Welcome to the 2018 Memeys! This year in memes saw all sorts of craziness. There were bizarre fads like eating Tide pods. Tragedies like the Parkland shooting. Political battles like Brett Kavanaugh, new political faces like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and of course the ever present Trump hysteria. For all of these events, memes were ever present to document, mock and mislead. Here are the awards for the best (and worst) memes of 2018:
Best Reoccurring Meme
Wojak was an obscure character from MS Paint, who had a meteoric rise to internet fame this year when he got turned into the NPC (non-player character) meme. The NPC meme was a jab at those who held completely orthodox and predictable opinions. A way of saying certain people don’t even think, they just regurgitate popular opinions told to them by others.
As its popularity caught on, many on the left and mainstream decried the meme as alt-right, pro-Trump, Nazi, fascist, etc. Even the NYT covered the story, and Twitter banned thousands of users for engaging with it. This hysteria fed into the troll, and put additional fuel into the rise of the NPC meme, which multiplied into countless variations. Many of its targets complained that the NPC was dehumanizing, not realizing the irony that they were falling into its trap! Of course it was dehumanizing, just like superficially calling people Nazis and fascists is.
The result was a meme that became a surprisingly deep symbol of satire and biting social commentary. It really pissed some people off, because there was truth to it. Though it was overused and abused by some, it still deserves this award.
Biggest Non Sequitur
At the beginning of the year, British news anchor Cathy Newman interviewed psychology professor Jordan Peterson. The result went viral on YouTube, now with over 13 million views. Essentially, Newman was interviewing a figment of her own imagination; a backwards misogynist delivering simplistic arguments beneath her elite intellect. In reality, she was debating a clinical psychologist with decades of experience, who had complete command of the material. She had grossly underestimated her subject and was in over her head.
Throughout the contentious interview, she appeared to be oblivious to Peterson’s actual arguments and responses. Which lead to repeated episodes of an off the wall “so what you’re saying is xxxx”, and an exasperated Peterson trying to explain what he actually said. Fortunately, this immediately spawned a flurry of memes worthy of this prize.
Best Meme Hijack
This year, Nike unveiled its widely publicized ad campaign starring Colin Kaepernick, with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
This was dumb on two fronts. First, Kaepernick hadn’t “sacrificed everything”. He became famous and adored by celebrities and much of the media for his protests, and he was getting a multi-million dollar endorsement deal from Nike.
Second, “believe in something” is a mindless slogan, worthy of an NPC meme (which incidentally hadn’t quite come along yet at the time of this). After all, every charlatan, tyrant and mass murderer throughout history rose based on the desire to “believe something”. Thus, the memes flowed forward to mercilessly mock this ad campaign. Among the best was this meme, showing the Jonestown massacre.
Best Tide Pod Meme
The worst fad of 2018 happened early on in the year, when kids inexplicably began doing the “Tide Pod Challenge” on social media, eating concentrated laundry detergent.
The side effects were life threatening and foreshadowed the complete lunacy the remainder of the year had in store. But at least it resulted in some great memes, like this remake of last year’s iconic anti-communism meme.
Best Taxation is Theft Meme
Every year, libertarians find new and entertaining ways to tell everyone taxation is theft. This year, a viral recording everyone argued over offered an opportunity.
For a solid week, probably less, the internet world was obsessed with announcing that they heard Laurel or Yanny, and anyone who heard otherwise was insane. Not to be outdone, libertarians created this meme, proving once again that they are tone deaf compared to the general population.
Best North Korea Meme
North Korea was in the news a lot this year. From the Winter Olympics to Kim Jong Un’s volatile relationship with Trump, it was a big year for them. Which means it was a big year for North Korean memes.
Most Ironic Meme
This popular meme took a different light when a recent bombshell report from Tablet Mag revealed that from the very beginning, several of the Women’s March lead organizers were anti-Semitic. In fact, from the very first meeting, anti-Jewish slurs and conspiracies were reportedly uttered, and became a sort of dark family secret that was hidden from the public.
As the movement progressed, meetings of leaders often became heated, as “you people” and “the Jews control all the money” style insults were hurled. Ties to the Nation of Islam became apparent, as some leaders like Linda Sarsour attended their rallies and even hired NOI members as security detail. Eventually, most Jewish members left the group, and even notable celebrities like Alyssa Milano distanced themselves from the group over their ties to anti-Semitism.
