Although I am not American, I earnestly follow American politics as much as I can. Not the daily grind of journalism and punditry, of course, but the cultural shift that is also happening. As with all cultural changes, they start at the fringes, and then they become more normalized and streamlined. That happened today when Hillary Clinton, during a speech pointing out Donald Trump’s associations (real or not) with racist and (ultra)nationalist elements, condemned the somewhat obscure “alt-right” movement (not that obscure anymore), and then someone screamed “Pepe!“
With due respect to the obvious differences, that would be like someone screaming “Enclave!” or “War Never Changes” during a Dan Quayle speech because a goofy character from the video game Fallout 2 was based on that politician. The difference, however, is that nobody from the opposition at that time used obscure references to an almost non-existent Internet subculture. Or imagine if Bill Clinton (or someone close to him) had mocked George Bush’s “This Aggression Will not Stand” famous statement, imitating The Dude from The Big Lebowski, and the whole thing then had spred through the media like, well, a meme.
All of this may sound like a footnote and, to a certain degree, it is, but small things are the ones that drive people. In any event, the traditional rules of media and politics have changed (a little,) and it is unlikely that we will ever see an election like those. Besides, turbulent times are coming, so that also helps.
I wanted to highlight a few things I saw during Clinton’s speech, so let’s leave Kek’s ancient meme magic behind for a moment.
1) If you are trying to refute rumors about your health, don’t grab at the handrail when you have to climb up a few steps.
2) I presume her goal was one of (a) poisoning the well, (b) damning by association, (c) derailment, and (d) containment. That worked somewhat against the nerds of gamergate, but I’m not sure if that will work now. What I’m trying to say is that Hillary Clinton is trying to build up a controlled enemy/opposition (the dreaded “alt-right,”) a new enemy designed (rhetorically speaking) by her, and that Trump should disavow because nobody would like to be associated with such weird and evil people. I’m not sure that’s a good plan, and I doubt it will work, but who knows. If many people buy or use it, it may.
2b) That means social media will become even more important for political purposes. Politicians will fish for juicy tweets from angry or attention-hungry people, and many will happily oblige and create the outrage they need. Seeing as many online discourses are in-jokes, trolling attempts, or bizarre jargon from Internet subcultures, we may reach a point when the whole political discourse may be detached from anything solid or real, or everybody speaking in their own “language” and using their own mental references.
3) She seems to have trouble smiling or laughing, but not because she is nervous. Also, her range of emotional expressions is quite small and, I think, fake. In a split of a second, she changes from one extreme to the other, and there are no “emotional leaking” or after-effects. She is also imperturbable, and she didn’t bat an eye or showed (that I could see) any sign of surprise when she was interrupted by the “Pepe!” yell.
Although there are quite a few examples from her speech about all of that, a better one happened recently when Hillary went to a TV show and opened an (already-opened) pickle jar. She went from a fit of laughter (a laugh that started suddenly, without any sign of surprise) to severe concentration and effort in less than a second, the time it took Jimmy Kimmel to lift his hands from the table.
Again, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of surprise, puzzlement, embarrassment, or curiosity (not even a small, eyebrow-raising expression of “you really want me to do this?”). Of course, the whole thing had been staged, but it’s still curious.
You can see the difference if you compare the spontaneous smile/laughter of her husband, Bill Clinton
to her gaping maw:
4) That “old Mexican proverb” is, in fact, a Spanish one. Mexicans may use it, I don’t know, but its origins are not in Mexico, and it already appeared in El Quijote.
Ahora bien, todas las cosas tienen remedio, si no es la muerte, debajo de cuyo yugo hemos de pasar todos, mal que nos pese, al acabar de la vida. Este mi amo por mil señales he visto que es un loco de atar, y aun también yo no le quedo en zaga, pues soy más mentecato que él, pues le sigo y le sirvo, si es verdadero el refrán que dice: «Dime con quién andas, decirte he quién eres», y el otro de «No con quien naces, sino con quien paces».
Well, there’s remedy for everything except death, under whose yoke we have all to pass, whether we like it or not, when life’s finished. I have seen by a thousand signs that this master of mine is a madman fit to be tied, and for that matter, I too, am not behind him; for I’m a greater fool than he is when I follow him and serve him, if there’s any truth in the proverb that says, ‘Tell me what company thou keepest, and I’ll tell thee what thou art,‘ or in that other, ‘Not with whom thou art bred, but with whom thou art fed.’
Don Quijote, Part 2, Chapter X: “Wherein is related the crafty device Sancho adopted to enchant the Lady Dulcinea, and other incidents as ludicrous as they are true.”
5) Hillary’s speechwriters got trolled, in the literal and ancient (and now forgotten) meaning of the word “trolling.” In front of the whole world, a presidential candidate has used the expressions “white genocide”, “alt-right”, and paraphrased “feminism is cancer.” It does not matter that she was criticizing them, the point is that they now have entered mainstream conscience (you can hear that the public was shocked AND surprised when she quoted all that alt-right and Milo stuff.) Now they exist, and journalists and pundits WILL talk about them, they will also invite “experts” to talk about these things, and so on. This may become BIG.
5a) I suspect everybody involved in this thing believes he is the one who controls this mess (Clinton believes he will control the narrative and public discourse, while the all-righters believe this helps their cause.) I fear nobody controls anything and that everybody will lose.
6) Meme sorcery is here to stay.