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Word of Mouth
Wed October 17, 2012
Here's What's Awesome! Debate Edition
More Specifically: We're talking debate memes, and how they are made.
1) Pre-debate memes: the internet doesn't have to wait for the debate to start. Before the debate got going, Gawker was among those pushing a pre-debate meme, based on a report from CNN, that Mitt Romney's debate prep included practice sitting on a bar stool, because as a Mormon he doesn't drink and therefore doesn't spend a lot of time on bar stools. Points out two themes of the night: one, the jockeying for control of "the broader narrative," and two, broader web culture playing into the "Romney is different" theme. Memes often become popular when they reinforce something a group or a web community already believes.
2) Pre-debate meme attempts: Pizza Hut was trying to build some buzz around getting someone at the debate to ask "sausage or pepperoni," sort of like the old "boxers or briefs" moment that Bill Clinton had with an audience on MTV. That was roundly mocked and they backed off.
3) Pre-debate memes: a lot of reporters were live-tweeting what wasn't on television, including the instructions to the audience. The crowd was told no cellphones, no photos, no texting and "try not to Twitter for 90 minutes." I was wondering whether that would hold, and I haven't seen any evidence that it didn't, but going forward, good luck with those kinds of admonitions. I saw that at 8:38pm - five minutes later, there was a Twitter account called @DebateAudience. It didn't pick up much beyond that, but as I say, the debates memes started before the debate itself.
4) Debate memes 1: Jeremy. The first questioner, the college student worried whether he would have a job or not when he graduated. There was a Twitter trend of #getjeremyajob. A user called Patrick Jarvis tweeted that Jeremy had just been named the new head of Citibank, with CEO Vikram Pandit having just resigned. Another user, Sean Kujawa, wrote after the debate: "Big ups to my man Jeremy shaking the president's hand after the debate. Some big time networking skills right there." There was also a Twitter account @JeremysGotaJob purporting to be Jeremy, though it didn't get many followers because it didn't launch until 11:34 pm, way after the debate got started. Have to move fast, meme makers! http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57533837-1/presidential-debate-memes-binders-of-women-a-job-for-jeremy/
5) Debate memes 2: "Romley" - moderator Candy Crowley fumbled Mitt Romney's name during the first exchange, and that got a little play on the web. Moderators are always fair game in these events, and Crowley was no exception. There was a Mitt Romley Twitter account, but again it was late in the game before I saw it. The most revealing tweet about the Romley issue was from Vanity Fair, though; they posted: "Did Candy Crowley just say "Romley"? Don't confuse these inexplicably undecided voters further, please." There has been a huge amount of, shall we say, disdain for the "undecided voters," and the feeling across much of web culture is that "undecided" means "stupid" or "uninformed." Basically, people saying, how could anyone be undecided at this point without being, to use the popular euphemism, a "low information voter"? And there was a lot of mocking of the people asking the questions. Crowley herself got a lot of play.
6) Debate memes 3: "Mr. Oil, Mr. Gas and Mr. Coal" - I thought for sure this was going to be a big hit on the web. A few anti-Romney people made a few remarks about it, but otherwise it didn't go far. I suspect this is because it came right before the true dust-up of the night, where the two candidates were really laying into each other, often at the same time, and that proved to me of more interest to the social media crowd. Since the talk beforehand was about whether the president would come out more aggressive, and how Romney might react, Mr. Oil, Mr. Gas and Mr. Coal got lost in the shuffle.
7) Debate memes 4: Binders full of women. The clear meme champion of the night. At 9:40 I made a remark that "Someone on Twitter is about to make some snarky comment about "binders full of women." That was an understatement. There were tons. One of the early ones was from a user exeromai: "Next week's episode of Dexter is called "Binders Full of Women." At 9:47 - not even ten minutes after Romney had spoken, @RomneysBinder posted its first Tweet - "Boy, I'm full of women!" Later on there was @BindersofWomen. A little after 10, less than a half hour after the comment, there was a Binders Full of Women Tumblr blog, after that a Facebook page. So the timeline for a big meme is this: starts in less than ten minutes and running at full speed across the web in less than an hour.
NOTE: there were few successful memes around things Obama said. Web culture - not the web itself, but this sort of collective web culture - has a tilt away from Romney and toward Obama. At one point the president said the word "gangbangers" and I thought that might get some play, but not much.