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#MemeOfTheWeek: 'Stand With Rand'

NPR's Sam Sanders and Ailsa Chang took a selfie with Rand Paul through his app.
Rand Paul 2016 app
NPR's Sam Sanders and Ailsa Chang took a selfie with Rand Paul through his app.

The Internet is already having a field day with the 2016 presidential campaign. Whether it was conservatives calling out stereotypical #HillaryMen, criticizing Bobby Jindal's racial politics with #BobbyJindalSoWhite, and pretty much everything Donald Trump does, the Web, particularly Twitter, has been taking politicians' best intentions, and with dizzying speed, tearing them all to shreds. We plan to highlight those memes throughout the campaign. This week's entry: the failure of the Rand Paul selfie app.

What Is The "Stand With Rand" Meme?

Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, is running for president. His team recently released a mobile app called 'Rand Paul 2016' on Apple's iTunes Store and in the Google Play store. It allows Rand fans to stay up to date with the candidate on the issues, donate money to Paul and even endorse him online. One of the features in the app, in a section called 'Photo Booth,' allows users to upload pictures of themselves with a picture of Rand, with the hashtag #StandWithRand.

The campaign was hoping that supporters would take a selfie with Rand, and share those images on social media. We tried the app out ourselves here at NPR. Here's a shot of me and colleague Ailsa Chang, NPR congressional correspondent, with the Rand himself.

How Did This Go Wrong?

It went wrong because the Internet is where things go to go wrong. Soon after Paul's campaign promoted the selfie feature of the app, the Twitterverse had a field day, mocking Rand Paul in some pretty clever ways:

The worst one involves a wax figure of Nicki Minaj, and we really can't show it here. Feel free to Google it for yourself. So...

What Does This Mean?

Basically, the Internet can be a dangerous place. As we've previously reported, politicians are attempting to utilize all the social media they can this campaign season to get their message out there, with even Instagram becoming the newest home for political attack ads. But online snark, particularly on Twitter, can make even the most well-intentioned initiatives backfire.

So far, Paul's campaign has not removed the selfie feature from the app, and it hasn't acknowledged any of the, let's say, inappropriate uses of it. And maybe he won't have to. By next week, Twitter will have surely moved on.

Check back here next week, and we'll fill you in on the next meme.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
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