Discussing modern politics can sometimes sound like you're having a very specific seizure. For example: the CEO of Jerry Media, the multimillion dollar media empire that was built on stealing social media posts before helping to inflict the Fyre Festival on an undeserving planet, teamed up with the sleazy co-founder of LinkedIn to create Meme 2020, which supported Michael Bloomberg's Presidential campaign before helping the Lincoln Project create an animated Trump versus Reagan rap battle aimed at anti-Trump Republican voters. We apologize if that inadvertently activated the Winter Soldier.
There's a lot to unpack there, in the same sense that unpacking a cursed sarcophagus will unleash a swarm of carnivorous scarab beetles that blot out the sun. Watching "Reagan vs Trump Debate | Cartoon Rap Battle" is like watching the Ark of the Covenant attempt a stand-up routine, but how did we reach the point where deleted Family Guy cutaways are being created to woo the five Americans who have both fond memories of the Reagan administration and love rap? And how is the goddamn Fyre Festival involved?
In 2016, when Hilary Clinton was telling voters to Pokemon Go to the polls, Trump was telling voters which crimes he'd give a whirl first, and the internet was deciding they were equally cringeworthy, the Clinton campaign was worried they weren't attracting enough young voters. It was a problem that election post-mortems found they never solved: optimistic talk of countering Trump's omnipresent social media presence now reads like an inside look at the horse and buggy's innovative plan to disrupt the automobile industry.
Today, after four years of careful study and planning, the Biden campaign is ... exactly as worried about young voters as Clinton was. That's not for lack of trying: watching Trump serve as America's first shitposting President has somehow imparted the lesson that Democrats need to beat Trump at his own game, rather than the realization that chasing after the people who unironically reply "Thank you, sir! Another epic win!" to Trump's complaint that Great Clips isn't acknowledging D-Day on Thanksgiving is not a winning strategy.
In a misguided attempt to attract those mythical young voters, we were warned "Michael Bloomberg's Campaign Suddenly Drops Memes Everywhere." You may recall that Bloomberg's "The Out of Touch Oligarch You Can Trust" campaign was received with all the enthusiasm of a cholera outbreak, but in mid-February a spokesperson told MSNBC "While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we're betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump's powerful digital operation." Less than a month after this decree was issued with all the confidence of a spokesman declaring that dropping more napalm was essential to winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese, Bloomberg's campaign was euthanized.
That should have been the last time we were forced to gaze upon the forbidden Lovecraftian text that is "Meme 2020." But we live in a world where a massive failure is just an opportunity to say "Uh, I meant to do that, and it's very embarrassing for you to not realize my master plan." There's always a new angle to take, at least if you're the profiteering nihilists at Jerry Media, nee Fuck. Jerry Media -- which, again, became a company large enough to charge $75,000 to share a sponsored post with their 15 million Instagram followers solely by posting screenshots of other people's jokes with the names ripped off -- heavily promoted the Fyre Festival right up until it became the douchebag Hindenburg, after which they co-produced the Fyre documentary and painted themselves as one of the affair's many put-upon victims. Slithering out of their association with incompetence and stupidity for their own benefit is their specialty.
So The New York Times declared that Jerry Media was building "a self-aware ironic character around Mr. Bloomberg" and let Meme 2020 minions wax poetic about how they've created the "most successful ad that I've ever posted." Then a representative was allowed to unhinge their jaw and gurgle "We're trying to break the mold in how the Democratic Party works with marketing, communication and advertising, and do it in a way that's extremely internet and social native," before going live on Twitch to swallow a dozen live mice with "Bloomberg" scrawled on them in paint.
A few months after Bloomberg finished hemorrhaging money in an effort to make himself less popular than Jeffrey Dahmer, The Hollywood Reporter told us that Meme 2020's efforts had "gained attention." Their subsequent release of "Reagan vs Trump Debate," which is the kind of rap you get by holding Macklemore at gunpoint and forcing him to watch puppies be kicked to death, was called "a serious strategy" by one of its creators, who is afforded several paragraphs to ramble with a straight face about what a brilliant idea it was to have a cartoon Mitt Romney warble "There was a black President, now there's an orange one." If someone is repeatedly caught masturbating in a public park, your reporting probably shouldn't focus on the fact that they're generating some real buzz.
