The Concept of Internet Memes

Detournement example.
Fig. 1. Detournement example (Voltairinede).

This picture illustrates the concept of detournement by rearranging the elements of meaning. What the sign essentially meant was to ban smoking from a gas station because it might cause major damage to self and others around. The updated version of it shifts the meaning from a simple warning to a joke. While the message stays the same, the motivation of the “no smoking” urge is reversed from safety reasons to purely economic and capitalistic ones.

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The loss of importance of the key element is what makes this image a detournement (SI 1959). It appears that basically anything can change its meaning or modality to the opposite. Even cats can become weapons of war in the eyes of fun made on the internet (Cornell). Insult or a joke has become one of the core themes on the internet and the most widespread use of the detournement concept, which is an alarming sign. The image in figure 1 illustrates that anything can be attributed to politics nowadays and people seem to accept it willingly, as the image received a response from the public and was upvoted 196 times on Reddit.

While the meme did not elicit much verbal feedback, it did trigger a positive reaction in the form of social approval through likes or their Reddit analogs. A sarcastic use of virtually harmless memes, idols, and mascots such as Pepe the Frog or Gritty is a vivid illustration of such trend for non-verbal abuse of certain public (Horgan; Romano). The popularity of negative detournement might be a sign of overall freedom of thought that should be cherished and revered. On the other hand, it could also become an argument for the establishment of control over the flow of negative content on the web.

Works Cited

Cornell, Matt. “Feral Memes.The New Inquiry. 2016. Web.

Horgan, Colin. “Liberté, Egalité, Gritté: How an NHL Mascot Became an Antifa Hero.The Guardian. 2018. Web.

Romano, Aja. “To Save Pepe the Frog from the Alt-Right, His Creator Has Invoked Copyright Law’s Darker Side.Vox. 2017. Web.

SI 1959. The Situationist International Text Library/Détournement as Negation and Prelude. n.d. Web.

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Voltairinede. “Capitalists Attempt Funny Detournement, Haha.Reddit. Web.

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"The Concept of Internet Memes." StudyCorgi, 8 June 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "The Concept of Internet Memes." June 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "The Concept of Internet Memes." June 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Concept of Internet Memes." June 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Concept of Internet Memes'. 8 June.

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