It appears that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-09) wasn’t a white supremacist posing a real threat of violence after all.
On Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) was captured engaging in a friendly conversation with Gosar. This interaction occurred a little over a year after she accused Gosar of white supremacy and threats of violence for posting a meme video portraying her and other Democrats as slain anime villains. Her claims of fear resulted in Gosar’s censuring and removal from two committees.
Ocasio-Cortez later clarified to reporters that the floor conversation with Gosar concerned Democrats’ support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-20) or Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08) as House Speaker. She toldMSNBC that Gosar spoke to her to keep GOP leadership “honest,” dispelling McCarthy’s claim that he had Democrats’ support.
McCarthy reportedly told Republicans that he had promises of votes from Democrats to secure the speakership.
The fallout from Gosar’s meme occurred in November 2021. Ocasio-Cortez derided Gosar, insisting that the meme portrayed Gosar’s “fantasy” of killing her. She also claimed that institutions don’t protect women of color.
“White supremacy is for extremely fragile people and sad men like him, whose self concept relies on the myth that he was born superior because deep down he knows he couldn’t open a pickle jar or read a whole book by himself,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez.
Rather than an apology, Gosar posted another meme mocking Democrats’ sensitivity.
Outcry from Democrats resulted in Gosar’s censure, which took four hours of debate to reach.
The congressman was removed from two committees: the National Resources Committee and the Oversight and Reform Committee. Gosar’s censure broke an 11-year dry spell for censures. Only two Republicans voted with Democrats to censure Gosar: Reps. Adam Kizinger (R-IL-16) and Liz Cheney (R-WY).
During the censure vote, Ocasio-Cortez claimed the meme was an incitement to violence. Since the meme’s posting, Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t been subject to any publicized attacks.
Although Gosar ultimately removed the offending video, he didn’t apologize for the meme.
Arizonans have one less voice in two congressional committees – the National Resources Committee and the Oversight and Reform Committee – after the House voted Wednesday to punish Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04) for posting an anime meme. The offending post photoshopped Gosar’s face on that of the protagonist featured in the intro of a popular anime series, Attack on Titan, attacking villains with the photoshopped faces of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and President Joe Biden. The anime meme also incorporated clips of the border crisis and Border Patrol.
The House also censured Gosar with their vote (House Resolution 789), breaking an 11-year dry spell since the last censure. The House decision, 223-207, was largely partisan with the exception of several congressmen generally considered “Republicans In Name Only” (RINOs) for their tendency to oppose Republican policies and stances. Those members were Congressman Adam Kizinger (R-IL-16) and Liz Cheney (R-WY); Congressman David Joyce (R-OH-14) opted to vote “present” only.
The 4 hours of debate over Gosar’s censure and committee removals consisted of the same arguments. Democrats and Republicans alike largely rehashed the same talking points other members of their party were making.
Democrats’ general argument was that Gosar’s meme fantasized and incited violence. They claimed Gosar’s post was the same kind of hate speech that led to incidents like the January 6 storming of the Capitol. Many reasoned that Gosar should be punished because employers fire employees, and schools suspend or expel students, over similar or lesser offenses. Democrats claimed that they were getting death threats because of the meme.
Aside from insisting that the entire debate was a waste of time better spent on putting out bigger fires – such as the border crisis or the mounting tensions with both Russia and China – Republicans warned that the resolution would set a bad precedent, in which the majority party could pick and remove at their leisure who may sit on committees. Nearly every Republican that took to the podium asserted that Democrats were acting hypocritically with a “rules for thee, but not for me” attitude, citing Democrats’ speech encouraging the protests as cities were destroyed during last year’s George Floyd riots.
Prior to Gosar, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA-14) faced similar threats of censure and committee removal for her past social media posts. Though Democrats dropped the censure threats, the latter punishment stuck. Greene was stripped for remarks she made prior to her election and even prior to her campaign, effectively limiting her influence from the start of her term. Greene also continues to accrue fines for refusing to mask up; according to Greene’s latest estimates, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has fined her over $60,500 and counting.
Gosar defended himself a little over midway through the House vote. He explained that the anime was intended to convey a policy battle regarding amnesty for illegal aliens, catering toward young voters “who are too often overlooked.” Gosar asserted that the meme wasn’t intended as a threat.
“[I] reject the mischaracterization and accusations from many in this body that the cartoon from my office is dangerous or threatening. It was not, and I reject the false narrative categorically,” explained Gosar. “I do not espouse violence towards anyone, I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset. I voluntarily took the cartoon down, not because it was itself a threat but because some thought it was. Out of compassion for those who generally felt offense, I self-censored.”
It appeared that the only member who could offer cultural context to the meaning and intent behind the anime meme was Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05).
“I’ve lived in Japan for several years! I speak Japanese. I read and write Japanese. This is an anime. Highly popular. Stylized. Intended to demonstrate the alienation people feel – particularly young people – in their cultures. Now, does anime have violence? Yes. It’s highly stylized violence,” explained Biggs. “It was not Mr. Gosar’s intention, I believe, to induce anyone to violence, and like he, I also condemn violence. I would ask you to reconsider further usurping and taking control of this body for political purposes because that’s what’s happening here today.”
