Americans watch presidential debates to serve many different goals. Older people need shameless pandering, because they are lonely. Corporate ladder-climbers need “water cooler talk.” And the nation’s much-maligned “undecided voters” want to put a face to a name, so they can vote for the white person.
For a certain small but social-media-savvy demographic of needy political fanatics, debates are an opportunity to quickly identify memes and catch phrases and then recycle these memorable bits into short-lived Internet destinations. Time is of the essence, because this stuff is utterly forgotten within 48 hours—by the time Saturday Night Live gets to it on the weekend, it’s all over.
If you didn’t follow the Obama-Romney Twitter storm Tuesday night, you missed a strange ritual in which way too many people try out variations of various zingers and comebacks the candidates exchanged. It’s like an improv group, but with tens of thousands of active participants. Potential memes are tossed out, quickly judged and left to die. Mitt’s “20 or 25 dead birds” had a moment and then dropped by consensus (too much like the “Big Bird” thing from the first debate). Obama’s bit about Romney bringing back cheap gasoline prices by bringing back the 2008 financial collapse was smart but impossible to fit into a #hashtag or URL. But Romney’s mush-mouthed response to a question about gender and pay equality was just right for the Internet: “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”
Instantly, magically, predictably, the Tumblr blogs and domain registrations and Facebook pages piled up. A nation’s ability to quickly perform Boolean image searches was tested and found sufficient. Many stock photography options were located, and with a Romney’s respect of copyright, nobody tried to remove the watermarks.
Quick with the keyboard, Tumblr/Twitter person and Hofstra grad “Hey, I’m Veronica” (who is looking for a new job in social media!) nabbed the coveted bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com URL while most Internet users were still wondering what exactly Romney even said. Her site is the essence of Tumblr simplicity, but with modern amenities such as “endless scroll.” It’s all about the content, and the content is a rapidly accumulating supply of user-generated joke images with varying levels of connection to the Mitt/Binders/Women meme. If editorial discretion is applied to this blog, it is applied with an extremely light and populist touch. ★ ★ ★ ★
Twitter Hashtag #BindersFullofWomen
A search for the Twitter hashtag #BindersFullofWomen does not lift the human spirit. Even the longest SNL sketch offers more laughs than 10 minutes of scrolling through the “All” list of witless twits trying to get a few more follows or a retweet by simply appending the hashtag to … anything, really. And then there’s the outright spam:
— MindBodySpirit Expo (@MBSExpo) October 17, 2012
— Mike Hannan (@SurgeryAbroad1) October 17, 2012
Stick to the “Top” tweets, or maybe People you follow, if you follow some funny people. ★ ★
Facebook page: Binders Full of Women
Like so much on the Internet that has withered and died from the poison touch of Mark Zuckerberg’s online Filofax, the Facebook page for “Binders Full of Women” is simply another Facebook page, visually and stylistically identical to hundreds of millions of other “pages” on Facebook, whether for a political joke or a drywall contractor in Central Ohio. The wide background image is, predictably, a row of colorful binders, probably a stock photo. The inset image is a poorly rendered thumbnail of Romney giving a creepy thumbs-up, probably from a wire-service photo. The content is … the usual stuff that leads you to “Hide” your friends who like to share a lot of stuff they’ve found at Daily Kos or whatever. But this page has 270,000+ “likes,” so that’s the apparent metric of success. Do not “like” such a thing. Have some dignity. ★