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Bad omens and deep-state lunacy: solar eclipse brings wave of memes
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Bad omens and deep-state lunacy: solar eclipse brings wave of memes

From eclipse donuts to deep-state lunacy, the weeks-long social media buildup to a solar eclipse is birthing memes, marketing gimmicks, and more than a few conspiracy theories. As many prepare for the celestial event in person, content creators have also scrambled to commemorate the big day.

“Most of the memes are jokes about people staring at the sun and going blind from not using proper protection, as well as jokes about places like Canada being almost entirely exempt from the path of the event,” said Zach Sweat, managing editor of the internet social history website Know Your Meme.

Michael Zeiler, an eclipse cartographer and the man behind GreatAmericanEclipse.com, has provided a handy “Emoji Map” that depicts the path of totality – where you can see the total eclipse – through a series of emojis. A smiley face hovering over a city means that it will get the best view. Sleepy and angry faces, not so much.

The last solar eclipse took place in 2017, shortly after the start of Donald Trump’s presidential term. While standing on the steps of the White House with the first lady, Melania Trump, and their son, Barron, Trump squinted toward the heavens on the steps of the White House, unbothered by the aide shouting “don’t look!” from below. The image became a metaphor for 45’s general distrust of science.

Photos snapped during the event were much-memed back then, and have resurfaced. It’s all part of a cautionary tale: if you want to take a peek, just wear the glasses.

Still, the general mood before 2024’s eclipse is playful, says Know Your Meme’s Sweat. There are far fewer “political jokes” this time around, comparedwith seven years ago.

There is plenty of merch, though. Need a munchie while stuck in traffic due to eclipse tourism? Krispy Kreme hopes you’ll pick up a Total Solar Eclipse donut, a glazed offering dipped in black chocolate ice cream and topped with silver sprinkles and Oreo buttercream. And oh – there’s also an entire cookie in the middle.

MoonPie has declared itself the “official sponsor” of the solar eclipse. What that means remains to be determined, but the snack brand released a new marshmallow sandwich for the occasion. SunChips, Blue Moon and Snapple have also dropped new or limited edition products in the event’s honor.

Corporations may be having fun with this eclipse, but some are taking it very, very seriously. Brace yourself: social media stargazers say it’s time to get ready for “eclipse energy”.

As Astro Bella Luna, a TikTok astrologer with 1 million followers, explained (somewhat menacingly): “We have just entered the most pivotal month of the year, okay? April is not here to play around. And if we can get through this month, we can get through anything.”

Why? The solar eclipse happens to occur during Mercury retrograde, which is when the Swift planet appears to move backwards from Earth’s view. (It’s actually an optical illusion; from time to time, the planet moves slower than the earth around the sun, which makes it appear as if it’s moving backward.)

Down on earth, this short window of time can apparently cause issues with communication, mood swings, and just a general sense of frazzledness. Add a solar eclipse on top of this? Chaos!

On the Astrology Memes subreddit, folks report feeling groggy, on edge, tired, and just plain off in light of this heavenly confluence. “My cats are 100% feeling it already as they usually feel all the eclipses really strongly,” one user wrote, adding, “I’ve not been myself since like middle of last week.”

Adding to the unease, the Friday before the eclipse saw a rare, 4.8 magnitude earthquake shake parts of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. To some doomers – or just those prone to anxiety – it all felt a little too End Times-y. (If you need another symbol of impending apocalypse, consider the fact that up to a trillion cicadas are about to hit the east coast for the first time in centuries.)

And then there are the conspiracy theorists, who are sure that this eclipse heralds at worst the fall of civilization and at best some very sketchy behavior from the deep state. In videos posted to X and TikTok, content creators – many of them falling under the far-right or ultra-conservative Christian categories – sound the alarm on certain facts they feel all add up to … something.

The disgraced and discredited InfoWars host Alex Jones posted a meandering video on X calling the eclipse a “biblical event” and sign from God that the Department of Homeland Security will “hijack” for some nebulous purpose that includes Nasa, ancient Egyptian gods, and the Bible. Yes, it’s just as impossible to follow as it sounds.

A few minutes on Eclipse-Tok can frighten even the hardened skeptics… though that fear is less about a second big bang taking place and more about how easily misinformation spreads.

It’s understandable if the mindless marketing or “just asking questions” quacks make you want to hide underneath the comforter until it’s all over. But on 8 April, it’s probably a good idea to put away the phone, go outside, and bathe in the splendor of our galaxy. Just please wear those safety glasses when you do it.

Source: theguardian.com