One of the first words that come to mind with President Trump in office is “distraction.” We now live in a time when distractions are easy to create and even easier to string people along with thanks to the internet’s never ending list of memes, gifs, social media posts, and fake news.
While much of the nation is paying attention to some mundane piece of information, other more important events are happening all around us. This is especially true when the subject that is being discussed is humorous and goes viral. The important question is whether paying attention to the memes and viral humor is detracting from action on the serious issues.
The recent ‘covfefe’ fiasco is a particularly excellent example. Though it has been almost a week, memes, gifs, and viral content pieces are still circulating with jokes about the pronunciation of ‘covfefe,’ the meaning, and what other words might be similarly mangled. Some of the content is funny, even if it is a distraction.
Real Concerns Are Going Unchecked
Just like nearly every day of this administration, there were more important things going that should raise genuine concern for the American people.
Connections between Trump’s administration and Russia are still being investigated, and ‘covfefe day’ occurred at the same time Donald Trump announced that the United States was pulling out of a non-binding agreement to make strides on environmental issues.
Cartoonist Liza Donnelly responded to the tweet with an image that perfectly sums up exactly what much of the public thought ‘covfefe’ was really about.
I just published “Trump’s Latest Covfefe Tweet” https://t.co/5X2Ete3pFZ
— Liza Donnelly (@lizadonnelly) May 31, 2017
In the image, Donald Trump sits on a bed, poking at a phone, and thinking, “Covfefe — That’ll keep them busy.”
Across social media, the response could be divided into three basic groups:
- Those few Trump supporters who still insisted that ‘covfefe’ has some mysterious important meaning.
- The general public laughing at the tweet and at the refusal to admit a simple error.
- Those who insisted that paying attention to this tweet at all was a problem.
The third group felt that people should focus on the important things, and leave the silly memes alone.
What do you have to worry about at this very moment? Trump is pulling out of the Paris Accord, Trump’s recent European trip has (further) damaged relationships with other nations, Jared Kushner‘s alleged Russian connections — and so much more.
These issues pull at the very fabric of our country and our constitution, and people need to be paying attention to them.
The Struggle To Understand Politics And Engage
But let’s be honest, for many people, sitting and focusing on important issues is hard. If you don’t have a solid understanding of politics as a basis for your research, it’s outright confusing. Further, If it’s not an area of interest to you, it can even become painfully boring.
Even if you do have a good understanding and the attention span to hear the story out, it can shift into depressing, frightening, and anxiety-inducing.
This is just amplified by the fact that the average American doesn’t feel like there’s much they can do about big political issues as an individual.
You Can Take Action Easier Than You Think
We can, and must, contact our representatives regularly. This process doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming.
Check out ResistBot. It’s an easy way to contact representative. Just text the word ‘Resist’ to 50409. Inside of two minutes, you’ll have your first message faxed to your representatives. You don’t have to know their names, you don’t have to know their addresses, phone numbers, or even their titles.
You don’t even have to compose a long message and can choose to send something along the lines of a quick “This is your constituent [name] asking you to insist on investigating Trump’s Russian ties,” or simply “Impeach Trump.”
Get engaged by voting in elections at every level and encourage your friends and family to vote. While you’re at it, become more educated about the issues and join in peaceful protests aimed at protecting everyone’s rights at U.S. citizens.
Why Humor Matters During A Time Of Political Strife
The calls to action listed above are good and important actions, but they can still leave you feeling helpless, exhausted, and ineffective, since the results are not witnessed right away and depend on a lot of other people also taking action.
This is where humor helps in a big way. Yes, ‘Covfefe’ is funny in its own right. But it’s also about more than humor when we examine the unbelievable efforts employed to pretend it was intentional. It really tells us a lot about what we can expect from our current administration.
There aren’t going to be a lot of admissions of guilt or error by Trump’s team. Instead, we can expect our current representation to blunder forward, continuing to make increasingly awful decisions without ever stepping back to consider the ramifications of their actions.
But on the shallowest level, ‘covfefe’ also is funny and there is plenty of content surfacing on the web to keep us amused for hours on end.
Unfortunately, like a lot of the resistance against Trump, for some reason a lot of the content being distributed is sexist, ableist, or ant-LGBT. That’s not okay, an entirely different conversation.
For those of us who are paying attention, the comic relief can be absolutely necessary in order to keep going during a news cycle filled with endless horrors.
Is It Possible To Balance Comedic Distractions With Serious Politics?
Sadly, may individuals are sharing memes but are failing to pay attention to actual important issues. You probably have numerous people within your Facebook feed who have shared seventeen different memes centered around ‘covfefe’ being a fancy type of coffee. Those same people probably have not watched a press conference or read a Trump policy proposal since his inauguration.
Try to discuss politics with those people and their entire analysis of Trump is that he says things that aren’t too intelligent, and that all politicians lie anyway.
Day in and day out you find yourself trying to explain that not all politicians are equal only to be waved off with vague conspiracy theories or being thrown a reference to snowflakes as if you asked for a weather report.
It’s Not A Distraction If People Just Don’t Care
I would submit to you that many people are not ‘distracted’ by ‘covfefe,’ because they were never planning to pay attention in the first place. If anything, they might be paying even less attention if the more laughable scandals weren’t circulating.
As They share more ‘covfefe’ memes they are at least engaged, however peripherally, and aware that the United States of America is burdened with a President who can’t get the most basic of tasks right.
Perhaps they will remember that at the polls, after all, there’s no doubt that memes had an influence on the 2016 election.
Not All Meme Posting People Are Created Equally
As for those friends who you believe are capable of following news, if you’re seeing streams of light-hearted, mocking memes in their newsfeeds, don’t assume they aren’t listening to the serious stuff.
Remember that laughter is a survival mechanism and in today’s political cycle we all need a lot of really good laughs.
It’s okay to enjoy a joke at the expense of politicians and to let yourself take some things lightly. Still, let’s remember not to get so caught up in the humor that we forget to deal with the serious stuff.
We need people like you paying attention to what really matters. If you think someone else isn’t paying enough attention — just remember that even if they’re laughing, at least it means they’re aware something is going on.
Covfefe (and call your Senator!)
Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com