Memes, near-memes, and the Wall Street Journal

If you’re a converged communicator in DIG3286 (Assembling Digital Media), you might be wondering: Does the Wall Street Journal actually get involved with memes? Then again, you might not. It might seem out of character, but the Journal has indeed been involved in the creation of a highly popular Web theme with several meme-like traits during the last week-plus of the Sochi Olympics. It’s called the Putin-O-Meter, and if you’ve been tracking the paper’s Olympic coverage – and even if you haven’t – you’ve probably seen it several times.

In essence, this meme is simple. The @WSJSports Twitter account posts a photo of Russian president Vladimir Putin, with a scale below ranging from “displeased” to “pleased.” Then, below the photo is a description of his supposed current emotional state, along with a reaction to real-time Olympic occurrences. Among the highlights:

ELATED: A gold and silver in pairs skating  4:39 pm on Feb 12th, 2014 (after Russians finish 1-2 in the pairs figure skating event)

PERPLEXED: Disallowed goal? Shootout loss!? 10:30 am on Feb 15th (immediately after the Russia-USA hockey game, won by the U.S. in a shootout)

LIVID: That referee was an American!!?!?! 4:31 pm on Feb 15th, 2014  (in response to a potential game-winning Russian goal in hockey against the U.S. being disallowed on a disputed ruling)

Obviously, this is a humorous Internet theme. It touches on the immense national pride connected to the Olympics in Russia as well as the extensive attention that Putin has personally paid to the competition, being present at many of the events.

And for converged communicators who are also taking MMC3200 (Law and Ethics in Communication), it’s worth noting another thing. If this kind of satirical content was produced by a Russian news outlet rather than an American one, the Russian government might be far less amused than American readers are. The First Amendment gives Americans many freedoms – including freedoms related to communications – that are distant dreams for many in today’s Russia.


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