Ken Bone has destroyed the purity of the meme and we must not stand silent

Daniel damned us all, but Ken Bone is the final nail in the coffin for all the internet holds dear. 

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Personally, I blame Daniel. If he hadn’t worn such nice white Vans, then perhaps none of this would have ever happened. Perhaps his friend Joshua wouldn’t have filmed a montage of his – undeniably – fashionable trousers and trainers. Perhaps he wouldn’t have uploaded the clip to Twitter. Perhaps 16,000 people wouldn’t have retweeted it in 48 hours. Perhaps Ken Bone wouldn’t have become an international icon after standing up during the second United States presidential election debate and asking a question about energy policy while wearing a red jumper.

Damn, Daniel. Back at it again with the destruction of everything that is pure. 

Let me explain. It’s not, especially, that Damn Daniel is such a terrible meme.* It’s just that when Daniel went viral on 16 February 2016, something changed. The ardent memification of a man wearing shoes paved the way for Ken Bone – a man wearing a jumper – to become an internet sensation. Since Sunday, Bone has been featured on CNN and Jimmy Kimmel Live, gained 80,000 Twitter followers on his personal account, and become a trending Facebook topic. It has not yet been a full two days since Ken Bone was thrust, unwittingly, into the internet’s arms, and I for one cannot remember what life felt like before.

It is not that I begrudge Bone his new found fame. When he went on the news and told a story about the trousers of his olive suit splitting at the seams, it was clear that he deserved to join Hide The Pain Harold and Harambe in the hallowed halls of meme. But he did not become a meme because of this story. He became a meme because he wore a red jumper (and also, yes, has a moustache).

Ken Bone’s jumper is the New Emperor’s New Clothes. Don’t you get it? Don’t you love it? Don’t you want to retweet it to all your friends? No! I say. No. For when I look at screenshots of Ken Bone I do not see the silky, embroidered cloak of meme. I see the naked, quivering flesh of the internet, desperately trying to pretend they see a joke where there isn’t one.

And I get it. Now, more than ever, we need memes. Are we ready to sit back and silently watch a carroty buffoon named Donald become leader of the free world? It is much easier, nicer, even, to desperately scan the audience of the presidential debates for someone else to pay attention to. And were there a grumpy-looking cat or a woman with a Star Wars mask sat in row one, I would have been the first to embrace them. But there was only Ken Bone.

Forced memes are nothing new. Yet while we wholeheartedly rejected the PuppyMonkeyBabies of marketing campaigns past, we have all accepted Ken Bone – and our fate. We are a mere three weeks away from Halloween, when a man who should not be a meme will be cemented in history by your mate’s mate’s ironic costume. How did we let this happen?

Back in my day (about a year ago) the meme was pure. But just two months after Daniel damned us all, Boaty McBoatface sunk us to new lows. Twenty-two days later, Harambe was dead. Coincidence? I think not.

I wish I could turn to you, the spirit of Regina George flashing in my eyes and cry: “Stop trying to make Ken Bone happen. He’s not going to happen!” But he has. Happened, that is. And you, you are to blame.

*It is, tho 

Amelia Tait is a freelance journalist, and was previously the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer. She tweets at @ameliargh

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