Top Memes 2014

From the silly to the serious, 2014 was another year filled with viral videos and twitter conversations gone global. In our annual installment of Top Memes, CSS has collected and analyzed the Top 14 Memes of 2014 that made waves throughout the movements for social and environmental justice (and a couple that just rippled through the interwebs).  And the #1 Top Meme of 2014 topped the list for the second year in a row! Find out what the two-time Top Meme is, and all the rest of this year’s Top Memes!

14. Kermit Sipping Tea is an Unimpressed Lizard with Sochi Problems


Like you probably noticed, we're noting a few memes that "Broke the Internet" this year. We hope the title sums this one up.

13. #GamerGate


#Gamergate: a movement of self-identified “gamers” and supporters of the video game industry hiding behind the monolithic veil of "defenders of the video game industry from unethical journalism." It’s a movement whose loudest and most strident voices fervently carry messages of misogyny and racism in reaction to what they perceived as harmful criticism and associated efforts to make games more diverse and inclusive. Most egregiously, certain ardent supporters of #Gamergate disrupted speeches by female game industry commentators, caused female developers to flee their homes, and posted thousands of violent personal threats on Twitter and elsewhere. #Gamergate is also significant for revealing the interplay between culture and consumer “activism."  This allegiance to business inevitably results in bolstering the industry’s corporate interests.

For more on #gamergate, including its struggle with identity, see this great article.

12. Icebucket Challenge Hack


By Felicia Perez, CSS Associate: “It was the summer of ALS Ice Bucket Challenges all over Facebook and the media. Just days after Mike Brown's murder, folks in Ferguson began to protest in the streets. I live in Reno, Nevada nowhere near Missouri. If I couldn't get there how could I be counted and voice my opposition to police brutality and support for folks organizing locally? With every hour that passed it seemed inevitable that soon someone would challenge me to pour ice over my head for a cause I knew little about, while the cause I cared more for was slowly being eclipsed by celebrities with water. I remembered a tool from CSS as I wrote out my frustrations, it was called fairytales and it had the solution. What if folks hacked the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS and instead it went to an on the ground group in Ferguson, Missouri who was organizing in the streets? The answer is that when that happened, over the course of 3 weeks 200+ folks from across the country and as far away as the UK and Ireland put their hands up with a bucket of ice. These folks spoke up against police brutality and racism in homemade videos and posted them all over the internet. They donated over $10,000 to the Organization for Black Struggle, and they reframed what was newsworthy on social media and they proved that fairytales can come true."

For more information and to see the latest updates, see here.

11. #TeamRichmond


Richmond, CA, is a "company town" – the vast majority of businesses and real estate are linked to the Chevron Refinery there. In 2014, Chevron spent more than $3 million (approximately $33 per Richmond voter) on their own slate of candidates, including TV and print attack ads against the progressive slate of candidates who fought against the expansion of the refinery and for various environmental/labor issues related to the refinery. Chevron even went so far as to put up candidates with names that sounded similar to progressive TeamRichmond candidates (Al versus Eduardo Martinez), and sent 6-7 mailed ads per day per resident. However, despite Chevron’s stunning display of financial power, trickery and arrogance, the entire slate of the progressive Team Richmond won the election in this "David vs. Goliath" fight!

For more information, click here.

10. "(Ayotzinapa) 43" & #YaMeCanseDelMiedo


Forty-three students from the Teacher's College in Ayotzinapa went missing after boarding buses to protest an event by the mayor's wife in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. After the mayor and his wife directed local police to apprehend them, the students were handed over to the local crime gang "Guerreros Unidos," and likely executed. The mayor and his wife, and several members of Guerreros Unidos, have been arrested and are being interrogated. Since then, protests have erupted, with marches, burning of government buildings and vehicles. In a press conference, Mexico Attorney General, Jesus Murrilo Karam, disclosed details of the murders from suspects on the deaths of the students. At the end of the conference he said, "Ya me canse", and the civic movement took the slogan viral as Ya Me Canse Del Miedo (I've had enough of the fear). The slogan conveys the growing protest movement's dissatisfaction with the government's handling of the case, and the systemic problems with drug cartels, crime syndicates, and collusion with state officials.

9. Detroit Water Fights


With control of the city usurped by an Emergency Manager, Detroiters faced massive inhumane water shutoffs in Spring-Summer 2014. But in another example of Detroit’s resilient and remarkable community organizing and visionary action in the midst of devastation, Detroiters reaffirmed their capacity to implement community solutions independent of the state, including setting up the first People’s Water Station to provide water as well as organize. CSS was happy to help set up the People’s Water Station during the Our Power Detroit convening with Climate Justice Alliance, and will continue to #WageLove in the memory of Detroit warrior for justice Charity Hicks, who passed away in July.

For more information, and the blog post from Nene Igietseme, CSS Climate Justice Fellow on her experience in Detroit at Our Power, see here.

8. Transgender Tipping Point


While trans* folks – and trans women of color in particular – still face intense discrimination and disproportionate rates of violence and murder, trans* visibility leaped forward in 2014 in part due to the rising star of out trans woman of color actress Laverne Cox (from Orange is the New Black). Cox graced the cover of TIME magazine in May and was featured in their cover article, “The Transgender Tipping Point”. In her interview, Cox utilized the public stage to draw attention to the intersection of trans rights with other movements, saying, “The trans movement and LGBT movement in general really has to be a social justice movement where we look at issues of race and class and phobia in general.” While there’s still a long way to go, we’re excited to see more people understanding that all of our liberation is connected.

For more information, see here.

