The gesture is not the only symbol to have been appropriated and swiftly weaponized by alt-right internet trolls. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified memes featuring the hoax religion of Kek and the cartoon character Pepe the Frog, among others, as being at the forefront of white nationalists efforts to distract and infuriate liberals.
A number of high-profile figures on the far right have helped spread the gestures racist connotation by flashing it conspicuously in public, including Milo Yiannopolous, an outspoken former Breitbart editor, and Richard B. Spencer, one of the promoters of the white power rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 that resulted in the death of a 32-year-old woman.
The gesture was in the headlines again after Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to President Trump, met with a group of white nationalists known as the Proud Boys in Salem, Ore., in 2018 and was photographed displaying it with them.
Critics expressed outrage when a former White House aide, Zina Bash, appeared to be flashing the sign as she sat behind Brett M. Kavanaugh during his televised Senate confirmation hearings for his appointment to the Supreme Court. Defenders of Ms. Bash insisted that she had not intended any racist connotation and was merely signaling O.K. to someone.
That the gesture has migrated beyond ironic trolling culture to become a sincere expression of white supremacy, according to the Anti-Defamation League, could be seen in March 2019 when Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist accused of killing 50 people in back-to-back mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, smiled and flashed the sign to reporters at a court hearing on his case.
Some people who have used the gesture publicly in a way that seemed to suggest support for racist views have faced consequences. In 2018, the United States Coast Guard suspended an officer who appeared to use the sign on camera during an MSNBC broadcast. Later that year, four police officers in Jasper, Ala., were suspended after a photo was published showing them flashing the sign below the waist. And over the summer, a baseball fan was barred indefinitely from Wrigley Field in Chicago after making the gesture behind the NBC sports commentator Doug Glanville during a broadcast of a Cubs game.
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Believe it or not, the first emoji was created in 1999 by a Japanese artist, Shigetaka Kurita, who wanted to create a simple, quick, and attractive way of conveying information. At that time, Kurita was working as a developer for i-mode, an internet platform owned by Japans main mobile carrier, DOCOMO. Fast-forward almost 20 years and these small, yellow, emotive characters now represent a lot more than at first sight.
Emoji has been referred to as a lingua franca a bridging language that allows us to bypass spoken language barriers and cultural differences. But emoji arent just as level ground for communicating, or as an innocent outlet to sext, theyve become an accessible symbol of activism and politics over this past decade.
Emoji has become a summary of our society and has increasingly intertwined with our conversations, even when were talking about politics, Lilian Stolk, an emoji expert told TNW. Not only do we use emoji for politics, but the process of adding new emoji is also a political game. Big tech companies use emoji to show that they represent diversity such as Apple with itsdisabilities emoji and Google with its gender neutral emoji.
A few months back, when people first started talking about US President s potential impeachment on Twitter, the peach emoji which was once a harmless sexting reference became the latest protest symbol against , and more specifically, his potential impeachment get it?
This emoji seemingly became a homonym having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings after Lizzo, an American singer-songwriter, tweeted a message which gained almost 120,000 likes. Lizzos IMpeachMENT tweet was likely in celebration of House Speaker Nancy Pelosis decision to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Emoji are used in their literal sense to spread political messaging, especially in countries were censorship restricts free speech. For example, in China, #MeToo is censored, so people who want to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault instead use the cooked rice and rabbit emoji because rice bunny in China is pronounced similarly to me too.
Throughout the recent general election campaign in the UK, the red rose emoji was used as a symbol for the Labour party.
But just as emoji is used to spread positive political messaging, its also used to represent the opposite. For example, several emoji including the frog (in reference to Pepe The Frog), the milk glass, and the ok sign are used to symbolize white power.
The most political thing about emoji that surprised me is that Apple is not displaying the Taiwanese flag on phones in China, and recently they also blocked it on devices in Hong Kong and Macau. This shows that Apple wants to keep the Chinese market a friend, Stolk added.
With the more controversial political opinions, I think its safer to use an emoji, or a meme, instead of making a message more concrete with words, Stolk added. If you bring your political opinion with a layer of irony, you can hide behind the irony. If you post a pepe meme or use the frog emoji people can deny a real connection to extreme right-wing ideas, because its just funny. But at the same time, it still connects to these ideas.
Although it may seem like Emoji just magically appear on our phones once a year, this isnt exactly how deployment works. The Unicode Consortium, the official body that manage emoji, accept or reject emotive characters submitted by users, designers, and activists.
Over the past couple of years, the Unicode Consortium has faced some backlash over its decisions. Earlier this year, they approved the release of a blood drop emoji in what was widely considered to be a first step in ending period shame and sparking conversations about menstruation.
This is all thanks to a girls-focused development charity, Plan International UK and Plan Australia who in 2017, launched a campaign to create a period emoji in an attempt to reduce the taboo surrounding period and menstrual health.
To make the process of adding emoji to our phones more democratic Stolk created, Emoji Voter, a web-based app where people can vote for which emoji should appear on our keyboards.
Similarly to Tinder, Emoji Voter works by swiping through various emoji proposals which have been officially received by the Unicode Consortium. By swiping an emoji left, youre rejecting the design and its meaning, but by swiping right, you agree that this emoji should be included in the next round of updates.
Once the results are in, theyre sent straight to Unicode who then decide if theyll appear on our phones one day.
A handful of people from The Unicode Consortium decide which emoji we can communicate with. Imagine if just a few people would decide what words we can use? Its very weird that we as users dont have a voice in this. This is what I want to change with Emoji Voter, Stolk said.
The emoji proposals include harmless, fun examples like a rock to depict Earths foundation. But also include more inclusive and political emotive characters like a beaver thats a playful subcultural symbol among the LGBTQ+ society and afro hair which would help diversify cultural representation and its currently the only hair-type missing from the emoji catalog.
As gatekeepers of the language that we all use online, Unicode and their voting members are not consistent in their choices. They state that a new emoji should not be too specific and have the potential to become popular, Stolk explained. Then why is there a red-haired emoji and no afro emoji, while there are many more people with an afro worldwide? Why was a period emoji too specific, but there will soon be 70 symbols for people with disabilities? If we continue in this way, within eight years well be scrolling through 5000 emoji. Do we want that? We should think about this better.
According to Stolk, the most voted emoji will be the hugging and lip biting emoji. Both are a form of non-verbal communication, and thats how we use emoji most often, Stolk said.
Although the voting process is far from perfect, its reassuring to see that diversity and inclusivity are increasingly becoming part of the debate. While an emoji may not spark real change in society, it does encourage a conversation and acts as an accessible form of communication between various cultures and languages it could be argued that emoji speak louder than words.
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Gas mask: check. Eye mask: check. Helmet: check. A press ID and reflective vest that spells out PRESS across the chest: check.
As I packed my black-and-white polka-dot designer backpackthe only backpack I ownearlier this month to prepare myself for the December 8 rally that marked the six-month anniversary of the Hong Kong protests, a feeling of uneasiness and doubt weighed heavy inside my chest. Since when did such protective gear become a must-have when I head out to cover a demonstration? And since when did writing about arts and culture involve putting myself on the front lines, where tear gas and rubber bullets face off against bricks and Molotov cocktails?
I might not have been able to imagine it six months ago, but this is now a somewhat regular day on assignment for me.
It didnt have to be this way. As a journalist who covers art and culture, I have the option to look away. Footage depicting the violent clashes between the police and black-clad protesters may have been making international headlines over the past six months, but for Hong Kongs art world, things seemed to be business as usual. I could have chosen to attend an art opening with a stylish clutch under my arm, sipping champagne while keeping my antenna up for news and gossip. The fall art auctions took place on schedule amid the shooting of tear gas, and I could have chosen to stay in the comfort of the auction room, taking in the frenetic bidding over the work of Yoshitomo Nara and Sanyu.
Riot police outside the Hong Kong Museum of Art after tear gas was fired nearby. Photo: Vivienne Chow.
But as Hong Kong descends into an unthinkable state, what seems to be the normality of the art world has suddenly become a detached reality might as well exist in a parallel universe. Protesters and unarmed civilians have been hit with more than 16,000 rounds of tear gas, nearly 14,000 rounds of so-called non-lethal weapons from rubber bullets to sponge grenades, and two live rounds. One student protester fell to death during a clash in a residential area, and more than 6,000 arrests have been made over the past six months, including of a child as young as 11. How can one still keep her head buried in the sand, thinking that the city is operating normally?
At the height of some of the most violent clashes, like the siege of university campuses in mid-November, Hong Kong was, quite literally, a war zone. None of this is normal. Had I chosen to stay in the art bubble and not witness at least some of what might be the worst events of terror my hometown has ever seen, I would have regretted it for the rest of my lifeas a human being, a Hongkonger, and as a journalist.
