Social Memes and Depictions of Refugees in the EU: Challenging Irrationality and Misinformation with a Media Literacy Intervention

Hajimichael, Mike

We live in a digital age where communication through visuals – made up of images, videos or gifs – supersedes written rhetorical text. Simultaneously with the rise of more user-generated media content, a transition has occurred with the transformation from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. While this, according to Gauntlet, has many advantages in terms of creativity and digital literacy and making people generally ‘happier’, there is another side; phenomena relating to fake, misinformative and ideologically biased content necessitate our attention and enquiry in this turbulent second decade of the twenty-first century. Through exploring a critical discourse analysis approach to social meme content on refugees in Europe, this chapter unpacks issues of representation, mis/disinformation and constructed notions of ‘common sense’. These ideas are central to understanding how ignorance is deliberately cultivated and shared through digital media content in contemporary societies. Countering these realities of ignorance and deception is challenging in teaching practice; however, the author argues in favour of a methodology based upon a media literacy intervention. Such an approach aims to reduce the impact of deception through developing critical thinking on media content.