The internet loves to tear things to shreds. So to absolutely no one’s surprise, it jumped on Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony—a serious event in which the CEO of one of the world’s richest companies is answering to the federal government for mistakes like user-data breaches and enabling Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election—like a choice steak. Instead of a fork and knife, though, it used its own pointy tools: memes.
Memes used to be about cats and Chuck Norris. But now, not only is a dry, two-day, multi-hour Congressional grilling session considered meme fodder, it’s a veritable treasure trove of repeatable phrases and exploitable images. It wasn’t entirely Social Network jokes, but those did abound.
No one was safe: not Zuckerberg, and certainly not the octogenarian Senators doing their best to understand the Facebook. A question about websites’ business models has become iconic. Pro-Trump online personalities Diamond and Silk have been catapulted onto the national stage. It’s been a time to reflect on just how strange our world has gotten. So we gathered up the wildest Zuckberg testimony memes the internet has to offer. And no, we still can’t really believe this is happening either. And we know one wide-eyed, besuited Harvard alum who probably feels the same way.
What the Zuck
This isn’t Mark Zuckerberg’s first go-round in the meme machine. Zuck Memes were already an established format with a dedicated subreddit. They’re almost too easy: Take one of Zuck’s stilted public Facebook posts, and re-caption it with the awkwardness dialed all the way up. But while some of this week’s memes were similarly dada genius …
… many others were pure schadenfreude:
Senators and Censorship
Zuckerberg wasn’t the only one to have his foibles under the internet’s microscope. Did you really think aspiring roastmasters would pass up the chance to troll Senator Ted Cruz, whom they allege is the Zodiac Killer?
Or to take some swipes at stodgy, not-quite-tech-savvy Senators?
By far the best baby-boomer blunder though, was Senator Orrin Hatch’s, who wondered how Facebook could “sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” Zuckerberg’s response—”Senator, we run ads”—quickly became a headline, and, of course, a meme.
(Because the meme-to-merch pipeline now flows faster than ever, there is of course a T-shirt.)
Maybe the oddest part of the Zuckerberg testimony’s digital carnival was the rise of Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, better known as pro-Trump Facebook personalities Diamond and Silk. Their outspoken support of President Trump has earned them over a million followers (including Trump himself), but soon found the social media platform limiting their post’s spread. When they asked the company why, they say they received this message: “The Policy team has came to the conclusion that your content and your brand has been determined unsafe to the community. This decision is final and it is not appeal-able in any way.” Which would have been that, except that Ted Cruz cited the pair as an example of Facebook’s tendency to censor conservative commentators.
Zuckerberg denied censorship, but acknowledged the concern and said Diamond and Silk were victims of an “enforcement error” he was already working to correct. Still, that’s plenty of ammunition for a new wave of memes. Especially since there were visual aids.
But somehow, despite grilling him like a flank steak, the internet came to feel for Zuck. Or at least, find a way to see him as metaphor for the absurdity of our digital lives:
As well as the tension between the tech world and aging lawmakers trying to bring order to a situation they don’t seem to fully understand.
So while we might shake our heads at this absolutely bananas state of affairs in internet culture, it’s probably better to think of it this way: To understand this week’s hottest memes, you have to have tuned into hours of Senators and a globally influential CEO talk the finer points of the attention economy and internet security policy. That may not be the same thing as high voter turnout, but it’s still pretty encouraging. Today, memes; tomorrow, perhaps, genuine civic engagement!