Over the past week or so, the world has seen devastation in both Texas and Mumbai, bringing out the best—and, as you'll see below, the worst—in people in response. That doesn't mean that the internet has been entirely focused on important things, however. Social media did spend quite a bit of time rehashing The Office and appreciating the new evil Star Wars droid this last week, too. Wait. What we talking about? Oh, yeah—the highlights and lowlights of what everyone else was talking about over the past seven days. Which is to say, this.
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
What Happened: Supporters of Presidents Trump and Obama got into a long spat over which White House occupant handled hurricane response more effectively. No one really won.
What Really Happened: The reality of political What-About-ism means that with President Trump facing criticism for his response to Hurricane Harvey—including promoting his own merchandise during appearances—it was only a matter of time before his supporters decided to point out, that, hey, President Obama might've been worse. And so it went.
To be fair, it's not as if people weren't expecting this particular line of attack—
—or, for that matter, prepared to make fun of it.
Yes, despite the fact that President Obama wasn't actually President Obama when Hurricane Katrina hit—he wouldn't be elected for another three years—the subject became enough of a right-wing talking point that Snopes actually had to publish a fact-check on the topic. And the mistake itself became a widely shared meme. Meanwhile, where was Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
The Takeaway: This just in from the "You can't please some people, no matter what you do" department…
If You Hang Around, You're Going to Get Wet
What Happened: Who could have known that at the eye of the storm of Hurricane Harvey, it was all about CNN? That's certainly a theory the internet was trying to argue this week.
What Really Happened: While we're on the subject of Hurricane Harvey and the partisan reactions to it, let's spare a moment to think about how the internet treated CNN during this whole thing. There were two particular moments during the week from the news network that made the rounds on social media, each for very different reasons. Firstly, there was the interview gone wrong:
Widely shared, the clip made CNN look bad (and was eagerly used by those waging war on the network as a result), but it turned out there was something around the corner that would show the cable news outfit in a far better light…
This proved to be as viral as the earlier clip, because, you know, someone's life was saved right there on television.
And, sure enough, this clip got shared a bunch too. However, as if to prove that no good deed goes unsuspected, there are reporter truthers out there already.
But was there some way the Harvey tragedy could become about CNN a third time in one week? Apparently so.
The irony being, of course, that by the time Eric Trump had tweeted this, CNN had already reported the story—look at this tweet from three hours earlier—leading to this snarky response from CNN PR's official Twitter account:
The Takeaway: So, how were the other networks faring while CNN was getting all this attention? Well…
What Would Joel Osteen Do?
What Happened: Turns out, some self-identified Christians are a little uncertain about what Jesus would do in certain situations.
What Really Happened: Maybe you're familiar with Joel Osteen by now. He's the pastor of a so-called "megachurch" who didn't immediately open his church to Harvey victims last week, a decision that prompted… well, exactly the kind of response you'd expect from Twitter.
Although Osteen would later open the church and claim the doors were never really closed, it was too late: his memetic shaming had itself gone viral.
The Takeaway: Well, if nothing else, there's the newfound fame Osteen has as a result of this whole episode.
Bill of Rights
What Happened: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated in an interview that putting abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill wasn't a priority. Twitter then indicated that that wasn't acceptable.
What Really Happened: Meanwhile, there were other things happening outside the flood-impacted areas of the internet last week. For one thing, remember the excitement over the possibility of Harriet Tubman getting placed on the $20 bill after she won an unofficial poll to get nominated? Well, get ready to get unexcited, because, guess what?
Yes, in an interview with CNBC, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the previous announcement about Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson was "not something I'm focused on at the moment," which comes after President Trump said he'd rather keep Jackson. That… didn't really go over well with a lot of people.
As Mnuchin's comments drew a lot of attention from the media, West Wing and Scandal star Joshua Malina had a potential temporary solution.
People, it seemed, approved.
Meanwhile, on Hot Take Island…
The Takeaway: Actually, maybe there's another option.
Sign o' the Times
What Happened: Opinions! They're just like elbows, amirite? Weird, lumpy, and probably not all deserving of wider attention in the pages—print or virtual—of esteemed national institutions.
What Really Happened: Ah, the opinion pages. Where the reputation of a newspaper goes to die, and the high standards of objective reporting get overwritten in the public's mind by pieces penned with the objective of being outspoken, partisan, and, more often than not, highly controversial. Case in point:
Oh, New York Times, what are you doing? Actually, no need to ask, Twitter is here to explain.
If there was one upside from this public display of scorn and disapproval, it's seeing Twitter come up with its own bad ideas for Times op-eds.
The Takeaway: Still, it's not like it could be worse, right?
Really, by this point, we should know better than to ask.