Am I scared? Im terrified. Covering art and culture has rarely involved encountering squads of armed riot police or hearing shots of tear gas fired at crowds in the heart of Central, the citys core business district where international galleries like Gagosian, Lehmann Maupin, Simon Lee, and Pearl Lam are located. Nor does it typically involve getting jostled by crowds of protesters running across Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui, where tear gas canisters were fired outside the newly reopened Hong Kong Museum of Art.
Sure, I had the experience of covering the Umbrella Movement on the frontline occasionally as a culture news reporter in 2014. I have also recently taken a safety workshop for journalists given by a former member of the Australian military. But this kind of reporting was never something I could get used to. And as news continues to surface about journalists becoming targets of riot police, many getting shot with rubber bullets or sponge grenades,and one even losing an eye, I have had to decide in a split second on the ground: should I stay or should I go? Should I continue to take pictures or filming?
The installation Beyond by Hong Kong artist Rosanna Li Wei-han on show at Hong Kong Museum of Art. Photo: Vivienne Chow.
As an art journalist, it may seem unnecessary for me to put myself in danger like many of my colleagues who have been on the frontline on a day-to-day basis, and for whom I have the utmost respect. But these traumatic experiences have opened my eyes to humanity in a new and deeper way, which has inevitably informed the way I cover my own beat and helped me to reflect on the true meaning of art.
The words of Abby Chen, the head of contemporary art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, constantly ring in my ears. During our conversation back in July, Chen told me that she believed the greatest art will be produced in Hong Kong in the wake of this uprising. This is about being human, and the kind of resistance and resilience that we are seeing Hong Kong artists are at the forefront in terms of thinking about their global identity in this rapidly shifting world, she said. Artists are part of this light.
Protesters mini Stonehenge rockblock in Hong Kong. Photo: Vivienne Chow.
Five months later, Chen has been proven right. Her understanding of art, and more importantly, her understanding of humanity, has led me to realize that the most meaningful and relevant creative expressions are living on the streets, rather than inside perfect white cubes insulated from the real world.
Often made anonymously by groups of Hong Kong people who are determined to fight an impossible fight, these creative expressionsgraffiti, songs, protest signs, memes, Stonehenge-looking roadblocks, and even performative protestsrepresent the demands, dreams, hopes, and fears of the people of this former British colony as they struggle to retain its freedoms and systems under the rule of the Peoples Republic of China before the 50 years unchanged promise expires in 2047.
Graffiti that reads Hongkongers, revenge. Photo: Vivienne Chow.
The protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill have morphed into a much larger scale pro-democracy movement, and the symbolism has expanded, too. These creative outputs have not only transformed public spaces into a living gallery of visual culture, but have also played an important role in keeping the movement vital and engaging. It is no coincidence that a record number of artists ran for public office during the most recent Hong Kong electionsand won.
When I walk pass a Lennon Wall and look at the post-its, graffiti, and posters spelling out protest slogans such as Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times or Five Demands, Not One Less,I often ask myself: Is it art? But what is art, anyway? A banana duck-taped on the wall sold for $120,000? Or an object of desire made with impeccable craftsmanship?
Art, to me, is an honest statement, and what I see in the streets and in images circulating in cyberspace are expressions that require both artistic skillbe it drawing, design, or street calligraphyand sincerity. They are the product of hybrid cultural influences inherited from Chinese tradition, Japanese pop culture, the Western world, as well as Hong Kongs cinema heritage, Canto-pop, street humor, and cynicism.
Christmas card from Hong Kong protesters.
These creative outputs embody a unique Hong Kong cultural identity, but can also resonate with a global audience. They borrow icons and memes from other cultures and reinvent a new identity for them, such as Pepe the Frog, which was reimagined as an irreverent symbol of Hong Kongs resistance and resilience rather than the symbol of hate co-opted by the alt-right in the United States. And more importantly, these visual expressions are the vessels of the pain and trauma Hong Kong people have experienced over the past six monthspeople whose voices have been muted by a government that fails to respond to their demands. Some have resorted to violence out of desperation, but many have also turned to art and creativity as their weapon of choice. Their creations might not be perfect, but they are genuine. They are peoples art.
Protesters in fiberglass masks of Pepe the Frog and LIHKG Pig at the December 8 protest. Photo: Vivienne Chow.
What will be interesting to see next is how artists distill all this to express themselves with their own artistic language. Some have already begun, but there will be more to come in the next decade or so. And as the movement is still ongoing, so is the pain and traumabut I have absolute faith in the future of Hong Kong art. That, now more than ever, is what makes this city one of the most interesting places to write about art.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz began writing when he was over the age of 40. Being in such a rapidly changing Hong Kong at age 41, I feel that my career has only just begun. I am looking at the world around me, and at art, with fresh eyes.
For Cheese, the ban on appropriation of the Classical Hellenic emblem with its distinctive pointy rays was the latest act of surrender in a bitter fight over Macedonian identity.
It was part of a historic deal with Greece to end a 30-year dispute over his countrys use of the name Macedonia which Athens argued implied territorial ambitions over a northern Greek province of the same name and its ancient legacy of Alexander the Great.
Under the deal signed in July 2018, the former Yugoslav republic had to change maps and textbooks, abandon all use of the Vergina Sun and the ultimate betrayal, in Cheeses view rechristen itself North Macedonia.
Sitting in an outdoor cafe as dusk descended, he vowed never to sully his lips with the new name.
Im a patriot, and I just dont want my countrys name to be changed, he told BIRN.
Few people know Cheeses true identity, though many are familiar with his nationalist views. He is, in fact, Goran Kostovski, a 38-year-old marketing company worker from the capital, Skopje.
With almost 10,000 Twitter followers on three continents, Kostovski led a social media campaign in 2018 urging Macedonians to boycott a referendum on implementing the name-change deal, known as the Prespa agreement after the lake near which it was signed.
While the Prespa deal promised to unblock Greek opposition to the countrys hopes of joining NATO and the EU, critics saw it as a compromise too far. They hoped a low turnout in the September 2018 referendum would invalidate the result.
It made no sense to tell the world to vote no in the referendum because we feared the government would distort the results, Kostovski said. We had to boycott the referendum first.
Prompting street protests at home and drumming up diaspora dollars abroad, the #boycott campaign was a runaway success.
While 95 per cent of those who voted in the referendum were in favour of the name-change deal, turnout was only 37 per cent well short of the 50 per cent minimum threshold.
Though parliament later ratified the Prespa agreement anyway, experts say the victory for voter suppression was due in part to a new type of information warfare increasingly seen in nationalist circles.
Known as computation propaganda, it is what the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University calls the interaction of algorithms, automation and politics.
Few have mastered the art better than Kostovski, though he is cagey about the methods he uses.
You can say were bots, but that doesnt mean its true, he said, referring to the new foot soldiers of the online propaganda war: bogus Twitter accounts programmed to behave like humans.
Weve blurred your thinking so you dont know where our campaign is coming from, and you dont know where to look first.
While much has been said of Balkan troll farms and fake news factories, less is known about the impact of computational propaganda on the workings of democracy in the region.
A BIRN investigation into nationalist networks on both sides of the name dispute lifts the lid on the online tricks employed to amplify political messages and distort public opinion.
It is a journey into an underworld of computer code and conspiracy theories, where ghost users and Twitterbots meet far-right extremism in a digital hall of mirrors.
As much fake buzz as fake news, the activity is designed to create the false impression of a giant online conversation so opinion-makers such as journalists and activists sit up and take notice.
In this way, experts say a small group of geeks with laptops can exert an influence way out of whack with their actual numbers, with worrying implications for democratic discourse.
Disinformation spin cycle
At the government headquarters in Skopje, the countrys new official name Republic of North Macedonia greets visitors as they approach the Ionic columns of the building, renovated five years ago to look like the White House in Washington, DC.
It is a stones throw from the citys main square, where a statue of Alexander the Great on a stallion looms over a Classical-style fountain the result of a taxpayer-funded makeover of Skopje to give it a more antiquarian feel.
Many saw the revamp announced in 2010 as an architectural thumbing of the nose at Greece by the government of then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski after Athens vetoed his countrys accession to NATO in 2008.
Inside government headquarters, Demijan Hadzi-Angelovski, a 28-year-old social media expert at the information ministry, recalled how 10 or so influential Twitter accounts sought to dominate the news agenda in the run-up to the Prespa referendum.
Every day, three times a day, a different user would send one or two provocative tweets, which would then be liked and retweeted by an army of automated accounts, he said.
The idea was to trend on Twitter and get picked up by big news aggregators like Time.mk.
Their goal was to have the news sites view and reproduce these tweets, to make the information more credible, he said. They then re-posted the news in a washing machine news cycle.
