How ‘Thanks, Obama’ Explains American Politics

Nona Willis Aronowitz explains the “Thanks, Obama” meme writing at Medium:

Barack Obama, slumped like a sullen teen, attempts to dunk a cookie in milk, only to realize with chagrin that the edges scrape haplessly against the cup’s rim. His snack game thwarted, the president mutters with a click of his teeth:

“Thanks, Obama.”

thanks obama

These few seconds of a Buzzfeed video, which has been viewed more than 55 million times since February, signaled the moment when the one of the most malleable, morally complex political memes of our time arrived at its logical conclusion. It was a meta, sarcastic take on a phrase whose very humor and power lies in sarcasm, uttered by the very man it seeks to either lambast or defend, depending on whom you voted for. The “Thanks, Obama” meme was first used six years ago, and has ricocheted from deep-red backchannels to liberal talk shows and back again: in an Instagram caption for a shattered beer bottle, in a Facebook post from an incensed conservative, in a nonsensical, racist Reddit post, in a tweet from a teenage boozehound bemoaning her underage status.

The phrase “Thanks, Obama” is so multilayered that it has endless potential for manipulation and co-opting, for ambiguity and plausible deniability. And yet the fact that we instantly grasp its meaning in context says more about American politics than all the ephemeral campaign memes put together. Our two-party system is so polarized, with each side’s loyalists so convinced of the other’s idiocy, that overstatement usually goes unchallenged, whether it’s on national television or a casual #thanksobama hashtag. Meanwhile, our media tableau is vast yet compartmentalized, a series of little echo chambers in which it’s safe to make political jokes you just know your Facebook friends will get.

The meme emerged during the bloody aftermath of the Great Recession…

[continues at at Medium]


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