Henry Kissinger turns 100. An internet meme longs for his death.
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Henry Kissinger, who served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, turns 100 on May 27, and to mark the occasion he recently sat down for an interview with CBS’ “Sunday Morning” senior -Employee Ted Koppel. The segment was largely friendly save for a heated exchange in the middle. “There are people on our show who question the legitimacy of interviewing you,” Koppel said. “They have such a strong sense of what they think I would put it in language they would use: their crime.”
“It’s an expression of their ignorance,” Kissinger replied. Koppel mentioned Kissinger’s role in the US bombing campaign in Cambodia that ran from 1969 to 1973, killing perhaps as many as 150,000 civilians and hastening the overthrow of the Cambodian government at the hands of the genocidal Khmer Rouge. After some back and forth, Kissinger said, “This is a program you’re doing because I’m going to be 100 years old. And you pick a topic about something that happened 60 years ago. You have to know that it was a necessary step. Now the younger generation feels like they don’t have to think when they can get their emotions out. If they think, they will not ask that question.”
Kissinger’s centenary was greeted with the kind of laudable comments an Elder Statesman would expect — his biographer Niall Ferguson argues that “the events of the last decade … have brought us back to Kissinger’s world with a series of sobering shocks.” But the younger generation — or at least the left-leaning among them – actually lets their own thoughts (and, yes, emotions) out on the internet. Poking fun at Kissinger’s eventual death — and remarkable longevity — has been a popular meme there for years.
There are several novel Twitter accounts that provide updates on whether Kissinger is still catching on, and the death of a major public figure often ensures that Kissinger’s name is trending on the platform. The general mood – why not Kissinger? – perhaps best captured in a visual meme depicting the Grim Reaper picking up a person in an arcade pine machine; One iteration is headlined “Queen Elizabeth II?!” Is Henry Kissinger even on this?”
Also, the passage from the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s 2001 book A Cook’s Tour, which reads “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands,” is also widely shared on Twitter and other social networks. (Additionally, Kissinger has been accused of war crimes in Vietnam, East Timor and elsewhere — perhaps best known in the late Christopher Hitchens’ fiery 2001 book The Trial of Henry Kissinger.)
When a Vox writer tweeted Tuesday about the Economic Club of New York’s celebrations of Kissinger’s 100th birthday, he asked, “What would you say to Dr. Ask Kissinger?” The reactions failed. “Can he feel the flames of hell gently tickling his toes yet?” read one. On Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) agreed: “Which war crime weighs more on your conscience?” (The Wiley Agency, the literary company representing Kissinger, did not respond to emails seeking comment on the meme .)
And then there’s the Kissinger Death Tontine, an online charity death pool launched in 2018 by a group of Bay Area socialists over drinks, whose prize is a “selection of spirits from countries where Kissinger overthrew the democratically elected leader”.
Shanti Singh, a 32-year-old San Francisco tenant organizer who was uncompromisingly involved in founding Kissinger’s Death Tontine, has some theories as to why Kissinger remains the subject of such intense fascination with the left. “He’s one of the most decorated war criminals in 20th-century history,” she said, citing his Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. “I think he captures the imagination because it had absolutely no consequences for him. If anything, it will be increased by both parties. We saw in the 2016 Democratic primary that Hillary Clinton said, “He’s a really good friend of mine,” and Bernie Sanders said, “Are you sure you want to brag about that?”
Alex Turvy, a Tulane University graduate student who studies memes, said the dark jokes have a strong emotional component. “Kissinger’s staunch refusal to die represents something greater to people, such as that there are forces of evil greater than oneself over which one has no power,” Turvy said. “And the memes are a way to release some of that pent-up energy.”
He explained that the online Generation Zers and Millennials, who weren’t even remotely born during the Nixon administration, “settle for disrespect and jokes about someone’s death that don’t work so well offline.” You know, if you repeat some of those jokes to your mom, whether she likes Kissinger or not, it’s not going to seem as funny.”
Conservative millennial commentator Ben Shapiro once tweeted that those who wish Kissinger dead are “simply a mob looking for a victim.” But even among young progressives, the fixation on Kissinger’s death isn’t comfortable for everyone. Take Sam Weinberg, the 22-year-old executive director of DC-based Path to Progress, a Gen Z-centric think tank. “Henry Kissinger is not someone whose legacy is admirable – quite the contrary,” said Weinberg. “But at the same time, I feel like we, as progressives and leftists, are meant to be compassionate and loving. We are to be tolerant, support restorative justice and reject the death penalty. When I see people spending so much time online basically just wishing someone dead, it’s weird, repulsive and a little gross.”
Discourse blog editor Jack Mirkinson, a 35-year-old New Yorker who occasionally writes an obituary series called Henry Kissinger Is Right There, dismissed the idea that his work was offensive given the amount of “blood.” [Kissinger’s] Hands.” He added, “I would consider the things he did and the crimes he committed to be a little more distasteful than people making jokes about him and the end of his life.”
The 26-year-old Peruvian law student (who declined to give his name) behind the small Twitter account Is Henry Kissinger Dead? was even more blunt: “I think Americans in particular are very susceptible to this very stupid idea of celebrating the death of a bad person,” he wrote in a Twitter direct message.
One thing these observers agree on is that if Kissinger does die, it will be a tumultuous day on Twitter for his critics. Miles Klee, a 38-year-old Los Angeles culture writer for Rolling Stone who has written about why Kissinger is always trending on Twitter, expects “a lot of memes and dunks and fun photoshops,” although “it’s not going to be the case.” becomes”. an absolutely joyful thing, because he actually lived to be a hundred years old.”
Klee sees the inevitable Twitter reaction to Kissinger’s death as a sort of counterpoint to the mainstream media’s predictably impartial obituaries. Greg Grandin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor at Yale University and author of 2015’s “Kissinger’s Shadow,” agreed. Kissinger’s actions, he said, “is dismissed as controversial, but you know, he’s held up as a great statesman.” You can [predict] the New York Times obituary.”
When the big day finally arrives, the creator of Is Henry Kissinger Dead is just around the corner. said he would just tweet “yes” and “enjoy the cheers.” He also noted that Kissinger has survived several other Twitter accounts reporting the current status of his existence.