Their goal was to have the news sites view and reproduce these tweets, to make the information more credible. They then re-posted the news in a washing machine news cycle.
Demijan Hadzi-Angelovski, government social media expert
According to Information Minister Damjan Manchevski, who oversaw the governments pro-Prespa referendum campaign, much of the recycled content was fake news designed to discredit the agreement.
More than 10 per cent of articles in that period were pure misinformation, Manchevski told BIRN in an interview. The bots on Twitter were the main source of fake news.
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Questions erupted during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia when students appeared to make the White Power hand symbol during a pregame broadcast.
Spokespersons from the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy told reporters late today they have been made aware of the issue which blossomed on social media as the game wore on and the schools are looking into it.
A spokesperson for West Point said the academy was investigating and did not know the Cadets intent.
ESPNs Rece Davis was doing a standup segment at Lincoln Financial Field at the 120th meeting of the service academies when a Cadet held up a flag that said Go Army Beat Navy and began laughing.
Someone on the Midshipmen side who was out of the frame then appeared to make the one-handed symbol, and did it until someone wearing a glove tapped them on the hand.
Then a gloved hand appeared in the frame on the Cadet side with the upside-down OK symbol, and finally a Cadet appeared to make the symbol next to Davis head.
The Anti-Defamation League in September added the OK symbol as a gesture of hate.
Last year, a Coast Member member was suspended after using the white power sign during a live television report.
The OK signal is tied to an alt-right meme of the cartoon Pepe the Frog holding his hand up making the gesture.
The cartoon frog was adopted by white supremacists.
In October, Universal Studios Resort fired an actor dressed as a Despicable Me character after the person was accused of using the symbol.
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I dont know what I just looked at. It involved a Nintendo 64 controller, that much is for certain. But then, what else? I believe there were dinosaurs? Gadgets? Disembodied breasts? I cant say for certain. I just remember a psychedelic fever dream, one seen through a 13-year-old male gaze. Or perhaps a glimpse into the id of the internet itself.
This is what its like to explore the work of Daniel Keogh, a 22-year-old self-taught illustrator out of Bendigo, Australia. His pieces are visual onslaughts of internet memes, famous cartoon characters, and a whole lot of other free-association 1990s kid junk piled in, too.
I suppose Im just going for a sensory overload, whether its by color or sheer volume of content, says Keogh. I just want my art to make people stop and look, to be so full of information its undeniable.
In another frame, I see a portrait of Jesus next to an AR15, next to a coconut drink, next to the Facebook Like button, next to a pink sprinkled donut. Its like piles and piles of the familiar references of pop artists, told through the lens of social media sensibilities. Its like the piece visualizes the daily online struggle of caring about gun control, someone elses beach photos, and a grammable dessert all in split-second scrolling succession.
At first glance, the pieces appear to be pure chaos, but while the content is certainly random at times, the way Keogh actually constructs his layouts is akin to making a mandala. Over three days of drawing with a pen, Keogh works from a center focal point outward, carefully balancing each side with column shapes to ensure a sense of structure and symmetry. (Color is added digitally once the ink is scanned into a computer.)
His most striking montage may be an overwhelming pile of heads called Meme Supreme.It shows every animated and cartoon personality from the past decade in one gigantic frame, from Arthur, to Naruto, to Bart Simpson, to Piccolo, to Pepe the Frog, to Yoshi. Across the frame, Keogh effortlessly mocks anime and PBS cartoons alike. A lot of my earliest memories are sitting at kitchen tables trying to replicate images from Mad Magazine, so I think thats where the ability to draw cartoons has come from, says Keogh.
You can find more of Keoghs work on Instagram. He also sells prints starting at $135 apiece.
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Jayme Sileo / Nevada Sagebrush
Doge: The Decades Dog
The man, the myth, the meme. The dog we all know and love, and the subject of thousands of internet jokes. The meme uses a photo of a Shiba Inu dog with short, two-word phrases starting with modifiers like so, much, such, many, and very, to emphasize the subject as well as colorful text in Comic Sans font. First introduced to the internet in 2013, Kabuso the Shiba Inu was adopted in 2008 by a kindergarten teacher in Japan. The original image was posted in a blog post in 2010. It quickly took off over the next few years, peaking in 2013 and then resurging again in 2019.
Doge was not only a meme, as the dogs photo was used to communicate through a very specific medium. Kabuso was used by politicians and advertisers, and became a weather app, a cryptocurrency and an adaption of the popular puzzle game at the time, 2048. Kabusos story, like many other dogs and humans, invites questions about the moral consequences of making a meme.
Memes have become an important part of communication and culture. Essentially, a meme is an inside joke that anyone with internet access can be a part of. The flip side of easy and fun communication, is the lack of consent from many meme subjects to have their photos portrayed in certain ways. While most content is lighthearted, in the past decade popular memes have often been used by those full of hatred to spread that hate. Many may remember racist and antisemetic Pepe the Frog memes which surfaced during the 2016 election. Although the original artists interpretation had nothing to do with race or ethnicity, the photo was used to suit others own cruel intentions.
Does one bad apple ruin the whole bunch, or will cruel people continue to be cruel regardless of the mediums provided? In the end, no one can control the churning beast of information called the internet, so be mindful and meme on.
An icon, a star on the rise and to some a glorified gremlin. The recent streaming service, Disney+, has blessed its audiences with a beloved new character to the Star Wars franchise. Making his first debut on the Disney+ original series, The Mandalorian, stealing the hearts of the internet. Baby Yoda is by far the best thing to come out of Disney+ for a number of reasons. Aside from dramatic fight scenes, the real star of the show has been baby Yoda. Though the character has little to say, he has gained love and admiration from fans through his simple actions including silent sips and portrayal of his taste in music. Disney has been praised for its decision in revamping the character itself and the franchise that has grossed millions of fans worldwide.
The Natural Hair Movement
In this decade, more black women began to wear their hair natural. Going natural is a process where an individual will stop using certain chemicals and remedies that straighten their hair. The Los Angeles Times reported 71 percent of black adults in the U.S. wore their hair naturally at least once in 2016. In the natural hair movement, the idea of good hair is all hair types. Although one in five black women feel social pressure to straighten their hair for work, Mintel reported that hair relaxer, a product which chemically straightens textured hair, sales dropped from $206million in 2008 to $152million in 2013. They also found an 11 percent increase in the number of black women who wear their hair natural, without using hair products that chemically straighten naturally curly hair.
Old Town Road and all of its remixes
Youve heard it at some point. It was unavoidable. Old Town Road, and its four remixed versions, topped the charts for weeks on end. The song itself was a meme to some and a bop to others. Every time you scrolled on Twitter for a moment or two, youd be met with at least one video of someone dancing to it, or my personal favorite, Lil Nas X performing the song to a room full of elementary school children absolutely losing their minds as they sang along. The tune was genre bending and left the internet and the world a better place.
The Nevada Sagebrush end of the decade lists are made from staff contributions. Any of the writers can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.
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Ah, memes, these somehow irrelevant but crucial lil companions in our lives.
With the imminent arrival of 2020, this decade has a lot of to reminisce on including the memes it produced (Donald Trump, and a frog at the most). As the internet boomed after 2010, the OG meme-sphere of Reddit & 4Chan welcomed memes all over Twitter to now every single social media platform you can think of.
If you werent surviving on memes in your teens through this decade, then what were you even doing?
So, what better way to celebrate the end of 2019 than to go back in time and allow you peeps to ride through the meme wave of this decade. Some of these bad boys were way over-used on your social feeds, and others you probably forgot about lets get some awesome nostalgia.
Pepe is the best from r/memes
Sad Pepe from r/memes
I mean there you have it, a frog that boomed into a meme icon. Pepe is cute, sad, relatable and definitely a top 5 contender no doubt.
Not only is this meme a classic, but it merges a bunch of other memes.
Distracted boyfriend Jesus/Santa from r/dankchristianmemes
So. goddamn. accurate.
AKA the birth of Karen.
After the release of this movie earlier in 2019, Im positive I saw a new joker meme every goddamn day, mark my words, this one will be forever historic.
Joker and mini joker dancing from r/MemeTemplatesOfficial
Joker gets hit by a car from r/MemeTemplatesOfficial
AKA WHeN EvERyoNe sTaRteD TaLkiNg LiKe ThIS.
Spongebob memes always have high returns. BUY!
Although these were our top 5, we couldnt leave you without some iconic memes that surfed the 2010s up until now.
Here are some honourable mentions that we wanted to include.
Success Kid from r/memes
Willy Wonka on Facebook from r/memes
me irl from r/me_irl
Confused math lady actually knows what shes doing from r/memes
If youre still looking to satisfy your meme fix, scroll through our meme tag the best memes of the decades are all documented and reporting for duty.