Ironically, unbeknownst to its followers, some of the Women’s March leaders held views lurking beneath the surface about Jews that would be welcomed at a neo-Nazi meeting.
Best Elizabeth Warren Meme
This year, Senator Warren stepped in it when she took a DNA test to “prove” her Native American ancestry. The test showed between 1/64th and 1/1,024th of Native blood. Despite an initial positively-spinned media announcement, which tried to rub the results in Trump’s face, it backfired spectacularly.
Not only was it reported she had less Native heritage than the average American, Indian tribes began denouncing the stunt as offensive, as DNA tests aren’t how they consider tribal membership. The resulting memes were brutal.
Most Brutal Insult
This was just too perfect a graphic of Tomi Lahren to not take advantage of.
This tweet was awful, even for Michael Moore. No mention or acknowledgement of the 100 million killed by following Marx’s ideology in the 20th century, or the continued disasters of Cuba and Venezuela to this day.
As for the “greed of the rich” bringing us all down, this notion has never been more wrong. One of the most important books of 2018 was “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker. This chronicled the incredible progress achieved by humanity over the centuries, which began rapidly increasing in the 19th century through the present. Every category of well-being, from wealth to health, peace to prosperity has increased spectacularly, and the biggest beneficiaries have been the poor. More than a billion people have risen out of extreme poverty in the previous few decades, a stunning achievement.
The reason for the progress is not due to the spread of Marx’s ideas, but the spread of capitalism, rule of law and embracement at least on some level of Enlightenment values. In other words, the repudiation of Marx.
The Left Can’t Meme
This popular phrase is around for a reason; often left wing memes just fall flat in their arguments. Let’s take this one, shared by the largest pages like Occupy Democrats and The Other 98%.
Being lethal has little bearing on whether something is well suited for protection. Yes, a car can be used lethally to mow down dozens of pedestrians, but it’s essentially useless as a tool for protection in a home invasion. A knife or hammer can be lethal in the right hands, but most people would find an AR-15 is a far better tool for protection than engaging with an intruder in hand to hand combat.
Similarly, a B-2 bomber and sarin gas are both highly lethal, but not great tools for protecting oneself or home. The relevant aspect is not the lethality of the tool, but what’s best for the purpose of protection. Thus, this meme falls flat because it’s completely obvious to any gun owner why they’d want a gun for protection as opposed to a hammer or car.
This relatively obscure Twitter account made a well-timed tweet in the midst of the discovery of the Florida mail bomber’s van, who was caught sending impotent bombs to various Democrats shortly before the election. This tweet got high profile voices on the left and right briefly applauding, something not common right before an election.
Best Bernie Sanders Meme
Bernie Sanders remains one of the most memed (and memeable) politicians. And the hits keep coming.
Best Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Meme
2018 saw a brash newcomer into politics, when the 28 year old Ocasio-Cortez beat incumbent Joe Crowley in a stunning upset for a New York congressional primary. She quickly became a popular figure, triggering the right almost as much as Trump triggers the left with her inflammatory tweets. The memes came just as quickly, and as a self-described socialist, she might not actually mind this winning meme.
Best Trump Meme
There was always something ridiculous about Trump’s excited announcement of a proposed 6th branch of the military in space. This meme captured it perfectly with a Spaceballs spoof, which was shared widely both on the left and right.
This blatantly false meme went viral, shared by many large pages. It tried to lump a Michigan politician with the likes of Hitler, but failed spectacularly.
The yellow star on the ID has nothing to do with identifying immigrants, nothing to do with Representative Cole, nor is it unique to Michigan. It simply shows an ID is compliant with the new REAL ID standards. This was a federal law passed back in 2005. Everyone will need one of these by October 2020 in order to fly within the US or enter certain federal buildings. Most, if not all, states will soon have these stars on their licenses, and they’ll be issued to everyone.
There was a proposed bill in Michigan that would have required licenses of legal immigrants to be visually marked indicating the expiration date the licensee was no longer considered to be legally present in the United States. However, this bill was modified on and no longer includes this provision.
