All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again, as the media mob pursues rage clickbait. This time, the hand-wringing and pearl-clutching is over a meme – excuse me, “fake” and “doctored” – video shown during the American Priority Conference at Trump Doral in Florida this weekend.
Reactions to the video go way beyond what cartoonist Scott Adams has described as seeing “two movies on the same screen.” One liberal comedian – entirely seriously – zeroed in on Trump “killing powerful black people” to lament the “cancer that is Trumpism.”
Actress Kathy Griffin – who once thought it was a great idea to do a photoshoot with a fake severed head of Trump – now claimed she was the real victim, as the video shows her “being murdered” by the president.
“Waiting for Donald Trump to condemn the video of him committing mass murder that was shown at his resort to his supporters, and to apologize to the families of those targeted,” anti-gun crusader Shannon Watts tweeted unironically.
One possible explanation is that none of the people getting worked up over the video have ever watched ‘Kingsman:The Secret Service,’ that the meme was based on. The 2015 “action spy comedy” revolves entirely around over-the-top cartoonish violence juxtaposed with English gentility – such as the protagonist of that specific scene going berserk inside a church, along with everyone else, due to the effects of an electronic weapon.
Movie critics and audiences alike – 74 percent and 84 percent, respectively – loved the movie and had no problem with American churchgoers getting massacred in that scene, as journalist Lee Stranahan pointed out.
More to the point, the same people shrieking now have not bothered to notice the video since it came out in July 2018. So why now? Was there nothing else at the conference they could object to, so some outrage had to be manufactured, and memes were it?
Before long, Twitter was suspending Carpe Donktum, the pro-Trump memesmith who did not even make the video, but defended its display as part of a “meme exhibit.”
“The Kingsman video is CLEARLY satirical and the violence depicted is metaphoric. No reasonable person would believe that this video was a call to action, or an endorsement of violence towards the media,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Except that people who consider themselves special and above reproach or critique have stopped being reasonable long ago.
One does not have to be a conservative pundit to point out the obvious hypocrisy. The New York Times sponsoring a theatrical production of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ depicting Trump getting assassinated; Griffin’s ISIS stunt; music videos depicting Trump getting murdered – all fine in the media playbook, because free speech, First Amendment, and so on. But when some anonymous “peasant” in “flyover country” dares meme a video turning the tables? Red alert!
For all the media rhetoric about Trump “inciting violence” against journalists, actual political violence in the US has overwhelmingly consisted of Trump critics targeting his supporters – with the June 2017 shooting of Republicans training for the congressional baseball charity game being the deadliest example.
Throughout, the same media now shrieking about incitement have peddled conspiracy theories about Trump’s “treason” and “Russian collusion” and imminent threat to “our democracy” that have actually done more to sow discontent and division among Americans than anything they’ve blamed alleged “Russian trolls” for.
Not to mention that they were perfectly fine smearing and demonizing American citizens, living and working in the US, as “Russian agents” just because they worked at outlets like RT or Sputnik. Wasn’t that an attack on journalists, or is it different when they do it?
Honestly, I’ve had enough of this stone-throwing by inhabitants of glass houses – and I get a feeling a lot of my fellow Americans have as well. As Matt Taibbi observed just the other day, this country has been dragged into a state of perpetual coup, courtesy of the political establishment in Washington and their media enablers, out to get Bad Orange Man at any cost – even if it means destroying the country.
If you don’t understand memes, maybe journalism is not for you, and it’s time to find honest work.
Nebojsa Malic, senior writer