Hunter Biden fan pages created by ‘tongue-in-cheek’ creators find millions of viewers

Hunter Biden’s controversial laptop story has been fully processed, cooked and digested as meme fodder on Instagram, featuring several major dedicated accounts celebrating and satirically portraying him as some sort of dystopian hero.

That meme creators have embraced the storyline speaks to a shift in contemporary online humor and the sense of political disillusionment they have felt in recent years, three meme creators said in interviews. The posts are part of a larger online movement called “irony-posting,” a countercultural style of meme-making defined by levels of irony or satire that, in some cases, satirizes itself.

For some of the meme creators, Hunter Biden has become an icon due to his polarizing and radioactive positioning as a hot topic. The more coverage it gets — or doesn’t get — the more inspiration they get for their memes, the creators said.

“The current state of politics, how performative and theatrical everything is, there’s no need for ‘The Onion’ anymore, because the headlines are crazy in themselves,” said Ana, 24, a Biden meme creator who posts under “neoliberalhell” and spoke on the condition that only her first name be used to protect her privacy.

Another example of a tongue-in-cheek post is “Affirmations, an Instagram account with nearly a million followers that satirizes other positive thinking pages. He posts deliberately absurd claims that poke fun at self-help and the culture of positive psychology while invoking troubling elements of current affairs and society today. Recent posts from the account include sentiments such as “I can digest plastic now” and “Being poor is trending,” highlighting fears over stagnant wages and the consumption of microplastics.

“There’s a lot of movement within the internet culture right now to find the boundaries and keep pushing, because the medium is boring and already done,” said Amanda Brennan, Tumblr’s former meme librarian, who now follows. Internet macrotrends as a trend expert for XX Artists. , a talent agency with clients like Google and YouTube. Brennan described the “ironic post” as rejecting pessimism about the current era in favor of humor about its absurdities.

Meme creators have said the proliferation of Hunter Biden memes is a balm for a generation that feels politically alienated.

“I want to see real change. I want health care and education,” Ana said. “Making fun that everything everyone cares about is so superficial and not going to trigger real change is just one way to deal with it.”

Ana said her consumption and eventual creation of tongue-in-cheek memes about politics and culture began during the pandemic. Some of his memes feature a photo that appears to be of Biden posted by The Daily Mail, which the newspaper says shows him using illegal drugs in a sensory deprivation tank at a rehab facility. NBC News has not independently verified the authenticity of the photo.

Meme creator politics aren’t uniform – Ana says she’s left-leaning, while the creator posting under ‘hunterbidensgallery’, 37, says he used to post on the pro sub-reddit -Trump “TheDonald” from Reddit, which was banned in July 2020.

“There’s a big disconnect between what baby boomers see on TV and hear on the radio and what we consume on the internet,” he said in a phone interview.

Three weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the New York Post published allegations that Biden, the president’s son, dropped a laptop containing his saved iPhone data and copies of photos, videos and text messages. , including those exchanged with his father, the president. — at a computer repair shop in Delaware in 2019. At the time, Joe Biden’s campaign press secretary Jamal Brown said the allegations were false in an interview with Cheddar. In July, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the laptop when asked about it at a press conference. NBC News obtained material purporting to be from the hard drive, which included some of the photos and videos reported by the New York Post and Daily Mail, but did not verify their authenticity.

Since then, news outlets including the Post and Daily Mail have published dozens of “laptop from hell” articles, some of which include compromising photos and videos that appear to show Biden, 52 year. Some photos and videos, many dated years ago, appear to show him using illegal drugs, as reported by the Daily Mail. Biden has written extensively about his history with drug addiction. Some of the photos also appear to show Biden, who is married, with various women in sexual situations, according to The Daily Mail. The photos and videos, the authenticity of which NBC News has not verified, have become the context in which Biden meme creators create content.

Neither the White House nor Biden’s attorney responded to requests for comment for this article.

When Biden’s laptop was first leaked to the media, some publications were criticized for not immediately covering its contents, which according to the former ‘TheDonald’ poster, who spoke under the guise of anonymity to protect his privacy, led to a flurry of memes about it.

“Hunter Biden is an elephant in the room,” he said. “The memes will talk about it. The actors will talk about it. Satirists will talk about it.

He, Ana and another Biden meme creator in their mid-20s, who call themselves “hunterbidencellelectuals” and spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their privacy, said their memes should not be confused with support to the elder Biden’s administration.

“Hunterbidencellectuals,” who identifies as a leftist, described his story as a parody of stan culture, the fanatical online communities that form around celebrities of all stripes. He said he was drawn to the narrative he sees in the contents of the notebook, which he says is one of “rebellion against not just his parents, but the actual political establishment, in his case”.

“I think it’s really easy for a lot of people to identify with, and you kind of want to ground it as a character,” he said.

Sometime after 2015, but before the start of President Donald Trump’s administration, meme culture began to fracture. Brennan, the trend tracker, said social media algorithms have favored the dominance of internet subcultures over a shared monoculture and that includes the political fringe.

Ever since the Hunter Biden laptop story first appeared in the New York Post, social media companies have struggled to moderate content related to the allegations. In the weeks since the story was published, Facebook and Twitter have acted to restrict its distribution due to concerns about its origins and veracity.

Even though more news stories and information about the story have been released, meme creators say posting content about Hunter Biden may seem risky and there may be consequences.

Instagram has removed several of Ana Biden’s memes, citing rule violations including posting images depicting illegal drugs. “Hunterbidencellelectuals” said his engagement dropped 90% over the weekend and his account was banned after Instagram deleted a months-old meme. He was able to appeal the ban a day later and restore his account, but he said he was “clearly hanging by a thread”. Creators like Ana and former poster “TheDonald” have accused Instagram and other social media platforms of using content moderation to suppress far-left and right-wing political views.

Ana’s was one of several meme accounts that protested at Instagram headquarters in July against what they see as unfair moderation of their accounts.

The former pro-Trump subreddit poster said: “They’re going to keep taking down your content. That’s what happens. Eventually, if you have a sense of humor, you’re going to break content guidelines at some point. given.

Meta, Instagram’s parent company, did not respond to a request for comment. In a previous statement about the July protest, a spokesperson for Meta wrote, “Meme creators have become a central part of emerging culture and are vital to the Instagram community.

“We appreciate the concerns raised and have entered into a direct dialogue with the organizers to address their complaints,” the statement said. “Our goal is to make it easier to understand our policies, to have fair and transparent ways to know what’s going on with their accounts, and to allow them to appeal when they think something is wrong.”

Theories of post-irony and layers of irony in forms of communication, such as memes, have flourished over the last decade of internet culture. The idea is that messages of any genre can develop layers of irony to the point that posters are no longer ironic, just heartfelt. Posting irony is the act of creating and spreading such memes by posting them in unrelated threads and spaces, according to Urban Dictionary, and being “irony-looted,” a term that has gained traction. online in recent years is to reject rationality in favor of absurdity.

Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote last year for The Atlantic that to use the suffix “looted” to describe anything is “to take a classic far-right meme and intentionally turn it into something insignificant”. . Tiffany wrote that the word “redpilled”, a reference to “The Matrix”, became popular on Reddit in 2013. In the film, characters can take the blue pill to stay ignorant and happy or swallow the red pill to see reality in all its horrors. For the alt-right, to become “redpilled” was to embrace anti-feminism, and to become “irony-pilled” was to embrace reality.

“Reality has become so absurd that celebrating how absurd everything is is kind of an ironic post,” Ana said.

Calvin W. Soper