Olivia Peluso is an English senior and Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
In the days following the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Suleimani, social media was flooded with memes about the draft and World War III. This display of blatant insensitivity is not surprising, albeit shocking nonetheless. I, for one, am disappointed with where the minds of my peers so often fall back in times of crisis. American college students are some of the most privileged, the most vocal, and also the most under-informed globally. Meme culture has created apathets of us. When it’s time to talk about something real, the topic is shaved down to five words and thrown on an image replicated a thousand times over.
That may be the issue in itself: the realness of our conflict with Iran. Warfare does not appear with any meaningful palpability to a generation who grew up without ever having experienced a military occupation on their soil, had their economy intentionally choked by another nation, or experienced a history of domestic political turmoil like Iran.
The jokes are indicative of an internet culture that has been widely inflated by the promise of national security. The threat of conflict actually scraping the surface of any civilian lives here in the US seems far away from a generation that has crafted a worldview beneath our government’s aggressive foreign politics and military strategy, one that has kept its bloody endeavors at a distance hardly visible from the safety of our grounds. I do not intend to sound ungrateful — I am beyond aware of and thankful for the safety and opportunity this citizenship has provided. However, I struggle to tolerate those who not only take this safety for granted, but do so to the extent of producing and sharing content that openly mocks the reality of war while people in places like Iran, Iraq, Yemen, etc. are forced to confront the trauma of warfare made manifest by the hands of our government.
Some view this humor as a coping mechanism. However, when there is any sort of domestic tragedy in the states, the internet doesn’t respond with jokes. The thought of memes circulating in order to cope with, say, a school shooting would be perceived as unthinkable cruelty. So, why do we create excuses for the same mindset applied to international rather than domestic affairs? We will not laugh about civilian deaths here, but when they’re on the other side of a large geographic and cultural gap, suddenly it becomes content for viral humor. This is not our trauma to cope with.
Others have applauded the American youth for keeping an eye on international affairs in the first place. Yet, memes that position Americans as the victims in the conflict that our administration sparked can hardly be considered as awareness. The memes trivialize others’ real suffering. It’s a stark indifference towards our nation’s decision to once again engage in conflict with the Middle East. We circulate pictures online and laugh about the potentiality of war while many nations still sit in the repercussions of America’s most current thread of imperialism.
I have yet to understand why we create excuses for behavior that exhibits evident apathy. We have more power, voice, and platforms than most — instead, we churn and recycle a disengaged attitude. If you’re gonna say anything, say something meaningful, or say nothing at all. The internet does not need more white noise.