"Stop the boats": Internet memes as case study of multimodal delegitimization of australian refugee policy rhetoric

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In the lead-up to the 2013 Australian general election, the Liberal/National Party Coalition emphasized a policy surrounding asylum-seekers attempting to arrive in Australia via boat using the slogan of “Stop the Boats”, which was implemented after achieving election victory. The policy received strong criticism for a perceived lack of empathy, evident in many contexts, including the new media phenomenon of Internet memes. As memes are most often used to mock, deride or criticize the target and are seen by many through various social media platforms on which they appear, they have become a successful tool of delegitimization (see Ross & Rivers, 2017a; Ross & Rivers, 2017b). This chapter presents a small selection of memes from the multitude that emerged providing commentary on the “Stop the Boats” policy rhetoric. The memes will be analyzed in accordance with Mackay’s (2015) framework for legitimization by multimodal means from the perspective of delegitimization to demonstrate how memes served to delegitimize the government’s policy rhetoric on asylum-seekers. The chapter will help to unlock the nuances involved in this contemporary form of communication and participation as well as highlight the power residing in Internet memes to make a statement and potentially have an influence on the members of the participatory digital cultures within which they appear.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiscourses of (De)Legitimization
Subtitle of host publicationParticipatory Culture in Digital Contexts
EditorsAndrew Ross, Damian J. Rivers
Place of PublicationUnited States
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781351263870
ISBN (Print)9781138578753
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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