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The Internet Meme as Argument

posted: 3.1.13 by Donna Winchell

If you spend time on Facebook, you have most likely seen some examples of the Internet meme, one of our newest multimedia genres. One of the best known—and funniest—memes of 2012 featured then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Diana Walker of Time magazine snapped a picture of Clinton on a military plane headed for Libya wearing sunglasses and looking at her Blackberry. Over drinks one night, two friends, Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith, decided to have some fun with the picture, and Texts from Hillary was born. They paired Clinton’s picture with one of President Obama, added some text, and the result looked like this:

When Lambe and Smith froze their site, allowing it to remain up, but stopping any new posts, they wrote,

      It’s been an overwhelming—and hilarious—week for us here at Texts from Hillary (TFH). What started as a joke at the bar between two friends turned into a national conversation about Secretary Clinton and went as far as talks about 2016.
      After a week that included 32 posts, 83,000 shares on Facebook, 8,400 Twitter followers, over 45K Tumblr followers, [and] news stories around the world . . . , we think it’s time to stop while we are ahead.
      As far as memes go – it has gone as far as it can go. Is it really possible to top a submission from the Secretary herself? No. But then when you get to text with her in real life – it’s just over. At least for us. But we have no doubt it will live on with all of you on the Internet. . . .
      Thanks for all the LOLz. We truly appreciate all the support.
      It turns out that memes really do come true.
      -Stacy and Adam

Lambe and Smith may have posted only thirty-two memes of their own, but it was easy enough for fans to take their meme, add their own words and their own choice of photo, and everyone, it seemed, was posting Hillary texts. The meme did live on on the Internet, as is the very nature of a meme in any medium.

Context was pretty much everything in appreciating the humor of the Texts from Hillary. It wasn’t hard to understand both the historical and religious context of posts like this one:

Lambe and Smith’s original posts included texts between Hillary and Colin Powell, Sarah Palin, Rachel Maddow, Madonna, Harvey Weiner, and Mark Zuckerberg, among others. (She refused Zuckerberg’s friend request.) All 32 of the posts can be accessed at, and they provide rich subject matter for a discussion of rhetorical situation.


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