Ocasio-Cortez said that the Republicans’ downplaying of the meme’s severity was “nihilism.” She also inferred that average Americans look up to congressional members for influence and direction. Ocasio-Cortez then called the meme an incitement to violence that would directly connect to violent acts. The congresswoman insisted that the meme shouldn’t be simplified as a mere trend, but examined critically for all its problematic parts and their significance. Conversely, Ocasio-Cortez insisted that the vote on such a matter should be simple.
“So when we talk about […] that these depictions are part of a larger trend of misogyny, and racist misogyny, this has results in dampening the participation,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “This vote is not as complex as perhaps the Republican leader would like to make folks believe. It’s pretty cut and dry. Does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable? Would you allow depictions of violence against women and colleagues in your home? In your school board? In your city council? In a church? If it’s not acceptable there, why is it acceptable here?”
Though Ocasio-Cortez and the Democrats wanted an apology for the meme with their vote, they didn’t get one – and it doesn’t appear that they will.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, members of Congress’ ultra-progressive Squad, and the rest of the Democratic Party took offense to a meme video tweeted Sunday and deleted by Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04), characterizing it as violence. The video was a parody of the intro for a popular anime show, Attack on Titan, superimposing Gosar’s face onto the protagonist, Eren Yeager, with both Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and President Joe Biden depicted as two villains that Gosar as Yager attacks.
The faces of Congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA-14) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO-03) were also superimposed onto protagonists, too – the only two other Republicans featured in the video were Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01) and former President Donald Trump. The video also incorporated clips of the border crisis and Border Patrol. Toward the end of the video, there are pictures of Gosar with his enemies: Biden, Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, and NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Pelosi called for the government and police to investigate Gosar for the meme as a threat of violence.
“Threats of violence against Members of Congress and the President of the United States must not be tolerated,” tweeted Pelosi. “@GOPLeader should join in condemning this horrific video and call on the Ethics Committee and law enforcement to investigate.”
Pelosi’s remarks came the morning after the rallying cry of the Squad, a majority of whom tweeted similar condemnations in near-succession on Monday night.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13) demanded that Republicans control Gosar.
“His party must reign him in. Fantasizing about killing a colleague is dangerous, deranged, and promotes violence,” wrote Tlaib.
Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO-01) called the meme “violent bigotry” that endangered people.
“Every day these white supremacists push the limits further and further to see how far they can go without consequences,” asserted Bush. “This puts lives in danger. Enough with the violent bigotry. Expel this white supremacist clown.”
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN-05) insinuated that Gosar should step down or be removed from his seat.
“This man should not serve in Congress. Fantasizing about violently attacking your colleagues has no place in our political discourse and society,” wrote Omar.
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the video was a fantasy of a man who fundraises for Neo-Nazis killing her, and lamented that this was another attack on women of color that wouldn’t face consequences.
“So while I was en route to Glasgow, a creepy member I work with who fundraises for Neo-Nazi groups shared a fantasy video of him killing me. And he’ll face no consequences [because] @GOPLeader [Kevin McCarthy] cheers him on with excuses. Fun Monday! Well, back to work [because] institutions don’t protect [women of color.] Remember when [Republican Florida Congressman Ted] Yoho accosted me on the the Capitol and called me a f*****g b***h [?] Remember when Greene ran after me a few months ago screaming and reaching[?] Remember when she stalked my office the first time with insurrectionists & ppl locked inside[?] All at my job and nothing ever happens[.] Anyways, back to business[.] This dude is just a collection of wet toothpicks anyway. White supremacy is for extremely fragile people and sad men like him, whose self concept relies on the myth that he was born superior because deep down he knows he couldn’t open a pickle jar or read a whole book by himself.”
After the majority of the Democratic Party lobbed their condemnations against Gosar, the congressman tweeted another meme Tuesday morning alluding to left-wing reactions over the deleted video.
The meme featured two popular characters, “Crying Wojak” and “Yes Chad,” in a combination template called “Soyboy vs. Yes Chad.” The former character typically represents a frustrated male that is perceived as more woke, liberal, and soft – hence the term “soyboy.” In this meme, it’s supposed to represent the Democrats outraged by the meme.
The latter character typically represents a masculine man comfortable in his beliefs, depicted as more conservative, rational, and strong. In this case, Yes Chad represented Gosar.
“You’re [sic] cartoon scares me with your jet pack[,] flying[,] and light sabers [sic],” says the Soyboy, with the Yes Chad responding: “It’s a cartoon. Relax.”
This week marks a shift in public discourse over the meaning and significance of memes. On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) classified meme culture as “misinformation” that “poses an increasing danger” in newly-published guidance addressing COVID-19 information. The toolkit also alluded to satire as “misinformation.”