Based on recent reporting on Qatar, I thought I’d offer some basic advice on handling memes we encounter. Hint: today let’s add exercising caution into our daily routines.
From time to time, I’d like to start posting a few shorter articles on thinking more critically based the kinds of things we encounter in our everyday. Like memes, advertisements, headlines, and so on.
LET’S WARM UP
With that in mind, I encountered an article on Snopes about links between the Trump campaign, the United Arab Emirates, and a diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf revolving around treatment of Qatar.
You may remember from last year that several nations cut off diplomatic ties to Qatar and called for what amounts to a blockade of the country. Allegedly because Qatar funded terrorism, although strong indicators, at the time, were that this related more to religious sectarian conflicts in the region and money, than any alleged connection to terrorist activities.
You may also recall that President Trump tweeted very triumphantly, at the time, in support of punishing Qatar:
During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!
[G]ood to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!
Qatar is not just a U.S. ally. It’s a major reason why we can have any operations in the Middle-East, as it allows us to house U.S. operations at the Al Udeid Air Base. The base also hosts the forward headquarters of the U.S. Central Command and the U.S. Air Forces Central Command. The air strip is the only long, big strip capable of handling significant or bigger operations that the U.S. has available in the area. And Qatar does not have to continue to allow the U.S. to stay.
Regardless of how you may feel about the U.S. getting involved in the Middle-East, it is there now. We can’t turn back that clock. If the U.S. wants to launch major operations in the area, it needs a base like that one.
No let’s put this in perspective. Qatar is willingly hosting foreigners, allowing them to conduct military strikes from Qatar on fellow Muslim countries. I think you’d agree that radical Muslim groups would not take kindly to this. Qatar is an ally that is willingly painting a target on its back to continue to allow us to do what we feel we must do in the area.
And our President tried to side with those kicking it to the curb. Now, the administration had to step back from the President’s tweets. It has since tried to offer itself as a neutral and an arbiter, but the crisis is not yet resolved, nearly a year later.
LET’S START WITH SOME GENTLE STRETCHES
The Snopes article points to discovered monetary incentives for the Trump administration and other U.S. politicians to back the move against an ally like Qatar. While the main point of the article and its findings is “follow the money,” something else stood out to me:
According to federal documents, London-based defense contractor SCL Social, which is best known in the U.S. via its American counterpart Cambridge Analytica, landed a $333,000 contract with the UAE government in September 2017 to pump social media channels full of posts labeling Qatar as a terror sponsor and smearing its state-owned global news network Al Jazeera as ‘dangerous’ and ‘radical.’ Qatar is an American ally and home to the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East.
The U.S. last year tried to kick a vital ally to the curb apparently because of cash and memes. Look at President Trump’s tweets above. He bought into and then tried to sell the propaganda.
I have to ask. What have we become? Why don’t we care more about what we’ve become?
NOW LET’S START REALLY EXERCISING
So here’s an exercise for all of us in our daily life:
- Don’t cast a ballot based on memes.
- Don’t make or support domestic policy based on memes.
- Don’t make or support foreign policy based on memes.
That goes for the President, Congress, and every single one of us.
Yes, it is bad foreign governments are using social media to spread propaganda to other countries. But it’s also bad that so many of us keep willingly swallowing it.
So, when you see a meme, exercise stepping back and thinking instead.
Stop buying into this kind of stuff, no matter where it comes from. Treat everything like this as if it’s coming from a used car salesperson. Exercise caution, fact check, check under the hood, and kick the tires before proceeding.