Social Media Reacts to the Recent US-Iran Conflict with Memes

Kelly McGarry, Staff Writer

Social Media reacts to the Recent US-Iran Conflict with Memes


The year 2020 was not off to a particularly bright start after President Donald Trump authorized a U.S. drone strike, which assassinated Iranian military general Qasem Soleimani on January 3rd.   When any major event occurs, the internet is quick to talk about it through hashtags, videos, and most importantly memes.

Social media apps like Twitter and Instagram were especially active in voicing their opinions on this highly debated issue. There was a widespread trend of making World War 3 memes after Soleimani’s assassination. While these memes were popular and well-liked by a large audience, others questioned the morality of making jokes about such serious issues.

Due to the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and the other military attacks on US bases, Trump believed killing Soleimani was necessary in order to prevent future violence and conflict.

Soleimani’s death was globally discussed and stirred lots of controversy. Many were worried about the already rocky US-Iran relationship, and feared of any repercussions. Others viewed the assassination as the only solution to prevent further conflict between the two nations. From the US hostage crisis which spanned from 1979-81, to the Iranian passenger plane that was shot down by the US military in 1988, US-Iran relations have always been on the edge. In fact, in 2018, the supreme leader of Iran Ali Khamenei banned direct conversations with the United States.

From these recent string of events, President Trump claimed that the US government has 52 Iranian sites they would attack if Iran responded to Soleimani’s assassination.  Senior Claire Alderman voiced  her dissatisfaction with Trump’s decision as “The Dept. of Defense did their job by laying out all the options” and that “he  also has no authority to be threatening harm on cultural sites in Iran.”

Media literacy teacher Mr. Danielson had been following up on the conflict recently and he believed that these conflicts are so complex that it’s hard to even articulate a clear opinion. Still, he thought that the situation should not be exacerbated by violence as he is “definitely biased towards a non-military diplomacy as a primary form of avoiding conflict, especially those we already have an antagonistic relationship with.”

The WW3 memes that were created through this conflict were especially common on social media apps such as Twitter and Instagram. These satirical jokes and images were popular with a large audience, but many did not take it light-heartedly.

On one side of the spectrum, various social media users believed that the US-Iran conflict should not be laughed-off. A twitter user @Yousefslym on Twitter, angrily responded to a WW3 meme claiming that “people are making a joke out of something that will kill millions here in the Middle East.” These ‘counter-tweets’, while in the minority, were prevalent throughout Twitter, criticizing people who made memes about the situation.

“I understand people trying to use humor to cope with anxiety and fear, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to be making light of this issue” said Alderman.

In defense, many will agree that these memes were an example of using humor as a type of coping mechanism. Through these memes, humor is used to decrease stress and possibly prevent extensive hysteria and panic.

“As a media literacy educator, I was fascinated because (the memes) were so swift and there were so many different memes” said Mr. Danielson. “Social media lets people vent; it makes them express their fears. Some were hilarious and creative, and I thought for the most part they were almost cathartic.”

There continues to be tension between the United States and Iran. Yet this most recent conflict has not blown out of proportion as many have feared. Outside of the missile attacks on the US bases, both the world leaders of Iran and the US seem to have set the problem aside. “If we do in fact go to war with Iran,” said  Alderman, “I won’t be surprised. But I’m really hopeful that we can find a peaceful solution.”