Filed Under:

'Casually Pepper Spraying Cop' Meme Takes Off

Play associated audio
Spraying the Declaration of Independence
jockohomo.tumblr.com
Spraying the Declaration of Independence

When he walked down a line of seated Occupy protesters Friday at the University of California Davis and shot pepper spray directly at them, campus police Lt. John Pike likely never thought that video of the incident would go viral on the Web, that there would be outrage not only at the school but around the nation, or that "casually pepper spraying cop" would quickly become one of the year's top memes.

All those things did indeed happen.

And as Buzzfeed.com's Matt Stopera tells NPR, when he and others look back at the end of the year to judge which memes took off, "this is definitely going to be one of the bigger, more important memes."

 

 

A quick note for the many among us who need a definition: As KnowYourMeme.com says, an Internet meme is "a piece of content or an idea that's passed from person to person, changing and evolving along the way."

 

 

In this case, as Stopera told NPR, the piece of content was a photo of Pike. It's thought that the first person to do something interesting with the image was James Alex — better known on the Web as Jockohomo. The meme basically started when, as Alex explains on his blog, he remixed images of Pike in paintings like Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic 1875 and Willard's The Spirit of 76'.

That's lead to others inserting Pike into classic works. "People kind of just went crazy from there," said Stopera.

But does this kind of "fun" trivialize a serious event? After all, as inevitably happens on the Web, the meme has gone on to have Pike spraying adorable little kittens.

There is that danger, but Stopera makes the case that the news about what occurred at UC Davis is now reaching a whole new — and probably younger — audience. If they jump from Tumblr posts with funny or sarcastic images to search for news about what's going on, they end up learning about what happened.

And, of course, it is a meme — which means it probably has a life of just another day or two. So if it does dissolve into the silly, it won't be for long.

Correction at 5:44 p.m. ET. In an earlier version of this post we attributed the image of Pike spraying the Declaration of Independence in John Trumbull's iconic painting to James Alex. It's not clear who remixed that image.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

 

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, April 16

You can check out a long-running local film festival for the last time or see work by two different artists.

NPR

Behold Ukrainian Easter Art: Incredible, Inedible Eggs

Even 2,000 years ago, people seemed to know that the egg could be a source of life. And an ancient art form has been passed down, transforming a symbolic source of food into a dazzling decoration.
NPR

Is Obamacare A Success? We Might Not Know For A While

Fans and foes want to know whether the Affordable Care Act is meeting its goals. But, for good reasons, there are no clear answers yet.
WAMU 88.5

Capital Bikeshare Supplier Bought, Reopening Door To Expansion

Bixi, the company that supplies bicycles and bike stations to the Capital Bikeshare program, has been rescued from bankruptcy. But does that mean the bike sharing will resume expansion in our area?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.