American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
Focusing on the O1G movement in Hungary, this presentation explores the role of Internet memes in political activism. O1G abbreviates a vulgar statement about Hungary’s current Prime Minister, which started circulating in the media in 2015. This presentation examines how the O1G sign was used in the 2018 protests against the so-called “slave law”—a law that has increased the legally allowable overtime work from 260 to 400 hours per year. Most pertinent to my discussion is that analog and digital media played equally vital roles in reproducing and circulating O1G signs. The sign appeared as graffiti spray-painted on walls, pavements, and government billboards. It was also carved into snow, shaped into cookies, painted on nails, tattooed on bodies, scribbled on blackboards, and written on banknotes. Photographs of analog media activism, in turn, became memes circulating on the Internet and inspiring other Internet users to create and spread their own unique O1G memes. This presentation argues that content and form are equally important to understanding the relevance of the O1G movement in contemporary Hungary. The content articulates a systemic critique by integrating the analog act of defacement with the digital practice of calling out. The transformation of graffiti into memes, on the other hand, transitions political activism from narrative-based resistance to database-driven opposition. It is in the form of the database, this presentation argues, that O1G memes are able to multiply the spaces and times of political activism, as well as to expand the category of political activist.