Jennifer Lawrence and congresswoman Liz Cheney have more in common than one might assume upon first examination. Both have become the victims of “comedic” posts appearing on Donald Trump Jr.’s Instagram page.
As the self-proclaimed “Meme Wars General,” Trump utilizes his social media to attack opponents using memes instead of promoting his own political opinions.
After Lawrence’s recent interview with Vogue, Trump criticized the actress’ discussions with her therapist regarding nightmares about Tucker Carlson in a meme. The graphic he posted also attacked Lawrence regarding rumors alleging she had an intimate relationship with Harvey Weinstein, ones that the actress has repeatedly denied.
Even though Lawrence criticizes Trump’s political views, it does not give him the right to bully her. By making mental health and sexual assault part of the joke, Trump demeans the experience of those who struggle with either issue. For many, it is not a joke. Trump’s ability to satirize these problems only further reflects his privilege.
While Lawrence has only recently become one of Trump’s comedic targets, Representative Cheney has long been the subject of Trump’s memes.
Frequently, Trump posts pictures with Miss Piggy’s face super-imposed onto photos of Cheney in attempts to demonstrate the congresswoman’s physical resemblance to the famous Muppet character. With two Instagram posts in August 2022 alone, the attacks are constant.
Trump is welcome to debate Cheney’s views on key issues such as the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. He is not welcome to blatantly ridicule her appearance through Miss Piggy memes.
Americans should not ignore Trump’s behavior on social media. By failing to criticize his attacks on Lawrence and Cheney, society condones his actions. With his public position, Trump sets a poor example for addressing those with differing views. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is occurring within other right-wing groups.
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, received death threats after the NRA encouraged followers to express their frustration with her online back in 2019. Some gun rights supporters even told Watts, “Maybe you should receive death threats.”
What has our country become? Freedom of speech protects hate speech, but not gun control advocates. One should find this quite alarming. Death threats do not qualify as part of a policy debate.
More recently, Watts addressed a series of vulgar and threatening direct messages she shared on Instagram during the summer. After standing up for herself online, Instagram sanctioned Watts’s account for a period of time for sharing direct messages because they were intended for her eyes only. Instagram should ban offenders before blaming the victim. Until social media platforms take action against cyberbullying, activists will continue to face unwarranted insults.
Instead of informed debate, Americans have reverted to baseless insults. With readily available accurate information at our fingertips, one should take time to learn about how political policy impacts daily life instead of sharing hurtful attacks on someone’s political views or physical appearance. Without a populace truly engaged in politics, the attacks on activists will persist. While political discourse is the cornerstone of democracy, blatant insults and threats are unacceptable.