Sundays march was given rare permission to go ahead AFP / Anthony WALLACE
By AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Hong Kong, China, Dec 8 Vast crowds of democracy protesters thronged Hong Kongs streets on Sunday in a forceful display of support for the movement on its six-month anniversary, as organisers warned the citys pro-Beijing leaders they had a last chance to end the political crisis.
Tens of thousands snaked their way through the financial hubs main island under crisp winter skies in what looked set to be the biggest turnout in months.
The rally, which received rare police permission, comes two weeks after pro-establishment parties got a drubbing in local elections, shattering government claims that a silent majority opposed the protests.
Many of those attending voiced anger that chief executive Carrie Lam and Beijing have ruled out any further concessions despite the landslide election defeat.
No matter how we express our views, through peacefully marching, through civilised elections, the government wont listen, said a 50-year-old protester, who gave his surname Wong. It only follows orders from the Chinese Communist Party.
What has been stirred up in society the past few months wont simply fade away if the government refuses to solve the problem of systematic injustice, added Sirius Tam, 21, who donned a giant mask of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character who has become an irreverent symbol of the protests.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been battered by increasingly violent demonstrations in the starkest challenge the city has presented to Beijing since its 1997 handover from Britain.
Millions have hit the streets in protests fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the citys liberties.
The last fortnight has seen a marked drop in street battles and protester vandalism after the landslide win by pro-democracy candidates.
Police took the unusual step of allowing the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) to hold Sundays march the first time the group has been granted permission since mid-August but they warned they would have zero tolerance for violence by radicals.
The movements demands include an independent inquiry into the polices handling of the protests, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.
This is the last chance given by the people to Carrie Lam, CHRF leader Jimmy Sham said.
The protests are largely leaderless and organised online. They were initially sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the mainland but have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijings rule.
The CHRF, which advocates non-violence, has been the main umbrella group behind record-breaking rallies earlier in the summer that saw huge crowds regularly march in searing heat.
Authorities have repeatedly banned major rallies in recent months citing the risk of violence from hardcore protesters.
Large crowds have simply ignored the bans, sparking near-weekly tear gas and petrol bomb clashes that have upended Hong Kongs reputation for stability and helped tip the city into recession.
Police seize weapons
But fears of violence remain.
Hours before the march was due to kick off, police displayed weapons, including a pistol and knives, they said had been found during overnight raids where eleven people were arrested.
We believe the group planned to use the weapons to incite chaos during the march later today and impugn the police, senior superintendent Lee Kwai-Wa, from the citys organised crime bureau, told reporters.
Monday marks the six-month anniversary of the protests during which some 6,000 people have been arrested and hundreds injured, including police.
Online forums used to organise the movements more radical wing have vowed to target the morning commute on Monday if there is no response from Lam.
Years of huge, peaceful democracy marches have made little headway, leading to increased radicalisation among some Hong Kong protesters and a greater willingness to embrace violent tactics.
But there is little sign Lam is willing to budge, leading to fears the lull in street clashes will be temporary.
Since the local elections the citys chief executive has remained steadfast in her opposition to further concessions and Beijing has stuck by her even as she languishes with record low approval ratings.
The police forces reputation has also taken a hammering.
Police have defended their handling of the protests and say their force has matched rising violence from hardcore protesters.
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For anyone who has been living under a rock (or on top of a rock I guess), the protests in Hong Kong have now reached their fifth month of continuation. First initiated by opposition to an extradition bill passed in March, these protests have begun to draw international support such as the American Congress passing of bills in support of the defense of human rights and liberties in Hong Kong. On June 15, after 13 weeks of protests, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam announced that the government would suspend the bill.
The protests did not end, however. Many believed that the government had not done enough and a broader democractic regime change movement ensued. As of October 29, these protests show no sign of stopping anytime soon. But how has this movement been able to continue with increasing support?
Very early in the movements lifespan, cartoonists quickly began satirizing the extradition bill that Lams government had passed. Popular cartoonists such as Badicuao and Zuni released images depicting all sorts of rhetoric in favor of the protestors.
Originally posted here:
Donald Trump Jr. had just started talking about his new book at UCLA on Sunday when someone in the audience began imitating actor Joaquin Phoenixs unsettlingly loud laughter from Joker.
As the cackles filled the auditorium, Trump Jr. looked into the crowd, unsure whether what he was saying was really that funny.
Things only got worse from there.
Audience members began demanding a chance to question Trump Jr. and the events host, young conservative star and Turning Point USA chief Charlie Kirk. Over chants of Q&A!, Trump Jr.s girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, took the mic to call her boyfriends detractors losers.
I bet you engage in online dating, because youre impressing no one here to get a date in person, Guilfoyle said.
Unsurprisingly, that didnt win over Trump Jr.s critics. The trio of embattled conservative stars eventually left the stage amid shouts of Q&A and America First.
And their fringe-right hecklers, who call themselves Groypers in a nod to an obese alt-right cartoon toad thats like Pepe the Frog but more racist,notched another win in their new battle against mainstream conservatives.
What a HUGE victory today, 22-year-old white nationalist Nick Fuentes wrote on encrypted messaging app Telegram after the event. Cannot be understated what an incredible win we saw at UCLA.
Whether he knew it or not, Trump Jr. had walked straight into a right-wing civil war that pits Fuentes and his allies against more mainstream conservative stars, including Kirk, podcaster Ben Shapiro, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX).
Fuentes, who marched in the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville and has made remarks denying the Holocaust, has encouraged his far-right fans to confront conservative figures at Q&A sessions across the country since October. Fuentes and other anti-Semitic personalities coach their supporters on what questions to ask and even how to behave at the events, encouraging them to use Donald Trumps America First rhetoric but aim it at questioning legal immigration, the role of LGBT people in the Trump movement, or United States support for Israel.
Ahead of the UCLA event, Fuentes told his fans to avoid questions about Israel, instead focusing on embarrassing Kirk and hurting his relationship with the Trump family.
The name of the game tomorrow is to expose Kirk in front of Don Jr., Fuentes wrote.
The campus Q&A has long been an asset for figures like frequent White House guest Kirk and right-wing comedian Steven Crowder, who stars in a meme featuring him sitting next to a sign urging his political foes change my mind. Compilations of Shapiro shutting down campus liberals are big draws on YouTube, often captioned with the phrase Ben Shapiro Thug Life to underscore his rhetorical skills.
But this fall, Fuentes and his white-nationalist associates have turned the viral potential of the Q&A sessions against mainstream conservatives. Instead of deftly batting away campus leftists, Kirk and his allies are left to struggle to respond to questioners couching racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic messaging in Trumpism.
Turning Point has dealt with racists in the past, but usually theyre coming from inside the group. In 2017, The New Yorker reported on racist messages sent by a top Turning Point official. In May, the group banned one of its campus leaders after he appeared in a video yelling white power and using racial slurs.
A Turning Point spokesman said in a statement that the Q&A portion of Trump Jr.s speech had been canceled days before the event.
This was a Turning Point USA event and it was our organizations decision to cancel the Q&A portion days before after we were made aware of a pre-planned effort to disrupt the event, the statement reads. The event was not cut short or ended early, as in lieu of the Q&A we simply extended the amount of time given to our VIPs for their remarks.
Trump Jr. wasnt their first target. On Friday, a Turning Point event featuring Crenshaw at Arizona State University was besieged by Groypers, egged on by Charlottesville marcher and alt-right internet video personality Timothy Baked Alaska Gionet.
What do you call yourselves? The groppers? Its a very strange name. These guys are the Alt Right 2.0.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw
One Crenshaw antagonist kicked off the Q&A by asking Crenshaw, a Navy veteran, about the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that left 34 crew members dead. Inquiries in the United States and Israel found that the attack was an accident, but it has become a popular talking point for Fuentes and his supporters.
What do you call yourselves? Crenshaw responded. The Groppers? Its a very strange name. These guys are the Alt Right 2.0.
As Crenshaw faced increasingly hostile questioning, friendly audience members tried to create a separate question line to get around Crenshaws critics. As the event ended, Gionet and his allies attempted to reach Crenshaw at the stage but were blocked by Turning Point members.
Fuentes feud with Turning Point appears to date back to at least March, when he tried to give a speech at Iowa State University on a purported invite from a Turning Point chapter there. Then, in September, Turning Point fired one of its ambassadors, MAGA personality Ashley St. Clair, after she appeared in a picture smiling with Fuentes and other far-right internet personalities. In late October, Fuentes tried to take a picture with Kirkapparently in an attempt to embarrass himbefore being stopped by security guards.
Fuentes attacks have put some pressure on Turning Point. Since the Groyper war began, two the leaders of two Turning Point chapters have dissolved their groups, citing sympathy for Fuentes or claiming that Turning Point is stifling their free speech.
