Political Becomes Funny Cover Image

Polityczne przechodzi w śmieszne
Political Becomes Funny

Polish and Czech Memes of the Beginning of the Pandemic as a Reflection of the Political Epidemiological Discourses in Both Countries

Author(s): Maciej Grzenkowicz
Subject(s): Theoretical Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Studies of Literature, Czech Literature, Philology
Published by: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
Keywords: discourse analysis; pandemic; coronavirus; COVID-19; Internet culture
Summary/Abstract: There is no pandemic without politics. When the coronavirus becomes a problem of a given country, politics starts to drastically influence the privacy of the citizens, which is reflected in the content created by the Internet users. I decided to analyse the memes referring to coronavirus which were shared on popular, comparable Facebook meme groups in Poland and the Czech Republic in order to see how the political discourses concerning the pandemic –introducing restrictions, the state narration about the pandemic, or the role of the politicians in the crisis situation – are reflected in the popular culture of the Internet. The period analysed was the time just before announcing the beginning of the pandemic and the first months of it: in that period the danger of infection with the coronavirus in Poland and the Czech Republic was relatively small, and so the major part of the discourse devoted to the illness was shaped by political decisions. The analysis has shown that the Czech society bore the beginning of the pandemic much worse than the Poles, as the Czechs produced more coronavirus Internet memes and focused heavily on the issues of politics and their own country. In both countries, the pandemic was associated mostly with the prime minister and the minister of health, and in the Czech Republic also with the minister of the interior. Although different aspects of life under the pandemic, such as hygiene or working from home, in both countries were popular to a similar extent, some important differences appeared; for example, panic buying was significantly more important for the Czechs and the ban on gatherings for the Poles. Both Polish and Czech internet users used their known cultural codes to tame the pandemic; these codes differed and showed the properties of both cultures, e.g. the Christian character of the Polish culture. The pandemic circumstances were also adapted into several, specific for both cultures, genres of memes. At the end of the article, I am considering the therapeutical aspect of the Internet memes and I turn to the conception of popular political discourse, diluted in order to reduce the level of trauma caused by the enduring crisis situation.

  • Page Range: 145-168
  • Page Count: 24
  • Publication Year: 2022
  • Language: Czech, Polish