The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The ‘Texts from Hillary’ meme isn’t so funny anymore

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli, on October 18, 2011. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

One winner in the controversy over Hillary Clinton's private e-mail account is photographer Kevin Lamarque, who, in 2011, took a photo of Clinton wearing sunglasses while on her phone as she flew from Malta to Tripoli. It's a photo we know today as the "Texts from Hillary" photo, and this week, it got a big bump.

"Texts from Hillary" started as a Tumblr in 2012 that paired Clinton with photos of other people, usually politicians, and overlaid text of an imagined conversation between the two of them (like this one with President Obama), and became a popular meme. (Those crazy kids on the Internet!) In 2013, when Clinton opened her own Twitter account, she used the image as her avatar, a choice celebrated for being self-aware.

That was over a year-and-a-half ago, but Lamarque's photo has been given new life this week. It's been published in stories by The Washington Post, as well as the New York Times, the New York Post, the New Yorker, Business Insider and Mashable. Unlike its use as a meme that portrayed Clinton as a boss who runs the world, it's been placed under headlines such as "White House says Clinton did not heed e-mail policy," stuff that doesn't throw off as positive an image for Clinton.

That change of fortune led many people on Twitter to suggest she change her avatar ASAP.

Of course, doing so might suggest Clinton thought she had done something wrong, which is not something she wants to suggest (a Twitter avatar, as someone said once, I think, contains multitudes). The image now carries a more complex meaning than it did before. For supporters, it's still the re-bloggable "Texts from Hillary" photo, but for others, it could fast become "E-mails Sent From A Private Account That Violates Specific Obama Administration Policy From Hillary," and that's a problem that could become just as rebloggable.

The Internet!