Last week, Shapiro devoted much of a speech sponsored by another campus group, Young Americas Foundation, to denouncing Fuentes and his cohort. Shapiro highlighted a video in which Fuentes denied the Holocaust using an elaborate metaphor about the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster, as well as a post immediately after the Charlottesville march where Fuentes attacked a rootless transnational elite.
Shapiro also brought up Fuentes attack on Matt Walsh, a columnist at Shapiros Daily Wire, whom Fuentes called a shabbos goy race traitor for attacking white supremacists in the wake of the El Paso shooting.
But maybe he was just being ironic, bro, Shapiro said, mocking Fuentes defenders.
The fight has drawn in a host of conservative personalities on either side. Conspiracy-theory hub Infowars has been generally supportive of Fuentes, describing his targets as grifters from Conservatism, Inc. Columnist Ann Coulter has retweeted messages supporting the attacks on Kirk, while writer Michelle Malkin praised the questioners in a radio appearance and downplayed the racist and anti-Semitic nature of their group.
Its breaking out on college campuses now, Malkin said. There are many young, and very intelligent and sharp nationalists that are challenging Charlie Kirk and some other members of the open-borders lobby in the Republican Party.
Former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka has blasted Fuentes and his fans, calling Fuentes a Holocaust Denying scumbag on Twitter.
Lets show these reprehensible, disgusting anti-Semites who America really is, Gorka told Kirk on his radio show.
From Dr. Rides American Beach House, at Ars Nova. Photo: Ben Arons
The names of the women in Liza Birkenmeiers Dr. Rides American Beach House will automatically make you cast your mind back 30 years. Not just the Dr. Ride in the title the physicist Sally Ride who was the first American woman in space in 1983 but the quartet of fictional Missouri ladies who do-si-do around each other and a summer rooftop in St. Louis. Primarily theres Harriet (Kristen Sieh) and Matilda (Erin Markey), best friends who at first seem interchangeable in their mauve waitress uniforms. Their old-fashioned names will remind you of the plucky heroines from books you read when you had scraped knees and bugbites girls who were spies, rebels, avengers, and role models. We dont talk about men on the roof, says Harriet at one point, extremely inaccurately (she has recently finished a shaggy-dog story about a shaggy dude). But everything about the setting high above an unseen street below and the womens joshing, unguarded voices makes it seem like were peeping into a No Boys Allowed treehouse.
Harriet and Matilda are, though, adults, having come as a matched set through Catholic-school upbringing and twin (unused) graduate degrees in poetry. Theyre often entwined with each other, talking close, and its unclear which one is dominant: Is it charismatic loudmouth Matilda or Harriet of the hidden depths? Both refer to male partners, a Luke and an Arthur, who barely figure; Matilda even has a daughter who has diarrhea like a leaking Hot Pocket, she announces while squirming out a window and onto the tar-paper roof. But sick kid or no, Matilda wouldnt miss an installment of the Two Serious Ladies Book Club, her social hour with Harriet, when they can sing A Groovy Kind of Love and drink beer and eat Breyers out of the tub. Since its the night before Rides blastoff, we often hear the male news announcers through a crackly radio, talking about the countdown. Occasionally Harriets landlady, Norma (Susan Blommaert), pops onto the roof with concerns about a dripping air conditioner, and eventually Meg (Marga Gomez) arrives, a new book-club recruit. But theyre satellites to Harriet and Matilda, Matilda and Harriet.
Your queerness Geiger counter should be shorting out by now. Two Serious Ladies is a sapphic classic by Jane Bowles about shucking convention and living as you wish; Sally Ride herself lived privately, coming out of the closet only in her obituary. Shes a lesbian, announces Meg confidently, recognizing a sister, though the others still believe what theyve read in Time magazine. Meg is the one who actually asks about the Harriet and Matildas relationship, who nudges them about sex, who can see that the women are thrashing emotionally together like fish in a net. God knows Markeys raspy drawl could generate heat with a standing lamp, and Sieh has a way of seeming very rigid while also swaying, barely, towards the person speaking.
Birkenmeier and the director, Katie Brook, have built the show as a slow burn the sun dies in the blue-painted sky (Kimie Nishikawa designed the set), and a trick of Ben Williamss sound and Oona Curleys light make the place seem hot and sticky and exactly midwestern. The women do start to melt into each other, but its not some straightforward romance: Birkenmeier and Brook are interested in all the nuances of liking and knowing and needing. Theres the ebb and flow of realistic talk, a bit of light binocular voyeurism, and Harriet relays some stories from her recent trip to Florida. The stories kind of wander into each other Harriet often fades off at the end of sentence but the parable is clear: Shes learned at last to ask for what she wants. Then, after 80 luscious minutes of conversation, the company somehow has material for a whole nother play, a ten-minute scorcher between Sally Ride (Sieh) and an old friend Molly (Markey). NASAs phallic rocket waiting on its launchpad is forgotten; the women stare into each others eyes. The play itself just keeps soaring up and up and up.
Im still working out whats happening in Dr. Ride, because despite its casual humor and dizzying erotic atmosphere, theres something clean-lined and literary under it. Everythings been so carefully considered that it plays out like a formal court dance: each gesture mirrored, every movement countered by a partner. Even the way the women talk about poetry calls your attention to how landlady Norma talks in syncopated rhythms, pausing as if her thoughts contained the long dashes and caesuras out of Dickinson. In fact, Markey, Blommaert, and Gomez all speak with a kind of metered, emphatic artificiality theyre real and funny, but theyre deliberately letting us hear their line breaks as line breaks. Sieh, on the other hand, seems to be having all these thoughts for the first time. Ive been watching Kristen Sieh for more than a dozen years, and I keep thinking she cant surprise me again. I already know walking in that shes great. But then shell go and be the best Viola in Twelfth Night that Ive ever seen, or shell slay me playing Teddy Roosevelt in a big old mustache. Here shes at her most pure and radiant, a narrow, determined candle flame. I think I must have looked too long at her face in the blue light of the final scene, because its been stamped on my retina like it was burned there.
From Radioholes Now Serving. Photo: Maria Baranova
If your theater appetite hasnt been slaked by 90 minutes of beers and Breyers with Dr. Ride, then Id recommend the Radiohole show Now Serving, back at Collapsible Hole in the West Village. I saw this short production in January, when it was swamped by the several experimental theater festivals that fight it out in the first weeks of the year, but now theres nothing of comparative weirdness to steal its thunder. Radiohole, to be honest, doesnt have a lot of competition in its genre: elegantly repulsive gorgeosity, something only avant-garde art vampires could come up with.
In Now Serving, a perverted banquet with live violin accompaniment, the Radiohole gang invites the audience (or part of it) to dine with them. Theres an elaborate intake situation, in which three women in severe 1940s hats greet the theatergoers at teller windows. Eventually, were ushered to our seats or to the table, a Twin Peaks orgy of black and red, where participants decant wine from IV bags and nod politely as the ladies (Amanda Bender, Maggie Hoffman, and Erin Douglass) talk Dadaistically about the frustrations of the patriarchy. Theres a man in a Pepe the Frog costume (Eric Dyer) who is kind of a servant? Or a sex toy? Or a sacrifice? Or a meatloaf? I remember some upsetting stuff around arugula, and Kristin Worrall go-to chef for downtown experimenters presents desserts that are meant to taste like mascarpone and clitoris. The dialogue frequently lurches into body horror: Nobody else in the world knows how to kill the long pig is the sort of line that keeps you up at night. (Long pig is supposedly what Pacific Islanders called human flesh.) And why do they keep describing the food as consensual?
I admit I didnt have the stones to sit at the table in January, but Ive worked up my courage and Id do it now. Its a chance to be absorbed into a Peter Greenaway film, into a Terry Gilliam landscape, into the weird fantasies of dreamers from David Lynchs Black Lodge. If youre a Radiohole virgin, this would be the right show to take your first steps with, since its swift and service-oriented and willing to feed you. The danger is, the tastes addictive. Im hoping to go back, and I dont usually see things twice. So how do you kill the long pig? Shouldnt I face the arugula and find out?
Dr. Rides American Beach House is at Ars Nova at Greenwich House through November 23.Now Serving is at the Collapsible Hole through November 16.
President Donald Trumps eldest son found himself caught in the middle of an alt-right takeover of a libertarian group with close ties to mainstream conservatism, and video of the encounter provided an embarrassing start to his book tour.
Right-wing activists led by white nationalist Nick Fuentes have been turning up at campus events sponsored by Turning Point USA and other conservative groups to boost their racist, anti-LGBT and anti-Semitic messages, reported The Daily Beast.
More mainstream right-wingers like podcaster Ben Shapiro and Turning Points Charlie Kirk have used campus Q&A events to spread their own messages and more importantly, to set the stage for dramatic confrontations with lefty protesters in hopes of creating a viral moment that further amplifies their conservative views.
