“The ‘Left’ Loves Art” Is the Brilliantly Dumb Meme Sean Hannity Deserves

Fox News host Sean Hannity is seen in the White House briefing room in Washington, DC, on January 24, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Let’s get his reaction to this.

Sean Hannity never takes a break. Five days a week, the incendiary right-winger hosts his Fox News show and gabs for another three hours on the radio. Seemingly every other hour that he’s awake, he stirs up the easily outraged on Twitter. (According to a recent New York Times profile, he only sleeps four hours a night.) Hannity’s tendency to take umbrage at the slightest provocation (remember his feud with Keurig?) while spewing outrageous and offensive nonsense (like the Seth Rich conspiracy theory) has made him an easy and rightful target on social media.

On Monday evening, Hannity tweeted a brief, mostly unremarkable video of artist Jon McNaughton explaining the sentiment behind a typical instance of one of his trollish, patriotic paintings, in which Trump cradles an American flag disrespected by protesting football players (yet another conservative shibboleth that Hannity has exploited). The Fox newsman wrote above the video, “The ‘left’ loves art, and especially taxpayer funded art that is ‘provocative’. Let’s get their reaction to this,” deploying a second-wedge issue to get his followers angry. Naturally, Twitter ran with it—but this time, to the weirdest parts of the internet. Those mocking Hannity’s dumb tweet seemed to be teaching him a lesson: You think you know how to shitpost? This is how you shitpost. 

Here’s a representative example, in which Robocop is reimagined as a mermaid, his dour expression at odds with his invitingly flirtatious tail fin. A sequel to the “this is the future that liberals want” meme (taking place, in fact, almost a year later to the day), the still-ongoing “the left loves art” meme is deliberately absurd and often sexually outré. My favorite is this Photoshopped image of Trump boarding a plane with the Victoria’s Secret brand logo “PINK” embroidered on the rear of his pants. I’ve looked at this picture several dozen times now, and I’m still not sure whether I want to shake my head or stand up and salute it.

As a phenomenon, “the left loves art” is amusing and pointed and delightfully strange—almost counterintuitively so—because of how diffuse the meme makers’ motivations seem to be. Most likely they’re making fun of Hannity’s snowflake-y caricature of liberals as well as his simplistic ideas about what provocative means. And the intrusion of Weird Twitter into “normal” Twitter—exactly the kind of context collapse that makes social media such a joy (if also a minefield)—has turned the platform into a freewheeling celebration of bad and bad-on-purpose art.

So what does this Twitter weirdness look like? Well, it’s a lot of animated characters in bizarrely sexual or simply inexplicable situations. Here’s a bald Mickey Mouse. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle burger. Garfield with nipples in the shape of his owner’s head. A pregnant SpongeBob. A pregnant Sonic. A pregnant Jar Jar Binks with Wario as the happy father, their queering kooky but wholesome. Human cartoon Jeff Goldblum as a sultry centaur with the words believe in yourself next to him, solidifying his status as one of the internet’s low-key but ever-adored boyfriends. Next to the DeviantArt rejects (or parodies) are the absurdities that defy categorization. Spaghetti tacos. Sausage Twix. Italian hand-feet. I don’t even want to describe this. I can’t profess to love every single NSFW, lazy, or inscrutable version of this meme, but in their totality, their defiant ridiculousness is refreshingly uncooperative with Twitter’s usual back-and-forth, in which a champion on either the left or right says something dumb and gives the other side an opportunity to dunk on him or her for the next few days.

The last couple of weeks on social media have been heavy. Teenage victims of a school shooting were forced to fend off inane and insulting accusations of being crisis actors, while teachers across the country were told by the president that they should start carrying guns (which inevitably meant seeing their students as possible targets). And so it feels entirely fitting that Hannity’s bald attempts at even more incitement and pointless partisanship were finally treated with the level of seriousness he merits. So enjoy the memes during your rare spare minute, Sean. It’s what you deserve.

Inkoo Kang writes about technology and culture for Slate.