On March 5, the nonprofit organization Invisible Children published a 30-minute short film on YouTube and Vimeo with the intention of making Joseph Kony, head of the terrible African militia Lord’s Resistance Army, the most famous person in the world. The video, which kicked off the Kony2012 campaign, aimed at raising Kony’s profile worldwide so that he would eventually be arrested by the end of 2012.
It didn’t work.
The video became a viral sensation. All of a sudden, people who had no idea Uganda was a country in Africa (much less locate it on a map) were talking about Kony’s atrocities and how he must be stopped. Celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, P. Diddy, Ryan Seacrest, Kim Kardashian, and Oprah tweeted a link to the video to their millions of followers. Every single person in the world wanted to stop Joseph Kony at all costs.
But then… nothing happened. Retweets and Facebook posts didn’t solve anything, so people just stopped caring. The meme became one of the better examples of slacktivism gone wrong—and was made worse by allegations of Invisible Children’s mismanagement of funds and founder Jason Russell’s crazy naked breakdown.
But hey, millions of people felt like they did some good.
On Feb. 26, 2012, George Zimmerman shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., while reportedly on patrol for his local neighborhood watch. The incident became national news thanks to Zimmerman’s racially charged language during a 911 emergency call prior to his shooting Martin.
People showed their support for Trayvon Martin by wearing a hoodie, which is what Martin was wearing the night he was murdered. Many snapped selfies and posted them to Facebook with messages of support.
Others took a different route. Insensitive jerkwads started “Trayvoning,” a photo trend inspired by “planking,” where individuals would lie on the ground wearing the aforementioned hoodie, playing dead and holding a can of Arizona iced tea and a bag of skittles—two items Martin had in his hands when he was shot.
A Facebook group briefly appeared but was quickly taken down by the social network. The meme should have ended there, but instead, it jumped over to Tumblr, where it thrived until audiences got tired.
Premature Peter is another instance where the Internet had a mean-spirited laugh at the expense of an unsuspecting child.
Earlier this month, a school picture of young boy wearing a T-shirt with the words “I came” emblazoned on it was uploaded to the subreddit r/funny. The post garnered more than 20,000 upvotes (and more than 18,000 downvotes), which resulted in r/AdviceAnimals co-opting the image and running wild with it.
We reported on the trend but made the editorial decision to pull it because of the age of the subject (13) and because his parents wrote us asking us to. For those very reasons, this blurb contains no actual links to the meme.
What started off in 2009 as a hilarious macro of a rabid-looking wolf doing crazy things—a canine version of Chuck Norris—devolved into a series of rape jokes in 2012.
“I probably realize that people will defend the meme as being an exaggeration,” wrote user katyblerg on the feminist-oriented r/femmit, “that its supposed to be outlandish and offensive because its ‘Insanity Wolf’… but as a woman, i see something like that thats supposed to be humorous and about rape, and i hate it. Am I alone?”
User Metaphoricalsimile agreed with her in yet another post, this time posted to r/ShitRedditSays, which highlighted more than 300 instances of Insanity Wolf murdering and raping women and children. Hilarious!
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Tumblr curated by Fernando Alfonso III (@fernalfonso), Aja Romano (@ajaromano) Gaby Dunn (@gabydunn), and Logan Youree (@loganwtf).