The modified bill was passed unanimously by committee members, both Democrats and Republicans, and approved by an immigrant rights group.
As for Representative Cole, he supported the new changes and was quoted: “There won’t be any visual marker requirements now as had been mentioned in the original bill. This really streamlines the process and makes it easier for everyone.”
Speaking at a hearing before the vote, Cole said: “I really want to thank those that helped to ensure that the verbiage was correct as we made these changes.”
The Meme on the top was posted by The Other 98% early in 2018. The memes on the bottom were also posted by The Other 98%, all in the couple weeks before. They had literally just cared about everything they claimed they didn’t care about.
This wasn’t some watershed moment, where they switched gears and focused only on the deeper issues with Trump. They continued caring about every superficial scandal or tabloid distraction for the rest of the year.
Most Factually Wrong
This meme was widely shared by large outlets like Occupy Democrats. It seemed suspect, but I couldn’t find anywhere that broke down 2018 mass shootings by race. So I had to do it myself, by compiling all the mass shooting incidents (defined as an incident with 4 or more victims not including the shooter).
In doing the research I discovered the meme was spectacularly wrong. The vast majority of mass shootings are drive-by shootings and other types of gang warfare, or take place at night clubs/bars or parties where an altercation happens.
Unfortunately, most of these shootings remain unsolved, and no suspect is caught or charged. In fact, in 85 of these mass shootings there was no suspect listed, or found in news searches. Here is the list of confirmed mass shooting suspects by race (confirmed means that they were arrested, or eye witness accounts/video surveillance showed the race of the shooter).
Native American- 1
Middle Eastern- 1
Here’s the list of probable mass shooting suspects (based on the facts of each case, but not confirmed).
The meme had this completely backwards. The vast majority of mass shootings were in fact committed by black males. Of note is the low occurrence of Hispanic mass shooters. Not one mass shooting was confirmed to be an illegal immigrant, and there was nothing to indicate that one case was even probable. If the meme had simply made that claim, it wouldn’t receive this award, but it didn’t.
In October, Facebook did something not very funny when they deleted 559 pages in a single day. Throughout the year, many large pages were purged. Supposedly for rules violations, but many felt it was due to their political views and posts. A few of the major casualties:
-Right Wing News
-Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children
-Free Thought Project
-The Anti Media
-Liberty Memes (RIP)
Fortunately, this meme lightened the mood.
For this honor, a meme has to excel in several categories. It has to rise above just being false or misleading. This meme from The Other 98% delivers.
Ridiculously hysterical: comparing the use of tear gas to disperse migrants who were attempting to unlawfully cross the border with tyrants who used poisonous gas to slaughter people is beyond ridiculous.
Grossly Misleading: if using tear gas counts as “gassing civilians”, then essentially every modern president has used gas on civilians, not to mention the leaders of every other country and major city. In particular, the Obama Administration also used tear gas on the border repeatedly. In 2013, there were 27 instances of tear gas used on the border, and 151 usages of pepper spray.
Hypocritical: shortly after this meme was posted, the French government used tear gas repeatedly in their “yellow vest” protests, yet here was strangely no mention from TO98% about “gassing civilians”.
Obvious Errors: The Meme claims Nixon used gas from 1961-71? He wasn’t even president until 1969. It’s Saddam Hussein, not Hussain.
Simple, iconic and involving a major theme of the year. That’s the criteria for winning Best Meme of the year.
One of the stories that most captured the year of 2018 was when Trump allegedly referred to some immigrants as coming from “shithole countries” in a meeting with advisors early in January.
No one doubted he said it, as it was vintage Trump, and the media predictictably went completely bonkers with the story. A signature theme of 2018 was people getting outraged at something, not because they were truly offended, but because they were virtue signaling or furthering an agenda.
In the scheme of things, the alleged shithole comment had very little impact on the world. It affected almost nothing tangible, and everyone quickly forgot about it and moved on to the next outrage. Meanwhile, things that really matter and will have a lasting impact were seldom discussed. Like the fact the national debt increased last year by $1.3 trillion dollars (far greater than the announced deficit). And this was in a supposed great economy! The federal government is where the real cesspool is, and this meme helped put things into context.