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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is like a Gremlin. We have to stop feeding her after midnight, and for the love of God, we can’t get her wet. With every splash of incendiary rhetoric invoking her name, she gets bigger, badder, and more visible. This freshman rep from New York’s 14th District has captured the public imagination in ways that her diminutive position probably doesn’t warrant. Her methods may seem brash and new, but they are the same ones that got her nemesis the position of presidential power he now occupies. And we fed that meme too. She’s probably the most powerful Democrat in terms of affect on our culture. Her political capital is high; her cultural capital is through the roof.
In 2017, Stephen Fry offered up some words of wisdom about Donald Trump and how he derives his power:
He is the most extreme example of a narcissistic personality disorder as I understand it, not as a professional psychologist obviously, that I can imagine in public life. And I know that in my lifetime there has never been in a single individual on this planet who is more talked about. At every bar, at every table in every restaurant, in every talk show, every radio talk show, everybody’s talking about him all the time. And I kind of imagine that he’s like some sort of Dr. Seuss figure that’s like a balloon, and every time his name is mentioned he gets a bit bigger, and a bit bigger. He feeds off this energy, almost like a Star Trek alien who feeds off the mention of his name. So the answer of course is to stop talking about him… If you imagine that the press decided that they would cover Congress and the various cabinet members and what they said and did, then they would simply never talk about it. They would actually ban his name from the pages. Of course it won’t happen because he’s click bait. That would be the answer, not to feed his appetite for being mentioned.
Since then, Trump has only grown in size and cultural power. He’s a Gremlin, too.
And we’re to blame.
Whether it’s Dr. Seuss or Star Trek, it doesn’t matter. Both analogies work. We’ve come to discover that this phenomenon of narcissistic political bloating is not exclusive to the right or Trumpland. He may have truly perfected it, right down to the outlandish baby blimp that floats over London every time he visits, but he’s not the only one capable of truly harnessing its power.
On the left, the narcissistic equivalent of Trump is AOC. In appearances she is his exact opposite, but in the land of click bait, she is just as beautiful. AOC is great for clicks, whether sipping rose while assembling IKEA furniture or talking at length about the dangers of climate change while dicing veggies for chili, she is the ultimate meme. She may be a home cook, while Trump prefers to pose with Mickey D’s, KFC, and taco bowls, but the effect is the same.
Whether she’s claiming that cauliflower is colonialism, freaking out over a garbage disposal, or provocatively using language that evokes the holocaust, with regards to the dicey situation at the American border, all of these become memes that feed the bigger meme that is AOC.
It’s like some kind of dark magic out of Harry Potter, wherein the mention of Voldemort’s name is enough to alert him to the fact he’s being talked about. Trump and AOC swing their faces and power-hungry eyes in your direction every time you like, link, click, or comment.
Like Trump, AOC gets a lot of things wrong. She’s often ill-informed and makes preposterous claims, like the time she misread data from the pentagon in an inept attempt to justify the cost of universal healthcare. Facts don’t seem to matter these days, but that’s okay, because Trump and AOC are all about the feels. They appeal to the irrational emotionality that rules these days of social panic. AOC even has her own comic book.
As entertaining and profitable as AOC is for the media, it’s probably a good idea to not give her as much attention as we have. Fry’s admonition is non partisan. If you love AOC but hate Trump, or the reverse, you are delusional because you’re lusting after the same body, with a different face. For sure AOC has better hair, but like Trump, she dumbs down our political discourse, and everyone starts dunking on each other instead.
Let’s do our best to apply Stephen Fry’s theory about Trump to AOC as well. Let’s try to not say her name quite so much lest she end up with her own baby blimp, but in, like, Texas or some place. Let’s focus on policies and substance. Let’s not give AOC so much space in our cultural conversations. That is, after you’ve liked, shared, and told all of your friends about this article.