By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
HILLARY CLINTON FOUND time in her busy schedule of coughing fits, senior moments and stumbling over empty spaces to alert the world to the evil movement behind Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. At a speech in Reno like a wise schoolmarm she intoned the name of the Beast slouching its way to Washington — the “alt-right”, and its litany of “deplorable” sins: racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacism and nationalism. She managed to deliver all this in a space of 30 minutes, standing up without the aid of harness, stool or metal bollard (and without coughing), so the medication must have been working well that night.
I shouldn’t think she had heard of the ragbag of people collectively described as the alt-right until someone in her campaign team who knew something about the internet reckoned it would sound good if they used it as a tool against Trump. Of course it is never a good idea for politicians and their teams to think they can best the net nerds and young folk when it comes to internetty stuff. You may not be able to tell your grandma how to suck eggs but your grandma sure as hell can’t tell your average youngster anything about memes and trolls.
So whatever they thought the response would be amongst the naive trusting populace not already committed to Trump — fear, terror, perturbation, a blind righteous panic to vote Democrat — they miscalculated. Those self-identifying with the movement welcomed the publicity because they had become instantly famous. Internet users formerly ignorant of it promptly sent the search engines into overdrive. The media spasmed with hysteria and everyone had a good laugh.
The laughter has continued and it’s mainly because of a green cartoon frog called Pepe. Clinton had already stumbled metaphorically into the electoral swamp by claiming half of Trump’s supporters were “deplorables”. After her alt-right speech Trump’s son posted tweeted an image of a spoof action movie, The Deplorables, featuring various members of the group dressed as soldiers, including one with the head of Pepe.
PEPE IS AN all-purpose meme people adapt for anything they want but since some on the alt-right had used him the Clinton team went into full righteous apoplexy, even warning folks on the official campaign site:
Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the “alt-right.” They’ve decided to take back Pepe by adding swastikas and other symbols of anti-semitism and white supremacy.
Except the supposedly alt-right, white supremacist they quote there was spoofing them. The truth is that this was a fine example of two friends executing a brilliant trolling action on the media and the political class. They knew the journalist they spoke to originally would run with the story without questioning it: “Now we have MSNBC and the Clinton campaign citing a troll story about a meme.”
Future political strategists should use this as a case history of how to avoid making a fool of yourself with the internet. Not just yet, however, because the Clinton campaign have still yet removed the page about Pepe. That’s probably because they’ve been distracted by something more important – namely the obvious ill-health of Hillary Clinton herself.
Having dismissed as conspiracy theories the increasing comments about her health, the media were put on the back foot when she collapsed at the 9/11 memorial ceremony. That’s when the metal bollard proved useful in holding her up before the half dozen or more of her handlers stopped her from headbutting the road, and bundled her into her private ambulance. Sorry, personal vehicle. We would not have known about this episode if it weren’t for one courageous citizen journalist who videoed the scene. Unlike the tame eunuchs of the professional media who had obeyed instructions not to film anything.
THE OBSEQUIOUS COWARDICE of the media continued. First we were told she had overheated because it was a very hot day, despite the fact that no one else keeled over. Then it was dehydration. Finally we were informed she had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days beforehand but had decided to soldier on and it had caught up with her. Yes, it’s a funny thing, that pneumonia. Not quite the same as a cold. Somebody should have told her.
The BBC repeatedly couched her collapse in ambivalent terms: she “appeared” to faint, it “seemed” like she stumbled. You’ve got to give them credit for finding the most lickspittleish phrases to avoid the truth yet it looks like the tinfoil hat brigade have been vindicated in this case.
Both the 9/11 fall and the punking by Pepe show a political class in serious moral and physical decay. If Clinton gets elected all bets are off as to how long she will survive but one thing is certain: Pepe the green cartoon frog will taunt her all the way.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.