STONKS Prologue: Dual Digital Discourse in the Post-MemeStocks Ledger

by Christine H. Tran and Arun Jacob

How does a meme move? Held in your mouth, is it a verb, a noun, or an adjective? In January 2021, the Reddit group r/WallStreetBets rattled the global markets by treating memes as all of the above. In what became known to some as the “meme stocks” event of 2021, users of r/WallStreetBets organized each other to hyperinflate the share price of hard-copy video game retailer, GameStop. This apparent transgression in market manners rattled global markets.

In the aftermath, the “memes” and their wealth of meanings (crash-) landed in the worlds of financiers and policy writers alike. It became hard to ignore that money, like memes, are media.

Treat this intervention as a two-sided record, or an audio-cassette, or an intellectual autopsy. It is a bisected text, which dissects what went on in the moneyverse. It is an attempt. It tries its hand at walking you through. It’s meant to be consumed and played out. This is meme stock realism.

Memes do not function merely as empty signifiers bouncing around ideas in the zeitgeist; they are ideologemes and mythologemes as well. Within these memes, in their iterative visual form and their literary iterations, the reader is being invited into the ideological and discursive constructs of the primary text. FFS! When you name an e-trading app Robinhood, did you think robbing the rich and giving to the poor wasn’t written in your stars???

We give you some much needed backstory and lore to fill you in on where this sort of stuff has happened in the past. Who are the cast of characters you need to know to appreciate how the revolution will not be subreddited? For example, do you need to know the characters played by Christian Bale in Adam McKay’s Big Short and who Armie Hammer was playing in David Fincher’s Social Network? Well, we’re about to tell you how and what money-moves look like! How do you go looking for traces of the same smarmy behaviour in the cultural record to piece together a hot-take on what you imagine went on here? Were the 80s mallrats defiantly trying to put on a last stand to preserve the mausoleums of their childhood? Is that what this is about? What are the ideologemes and mythologemes that are at work here in the world of memenomics?

Treat this essay as an MCU-style after credits sequence, (remember the shawarma scene at the end of the first Avengers movie!?). From the tricksters to the Zoom-bombers, memers, stockers, and stonkers, this universe (and intro) is becoming inflated. Yet it (and we) resist the lucrative idea that trolls are a monolith. We resist the co-authorship should result in monovocalism. We present you at least (2) two mouths of the market. (?)