There are two reasons we're telling you about this. First, "Reagan vs Trump Debate" is credited to Beau Lewis, who also gave the world "a 2019 short in which figures including Alexander Hamilton explain crypto-currency" and is "currently working on developing a hip-hop musical, called Co-Founders, about Silicon Valley." (So when his trial at the Hague begins, you'll be up to date.) But second, this is the horrible apex of looking back at what failed in 2016 and saying "That was incredible, let's do it again and really cash-in this time!"
"Reagan vs Trump Debate" doesn't say anything, just like the dumb Bloomberg memes didn't say anything. It's seven a half goddamn minutes of "Trump uses Twitter too much, haha, burn," which you may recall as the exact approach that created this mess. Only now the creators of this strategy can confidently declare that they're bringing "a diversity of people together, both liberal and conservative, for a common cause of voting -- against Trump -- including Gen Z and millennials who don't yet have a long voting history and may believe their votes don't matter." Sure, because if there's one thing voters love, it's the assumption that four years of cruel ineptitude won't encourage them to act, but a video where Trump dresses as Darth Vader and wields a lightsaber shaped like a golf club will.
Attempting to defeat Trump by trying to mock him on the internet is like sticking it to a clown by pointing out that his shoes are too big and his nose looks weird. He knows. Everyone knows, and you're the one who looks stupid for just now figuring it out. Meme 2020 is stepping onto a battleground where Trump's alt-right supporters are using memes to promote white supremacy, taking its cues from the "Gosh, that Donald fella sure is a bit silly, ain't he?" cartoon Stephen Colbert has been shitting out for three years, and planning a victory lap to celebrate their self-proclaimed innovation. The strategy is supposedly to annoy Trump into making mistakes, but you don't embarrass the clown by badgering him into shooting an unusual amount of seltzer out of his giant lapel flower. Trying to beat Trump at his own game is like bringing a feather duster to a knife fight with someone who wants you dead because of a three-hour phrenology video suggested to them by Facebook.
It's understandable if you can't think back to the start of this article, because that was before we introduced your virgin ears to a video that spews "Freedom used to be part of our zeitgeist, baby, now with immigration control [Trump] thinks he's ICE ICE, baby." But this abomination is co-created by The Lincoln Project, Republicans who long for the good old Bush-era days of military quagmires and police shootings being ignored with a quiet dignity. They've endorsed Biden in the hopes of getting a piece of the post-Trump pie, and they're opportunists in their own right. In fact, they're currently being criticized for stealing memes, bringing us full stupid circle.
Their other efforts have been praised with headlines like "Lincoln Project only needed 19 words to show these 4 fatal flaws with Trump's payroll tax holiday," "Could this anti-Trump Republican group take down the president?" and "How the Lincoln Project Gets Into Trump's Head." They aren't getting into his head, because there's nothing there to get into, but calling the use of clown emojis and videos where Trump is dubbed fat and impotent "savage" is such a low bar that ants would struggle to limbo it.
Trump has spent four years pissing in the online pool, and apparently the response is "What if we did that, but much less effectively, and with the help of the people who were complacent in his creation?" Putting a laugh track over Trump quotes and dubbing it "Trumpfeld" and declaring yourself awesome for doing so isn't just refusing to learn from your past mistakes, it's insisting that the future fellate you even as 2016-esque "This is just proof that both options suck!" comments riddle your inept creations. If someone who voted Trump in 2016 is finally swayed by, of all things, the mockery of Trump's hair and a "No re-election for you" gag so hoary it needs to be carbon dated, Cracked will pay to have them studied.
If Trump loses -- and it is still an if -- it will be because of his historic unpopularity, not because Republicans bombed the internet with "Trump is ugly and stupid!" jokes. But, much like how Harding was the first President to communicate over the radio and Eisenhower was the first candidate to run television ads, Trump was the first leader to engage with the kind of people who say "ROFL, triggered much?" when you ask if the government will consider doing something about your six figure hospital bill. It's not going away now, and 2020 has shown us that it's only going to get weirder, because there's money in pretending it's important no matter how ineffective it really is. Just something to keep in mind for 2024, when Halliburton lobbyists give kids on 8chan a million dollars to create a Myspace 2.0 holovid accusing Biden of being a "Wet Ass President" on defense spending.
Top Image: Rhyme Combinator/YouTube