7. Change The Name (Redskins)


“Native Americans are people, not mascots.” The Change the Name/Change the Mascot campaign calls for an end to the R-word epithet as the mascot and name of Washington DC’s NFL team. A longtime controversy, this year the heat and volume got turned way up, with protests, media battles, a clash of team fans and Native American activists on The Daily Show (not to mention comedian Hari Kondabolu’s suggestion to use very sunburned white people as the new mascot to challenge racism). This campaign – by elevating the voices of Native peoples – challenges not only this racist slur, but also the caricatured stereotypes of Native Americans as extinct and absent from modern life. 

For more information, see here.

6. #YesAllWomen


In May, the horrific mass shooting in Isla Vista, CA, triggered national conversations about violent misogyny. After some Twitter users began using the hashtag #NotAllMen to defensively derail the conversation, the hugely popular hashtag #YesAllWomen emerged, getting tweeted over 1 million times within just a few days. The meme provided a vehicle for female-identified people to publicly share common experiences – from objectification and harassment, to all forms of gendered violence. As our friend author-activist Rebecca Solnit described it on Democracy Now, #YesAllWomen was a powerful example of winning the Battle of the Story.

Related: Check out the amazing #CarryThatWeight actions against rape which grew out of Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz’s ongoing performance art project to constantly carry a 50-lb mattress with her until her rapist was expelled.

For more information, see here.

5. From Surge to Executive Action


Starting in June of this year, if you paid attention to any kind of national news you heard about the "Border Surge." This meme refers to the truth that tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors were and continue to flee violence in their home countries that is directly caused by international trade policies leveraged by the United States to extract resources from Central America. But the meaning of this meme is far simpler in that its use of language triggers a variety of narrative assumptions. First: the border is not a real thing; it is an imaginary line drawn in the sand – the meme anchors thinking in a reality that does not exist. Second: surge has direct narrative connections to troop surges as well as to storm surges; both of these indicate destructive & dangerous situations whereyou don't want to be on the wrong side. And even after all of the attention paid to the border surge, Obama took Executive Action to bring relief to 7 million out of the 11 million undocumented people in the United States. "All 11 Million" has been alive and well in the migrant justice movement for some time, from All In For 11 Million by the UWC to All 11 Million from Presente. Even after the migrants rights victory through Executive Action this year, we expect to see some more amazing memes to come out of this movement.

For more information on All In For 11 Million, see here.

4. Umbrella Revolution (Occupy Central, Hong Kong)


The Umbrella Revolution is one of the standout memes that emerged from the ongoing Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, where student leaders and protestors are demanding a free and fair election in 2017.  The umbrella popped up as a meme after the media started to draw its attention towards protestors using umbrellas to protect themselves from the police’s use of pepper spray at demonstrations. We think this shows how the meme became so effective – in that the use of the umbrella carried a message that mirrors the symbol itself. The demand for a free election is a simple and clear ask, like the symbol of the umbrella, but that it also carries a message of a long-term strategic process of reform towards a truly free & democratically governed state for the people of Hong Kong.

3. Workers and their woes


This year has been big for workers. With major news outlets such as The New York Times beating a steady drum beat in their Nonemployed series about the decline of the American worker – who faces threats from robots and aging, but apparently not CEOS – you would think the end of work is around the corner. Yet, workers are on the move. Fortune reports that the bold demand of a $15/hour wage has been crucial to sparking a new social movement for workers’ rights in the United States. While traditional labor unions are on the way out, new alternative labor organizing groups are on the rise, like the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which has been expanding labor protections for domestic workers in a state-by-state strategy that's winning. The worker justice realm is filled with all sorts of memes such as: Fightfor15, Future Of Work, and even UnionThug. While there is not one emergent meme from this sector, we expect more to emerge as workers continue to fight for the well being of their own economic future. CSS will be working closely with important actors in the worker justice movement in 2015, so we hope to be a part of developing and testing some exciting options.

2. #PeoplesClimate: Climate Movement Calls out the System


2014 was a big year in climate organizing on many fronts, but one of the most visible was the September #PeoplesClimate March, which brought roughly 400,000 people into the streets of NYC. But more profound than the scale of the march was the evolving political shifts happening inside the climate movement. The march was led by a 14,000-strong contingent from frontline impacted communities organized by the Climate Justice Alliance’s Our Power campaign. CSS was honored to host a CJA cohort at our annual Advanced Training which created the widely spread “It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm” meme as a way of promoting Just Transition and Community-led Solutions. The Our Power campaign, along with the #FloodWallStreet action and the publication of Naomi Klein’s high-profile new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate, all represent powerful efforts to reframe climate disruption as a symptom of a deeper problem: our current economic model. We expect 2015 to be a year where we all hear a lot more about Just Transition and the systemic solutions to the climate crisis.

Here's a summary/media round-up from CSS partner Climate Justice Alliance

1. #BlackLivesMatter (Top Meme 2013 & 2014)


After its creation following George Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013, the Black Lives Matter meme developed by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi has found a powerful role in 2014 as the rallying cry for the national movement that has emerged from Ferguson, MO, in the wake of the murder of Mike Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson, and Wilson’s subsequent non-indictment. Many have tried to co-opt and transform the meme, most notably by instead using #AllLivesMatter. However, movement leaders such as Garza and even famed Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu have astutely defended the original Black Lives Matter meme, maintaining the absolute necessity of affirming specifically that Black Lives Matter, in order to combat the rampant anti-black racism embedded in our system, and to remind us that black liberation is necessary to the liberation of all of us. #BlackLivesMatter, our Top Meme for the second year in a row, we predict, will be a meme that continues, and when people look back to the 21st century racial justice moments that creates change, they will refer to Black Lives Matter movement the same way we today look to the era surrounding the "I Am A Man" slogan.

For more information about the meme, here's a great article.