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People Don’t Want Politics, They Want ‘Covfefe’

An Opinion Piece by Anastasia Denisova, published by The Huffington Post

Recent viral hit from the US President Donald Trump generated a landslide of Twitter parody: memes, hashtags, witty one-liners of all sorts filled the public space. What was there in this short misspelled unfortunate tweet that motivated dozens of thousands of users to share it, mock it and, you know, pay attention to it?

1. Covfefe makes politics easy again

It is truly hard to make sense of Trump’s international politics, describe his vision of market regulation inside the country, or decode the patterns or establishing healthy working relations with foreign leaders. Therefore, an innocent typo in the quasi-official account of the American president gives a quick glimpse of his approach in political management. Rushed, accused of ignorance (anyone would be excused for a typo, not Mr Trump – and this is telling), vague yet attention-seeking – this tweet, the Twitter generation would agree, says it all.

Memes and hashtags are a phenomenon of our times. Seemingly stupid or absurd, they nonetheless disclose more than meets the eye. In my research on Internet memes I have been stressing their role as fast-food media and political mindbombs. As fast-food media, memes give you a quick snapshot of the agenda – in a highly attractive, tempting and indulging form, as a cheeseburger of what is going on. Yet the nutritional value is extremely low. You get an idea, but you still need to search for more context, journalistic explanation and further knowledge to comprehend the political picture in full. Like, having your soup and carrots, not just a cheeseburger, in a diet can provide a sound informational nutrition.

2. Covfefe gives an electrifying community spirit

From The Guardian’s outspoken political journalist Owen Jones to the US Scrubs actor and talented scriptwriter Zach Braff, the digital world went mad about covfefe. Braff alone generated a couple of pages of tweets, gifs, memes that ridiculed covfefe with the references ranging from Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s Lost in Translation episode to the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that covfefe is a secret code to communicate military secrets to the Russians.
You and me can tweet about covfefe, too – and get our portion of joy and attention. Out tweets can also go viral, our memes can be quoted by the likes of BuzzFeed. It feels good to suddenly be in the loop with celebrities, opinion leaders and journalists – as if you are joining a conversation in a highly-coveted club. This may be illusionary, yet this is the great promise of Twitter to turn the world in a global village. Nevermind that some huts in this village are way more visible and visited than the others.

3. Covfefe lets people let off steam

When we talk about memes as political mindbombs, we refer to them as the symbolic messages that have influence on the political agenda. They are incomplete, even shallow per se – but, when matched with the context, they gain this incredible resonating power. Memes – the funny Internet jokes that are suddenly shared by thousands – are indicators of public opinion. When something becomes a meme, it means the public finds a message relevant in it to their views and opinions.
People endorse covfefe as it is a terrific symbol of a political conundrum the US found itself in. Social media lampoon the leader who does not curate his Twitter presence well, does not care about political correctness and keeps smashing the rules of diplomacy. The publics share covfefe to express their confusion, rage, hysterical amusement with this phenomenal politics.

Last but not least, it is highly metaphorical that #covfefe in Trump’s original tweet intended to mean “coverage”. The coverage of politics these days has turned in a covfefe – with the rise of right-wing populism, fake claims of the under-regulated tabloid media and vocal social media users, we are losing the core of truth and interpretation. Covfefe is what remains.

Anastasia Denisova


Anastasia Denisova is a Lecturer in Social Media at CAMRI, University of Westminster. Before starting her academic career, she worked as a journalist in Russia for over a decade in the capacity of television news editor and reporter for NTV Broadcasting company, editor at Aeroflot Inflight magazine, and a freelance reporter and columnist for the major magazines, including GEO, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire and many others. Her work has received the industry and community recognition, including the French government’s award for the best publication on France in Russian in 2014 (the feature for GEO Russia).


2 June 2017
Published By
The Huffington Post
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