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Mike Birbiglia is known more for his affable standup comedy and earnest indie films than political commentary, but in this polarized society, we can forgive him for trying to highlight the lost virtue of politeness, can’t we?
No, apparently we cannot. For although Birbiglia even saw fit to delete this tweet after a deluge of replies about George W. Bush’s disastrous foreign policy and the dangers of the left whitewashing history to excuse his fatal mistakes as commander-in-chief, it was too late: We had the format of a snarky new meme.
This is powerful. I’m sorry, but it is. Please don’t write something snarky. pic.twitter.com/XiHJsNVnLW
— humus guillotine (@ready_at_hand) September 26, 2016
This is powerful. I’m sorry, but it is. Please don’t write something snarky. pic.twitter.com/RLhErsY6Nb
— 🏆 __ __ y-Parrish ✊ (@StingrayGuitar) September 26, 2016
What could be snarkier than ironically calling something “powerful” and then demanding nobody snark about it? If it’s out there, we hope to god it doesn’t come to light, or the space-snark continuum as we know it may be shredded to pieces, leaving us adrift in the snarkmos of the snarkiverse.
This is powerful. I’m sorry, but it is. Please don’t write something snarky. pic.twitter.com/FATG2T5Wlg
— wolfie (@SadMarchand) September 26, 2016
This snarkfest follows in the proud tradition of another photo-caption meme—”This is the ideal male body. You may not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like”—which kicked off when Vic Berger IV and Phil Braun began to mock conservative radio host Steven Crowder’s admiration for Russian MMA fighter Fedor Vladimirovich Emelianenko. (The original tweet has a typo—”make body”—which is the subject of much derision as well.)
Once again, a patently overserious, wholly unsolicited opinion has made it possible for everyone to dump the weirdest screenshots on their laptop or smartphone by slapping that same string of words on it. If this phrase doesn’t fit the original poster’s image, the logic seems to go, then why not attach literally any visual to it? And isn’t that, in fact, sort of powerful?
This is powerful. I’m sorry, but it is. Please don’t write something snarky. pic.twitter.com/pGpedcS1SJ
— Eric W (@benmillerfanboy) September 26, 2016
Perhaps in this age of saturation, caption memes help us to recontextualize the vast reams of input we’re forced to absorb daily. So much of what we see doesn’t seem to make sense—until we decide, with absolutist fervor, that it’s “powerful,” or “ideal,” or “choke me daddy.” We cling to these clichés of feeling to give ourselves control over the datastream.
Now please, I truly, humbly beg of you, even though it’s pretty much all the internet does or is good for: Don’t write something snarky.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'