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It was just the most recent example of a drastic shift.As political discourse in the US has become more polarized and contentious, so too has its symbology.This new wave of memes functions more like a call to action—and arms."Identity Evropa's plan has been to rally support on college campuses," says Phyllis Gerstenfeld, who teaches courses on online hate crimes and criminology at Cal State Stanislaus, where Damigo is a student. But I do think they may take advantage of it as a recruitment strategy." To Gerstenfeld, this is just the contemporary version of neo-Nazis' strategy in the '80s, when they would pick fights on talk shows.Before Damigo, there was "Based Stick Man," aka "The Alt-Knight," aka Bay Area commercial diver Kyle Chapman, who rose to far-right internet acclaim after beating up antifascist protestors at the last Berkeley melee.
Before he founded white nationalist group Identity Evropa, before serving four years in prison for robbing a cab driver at gunpoint, he did two tours in Iraq as a Marine."You go take it easy," he said, clapping the sputtering man on the shoulder."We've got people back there who will take care of you."At no point was I thinking that this man would become a dank meme.And with the rise of the so-called "alt-right" and white supremacist groups, Knobel says, what defines that group becomes less about LOL: "Far-right memes are no longer about humor or cultural critique, but a celebration of out-and-out violence."To be fair, both poles of the political continuum are guilty of this.When a black bloc participant sucker-punched white nationalist Richard Spencer on camera, the clip became a meme in short order—overlaid with musical punchlines like Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" and Wu-Tang Clan's "Bring da Ruckus." But while the internet's reaction to the punch spawned a deluge of "Is It OK to Punch a Nazi?