"We'll see who's laughing at the next election" say the organisers of Ireland's new Simpsons Fans political party
It's been a strange few days in Irish politics.
On Friday over 10,000 people marched on the streets of Dublin as part of the global Climate Strike. It's fair to say that many of the protesters were considerably younger than your average Irish politician.
The strike was organised by students, and millions of people around the world took to the streets. One girl in Dublin carried a sign that said: "The sea is rising and so are we."
Also on the rise is a new force in Irish politics – and this time it's a case of yellow rather than green. Last week, viral meme page Ireland Simpsons Fans announced that it was starting a political party and intends to run candidates in the next general election.
The Ireland Simpsons Fans Party by the way, is solid on the question of climate change. We know this because the group meme'd about it (not sure if that's a word but if not - it is now!
Greta is the real-life Lisa Simpson. Dumbing down Lisa ruined the Simpsons and dumbing down Greta will ruin the planet
— The ISF Party (@TheISFParty) September 23, 2019
The ISF Party announced that it was intending on setting up a political party on Friday, and within hours had 500 members signed up. It now has over 1,000, which – as the ISF Party is proudly boasting – is more members than Aontú or Renua has.
One of the page administrators, Mike Finnerty, told Her that the original concept for the ISF Facebook group, which has over 100,00 members, was born from a student union meeting at Sligo IT. The organisers have strong activist and political backgrounds, so in some ways it makes perfect sense that they would want to turn the success of their meme page into real world change.
Finnerty refers to the the campaign to repeal the 8th as, "a turning point for ISF", however he says it was the success of Green Party candidate Hazel Chu in the local elections when "the penny dropped".
"Hazel Chu became sort of the ISF mascot, she thanked us for getting her elected. There was a post on our page, 'I-Chu-Chu-Choose you', that was immensely popular and I saw dozens of comments saying they'd vote for her based on that meme alone."
There's a team of 13 people behind ISF and most of them are in their 20s. Finnerty explains that the ISF Party demographic is much younger than that of most political parties.
"Our vision for Ireland is an open, progressive, tolerant, welcoming and friendly one. We will welcome those from other lands with open arms."
ISFP policies have been dropping via memes, with announcements like, "POLICY: NO TERF CLUB (NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE ONE)"
POLICY: NO TERF CLUB (NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE ONE)
The ISF Party will turn Ireland into the most progressive country in the world for Trans rights.
— The ISF Party (@TheISFParty) September 19, 2019
We are living in a country where the same two parties have gone back-and-forth since the foundation of our State, it's time we offer a legitimate and new alternative to the status quo," Finnerty adds.
Finnerty says the ISFP has,"a strong feminist undertone which we're very proud of, so to that end we think gender balance would be crucial for our party.
"We're very proud to fight for Trans Rights. Some commenters might call it 'virtue signalling' but we'll see who's laughing at the next election.
"There is a demand for it at in this country, no party has actively fought for it, we want to be the party of the forgotten, the marginalised, the isolated, the politically homeless, those who feel they aren't represented in Irish politics."
Economic policy: pic.twitter.com/l5Eb1GpAmL
— The ISF Party (@TheISFParty) September 22, 2019
A meme creation group might seem too trivial to be taken seriously, but it would be foolish to ignore the power memes have in our modern and ever-changing world. Memes are open source, 'bottom up' tools of communication, generated by ordinary people. They only become popular if they resonate with a big enough audience, so they act as a way of gauging public interest in various subjects.
Memes also allow for a more democratic form of communication, allowing anyone with a smartphone to bypass traditional media, and create or share targeted messages. There is no doubt that the curation of the memes served up in the ISF Facebook group have been successful and 100,00 members in a group is not to be sniffed at, (for comparison, Fianna Fáil's public Facebook group has 185 members). Turning those likes and shares into votes is another matter.
While the two main political parties have yet to go down the meme route, Fine Gael did flirt with viral image efforts when Varadkar tweeted photos of himself putting cultlery in the dishwasher and getting "photobombed" by a llama. There was some controversy about if it was in fact Varadkar photobombing a llama, as the llama did not seem to be going out of its way to ruin the Taoiseach's photo, however that is an issue that may never be put to rest.
Whatever your political persuasion, the entry of a new, comedic-meme-based political party to the political landscape is going to make for an interesting general election.
Lisa Simpson or a guy in a suit putting a teaspoon in a dishwasher?
The people of Ireland will decide.