On October 13, The New York Times reported that a video depicting President Donald Trump murdering political opponents and members of the press had been shown at a conference for his supporters held the previous week at the Trump National Doral Miami. The video was a doctored version of a scene in the 2014 movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, in which a British spy, played by Colin Firth, is brainwashed into murdering congregants in a Kentucky church.
Part of a “meme exhibit,” according to the event’s organizers, the video showed Trump’s face superimposed over Firth’s, while his victims’ faces were covered with those of Democratic politicians or the logos of media outlets viewed as critical of Trump and his policies. One murder victim was labeled “Black Lives Matter.” The church in which the grisly slaying takes place was retitled the “Church of Fake News.”
The video was quickly traced to a pseudonymous pro-Trump meme maker who goes by “TheGeekzTeam” and is listed as a contributor to the website MemeWorld. MemeWorld was founded in August by Logan Cook, a prolific pro-Trump social media personality with more than 188,000 Twitter followers who also goes by the online name Carpe Donktum. In an August 20 tweet, he billed MemeWorld as “a collaboration of some of the greatest meme minds on Planet Earth!!”
In reality, MemeWorld is brimming with content that appears to promote political violence, conspiracy theories, racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism. It also does not hesitate to accept content from, or promote the work of, high-profile extremist figures. And its founder clearly has the attention of President Trump, who invited Cook to the White House in July for a “social media summit” alongside other far-right social media personalities.
TheGeekzTeam’s video was swiftly condemned by CNN, which issued a statement decrying it as “vile and horrific.” Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, called on Trump and “everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.”
In contrast, Logan Cook struck a very different chord, claiming in an official statement that the video was “CLEARLY satirical” and the violence was “metaphoric.” Cook likened the video to Shakespeare in the Park’s 2017 production of Julius Caesar, in which Caesar was depicted as a Trump-like figure. He concluded by writing, “MemeWorld stands behind TheGeekzTeam and will REMAIN supportive of him in the future.”
It is no surprise that Cook is standing behind TheGeekzTeam’s violent video, the theme of which echoes Trump’s own claims that the free press is the “enemy of the people.” Although the Kingsman video was not posted to MemeWorld, other MemeWorld content appears to endorse violence against journalists and political opponents.
Take, for instance, a GIF of former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders slapping CNN reporter Jim Acosta. That post is titled “What we all want to do to Acosta” and was made by Mad Liberals, one of 25 “Creators” listed on Cook’s site.
While the Sanders-Acosta gif could perhaps pass for slapstick comedy, MemeWorld also features more extreme content, such as a doctored scene from the 2009 film Inglourious Basterds by creator Devil’s Advocate. In it, a baseball bat-wielding Attorney General William Barr approaches a prisoner of war, a robotic figure wearing a tinfoil hat labeled “Fake News” whose face morphs into that of various journalists. Barr smashes the bat against the prisoner’s head, knocking a tiny George Soros out of its skull. After the prisoner collapses, Barr continues to rain blows on the body, and the face changes into an image known as the NPC meme.
Some content is explicitly bigoted against women and minorities. A MemeWorld post by the creator Brick Suit shows a video of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, depicted as a thieving rat:
Likening Jewish people to rodents has long been an anti-Semitic trope. Brick Suit, whose real name is Blake Marnell, shook hands with President Trump at a May 2019 rally in Pennsylvania while dressed in his signature brick- pattern border wall suit.
Shortly after that May rally, Marnell made an appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends program, where he received a warm reception from co-hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt. (Doocy referred to Marnell as a “walking meme” and Earhardt complimented his “great personality.”) On the now- quarantined subreddit “r/The_Donald,” Marnell boosted the QAnon and Seth Rich conspiracies, as well as 4chan’s racist “It’s Okay To Be White” meme.
Female Democratic politicians who are women are often targeted in misogynistic and sexualized ways on MemeWorld: Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) is portrayed as the eponymous lead character of the 1978 porno Debbie Does Dallas; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is depicted in a bikini or as a scantily clad dominatrix; and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is shown making out with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a reference to the sexist right-wing smear about her.
Below the Harris video, is a statement from the creator which says that the original footage was from Harris “trying different pork venues while campaigning for president,.” They added, “I replaced the pork with Willie Brown, although she’d rather it have been Willie’s willie in my opinion.” Another MemeWorld video, titled “Kamala Harris Give [sic] Women Tips On How To Advance At Work,” appears non-functional but is labelled “NSFW” (“Not Safe For Work”) and includes the tag “blowjob.”
