Pam Pardy-Ghent: Land of the Free to Meme

While Canada Day means school is out and summer’s here, it also reminds me of the politics of this country we call home. Memorial Day is part of that, so we never forget. 

Many a politicians, along with a few wannabes, have gathered on Signal Hill to honour the dual significance of July 1; remembering locals who sacrificed for our freedom while celebrating the birth of the True North – strong and free.

Visiting politicians court the masses on Signal Hill anytime the opportunity arises. Justin Trudeau was shirtlessly photobombed by Mark Critch, mocking the handsome PM’s tendencies. Nothing says, ‘hey that’s dumb’, more than actually satirically demonstrating that ‘hey! See how dumb this looks?!’

‘Look! dumb move!’ 

Since joining Canada, politicians have had powerful; ‘look! Dumb move!’ critics. Newfoundland had Ray Guy.  Many claim Guy actually became the unofficial opposition while Joey Smallwood was in office. Smallwood long held the balance of power in numbers and voice in parliament, so having a rival rant of reason whispering, or shouting, into the ear of the public probably wasn’t a bad thing – except in Joey’s mind, of course. 

In a interview with The Telegram, Guy reflected on those days; “I had this image in my mind that there was a seesaw with an 800-pound gorilla on one end of it, and a snivelling little youngster way up on the other end, so if you had a bit of weight, where would you put it?” 

There was more Guy gold shared in our own pages, lines like:  “Smallwood was so good at mounting a circus that all you had to do was be there.” Guy also shared that he felt, when it came to politics, if government was lopsided then news organizations had an automatic responsibility to immediately go to the opposite side, so that’s what he did, with all the gusto that comes with freedom of speech.

But things have changed. Guy-like rants might be classified as bullying these days, if the public even took the time to read 1,000 or so words based on someone’s political opinion.

The meme; /m?m/ a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied – often with slight variations – and spread rapidly by Internet users  (thank you Google) has replaced opinion pieces.

Politicians are often a target. Hear Justin Trudeau’s “I drink water out of paper containers” gibberish when asked how he and his family help the environment?  There’s a meme for that. There’s also thousands out there highlighting Donald Trump’s missteps, but then few are immune. From global artists like Justin Bieber to locally-made-infamous folk like CBS’s own ‘rat lady’, seek and ye shall find. 

While often funny, they are usually created anonymously, which begs two questions; is there still freedom of speech? Agenda? Justice might be acceptably blindfolded, but political darts are best tossed with eyes wide open, both for target’s sake and the audience’s.  

Saucy-jawed commentary

Still, there’s usually some painful truth to each meme creation and many carry a political punch perhaps proving that old idiom true; a picture paints a thousand words. 

That said, I’m sure I’m not alone when I lament the passing of the unofficial opposition to Joey Smallwood’s government, and the freedom he had to not only say what many were feeling, but to also have his name proudly printed above each brilliant saucy-jawed commentary right there in the byline.

Pam Pardy Ghent, The Herald’s Managing Editor, can be reached by emailing [email protected]

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