The weird world of pro-life Simpsons memes
If you weren’t already aware of it, Ireland Simpsons Fans is probably the best thing on Facebook and maybe even the whole internet.
As the name would suggest, it is primarily a place for fans of the Simpsons to discuss the show through a particularly Irish lens and make references to current events. But as with all good internet discussion this is done through the use of memes.
The various memes shared on this page range from the obvious to the bizarre and all shades in between. Different TV shows find their way mixed in – from Peep Show to Tallafornia Swipe and Podge & Rodge.
Ireland Simpsons Fans (ISF) holds a special place in my heart as a way for me to connect my love of the Simpsons with my desire to hold onto my Irish identity in a foreign land.
It’s safe to say that the content and message of memes on ISF lean left, for the most part. It is therefore no surprise that on the 8th Amendment discussion ISF has been decidedly pro-choice. The group admins even ran an online store where you could buy Simpsons x Repeal merchandise (and all the proceeds go to the Repeal movement).
I shouldn’t have been surprised (although I’ll admit I still was a bit) when I stumbled across the Simpsons Prolife Memes Twitter feed. This account also does as its name would suggest, tweeting an anti-choice agenda by using Simpsons memes to make their old fashioned ideals seems hip and cool.
This account was created in January 2018, presumably as a response to the overwhelming influx of pro-choice Simpsons memes. One gets the feeling while browsing the Simpsons Prolife Memes feed that the person behind it is either an older fellow or just they don't quite get the joke most of the time. As Both Lives Matter did to Black Lives Matter, Simpsons Prolife Memes have distorted something they don’t fully understand to fit their own agenda.
The page also gives off a heavy Catholic vibe and it doesn’t take much for this Simpsons meme page to post a Catholic screed and call for ex-communication (does that still even happen?)
Alongside their religious and anti-choice message, the Simpsons Prolife Memes account is also greatly concerned with the masculinity of modern Irish men. One tweet claims that to be a pro-choice man is to be “an easily manipulated little bitch”, numerous other tweets refer to the actions of "real men" and calls various pro-choice accounts "chickens" and "unmanly".
Despite claiming to #loveboth the message that allowing woman to make choices and medical decisions about their own bodies somehow makes you less of man is blatantly sexist (and outright ridiculous).
I’m not sure where this connection came from, but it has a whiff of the the “alt-right” about it. Online right-wing politics have increasingly relied on an extreme strain of masculinity and a reaffirmation of traditional gender roles.
The online presence of the “alt-right” love to use memes and trolling to get their message out there, while upsetting people along the way. Following Trump's election, 4chan patted themselves on the back for successfully memeing their way to the White House. There have been countless thinkpieces about the importance of these online activities, however it’s still unclear exactly how they inform or influence our offline lives and actions.
I’m sceptical of the power of memes as a means of political discussion. They seem to serve more often to reinforce opinions than change them. Looking at election results from 2016 and 2012 we see that the Republican vote for those 18-29 and 30-44 hardly changed. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but a quirk of the American electoral college system meant this didn’t matter. Trumps secure base came from more rural and older Americans - voters who typically use the internet and social media less often.
One of my favourite videos on the internet involves a young man attending an alt-right rally with a collection of hand-painted meme signs - only to be told in no uncertain terms to fuck off. Despite his pleas of “they’re good memes though!” the boots on the ground don’t want to hear it, shouting “This isn’t comic-con” at the guy.
I asked Simpsons Prolife Memes if I could ask them a few questions for this piece. Although they originally responded with a promising “sure”. They did not actually reply to any of my subsequent questions.
Check out Simpsons Prolife Memes for yourself on Twitter. I’m still not convinced it isn’t a parody account.