The Daily Wire reports about this:
The White House issued a statement Monday condemning a graphic parody video showing President Donald Trump shooting members of the media, Democrats, and activist groups, which played at the American Priority Conference over the weekend as part of am “art installation” by professional meme-maker, Carpe Donktum.
The video, which has been on YouTube for sixteen months without much notice, attracted the attention of the New York Times, which posted a blockbuster breaking news report on the film Sunday night. Members of the media were quick to condemn the video, suggesting that it was an open call for violence against journalists and activists, and accusing the White House of promoting and encouraging violence.
The video doesn’t seem particularly well thought-out (Firth’s character is shot in the head at point blank range at the end of the scene), or constructed, and appears meant to “troll” the same news organizations the fictional President Trump takes aim at in the clip.
Outlets like CNN were quick to release statements condemning the video and demanding an apology from Trump.
“Sadly, this is not the first time that supporters of the President have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining — but it is by far and away the worst. The images depicted are vile and horrific,” CNN said in a statement released late Sunday. “The President and his family, the White House, and the Trump campaign need to denounce it immediately in the strongest possible terms. Anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone.”
AMP Fest organizers also condemned the video, noting that it’s showing was an “unauthorized” “meme exhibit” and that viewings took place in a “side room.”
“Content was submitted by third parties and was not associated with or endorsed by the conference in any official capacity,” event organizer Alex Phillips said, according to CNN. “American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech. This matter is under review.”
The Trump campaign issued a confused statement back to CNN, noting that they had nothing to do with the video or its presentation but denounced the depiction of violence, regardless.
One reporter for Reason Magazine inadvertently revealed that room on Twitter while reporting from the conference. The room was empty.
There’s a big empty room here with TVs and projectors playing videos by that “carpe donktum” guy pic.twitter.com/O87stQDfrc
— CJ Ciaramella (@cjciaramella) October 11, 2019
Although demands to condemn the video lest it encourage violence against the media spread like wildfire across Twitter and Facebook, it appears the film clip has been up on YouTube since July of 2018 and, until Monday, had less than 100,000 views — a rather paltry total for a typical Trump parody piece. Once the New York Times called attention to the video, it, too, quickly went viral, in an odd example of the “Streisand Effect.”
The Daily Wire notes that the controversial meme has been on the internet for a year without much notice. Only now, because of the media, do we all get a chance to see the thing that the media says might inspire violence against the media. If they were really concerned about the mystical powers of memes to inspire mass shootings, you’d think they would have just ignored this one and let it remain in obscurity.
But this controversy is interesting for a different reason. The meme makes use of a scene from the film “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” released back in 2015. In the original scene, Colin Firth’s character murders an entire church full of people in the Deep South. He shoots a woman in the face at point blank range, guns down dozens of other churchgoers, cuts someone’s head off, lights another guy on fire, and impales someone with a stake. But this is supposed to be alright, I guess, because everyone has been driven insane by a toxic gas. Plus, the church is a Westboro Baptist-stlye collection of crazy racists and homophobes.
Still, if a jokey meme showing Trump shooting news logos is “problematic” and even “dangerous,” then isn’t the original jokey scene showing a guy murdering churchgoers also problematic and dangerous? Yet, unsurprisingly, the media had little to say about the fictional bloodbath when it was first filmed. In fact, what little they did say was outright celebratory. The Washington Post, which labeled the Trump meme “vile and horrific,” used very different words to describe the scene on which it’s based. In a 2015 review of the film, Washington Post writer Michael O’Sullivan was positively rapturous, calling the cartoonish carnage “balletic” and a “masterclass.” A more recent article in The Ringer says the church massacre is the most “well regarded” moment in the film. The site concurs that the scene is indeed a “masterclass.” We should also note that the movie received generally positive reviews at the time of its release, earning a very respectable 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Personally, I don’t care much about the original scene or the meme. Both are probably in poor taste, but they’re too over the top and absurdly gratuitous to have any sort of profound impact on the viewer. I doubt that anyone will be inspired to shoot up a church because of “Kingsman,” just as I doubt that anyone will be inspired to kill media members because of this meme or any meme. But if you take the position that the meme is awful, vile, evil, and dangerous, then you must say the same about the scene that made the meme possible. If you claim that the meme encourages violence against the media, then you must claim that the original scene encourages violence against Christians. There is just no way to separate the two.
The situation for the original scene is not improved much by the fact that the victims are all Westboro racists. First of all, that’s how Hollywood sees all Christians. For Hollywood, there really is no difference between a Westboro church and any other church. Especially in the south. Second, making them bigots was obviously a cheap narrative trick designed to give the viewer permission to take delight in their mass execution. In reality, we would hopefully all agree that it is not okay to randomly mow down racists at church. Or maybe we can’t agree about that. Either way, there is no reason to panic over the meme if you didn’t panic when the movie came out four years ago.
I’m also still waiting to see the media’s condemnation of this …
… but I’m not holding my breath. Fictional depictions of deaths of Republican politicians are apparently OK.