What’s with the Mike Pence fly merch?
Remember the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head during the debate last night? So fun! Have you followed the official VP Debate Fly Twitter account yet? Nice to have a little break from the seriousness of our current moment, huh?
It’s really not nice, actually. You only have a few good hours to frame and highlight the events of a debate, and almost all of the key moments of what happened last night, which was albeit less lively than the first Presidential standoff a week ago, were lost in a sea of fly memes. It’s not funny, it’s insulting.
And then there’s the quickly spun up merch. You can head over to the official Joe Biden store right now and buy an official Truth Over Flies Flyswatter, to memorialize this moment. Nice. Now can you tell me what falsehoods were said last night?
Why is the Joe Biden campaign doing this? Why are we being inundated with fly references? And no, before you ask, the Biden Campaign is not in great need of cash. They don’t need to sell this stuff.
There have been similar instances of non-humans adding some flair to live tv events in the past. Most notably the 2016 moment of ‘the Bernie Bird,’ where a house finch perched itself on Bernie’s podium, in the middle of a lively rally speech, seemingly to listen in. It was a moment ripe for symbolism. The man’s message was clearly so profound, his oratory so persuasive, that even our world’s most innocent of creatures was enraptured. The hope of the common man, embodied by a Finch.
Now fast forward to last night. Was there anything particularly metaphorical or symbolic about a house fly landing on a man’s head and staying there for two minutes? Sure, you can say that it ‘smelled Pence’s bullshit’ or whatever, but everyone involved knows that this will be gone from our newsfeeds in 12 hours. The humor is all highly performative. No one’s gonna make a Mike Pence fly reference a week from now. The official debate fly swatters will awkwardly arrive at their respective doorsteps in late October, and their recipients will all go ‘yikes, this is way out of vogue’.
Sure, you might say, but it’s all in good fun. It’s kitchy, and a nice way of donating to the Biden campaign. Fair enough. But not much effort has been made to connect ‘the fly’ to the actual lies said in the debate last night. The joke exists independent of the debate itself. Yes, it’s a potent attention seeker to reel people in and then tell them the real stuff. But in practice that’s not what really happens in our ADD-addled society. People will remember the fly and that’s it.
I’ll admit, I was taken by it the moment it occurred. It’s funny when these thing happen, yes. But do we really need dozens of ‘Mike Pence Fly’ Twitter accounts? Do we need the fly to be featured in mountains of CNN articles? Do we need an op ed in The Atlantic ‘from the perspective of the fly’?
As soon as you begin to zoom out from this, you realize how callous and out of touch it is. It’s a clear eyed moment into seeing how totally dominated our news organizations and major Twitter handles are by well fed people for which this is all a game. That the very serious things and their consequences that were touched upon in the debate can’t hold a candle to the excitement of house fly in these people’s minds.
It’s not that they’re making the joke, it’s that the joke is really all they chose to give us out of the debate. That’s about as far as the activism substantively goes. We’ve suffered lame jokes like this for four years. Just give me healthcare. I don’t care that Trump ‘looks like a cheeto’.
Put yourself in the shoes of the average voter in the US. Why should they believe that you’re really so offended by fracking or Obamacare being abolished if you’d rather spend more time making fly jokes once the debate is over? Are you really that scared of the prospect of the election being stolen if when the Vice President of the United States legitimately said that might happen, you gave more air time to the fly memes afterwards?
These are supposed to be the serious and socially conscious elites of the major left wing party, who are currently trying to convince us that a literal fascist is in the White House. Yet they couldn’t help themselves when the fly landed. The mask slipped, and politics is shown once again to be a giant in-joke for them, fuel for ingroup signaling to one another.