Benjamin Franklin, Rattlesnakes & Pepe the Frog

Memes in American Politics

Benjamin Franklin, Rattlesnakes & Pepe the Frog: Memes in American Politics

Memes—images that spread quickly through large groups—are a central part of internet culture.  Not only have they have been instrumental in the rise of social media, they also have had a major influence on American political discourse. According to leading media expert Dr. Joan Donovan, memes mirror the behavior of flags and broadsides of the American Revolution, including Benjamin Franklin's ubiquitous Join or Die engraving and the iconic Gadsden Flag. 

Join Revolutionary Spaces for a conversation with Dr. Donovan on her new book, Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America. This program will be moderated by Revolutionary Spaces Director of Interpretation & Education Matthew Wilding. Following the discussion, guests can participate in a Q&A with the author, and copies of her book will be available for purchase following the discussion.

This program was originally recorded June 29th, 2023 and was presented free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of The Lowell Institute


Thursday, June 29, 2023 at 6:30 PM

Old South Meeting House
Admission is free.


About the Participants

Dr. Joan Donovan is a leading public scholar and disinformation researcher, specializing in media manipulation, political movements, critical internet studies, and online extremism. She is the Research Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and the Director of the Technology and Social Change project (TaSC). Through TaSC, Dr. Donovan explores how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. She is the co-author of Meme Wars, and she has appeared on The Problem with John Stewart on Apple+.

Matthew Wilding is the Director of Interpretation & Education at Revolutionary Spaces, and curator of the upcoming exhibit "Impassioned Destruction: Politics, Vandalism & The Boston Tea Party" at the Old State House.