One person listed as a MemeWorld creator is Mark Dice, a far-right conspiracy theorist and frequent guest on Alex Jones’ Infowars network. Dice is perhaps most famous for is his work “exposing” the Illuminati – the shadowy, elite cabal that secretly controls the world, and whose members, he says, congregate in “camps” at Monte Rio, California’s Bohemian Grove campground. The summer retreat for wealthy, male politicians, industrialists, and other elite figures has for years been the subject of nefarious conspiracy theories about satanic rituals.
In a since-removed August 23 YouTube video, Dice told viewers about MemeWorld’s launch, describing it as a site where “master meme makers” can “share their memes without having to worry about” removal for copyright violations. A MemeWorld post linking to that video announced the “GREAT NEWS” that Dice will be “joining this site as a periodic contributor!!” In spite of that announcement, this remains the only post on MemeWorld under Mark Dice’s name. It is unclear when Dice removed the video from YouTube.
Another MemeWorld creator is libertarian-turned-pro-Trump illustrator Ben Garrison. One of Garrison’s cartoons posted to MemeWorld in August shows what appears to be the front of a building that advertises a “GREEN NEW DEAL INSIDE” and features images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Vice President Al Gore. In the second panel, a man with a red MAGA hat walks through a door that turns out to a façade leading to a cliff, with the word “GLOBALISM” and a red hammer and sickle painted on the back.
Another cartoon, called “The Tree of Liberty,” shows Garrison is also not one to shy away from violent rhetoric. Above the quote “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” is a withered tree proclaiming “I’m thirsty” as a pair of woodpeckers (one labeled with a hammer and sickle and the other with what appears to be the “Eye of Providence”) chip away at it. A cat whose tail resembles the Google logo claws at a leaf labeled “1st Amendment Free Speech,” and a caterpillar labeled “Democrats” gnaws on a leaf representing the Second Amendment. An axe labeled “Globalism” is embedded in the tree’s side.Below the cartoon, Garrison wrote: “Right now we see many corrupt operatives in government who are above the law. One of [Thomas] Jefferson’s most famous quotes was about how the tree of liberty may need to get watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants from time to time. I decided to illustrate his quote.”
In 2018, Garrison outed himself as a supporter of QAnon, a conspiracy theory which posits that Trump is working behind the scenes to bring down a global pedophile ring whose members include the Clintons and the Obamas, and that an anonymous, high-level government informant was leaking details of this investigation onto 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board, “/pol/.”
On July 1, 2018, Garrison tweeted the QAnon motto: “Where we go one, we go all.” Although that tweet has been deleted, he has since tweeted an abbreviated hashtag of the motto, “#WWG1WGA,” on multiple occasions. In a July 22 tweet, Garrison debuted a cartoon depicting a baby at a Trump rally dressed in a QAnon shirt. “Beautiful baby!” gushed the caricature of Trump, as CNN, also depicted as a baby, cried and said “Don’t show Q!”
The White House initially invited Garrison to its social media summit but later rescinded the invitation in response to an anti-Semitic cartoon he drewthat depicted retired Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as puppets manipulated by Jewish financier George Soros. Soros, in turn, was controlled by a hand labeled “ROTHSCHILDS.” Although this cartoon was not featured on MemeWorld, the site does feature a Garrison cartoon that labels Sen. Elizabeth Warren an “Injun.”
Garrison is not the only purveyor of conspiracy theories or bigotry listed as a MemeWorld creator. One creator who goes by the handle The Storm Is Now is fond of posting pro-Alex Jones content, including a video of a CGI dragon that the Infowars conspiracy theorist voices in a mock Chinese accent. (In QAnon lore, “the Storm” refers to mass arrests of elite pedophiles.) Ten of The Storm Is Now’s 27 posts refer to Jones or use clips from Infowars.
One post from The Storm Is Now in September showed a close-up of former Vice President Joe Biden revealing bloodshot eyes; the caption states, “When your lizard eye peeps through the skin suit, and you’re low on adrenochrome.” This directly references two conspiracy theories. The first, popularized by English conspiracy theorist and author David Icke, is that there exists a race of reptilians that secretly masquerade as human beings and rule secret societies like the Illuminati. The second, another nod to QAnon, is that wealthy elites are harvesting adrenochrome from children to extend their lifespans (adrenochrome is actually a “derivative of adrenaline that doesn’t do anything”).
In another post, titled “True Texans Have A Message For Beto,” The Storm Is Now linked to a video that begins with Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke boasting that, if elected, he would ban AR-15s and AK-47s. It then cuts to a man saying, “Hey Beto, I like you, do you like me?” before firing an automatic rifle at a target resembling a human silhouette. The video has nearly half a million views.
It is clear that when it comes to extremist content from MemeWorld contributors, the headline-grabbing Kingsman video is far from alone. On Cook's website, bigotry, conspiracies, and violence are a feature, not a bug. And this is all the more troubling when the president appears dependent, now more than ever, on support from the political fringes.