Editorial | Smoke and mirrors

Illustrated by Gaby Fantone

It sounded like something straight out of a comedy film: the President of the United States had tweeted a Nickelback meme video on Twitter. Unfortunately for us, this was no movie and it was no joke either. Donald Trump had actually tweeted a Nickelback meme.

This past week, our staff sat around and discussed Trump tweeting that video. We joked about how ridiculous it is, we talked about the fact that a United States President faced copyright censure for a video attacking a political rival which ultimately forced the video to be taken down, we joked about the current political atmosphere and shared memes across the table.

We did this all while there’s a current impeachment inquiry against the President. And as much as we love to joke about that, it’s a serious thing. Yet we’re too busy poking fun at the entire ordeal to actually face the reality of the situation. For some of us, that’s intentional. For others, we’re simply just distracted.

The past two weeks have been dominated by news of Trump’s impeachment inquiry, with new controversies revealing themselves every day. Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the inquiry on Sept. 24, Trump has done what Trump does best: take to Twitter to respond to the criticism he’s facing.

“The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country” he tweets out, throwing personal attacks against his critics, nicknaming the “Do Nothing Democrats,” asserting that the “Corrupt” media is out to get him, calling the entire inquiry “The great Scam.” It’s something we have witnessed before: with the Mueller investigation, with the Stormy Daniels controversy and now with a whistleblower complaint that screams wrongdoing. It’s become normal to witness the Commander-in-Chief call Mitt Romney a “pompous ‘ass’” and we aren’t even phased when we see it. But the Nickelback meme drew our attention more than other tweets in the past and we’re curious as to why.

For college-aged students, we’re instantly drawn to this pop-culture reference because we’re the generation of memes. While our parents don’t necessarily understand how humorous and frankly shocking it is that Trump tweeted a Nickelback video, we do. Older generations don’t grasp the idea quite like we can.

Honestly, we’re ashamed to admit that this Nickelback meme has shifted focus away from the impeachment itself and onto memes about impeachment. Whether that was Trump’s intention or not, it has worked: we care less about the impeachment and more about jokes relating to the impeachment.

After we saw the tweet, some of us asked: How is he even President? Not to criticize his politics, but to criticize the current political climate. The video made us step back and take a hard look at the current political media environment. No longer are we paying attention to politics. We’re paying attention to the back-and-forth game that has nothing to do with actual policy.

We’re so saturated with tweets and news and media coverage that the entire office and administration is so degraded. It doesn’t even feel real that this is happening right now. It’s important that we don’t forget the amount of power he actually possesses.

Whether Trump intended the Nickelback meme to be a distraction or not, it worked. Rather than criticize our leader for behaving out-of-line, we criticize him for getting copyrighted. Rather than talk about the severity of the situation, we talked about a meme.