Redditors Made ‘Meme Insider,’ a Completely Insane Magazine About Memes
Day traders may have CNBC, but meme traders have 'Meme Insider.'
Then consider Meme Insider, a volunteer-run publication now in its second issue. The magazine, available for free in .pdf format, is associated with Meme Economy, a section of Reddit where individuals discuss trends in meme usage.
Like the NASDANQ, a related Meme Economy production intended to eventually serve as a virtual stock market enabling users to track popular memes and bid up their value, Meme Insider appears both totally sincere and strangely apolitical. An article on Pepe in the second issue, for example, focuses on the frog's "durability as a meme" rather than its association with the alt-right, and winds up projecting steady long-term returns for it in spite of a recent sharp decrease in usage. Another piece suggests that meme aficionados buy low on "idiosyncratically undervalued" Sims memes.
Meme Insider also features short fiction and interviews, including a discussion in the second issue with election 2016 meme-man Ken Bone himself. Over the course of a revealing exchange, readers learn that Bone is extremely happy because he "had to write the IRS a $40,000 check today" on his earnings from endorsement deals with companies like Uber. Bone also believes people should gradually replace their petroleum-powered cars with electric models, due to "the high carbon footprint of manufacturing and transporting one," rather than just "get[ting] one to get one."
Meme Insider contains fake advertisements, too, but they are harmless and well-meaning plugs for products like the forthcoming NASDANQ—a far cry from the shitposting engaged in by high-level trolls. The overall effect is a magazine that is both labor of love and a blank slate for readers who are engaging with it.
Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Mercer University and author of This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture, cautioned against reading too much into this work.
"Perhaps this could be a parody of marketing types who are just discovering memes, or perhaps they sincerely mean this," she told Motherboard. "It's an interesting item that falls into the territory of, 'what the heck even IS this?' and speaks to how the meaning of such things often reside with the audience, not the creator."
That said, Phillips emphasized that trying to discern intent from internet discourse is often a futile process. She and Ryan Milner, with whom she co-authored the forthcoming book The Ambivalent Internet, have written extensively about that problem. "Each new instance of amplification online, regardless of who is doing the sharing, and regardless of what posters' motivations might be, risks attracting a new wave of participants to a given story," they wrote in an article that appeared in Slate. "Each of these participants will, in turn, have similarly inscrutable motives and through commenting on, remixing, or simply repeating a story might continue its spread in who knows what directions, to who knows what consequences."
Given the shifting, open-ended nature of the meme world, where meaning emerges, if at all, from audience participation, it makes sense that Meme Insider and the accompanying NASDANQ will rise and fall with the efforts of the Reddit users constructing or sharing them.
Then again, it's entirely possible that this article, like an earlier piece about the NASDANQ that appeared in The Verge, could completely upend the meme economy. "Sell everything. MEME ECONOMY DEAD," redditor JonathanChaffer wrote, sharing a screenshot of that article in a post that now has 2,237 upvotes.