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Make America Meme Again

The Rhetoric of the Alt-Right

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Heather Suzanne Woods and Leslie A. Hahner

As demonstrated by the 2016 Presidential Election, memes have become the suasory tactic par excellence for the promotional and recruitment efforts of the Alt-right. Memes are not simply humorous shorthands, or pithy assertions, but play a significant role in the machinations of politics and in how the public comes to understand and respond to their government and compatriots. Using the tools of rhetorical criticism, Woods and Hahner detail how memetic persuasion operates, with a particular focus on the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump. Make America Meme Again: The Rhetoric of the Alt-right reveals the rhetorical principles used to design Alt-right memes, outlining the myriad ways memes lure mainstream audiences to a number of extremist claims. In particular, Make America Meme Again argues that Alt-right memes impact the culture of digital boards and a broader public culture by stultifying discourse and thereby shaping how publics congeal. Woods and Hahner demonstrate that memes are a mechanism that proliferate white nationalism and exclusionary politics by spreading algorithmically through network cultures in ways that are often difficult to discern. Alt-right memes thus present a significant threat to democratic praxis, one that can begin to be combatted through a rigorous rhetorical analysis of their power and influence. Make America Meme Again illuminates the function of networked persuasion for scholars and practitioners of rhetoric, media, and communication; political theorists; digital humanists; and anyone who has ever seen, crafted, or proliferated a meme.