Fuentes, a 22-year-old Holocaust denier who marched at Charlottesville, has encouraged his followers who call themselves Groypers, after a cartoon toad similar to the alt-rights Pepe the Frog mascot to reframe Trumps America First rhetoric at these same events in opposition to mainstream conservatism.
Thats where Donald Trump Jr. enters the story.
The presidents son was promoting his new book, Triggered, on Sunday at UCLA when an audience member began imitating actor Joaquin Phoenixs creepy cackles from the recent film Joker confusing Trump Jr.
The events question-and-answer segment had already been canceled days ahead, after Turning Point USA learned of efforts to disrupt the event, but alt-right demonstrators in the audience demanded a chance to interview Trump Jr. and Kirk.
Trump Jr.s girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, grabbed the microphone to mock the chanting demonstrators as unattractive to women.
I bet you engage in online dating, she said, because youre impressing no one here to get a date in person.
The encounter went viral and earned a fresh round of ridicule for Trump Jr., but Fuentes was thrilled by the turn of events.
What a HUGE victory today, Fuentes posted on encrypted messaging app Telegram. Cannot be understated what an incredible win we saw at UCLA.
The group confronted Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a rising star on the right, two days earlier at a Turning Point event at Arizona State, asking the congressman hostile questions about the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that left 34 crew members dead.
What do you call yourselves? Crenshaw said in response. The groppers? Its a very strange name. These guys are the Alt Right 2.0.
Fuentes has been feuding with Turning Point since at least March, when he thought hed been invited by a campus chapter of the group at Iowa State, and over perceived slights since then.
The feud has split right-wingers into camps supporting Fuentes including InfoWars personalities and Ann Coulter and more mainstream conservatives suspicious of the groypers, including former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka.
Two Turning Point chapters have dissolved, either because members supported Fuentes or over complaints about free speech apparently related to the feud.
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then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism and were investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnstons DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. Weve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. Weve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We need your support to do what we do.
Raw Story is independent. You wont find mainstream media bias here. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.
We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.
Originally posted here:
When Bob Lazar, the original Area 51 whistleblower, emailed me late last month to tell me his thoughts on the Storm Area 51 meme, he wrote that he was glad my information has reached so many people.
The meme he was talking about grew out of a mock Facebook event called Storm Area 51, They Cant Stop All of Us, which jokingly proposed that people ambush a military base in Nevada to find the aliens the government was supposedly hiding there.
The event spawned countless alien rescue memes, whose levity, Lazar thought, sent the wrong message. The meme absolutely cheapens a serious matter, he wrote. I liken it to the Weather Service giving local residents a warning about a dangerous hurricane approaching, and the residents responding with a Woo-hoohurricane party! There are secrets in the Nevada desert, and its a crime to keep the truth from the public.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Lazar, 60, is known for saying that he had reverse-engineered alien spacecraft at a classified military base in the Nevada desert. He first delivered this information during a 1989 interview with George Knapp, a reporter for KlasLas Vegas, under the pseudonym Dennis.
In late June, Lazar was on Joe Rogans podcast, and the interview inspired Matty Roberts, a 21-year-old petroleum engineering student, to create the mock Facebook event.
In addition to the memes, it spurred non-digital activity: three separate, ET-centric events in Nevada between 19 and 22 September: an EDM concert in downtown Las Vegas thrown by Roberts; a Burning Man-like event in the approximately 35-person town of Rachel hosted by the towns only business, the Little AleInn; and a gathering of UFO enthusiasts at the Alien Research Centre, a glorified gift shop in Hiko.
Since then, other Storm copycat events have emerged, from an unserious proposal to Storm Loch Ness to find the notorious cryptid, to the possibly real protest Storm BlizzCon 2019, They Cant Censor Us All, targeting video game company Activision Blizzards censorship of a gamer who spoke in support of Hong Kong protesters.
The event that started it all (Facebook)
There was even a Halloween stoop devoted to the whole shebang in the Fort Greene neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Its 2019, and no one can stop the spread of an internet joke gone too far.
After all, were living in the era of Pizzagate, a time when outrageous Twitter claims about a child enslavement ring involving Hillary Clinton inspired a man to fire a gun into an unsuspecting pizza parlour in Washington, DC.
Politicians and journalists repeat and retweet hoax news stories on the regular, like the one about Syrian refugees being relocated to Navajo reservations, repeated by Sean Hannity and Donald Trump.
Only the best news in your inbox
Yet you can hardly blame people for taking digital jokes seriously, a practice codified in 2005, when someone with the username Nathan Poe posted to a Christian forum: Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone wont mistake for the genuine article.
Alien-hunters headed to Area 51 after a viral craze that saw them commit to storm the mysterious US military base as a variety of events are taking place to mark the weekend, including music festivals in a variety of locations
Martin Custodio wears a Pepe mask while standing near razor wire at an entrance to the Nevada Test and Training Range near Area 51
A boy wears a tinfoil hat at the gates of Area 51
A man dressed as an alien dances at the 'Storm Area 51' spinoff event 'Alienstock
Revelers pose at the 'Storm Area 51' spinoff event 'Alienstock'
Alien-hunters gather to "storm" Area 51 at an entrance to the military facility near Rachel, Nevada
People dance during a DJ set at 'Alienstock'
Women dressed as aliens
A group of people take the "Naruto run" position before they faux ran at an entrance
Audrie Clark smokes a vape outside of the Storm Area 51 Basecamp event
Attendee Ellie Urquhart walks past a security line
A man poses at an entrance gate
A mans holds an inflatable alien
Hundreds gathered in Nevada desert to 'see them aliens'
A military personnel member patrols with a dog
A man poses in an alien costume near an access point to Area 51
Attendees listen to music during Alienstock festival on the "Extraterrestrial Highway
A security guard stands at an entrance
People dance during a DJ set
People dressed in costumes chant as they approach a gate to Area 51
A woman is detained by law enforcement after crossing into Area 51
A bus arrives for a 'Storm Area 51' spinoff event
A man poses for photos as attendees gather to "storm" Area 51
An attendee wears a tinfoil hat
Danny Philippou, of Australia, pretends to "Naruto run"
Law enforcement monitor a gate to Area 51
People play with a football during a DJ set at 'Alienstock'
People do the "Naruto run" at the gates of Area 51
People celebrate on the road back after visiting a military security gate near Area 51
Men dressed as aliens dance at the 'Storm Area 51' spinoff event
Alien-hunters headed to Area 51 after a viral craze that saw them commit to storm the mysterious US military base as a variety of events are taking place to mark the weekend, including music festivals in a variety of locations
Martin Custodio wears a Pepe mask while standing near razor wire at an entrance to the Nevada Test and Training Range near Area 51
A boy wears a tinfoil hat at the gates of Area 51
A man dressed as an alien dances at the 'Storm Area 51' spinoff event 'Alienstock
Revelers pose at the 'Storm Area 51' spinoff event 'Alienstock'
Alien-hunters gather to "storm" Area 51 at an entrance to the military facility near Rachel, Nevada
People dance during a DJ set at 'Alienstock'
Women dressed as aliens
In the buildup to the release of Joker, the much-discussed new antihero film centered on the main villain of the Batman franchise, the media latched onto one specific narrative: that the film had potential to inspire real-world violence, particularly from incels, who some believed might feel some sort of kinship with the movies angry loner version of the Joker. Pundits worried that the film could even lead to a repeat of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting, which took place at a movie theater showing The Dark Knight Rises. That movie was the final installment in Christopher Nolans Batman trilogy, the second of which starred Heath Ledger as the Joker and renewed the characters status as a cultural icon.
Though rumors that the Aurora shooter was inspired by the character of the Joker turned out to be false, the memory is clearly still strong for many people including victims of the 2012 shooting, some of whom penned an open letter to Warner Bros. asking the studio to push for stricter gun control alongside Jokers release. This prompted director Todd Phillips to defend his film, noting that it was unfair to blame either The Dark Knight Rises, Joker, or the Joker character himself for the actions or possible actions of mass shooters.
In order to learn more about the factors influencing the media coverage around the film and how those factors compare to the real motives that typically influence this kind of violence, I turned to journalist Robert Evans, a longtime expert on extremist communities and the host of the Behind the Bastards podcast, which examines the lives and cultural contexts of a wide range of bastards, including many extremists and radicals throughout history.
Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Why do you think so many people in the press specifically latched onto Joker as an example of media that could potentially inspire dangerous extremism and vigilante justice?
I think there are two chief reasons. One of them is completely unjustified, and one of them is partially justified by things that have happened before. I think the chief reason, and the unjustified reason, that people are focusing on the Joker movie is The Dark Knight Rises and the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora. Theres actually a major misconception: The shooter was not dressing up as the Joker [during the attack on the movie theater]. He was in no way trying to carry out something from the movie. I have never seen any evidence that he was a particular fan of Heath Ledgers Joker or of that [film] in general. This was misinformation that was put out by a police officer who was interviewed by a couple of newspapers.
