Have you heard the news? Trevor Lawrence, who is an American patriot first and Clemson’s star quarterback second, has destroyed the coastal elite media. It started when those vicious thrashers pooh-poohed and criticized President Donald Trump for throwing the Clemson Tigers a fast food bacchanalia in the White House yesterday. The exact dimensions of the triggering are still unknown, but certain to be vast. Deadspin offices have closed down, and all of us organic vegan bloggers are crying big wet liberal tears as the troops sternly unplug our computers, possibly forever. We know deep down we deserve it.
And then, to add insult to injury, the handsome star of the national champions went ahead and owned us even further! Look at this:
You do not need me, or Trevor Lawrence, or anyone else whose brain has not been corroded into a chunky green sludge by stupid Facebook memes to tell you that Lawrence never said this. Plenty of people believe just that, though, even though Lawrence later clarified that he never used the occasion of his team’s presidential burger orgy to go after the lying fake news media. Anyone should have been able to figure out that this was bullshit from the blaring orange font on the meme, or the phrase “SPEAKS OUT TO DEFEND AMERICA,” or the garbled melange of right-oriented signals like “organic vegan” and especially “perfect blue collar party,” a phrase that suggests the president hosted a Country Bear Jamboree hootenanny for the boys from Death Valley.
The image macro in question here is a particularly pungent example of something the Internet Of Shit reliably produces at industrial volume: the extremely fake right wing meme. It’s rare for the subject of such a meme to have to go on record clarifying that he never gave such an obviously fake quote, but given the ceaseless torrent of embarrassingly fake posts like this one and given the simultaneous credulity and cynicism of their intended audience, it’s hard to imagine that such explanations would 1) be able to keep up with the supply or 2) convince the people sharing them.
Lord knows the memes don’t have to be convincing, or funny, or good. You only have to go as far as Curt Schilling’s Twitter account to find acutely earnest reactionary memes—memes so oafish and overdetermined that, in their determination to make sure that you see the joke, they forget to include a joke at all. You don’t have to go much further to see the raw shit.
It is not a long journey at all from the bog-standard PC snowflake MAGA nonsense that Schilling passes around all day to, say, a deepfried photoshop from user ❌ ❌ ❌Angry Americans United ❌ ❌ ❌ purporting to prove that Chuck Schumer is a Nazi, or a Zapruder-grade video breakdown claiming to show paid actors storming the southern border, or anything else designed to be spread throughout Facebook’s myriad bullshit-distribution channels by the saddest and most gullible people online. For all those people know or care, Trevor Lawrence really did take dead aim at lying organic bloggers. It’s hard to know if the people passing these things around even believe them at all, or if they’re just taking whatever’s nearest at hand to send the same signals they always do. Anyway they’re all now mad about Gillette now, because of a commercial the company made. Tomorrow they’ll be enraged by, I dunno, Tony the Tiger talking about intersectionality.
As we continue to map what Roth dubbed the “liminal shitlands between Fake News and Meme,” it has become easier to understand why the Lawrence mockup achieved escape velocity. The language of that stupid, stupid realm is one of culture war and resentment; the conspiracy-addled boomers who reside there do what they do, whether that’s passing along memes or panic-buying supplements or throwing some money at a scammy GoFundMe, because they believe that is how they can most effectively serve in that culture war. It doesn’t have to be true. It just has to fit.
And the president smirking in front of trays of rapidly congealing Big Macs is, metaphorically and literally, red meat for people whose chief issue is owning their Millennial nephews at the Thanksgiving table. These people are served by thousands of roughly identical shit fountains, and they burble all day long. Their purpose is not to inform anyone so much as it is to keep its audience indignant and paranoid. A triumphantly goofy moment like Donald Trump handing out fast food sludge to college football stars was always going to be weaponized in this exact way. That might as well be why it exists.