“Son – you’ll be a soldier one day”, one of thousands of comments on a YouTube video about using memes (particularly viral images) in war. Memes have grown in global importance, from their central propaganda/morale-influencing role in the War in Ukraine to political campaign conflicts around major issues to virtual ‘battles’ involving online communities. However, while citizen participation in discourses concerning conflict has been receiving increased attention, such wider participation around meme conflict remains under-explored in scholarship. The online audio-visual and textual discourse around memetic warfare is important both in understanding wider public views of conflict, and, particularly in this case, given the blurring of distinctions in which acts of speech or creating videos may themselves involve directly contributing to meme ‘warfare’. This article will aim to map emerging perceptions of this digital participation, including how views of memetic warfare are framed by particular historical analogies and tropes from popular culture. The research draws on comments of selected YouTube videos on memetic warfare. The new framework adopted may serve as a basis for future investigation of online public debates and attitudes towards memetic or other forms of technological innovation in war, such as broader definitions of cyber, drone, or space security.
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List of Videos
Memetic Warfare: How Countries are Weaponising Memes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fM_mbQRodU
Memetic Warfare [US Congressional committee] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp8qUeEHPZ0
Front National denies any role in 'Great Meme War' - BBC Trending https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOmq-U21pok
The BBC Discover The Great Meme War [Response to BBC video above]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohxDM9eGu6Q
The CNN Skirmishes Meme Insider Collaboration https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_yCj6fXtlA
The Tumblr-4Chan Wars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvjwXhCNZcU
The original video which the Congressional testimony appears to have been drawn from: The District Sentinel, ‘Memes vs. ISIS’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd7kMvn3Vhw
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Peacock, T.N. ‘“Son – you’ll be a soldier one day”: reconceptualising YouTube discourses on participation in memetic warfare’. Digi War 3, 83–95 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s42984-022-00051-8