But if you actually study what the shooter said in interviews, what he wrote in his notebooks, what hed been talking about with the therapist, he had this very strange sort of quasi-spiritual belief that his value as a person was low, and he could kill people because their lives would add to his.
Most mass shooters are not mentally ill. He is one of the fairly rare ones who had some significant mental illness, and it had nothing to do with the movie. But because it occurred on that day, because his hair was dyed a garish color and because the pundits didnt know what they were talking about [when they] spread that misinformation, that belief [that the Joker was an influence] was widespread. So I think thats a reason people are worried about this movie, and I think its the unjustified one.
Now, the one that is a little bit justified is the shooting of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. [in 1981], because Hinckley was partly inspired by the  movie Taxi Driver. He was also a very mentally ill man who believed that he would be able to have a relationship with Jodie Foster if he impressed her in that way. Its a pretty famous story.
Im not going to say theres no precedent for a movie hitting someone who has a mental health issue in a way that it causes them to do something inexplicable and terrible, but thats extremely rare. I cant think of another case where its been that direct other than the case of John Hinckley. I dont see that as particularly likely.
And again, I think its incredibly important to note that of the significant number of mass shooters in American history, virtually none of them had preexisting diagnosed mental illnesses. And when we look at the intellectual problem, you know, people are worried about the Joker movie within the context of incel and white supremacist terror groups. Like people on 8chan, which has been [involved in] carrying out the majority of at least the most publicized mass shootings of the last year or so. But I would say [their actions have] nothing to do with mental illness. Those are people who see themselves as part of a cause and who are taking action to further that cause. Their actions may seem inexplicable to people, but that doesnt mean that the illness has anything to do with it.
How much of the films media coverage do you think is predicated on the character of the Joker himself, who is an anarchistic, violent mayhem spreader?
If you actually look at the propaganda these mass shooters spread, the Joker and other fictional vigilantes dont play into it at all. Theyre much more likely to spread videos and writings by, for example, the Columbine shooters, [Eric] Harris and [Dylan] Klebold, Harris in particular. Like, thats the kind of guy they look to as an idol, not a comic book character.
When they spread fictional stuff and characters that have inspired them, its usually stuff like [the 1978 novel about extremist violence] The Turner Diaries or Unintended Consequences, which is a novel about gun culture in the US. Theres a book called Siege by a guy named James Mason, and its a guide to carrying out the neo-Nazi insurgency. And the goal is to essentially perpetrate a series of mass shootings and bombings across the country carried out by small cells or individuals, but theres no centralized organizational structure. The Turner Diaries is essentially the same thing, but rather than it being the work of decentralized individuals carrying out attacks to destabilize governments, its a secret terrorist group called [The Organization].
For one thing, the Joker is kind of an inherently apolitical figure, and these guys tend to have very political motivations for doing what theyre doing. Im completely baffled by the fact that so many folks in the media seem to be focusing on the Jokers ability to inspire incels to terrorism because the Joker is famously in a long-term relationship with somebody. Like, its odd that thats so focused on. [Editors note: Though the Joker is in a long-term relationship with Harley Quinn in most portrayals of the character in the DC Comics universe, Joker presents him as a loner who fixates dangerously on women.]
Well, I think theres a conflation happening there. I think people in the media are inaccurately conflating incel culture with all of alt-right culture and, to some extent, all of Gamergate. Theres a lot of inherently negative stereotypes about geek culture that go into that.
Its best to see these communities as a bunch of interlocking circles, where you have incels and you have neo-Nazis, then you have Columbiners. You have the Bowl Patrol people who obsess over [Charleston shooter] Dylann Roof. You have all these different groups, and they have sometimes considerable overlap. A lot of incel culture has been very infected by weird, more esoteric, national socialist racial theory.
But I dont see nerd culture feeding into it as much as [the fact that] the kind of people who get into radical extremism are often the kind of people who spend most of their time online. [They] tend to be insular people, and so theyre also interested in that stuff. Its like, just because most of them are, or were, at some point gamers. that doesnt mean that video games made them do this or made it more likely that they would do this.
Its just that the kind of people who are going to be in these radicalized communities also tend to have obsessive personalities and [arent] super social. So they wind up in these online communities, where more explicit and ideological members of these movements are trying to recruit and draw people in.
Thats part of why I think its a big mistake to focus on this movie as a driver of radicalization. The stuff that convinces these people to act is so much deeper than a movie about a failed clown who murders a bunch of people.
I mean, look at the content theyre sharing. Its very explicitly racist, very explicitly, um, [genocidal] and includes [it] is a thousand times more violent and hateful than anything that a mainstream movie would come out [with].
Like a lot of the things that are shared most often [on places] like 8chan, youre going to see pictures from the Oklahoma City bombing, from the victims of mass shootings. That sort of thing. Its celebrating the violence. One of the most popular pieces of media circulated among these groups on that front [is the video from] the terrorist shooting in Christchurch, which is worse than anything youre ever going to see in a movie.
From trying to understand where the media is coming from regarding the film and its surrounding cultural context, I think that a lot of the concern might be motivated by the Christchurch shooting and the fact that the shooter left behind that meme-filled manifesto. People who are less familiar with the actual granular planning and structures of these communities, they look at the alt-right movement and they see it proliferating with memes, and then they look at the Joker.
I think that critics see the Joker as this villain who frames violence within this context of nihilistic anarchy where nothing matters. And some also see that as fully aligned with the alt-right approach, and the alt-right milieu of benefiting from mass hysteria by claiming that everybody else is too serious. They see those things as being very culturally aligned. And you look at things like the Christchurch shooter saying subscribe to PewDiePie before opening fire, and that seems like a very Joker-like thing to do.
I see why people might conflate that. I think theres a number of errors in that thinking and its the people kind of failing to grasp whats going on in these peoples heads.
One of those errors would be ... anarchism doesnt appeal. By and large, there are people who believe very strict hierarchy: biological hierarchy, racial hierarchy, and social hierarchy. One of the reasons that theres been some misconceptions in the media is the clown world meme, which is a very common white nationalist meme that popped up earlier this year. The idea is that they have like a Pepe figure [Pepe the Frog is a famous internet meme thats notoriously been appropriated by the alt-right] thats wearing clown makeup and a clown wig and stuff. And I think people who dont understand what the meme is about think it ties in somehow to the Joker.
It doesnt. When the extremists are calling something the clown world, what theyre saying is that the fact that women are able to work [in important jobs], or the fact that women are in positions of power, the fact that we have multiculturalism, the fact that we have a multi-ethnic society thats all inherently absurd and wrong.
And so, because the world is so broken by the fact that women are going to get jobs and that people of different races can now live among each other, because thats so fundamentally broken in their minds, our world is a clown world. Thats what theyre saying.
I mean, Im sure plenty of [these people] enjoyed watching the second Christopher Nolan Batman movie, and Heath Ledgers Joker. Maybe some of them enjoy [Joker]. But theyre fundamentally not interested in violent extremism for reasons of just causing chaos. [For instance,] people who are fans of that book Siege or The Turner Diaries, [they want] to destabilize society to such an extent that a fascist dictatorship is able to take hold and the white supremacist state can arise and exterminate the nonwhite. Thats the goal of an extremist like that. Online, in communities like 8chan and other groups, people who are fans of that are referred to by other white nationalists as Siege-heads. There are different sort of communities within the white nationalist scene online.
Again, these arent anarchists. They see themselves as soldiers fighting for a cause. I just dont think theyre going to find much to appeal to them in a movie like Joker or in that character. The people who are already on that path [dont need a movie to tip the scale].
They just arrested that young woman in Florida. And she had a copy of The Turner Diaries with her. Im sure she had other white nationalist literature. She wasnt influenced or inspired by any Hollywood movie. She was obsessed with the Columbine shooters and [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh. Its the same thing with [the Christchurch shooter, who] didnt really cite any fiction as an influence in his radicalization path. It was the online community and these esoteric works of Nazi racial theory, and the sort of attitudes expressed in these communities about white genocide.
Members of these groups have been pushing for white genocide [for] 40, 50 years. The idea that a 90-minute Hollywood movie that just has a character who looks like a generic young male terrorist the idea that that would be what tips anybody into violence? Thats absurd to me.
I dont think its impossible that somebody would pick a showing of that movie to go shoot up. But if that happens, its not been inspired by the Joker. Its because they saw a bunch of media coverage talking about how everyones worried that the movie is going to inspire a mass shooting, and they were like, Okay, well, maybe if I do it there. Ill get a bunch of media attention.
