Each week in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.

If there’s anything that Internet memes teach us, I think it’s the inevitability of anarchy and destruction. Or maybe how funny anarchy and destruction are. Or maybe how funny they are until you realize they’re inevitable.

Or something.

Let me put it this way: we’ve all had an experience with a “class clown”-type character — someone sitting in the back row, throwing paper, whistling under his breath, passing silly notes. And most of us have, at one point, laughed at this sort of person — in our weaker moments, at least. They’re funny because they disrupt the natural order of the classroom — a bit of chaos and anarchy sprinkled into our otherwise button-down, conformist day.

But the thing is, anarchy gets all of its power from order. The clown antics are only funny so long as they disrupt the teacher figure’s attempts to assert authority over the class. You take the teacher out of the classroom, and the class clown’s just an annoying ADHD kid. And it’s even worse if the teacher tries to join in with his antics — once the teacher is cracking inappropriate jokes or throwing paper as well, the clown is exposed as the fool he is.

Without the Machine, the Rage Against It is entirely pointless.

Internet memes operate on a similar principle. They’re ironic, anarchic, and extremely in-jokey. They’re funny mainly because so many “serious” types insist they’re not funny. The more people tell me that the Doge is stupid, the harder I laugh when his face pops up on my computer screen. (Yes, I realize I’m the problem there.) They inject a bit of nonsense and chaos into your day — but they only work because your day starts out as sensical. Chaos can only be compelling when it’s placed in opposition to order.

And of course, as soon as an authority figure gives them approval, they’re not funny anymore.

That was the thought I couldn’t get out of my head as I watched this video. High school senior Bobby Light (Kane Zipperman?) told his ex-girlfriend off through a series of text messages and silly Internet memes, and then posted the conversation to Twitter; the conversation was amusing enough to get him nearly 70,000 Twitter followers and a few minutes on cable news network HLN. And it was there, during anchor Mike Galanos’s excruciating recitation of the script, that I began to wonder if the kid was actually funny.

That’s probably not his fault. In the mostly-silent, text-heavy vacuum of the Internet, graphics with sparse words exist as flourishes of color; in the auditory world of talking-head TV, though, they’re awkward cue cards that beg for explanation, robbing them of their spontaneity. I think there was more to it than that, however; the whole sequence is built on Old Media giving its stamp of approval to New, or on an Old(er) Man giving his stamp of approval to a Young one. Once the Establishment approves of a Rebellious act, how can it be Rebellious?

What seems snarky and anarchic on a computer screen is cast as annoying and mean when bathed in the harsh light of auditory TV and placed in the mouth of a middle-aged guy in a suit.

Isn’t that the way it’s always been, though? Anarchy is only edgy and cool as long as there’s an establishment for it to challenge. How many of history’s rebel factions have seemed thoroughly badass until they rose to power — and were then revealed as simple, naïve bullies? How many of the “rebellious” rock stars of the ’70s and ’80s are now senile old men that we all wish would go away? How quickly did “Not My President” t-shirts go out of style after George W. Bush left the White House?

Just as death can only exist in opposition to life, anarchy can only exist in contrast to order. And just as death is inevitable for anything living, chaos is the unavoidable end for anything structured. Rebellion can only ever seem badass in the short term; how can destruction of the natural order be rebellious when the natural order is already busy destroying itself?

(The whole of creation is groaning.)

In that sense, the video is a rather depressing gaze into the journey of the human soul. The spirited, anarchic youth looks on in horror as his formerly-edgy words are placed in the mouth of his unavoidable destiny: the middle-aged dude in the starched suit. The second- (third-?) to-last stop before the eternity of the grave. Behold thy fate, mortal.

Or maybe it’s just some corny texts. Y’know, whatever.

1 Comment

  1. Imagine my confusion when I saw the news clip with Bobby Light without any knowledge of his actions before it. I had never heard of the kid, never seen those texts and just happened to see a headline about a kid who broke up with his cheating(?) girlfriend with memes. Sounded pretty solid to me. But then I saw it…and I did not laugh at all. Didn’t even think the memes worked that well and I lost 4 minutes of my life.


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