The Internet created a new way for quotations to become famous, including many that would probably might not be well known otherwise. (It also created a new way for misquotes to spread, a major pet peeve of people like me who want to know whether a quotation is real or not.)
Nowadays, quotes like those that spread virally via social media are often called memes.
Some quote memes are popularized by graphic images with text that get posted on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Some are spread by videos, through sites like YouTube.
These online media outlets provide a lightning-fast way for memes to spread around the world and become famous literally overnight.
One example is a quote that had its initial “fifteen minutes of fame” in 2007 and eventually became a long-lasting meme.
On September 17, 2007, US Senator John Kerry gave an address to students at the University of Florida in Gainesville. After delivering his prepared remarks, Kerry took questions from the audience.
As the Q&A period was ending, 21-year-old student Andrew Meyer grabbed a microphone, started insulting Kerry, ranting about political conspiracy theories, and talking about how President Bill Clinton was impeached for getting “a blowjob” (from Monica Lewinsky).
The University police decided Meyer was going a bit over the top and started to forcibly remove him from the auditorium. He resisted.
The cops warned him to go quietly or get zapped with a taser gun. Meyer kept resisting, while yelling “Don’t tase me, bro.”
The police tased him anyway, arrested him and removed him from the building.
Someone shot a video of the hubbub. Shortly thereafter, it was posted it on YouTube.
Then it was reposted on multiple YouTube pages and other sites.
Within 24 hours, the incident and Meyers’ phrase “Don’t tase me, bro!” were known to millions of Internet users. (For the few readers who may not know, the slang word bro is shorthand for brother.)
Soon after the video and phrase went viral online, mainstream news outlets picked it up and made it even more famous.
Indeed, quote maven Fred Shapiro, author of the great Yale Book of Quotations picked “Don’t tase me, bro” as the most memorable quote of 2007 in his annual list of famous quotes of the year.
The word tase was also listed as 2007’s word of the year by the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary.
This has given Meyer enough of a “celebrity” status and fan base to become a professional blogger, political commentator and activist.
On his website, TheAndrewMeyer.com (a URL that makes it clear he is The Andrew Meyer, as opposed to any others), the “About” page says:
Andrew Meyer writes and speaks about politics, music, sports, spiritual wisdom and more, and is internationally known for questioning U.S. Presidential candidate John Kerry and coining the phrase "Don't Tase Me Bro!"
He also sells ads to willing sponsors of his website.
One of the more prominent ads featured there as I was writing this post was an ad for a company selling “Food That Fights Dementia.”
I suspect some targets of Meyer’s political attacks might find that ironic.
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Related reading: books about Internet memes…