But I think that happening is unlikely, just because of how much security theres going to be in a lot of showings. Thats one of the big stories theres all these people issuing warnings [to theatergoers about the movie and possible dangers they fear it could pose].
These [potential shooters] dont want a hard target. They want to be able to rack up a huge death toll and then ideally be taken alive, which is one of the big wrinkles introduced by [the Christchurch shooter].
I think its not been reported on enough, but this idea that [shooters] dont have to die carrying out an attack is one of the major new things thats changed about this sort of violence this year.
If you were going to give advice to members of the media reporting on these I almost dont want to say reporting on these stories, because in some cases the media are creating the stories, arent they? But when were reporting on what seems like the nexus of internet culture, geek culture, and the anarchistic upheaval in these types of antihero films how would you suggest we do it without perpetuating misinformation and conflating rational fear about real-world consequences with irrational panic over dangerous fiction?
I mean, I hate to say it, because I like your work and I tend to like Vox, but Im not sure its even a good idea to write about [the film], unless what youre writing about is just the fact that this culture of hysteria has crept up around the movie.
I am not aware of any actual experts [who research methods for] countering violent extremism, people who are regarded within that community, who consider this [movie] a particular cause for worry or source of radicalization. And I dont have any worries about this film [inciting any violence, either].
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Issued on: 03/10/2019 - 03:36
Hong Kong (AFP)
He may have become a far-right internet meme in the West, but Pepe the Frog's image is being rehabilitated in Hong Kong where democracy protesters have embraced him as an irreverent symbol of their resistance.
Throughout the more than 100 days of protests rocking the international finance hub, banners featuring the cartoon frog and stuffed toys of the amphibian have become ubiquitous, providing much-needed moments of levity as the violence escalates.
Pepe fervour reached new heights on Monday night when hundreds of demonstrators -- many festooned with stickers or holding cuddly toys -- formed a human chain along the city's harbourfront, chanting slogans and singing protest songs.
Some of the Pepe toys brought by the largely young participants were decked in the yellow hard hats and gas masks worn by protesters in their clashes with police.
"In the United States it's a hate symbol, but now it is reborn in Hong Kong as a symbol of love and freedom," a 21 year-old animation student, who gave her name as Phoenix, told AFP.
"Even in a really tough situation, we still want to feel hope and be happy. If we can maintain our minds in a positive way, then maybe we can keep protesting and find a way to win," she added.
Pepe's embrace by Hong Kongers is the latest bizarre twist in the fate of a cartoon character who went from relative internet obscurity to international notoriety.
But it also shows how popular digital trends can mean very different things depending on where you live in the world.
- Alt-right appropriation -
Created in 2005 by American artist Matt Furie as a "chill frog-dude", Pepe became an internet meme within online forums.
During Donald Trump's election campaign he was embraced by the alt-right and white nationalist corners of the internet, leading Furie to pronounce his original creation dead in 2017.
But in Hong Kong and China, Pepe never had those connotations and was instead known as the "sad frog".
The character became especially popular earlier this year when he appeared within downloadable WhatsApp sticker packs which users add to messages.
When huge pro-democracy rallies broke out in June, young Hong Kongers were already pinging Pepe stickers to each other.
But new protest-themed variations of Pepe quickly emerged, transforming him into a pro-democracy Everyman.
Soon Pepe was being graffitied onto pavements, plastered across protest "Lennon Walls", even painted on finger-nails.
"The creator of Pepe said he was dead, but now he's alive again here," declared a 26-year-old graphic designer surnamed Leung, who attended Monday's protest with friends.
Many of those at Monday's rally said the quirky nature of Pepe provided some light-hearted relief in a dark time.
A day after the Pepe-themed protest the city saw the most most violent clashes to date as China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule.
"Because we have the masks on our faces, we have to express our feelings in other ways," explained Dennis, a 26 year-old physics graduate who has set up an Instagram account that gathers the new Pepe memes.
Yet Pepe's new appeal also lies in his flexibility, Dennis said.
- Pepe v Popo -
In Hong Kong, he is no longer just mainland China's "sad" frog meme. Instead he is a defiant expression of the frustration many Hong Kongers feel under China's rule and its Beijing-loyalist local leaders.
"My own definition is that Pepe is for the people, in contrast to the 'Popo' -- the police -- who are not," he said.
Protesters are increasingly aware of Pepe's inadvertent connection to the far right.
When the New York Times ran an article in August on the controversial character's adoption in Hong Kong, it sparked an extensive debate on the online forums and social media platforms used to organise the protests.
Would continuing to use their much-loved icon harm their cause?
A consensus appeared to emerge. Hong Kong's Pepe was a distinctly local meme. And if his notoriety in the West would help keep international attention focused on the protest movement, so be it.
Phoenix believes Pepe is both a symbol of the protest movement but also a rejection of the idea that anyone else -- be it Beijing or the West -- gets to speak for them.
"He could represent a lot of things, so he is what we make it. For me that's about freedom," she said.
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Another day, another seemingly harmless symbol you cant use without appearing to be a purveyor of hate.
The alt-rights latest trophy is the OK hand sign, which was officially recognised as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League over the weekend. And on Tuesday, it was reported that a Universal Orlando Resort employee was fired after concerned parents found a photo of him making the hand sign on their six-year-olds shoulder (their child is biracial and has autism).
The OK sign joins a number of surprising symbols co-opted by the alt-right, such as the milk emoji, Pepe the frog and even, at one point, Taylor Swift.
Sometimes, trolls choices are far-fetched and innocuous the milk emoji was appropriated because of the allegedly superior ability of white people to drink milk (large numbers of people in the rest of the world are lactose intolerant). But the transformation of mundane symbols into something to be feared is part of a broader aim to garner media attention, and getting one up on the people they think theyre fooling.
Reporters dont always understand that [trolls] seek media attention when they see something get media uptake, they capitalise on it, says Dr Joan Donovan, a media manipulation expert who is the director of Harvards Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project.
She explains how these media manipulators see an opportunity for example, when something goes viral or becomes popular and choose it as a moment to insert themselves into the conversation. In the case of the Facebook Trash Doves sticker, for example, 4chan users noticed the cartoon go viral and sent out the rallying cry: Lets make this normie meme a Nazi symbol!
The trolls have a laugh when the journalists are fooled
With this process, they flex their muscles, showing that what the Lord giveth, the alt-right can take away. And its done through elaborate means, too: with Trash Doves, 4chan-users began to photoshop swastikas on to the viral Facebook cartoon. Sometimes theyre even more sophisticated, creating fake content cards like that of the ADLs. They circulate the content online through social media, leaving it out as bait for undiscerning journalists who perpetuate the hoax by writing about it as if it is an authentic hate-threat.
This is their trick: they are hoping journalists will uncritically look at the OK symbol, find these infographics that claim it stands for white power and then write about it. The trolls have a laugh when the journalists are fooled, says Donovan.
These become symbols of hate pretty much exclusively because of journalistic coverage, says Wendy Phillips, who wrote This is Why We Cant Have Nice things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture.
Ultimately, this a game about power: if rightwing trolls can make the so-called liberal media look gullible, then it has a delegitimising effect, supporting the idea that journalists are oversensitive, easily triggered snowflakes. Soon enough, the news begins to feels like it belongs to a parody website rather than real life.
What memes do is they create in-groups and out-groups. The in-groups know its satirical, the out-groups think its something to fear, says Donovan.
Part of the effect is to make you think that white supremacists could be everywhere, hiding in plain sight. If someone as important as the president could be one of them Trump likes to flash the gesture when he speaks who else is? Heck, maybe youre a white supremacist, because the last time you sent an OK emoji you were unwittingly signalling your belief in the superiority of the white race.
At some point, life begins to imitate their art, and what began as a media hoax takes on dangerously radical connotations. This point came when the Australian man charged with killing 51 people at mosques in New Zealand, made the OK gesture during a courtroom appearance after being arrested.
Phillips says even if stories written about these memes are incredulous or mocking, they might help the cause, since media attention is what those groups are after.
Many of us tend to be very fascinated in the bad guys themselves which is understandable but they are the smallest part of the story, she says.
So what does this mean for journalists? Phillips argues that media organisations cant ever truly separate themselves from the amplification of white nationalists if they have to report on them.
Instead, she advocates for the media to shift the camera away from the white supremacists and focus on its real victims. That means looking at its impact on minority communities in places like Texas, and on the people who live in the small towns that neo-Nazis turn up in. It means highlighting the toxic resentment of women that the patriarchal ideology of white nationalism results in, and what it feels like for a mother to have white supremacists take her daughter away.
Ultimately, it means reporting the news but in a different way, says Phillips: I dont think the media shouldnt tell the truth, you should just tell a bigger truth: about the impact of these behaviours, instead of just reporting on the genesis of them.
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