t erode anytime soon, especially with a president-elect who wants to make Muslims register.
Yeah, the meme is funny for people that are in on the joke, but perhaps the laughs aren’t worth it.