Steve King doesn’t have much going for him. The Republican congressman from Iowa barely won reelection in 2018 and the leaders of his own party reportedly consider him a liability. King can only blame himself for the sorry state of his political career. He’s aligned himself with white nationalists at home and abroad. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he asked, rhetorically, in a 2019 interview with the New York Times. King has repeatedly retweeted far-right activists, including the British neo-Nazi Mark Collett, and met with members of an Austrian far-right party with “historical links” to Nazism during a trip to Europe, the Washington Post reported in 2018. The same year, he endorsed Faith Goldy, a Canadian conservative who has said that her country is experiencing “white genocide” and who repeated the 14 words, a white-nationalist slogan, on a radio show, in her race for Toronto mayor. (Goldy lost.)
For years, King’s Republican colleagues mostly ignored his evident racism, but by last January, his tendencies had become so blatant that they were moved to strip him of his committee assignments. This is a slap on the wrist, but it’s something, and it seemingly amplified King’s sense of his own martyrdom. As he sets out to win reelection, he cuts a relatively lonely figure, and that perhaps explains his innovative new fundraising strategy. A verified Facebook page for King’s reelection campaign put out a fundraising plea to grow its meme stash. (“Posts may not be suitable for those without a sense of humor,” the page’s description says.)
So what does a Steve King meme look like? The diligent research team at Intelligencer (i.e., me) has investigated. The results are not good.
This isn’t a meme. It’s an implied threat.
Others are simply copy-and-paste jobs of Turning Point USA content:
This one fails for its use of stock art, and doubles as an unintended self-own:
Whatever other flaws Pelosi might possess, she’s a cogent public speaker. Can King only comprehend 14 words?
The meme fundraising plea is desperate, yes; the content is hackneyed. For the most part, the memes do not even accomplish the basic reason for their existence, which is to own the libs. Nobody is going to fill a mug of liberal tears over the association of alphabet soup with Nancy Pelosi. It’s stupid, not “triggering.” Nevertheless, the King campaign’s taste in memes has an instructive quality. Last February, the same page posted an NPC meme directed at Democratic members of Congress. NPC memes depict their targets as non-playable characters like those one might find in a video game, devoid of original thought or personality. As Julia Alexander explained for the Verge, “NPC types can’t hold regular conversations, the meme suggests, and they rely on robotic rhetoric to function.” NPC memes didn’t originate with the alt-right, but they have become popular with supporters of President Donald Trump and the general alt-right internet.
King probably isn’t a gamer, but his personal habits aren’t really the point. Whoever runs his Facebook page understands something vital about the congressman. The same online racists who have helped turn NPC memes into an alt-right trend are King’s true constituency. The congressman’s edgelord turn was inevitable.