Confronting conflict with comedy

World War 3 alarmism spreads across the internet through viral memes


Photo by Makenzie Hofert


Story by Doug Kyles and Makenzie Hofert

One of the most perilous times for a country’s citizens are the hours following an act of war. Looking back historically, the aftermath of the tense situations that might pull the country into a war are usually met with fear, as citizens are left wondering if the events will escalate into the next global conflict. In light of recent events, however, his trend seems to be a thing of the past.

When President Trump authorized the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, it seemed apparent to those following the events that the decision was an act of war with Iran. Also, in the days of Iranian attacks on American bases that followed, the situation only became more uncertain. While as of now the conflict has been de-escalated, the situation showed a startling new trend in American pop-culture: when in times of peril, make memes.

Memes, jokes and skits about the possibility of a World War lll exploded onto TikTok, Twitter and Instagram feeds. These jokes tease the idea of an upcoming draft (although conscription was abolished in the 1970s) and poke fun at how today’s generation might respond to war differently. 

The memes that were created are less remarkable than the trend itself. One Twitter post showed a makeup guru crafting a dog disguise with the caption “Me disguising myself as a dog to avoid the draft for World War lll.” For all of its simplicity and unoriginality, this example amassed over 11,000 likes alone, which believe it or not, is on the low end of the spectrum of how these memes usually perform.

There are many profiles on TikTok that seem to be making a joke of the entire situation. There seems to be countless videos about the idea of there being a draft for our supposed war with Iran along with comments and posts about how women will be drafted since we now have equal rights, unlike the last world war. It has caused the entire platform to be bombarded with this topic, and this topic only. Political bias is slowly seeping into TikTok, undermining the original purpose: to share user created videos for fun, not for activism.

“More content on the FYP page has become about World War III,” Junior Alexis Cantiberos said.  “Most of the topics are about the draft, distracting the troops with TikTok dances and changing gender identity in order to avoid being drafted into the war. I believe that these videos are fine as long as they are produced with comedic intentions.”

This could cause many problems, especially since half the content uploaded is partially untrue. First of all, the idea of there being a draft would only fall into place if there weren’t enough members in the selective service. Also, war hasn’t yet been declared by either country, so the entire scare is just a theory on what could happen.

Many of the posts on these platforms are violent and intrusive, such as jokes about Iran bombing American citizens when there is no evidence of this ever taking place. Iran did retaliate by bombing American bases in Iraq, but no one was harmed. The Iranian Republic blames America for the tension and problems going on at this point in time, but War hasn’t been specifically brought up or declared by either party. The posts going around social media can be chalked up as rumors.

Overall, TikTok receives the award for being the social media platform with the most discourse about this topic. There are a variety of people on TikTok with a variety of opinions on this sensitive subject, as one quick trip to the ‘for-you-page’ will show. Many people blame Trump while others are praising him. It seems as if everybody is confused as to what is actually happening. The true information gets buried even further behind the jokes every day the discussion continues. People are left with few facts to base judgements on the strike, which has only encouraged the uniformed to pass judgement on this issue. For those who are informed, like Cantiberos, breaking down the issue that sparked the controversial memes is easy. 

“I think it was the right decision considering our government said that there was proof that he was planning a strike on American soil,” Cantiberos said. “It really just comes down to if you want to wait until a terrorist attack happens to do something about it, or if you want to prevent it and deal with the criticism and backlash of attacking without proof that is available to the public. I think that it also has to do with whether we trust our government enough to trust that they do have proof, and they didn’t do it for some underlying reason.”