When Ted Stevens, the elderly senator from Alaska, infamously referred to the internet as "a series of tubes" during hearings on a 2006 net neutrality bill which he himself had sponsored, he unwittingly entered into a kind of irony vortex. Stevens had simultaneously proved himself clueless about the web -- at one point saying "an internet was sent by my staff" in reference to an email -- and had also created an internet meme, his "tubes" comment earning him a place among such hallowed meme icons as the Numa Numa guy and "2 Girls 1 Cup" (not to mention President Bush's infamous neologism "the internets.") In honor of Stevens' irony-laced accomplishment, here are five other memes which have needlessly clogged his tubes over the years.
1. Bert is Evil
In the late 90s, a new conspiracy theory was born. Pictures began to pop up around the net of Bert, of Sesame Street fame, consorting with various nefarious figures from history, from Hitler to Jack Ruby, and more recently, Osama Bin Laden. The theory being that mild-mannered, eggheaded Bert (who looks pretty dang evil when you arch his unibrow up, we grant you), is actually a malevolent mastermind responsible for some of the twentieth century's greatest atrocities. After winning a Webby award in 1998, the "official" Bert is Evil site was taken down due to a crushing amount of traffic, but Evil Bert lives on, popping up in the most unlikely places -- just Google him.
2. All Your Base Are Belong to Us
A simple case of bad "Engrish" -- in this case a horrendously translated "cut sequence" from a 1989 Sega Genesis game called Zero Wing -- sparked an memetic internet phenomenon some eleven years later. Anyone who grew up playing Nintendo games is at least glancingly familiar with Engrish mistranslations (upon beating the classic game Ghosts 'n' Goblins, I was rewarded by a puzzling screen that read "Congraturation. This story is happy end. Thank you") -- the "All Your Base" phenomenon, to gamer nerds at least, is twenty times more hilarious. A Flash animation began circulation around 2000 that featured shots from the original Zero Wing game with some remixed music and some Photoshop magic -- the result was internet gold:
One of the few meme neologisms which also happens to be a verb, "to Rickroll" someone is to sucker them into clicking on a particularly tempting link (say, to pictures of Jason and Mangesh in the buff), which then turns out to be the music video for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." Hit counts for the Astley video online indicate that between 13 and 18 million people have been Rickrolled thus far -- and in an amazing twist, the phenomenon has begun to spread (virally?) to the real world. Public events like basketball games, local newscasts, even Scientologists have been Rickrolled. On April Fool's Day this year, YouTube Rickrolled the world by making every one of their front page videos a link to "Never Gonna Give You Up" (which means the phenomenon will probably jump the shark pretty soon -- yikes, another meme).
LOLcats have been covered to death (on this site especially), but it's hard to talk about weird internet memes and not mention them. Also known as an anthropomorphic image-based macro, LOLs can and have featured cats, walruses, anteaters and other animals in funny or uncompromising poses, paired with superimposed text supposedly uttered by the animal (and thus, of poor grammatical quality). The phenomenon has become so pervasive, covered in Time and elsewhere, forwarded and linked to death, that there's even a project underway to translate the Bible into LOL. Its creators and contributors hope to have the New Testament finished by the end of 2008. Here's the LOL version of John 3:16:
So liek teh Ceiling Cat lieks teh ppl lots and he sez 'Oh hai I givez u me only kitteh and ifs u beleevs in him u wont evr diez no moar, k?'
"Ceiling cat" being God, of course. (Satan is referred to as "basement cat," people as "kittehs.")
Here's my favorite LOL, the LOLrus: