Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has enlisted the help of popular Instagram meme accounts to bolster his presidential run. The New York Times reports that the Bloomberg campaign is working with Meme 2020, a company that manages and curates Instagram influencer accounts. Meme 2020's lead strategist is Mick Purzycki, chief executive of Jerry Media and of @FuckJerry fame. Together with an army of other Instagram accounts who became popular for stealing content, Meme 2020 launched a campaign to make Bloomberg a meme that was palatable for their Gen Z and Millennial audiences.
Here’s the meme posted to @FuckJerry, which has 14.9 million followers:
The humor lies, apparently, in the idea that Bloomberg is an out of touch old guy who would sincerely slide into the DMs of a meme account hoping for a crumb of clout. Here’s what was posted to @GrapeJuiceBoys, an account that has 2.7 million followers:
One of Bloomberg’s fake messages to @Tank.Sinatra (2.3 million followers) invokes a Bernie Sanders meme that was created organically, as memes ought to be:
Everyone who follows popular meme accounts and influencers can expect to see more Bloomberg-bought ads on their Instagram feeds as the primary drags on. The Times reports (emphasis ours):
Memers involved with Meme 2020 include: @MyTherapistSays, @WhitePeopleHumor, @TheFunnyIntrovert, @KaleSalad, @Sonny5ideUp, @Tank.Sinatra, @ShitheadSteve, @adam.the.creator, @moistbudda, @MrsDowJones, @TrashCanPaul, @cohmedy, @NeatDad, @FourTwenty, @GolfersDoingThings, @DrGrayFang, @MiddleClassFancy and @DoYouEvenLift. Together, the collective has an audience of more than 60 million followers.
“Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world,” Sabrina Singh, a senior national spokeswoman for the Bloomberg campaign, said in a statement. “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation.”
Several of the replies to the sponsored Bloomberg content have expressed dismay. Emily Ratajkowski—a Sanders supporter—replied to @FuckJerry saying “this isn’t a good look for you.” And even prolific content-stealer meme king @TheFatJewish wrote a long screed against Bloomberg and said that the campaign asked him to participate in the meme campaign as well. He declined:
“[The Bloomberg campaign] asked me to do it, I said no. I grew up in New York City so I can tell you firsthand, Bloomberg is a colossal shitbag. From the subjugation of minorities through stop and frisk policies to his hardline anti-marijuana stance, dude is a total hoe. I’d encourage any meme account owner to take schmoney from basically any brand (and use it to buy sick shit like jetskis and pure bred corgis) because brands are trash and deserve to have their money taken, but this dystopian black mirror simulation is too much for me i now need to be shot into the fucking sun k bye”
It’s Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk legacy that has come to dominate much of the narrative surrounding his campaign in the last week. Audio of Bloomberg at a 2015 conference resurfaced earlier this week, in which the former mayor advocates flooding black and brown neighborhoods with cops because that’s where the crime is. Bloomberg says “It’s controversial, but... 95 percent of your murders, murderers and murder victims, fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it, and pass out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25.” Along with renewed criticism over Bloomberg’s defense of New York’s racist and ineffective stop-and-frisk policy comes more evidence of Bloomberg’s racist agenda: a video is circulating of Bloomberg blaming the end of redlining—a housing policy that disproportionately denied or limited home loans to people in black neighborhoods—for the 2008 financial crash.
Less remembered is Bloomberg’s sexism which Gawker (RIP) documented in 2013, including one woman who sued Bloomberg LP in the ’90s for sexual harassment and alleged Bloomberg told her to kill her baby after she revealed she was pregnant; Bloomberg was apparently upset that she was his sixteenth employee to go on maternity leave. In 2007, the EEOC charged Bloomberg’s company with a pattern of discrimination, particularly discrimination against pregnant women. And then, there’s the “look at the ass on her” moment from the early 2010s, in which Bloomberg openly commented on a woman’s body at a holiday party, and the other numerous examples of him fussing over a woman’s appearance.
But an appetite for racism and sexism is of little consequence to voters who see Bloomberg’s endless stream of money as Trump’s kryptonite. And for Bloomberg’s staffers, it may be easy to overlook the man’s glaring flaws when $6,000 is showing up in their bank accounts every month. A New York Times piece highlighting the perks the Bloomberg campaign is offering to their employees shows how far the campaign is going to maintain an army of dedicated Mike 2020 soldiers, ready to boost his appeal in the months ahead.
Bloomberg’s decision to enter the crowded presidential primary race late in the game is slowly paying off. Despite his absence on the ballot in the early primary states, Bloomberg is currently polling in first place in Arkansas, second place in Florida and Missouri, and third in North Carolina. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 22 percent of black voters support Bloomberg, slotting him just behind Joe Biden and in front of Sanders. And on top of this, he’s spent millions of dollars peppering state after state with ads, making the case that he’s the one man who can stand up to Trump in November.
But underneath the veneer of a kind-hearted rich guy who just wants stronger gun control legislation is a longtime Republican who has spent some of his most important years as a politician villainizing the same populations he’s desperately trying to court and making women feel small. Maybe a good meme will make voters forget about that.