The nonstop political shitblizzard of the past three years has turned even the most thought-we-were-hinged among us completely insane. But of all the ways the internet has gotten exponentially worse in every possible direction, one extremely stupid trend has really caught fire in the past year, even among seemingly reasonable people. It's finding DEEP, VIRAL MEANING in a single photo of a public figure's facial expression or body language.
For example, at Barbara Bush's funeral in April, a photo of Melania Trump cracking a smile while sitting next to Barack Obama went viral. This prompted not just the typical Trump insults, but also an array of extremely serious takes about what the photo MEANS.
Here's a tweet with 15,000+ retweets jokingly asking people not to share the pic with Trump because it's the "first time she's smiled in years." Another (10K likes) claims "Obama is a funny guy, but that's a woman craving distance from a monster being reminded what dignity looks like." And another asks "Have you ever, ever, EVER seen Melania smile like this, and look this relaxed, beside her own husband? Ever?"
Donald Trump sucks the maximum amount, and he should be made fun of at every possible opportunity. But these particular posts aren't just standard Trump twitter insults; they're Breitbart-esque grabs at virality that claim to be revealing some underlying fundamental truth. "Look at Melania's face ... only a woman impaled by the claws of Stockholm syndrome could exude such a mournful countenance. And her lone respite? Being near Obama once." Or ... she just kind of smiled for a second. As she's done a bunch of other times.
One of the most popular iterations of this phenomenon was a pic of Obama "staring down" Vladimir Putin at a G20 Summit. The pic went viral on Reddit a year ago with 26,000 upvotes, then again two months ago with the added caption "Remember when our President HAD BALLS?"
Our heroically scowling president also inspired a viral tweet:
And basically the same viral tweet a couple months later:
YEAH! That's how a president is SUPPOSED to treat a scummy foreign leader. By GLARING DOWN at him. Trump doesn't have the BALLS to look vaguely mean at Putin for half a second. Of course, it again takes just a few keystrokes to find a dozen pics of Obama and Putin smiling together:
Also, what do we actually think Obama was doing there? He met with Putin and just SNEERED at him the whole time, because he's so anti-Putin? Is that what we want our world leaders to do? "This head of state I'm meeting with is one of the bad ones, so I better demonstrably frown at him for our entire conversation. He'll be so intimidated by my failure to display the basic skills of human interaction that he'll totally ease up on jailing journalists."
Finding deep meaning in minuscule body language goes beyond presidents we've already made up our minds about. If we're in the mood, we can turn any small gesture by a public figure into a symbolic banner for our everyday problems. Check out German Chancellor Angela Merkel giving an EPIC EYE ROLL to Putin at the G20 summit:
83,000 retweets! We literally don't even know what they were discussing there, but it was definitely an EPIC eye roll at Putin's MANSPLAINING, and not just a human making the lightest normal conversational facial gesture imaginable.
YESSSS. Her eye roll is EVERYTHING. I mean, here's Merkel and Putin shaking hands and smiling in February. Or them laughing together when they were both protested by a women's rights group in 2013. But yes, her eye roll was definitely meant to convey "Stop mansplaining, PUTIE." Like how all normal people (especially heads of state) make aggressive, loaded gestures in the other person's face, then continue calmly conversing with them.
Anyway, here's another EPIC Merkel eye roll at TRUMP!!!
Again, this is definitely a case of Trump's badness (which we all know!) causing such deep disgust in Merkel (who is us!!!) that she can't control her very meaningful body language.
Here they are smiling together seconds earlier:
She's secretly disgusted, though. Don't read into this one-second image. Read into the other one-second image, the one where she's doing the thing that kinda vaguely looks like she hates Trump, which we also do. Trump is EPIC EYE ROLL, but the other head of state is, umm, ME RN??
It's certainly not a new observation that people seek out information that confirms their political biases, but this meme-ing of minute body language isn't even that. It's not even actual information or evidence of anything. They're context-free blank slates that allow us to graft whatever we already believe onto them, giving us a nice, compact, easily shareable image (which the Facebook algorithm loves, because they hate any links that take you off their site). Slap that on the timeline and blammo, you've got yourself a Fast Pass to ViralTown.
When Obama fist-bumps a White House maintenance worker, it's a wistful reminder of a time when our president had HUMAN DECENCY and RESPECT. When Trump shakes hands on the campaign trail or poses with coal miners, it's a shameless photo op. The latter's definitely true, but, c'mon, we really think Obama wasn't aware a camera was right there?
Then there's a whole UNIVERSE of Trump vs. Obama memes about how they relate to foreign leaders. Obama bowed to the Saudi King subserviently, but Trump DIDN'T:
TRUMP RULES!!! He's definitely not just a 70-year-old man who can barely move or even know what's happening around him at any time. He consciously chose NOT to bow as a display of American power.
But wait! Actually, Trump TOTALLY DID bow! Trump is a wrong foolish hypocrite, and so is Fox News for running this story!
But wait again! That wasn't technically a "bow." Trump was just receiving a medal, and Obama also bowed his head when receiving that same medal!!! And also we kind of admitted that the bowing matters by ripping on the Trump bow! So now what?? The medal-related bows cancel out, and Trump's display of power is superior again? BUT! Trump also danced with the Saudis arm-in-arm while holding swords! Which means ... he's kowtowing to them? They're kowtowing to him? WHO IS KOWTOWING??? You could literally throw this same photo on The Hill or Red State with opposite captions, and it'd go viral on both. What the hell are we even doing here?
Trump received much bigger greetings in Saudi Arabia AND in China than Obama did. That can only mean one thing: They RESPECT Trump, and walked all over Obama. Unless, of course, those receptions were reversed, in which case it would PROVE that Saudi Arabia and China HATE Trump because he's TOO TOUGH ON THEM, while they love Obama because he's a chummy pushover. It would take no effort to spin it the total opposite way. "And the Saudi Muslims seem very excited to welcome Obama. VERY INTERESTING ..."
Basically, it's an endless cycle of total bullshit wherein we just grab any tiny, context-less images we can scrape together, shape them to whatever we already believe (mansplaining is bad, so Putin was probably mansplaining), and send it off to go extremely viral among other people who already agree with us and also hate to read. We not only don't want the context; we actively avoid the context, because everything's just so much more streamlined when it's "person we like OWNING person we don't like, period." It's really, transcendentally stupid, even by the incredibly stupid standards of how stupid everything is right now.
You know what kind of photos are worth sharing? Polaroids. Let's bring those back.
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