Curt Schilling and Donald Trump Are Living Political Memes

Curt Schilling
The former Major League pitcher is aiming for Elizabeth Warren's Senate seat, and he's doing it with bold block text. David McNew/Reuters

Earlier this month, Curt Schilling assured his 20,000 Facebook followers that he is not running for president. A few minutes later, he clarified that though he is not running for office now, he will run soon. "State office first, white house in 8 years," he wrote, adding a smiley face emoji at the end of the message. Then, a few minutes after that: "Or 4 if by some amazing illegal event this country elects another clinton [sic]."

It wasn't clear if Schilling was serious. He certainly could have been. It's sometimes hard to understand what a person actually means by using a specific emoji, especially when that person is a 49-year-old former major league pitcher who has developed an ultra-conservative and very active internet presence. His incendiary blog and Facebook page have not only kept him in the news, they've gotten him into trouble.

Well, we learned earlier this week that when a conservative 49-year-old former major leaguer uses a smiley face emoji, it's not a sign of sarcasm. On Monday, Schilling mentioned on Boston's WKRO radio that he is seriously considering running for Elizabeth Warren's Senate seat in Massachusetts.

"I thought about it, and one of the things I would like to do is be one of the people responsible for getting Elizabeth Warren out of politics," he said on The Kuhner Report. "I think she's a nightmare, and I think that the left is holding her up as the second coming of Hillary Clinton, but Lord knows we don't even need the first one."

Plenty of Schilling's Facebook followers have expressed their support should he run. Their messages are usually left in the comments of Schilling's posts, which are often memes shared from other ultraconservative Facebook pages. The square images with superimposed block text are the foundation of his internet persona. He posts them with the regularity of your parents' one Trump-supporting friend who is inexplicably your Facebook friend.

The memes shared by Schilling can be cruel, they can be incisive, they can be flat-out fabrications, but they always get a point across. It would be naive to dismiss their power in shaping the political consciousness of a certain, not-insignificant group of Americans, the type of Americans who legitimately believe Hillary Clinton should be in prison, or who would consider voting Curt Schilling into the Senate. A super PAC for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson's reportedly spent $30,000 on "internet web memes." A pro-fracking organization launched an entire meme initiative to appeal to meme lovers who might be on the fence about whether we should be drilling into our nation's bedrock.

Could Curt Schilling be ahead of his time? If we can nominate Donald Trump to stand within one step of the White House, anything is possible, even a political future centered around online picture books of propaganda and misinformation. Elizabeth Warren, do not take Curt Schilling lightly when you're up for re-election in 2018. Do not underestimate the power of block text.

Since Monday, when Schilling said he'd like to unseat Warren, the pitcher has posted eight memes or meme-like images. They've come from sources such as Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, Conservative Patriots, The Common Sense Conservative, and Political Correctness Gone Wrong, all essentially meme farms where irascible conservatives like Schilling go for inspiration. Here's a good one:

Curt Schilling Facebook

The "war against cops" is one of Schilling favorite issues to tackle via meme, and he's posted images that cover several other tangential issues. Cops are infallible, Schilling thinks; the real problem is African-American thugs.

Curt Schilling Facebook

Race is a popular theme on his timeline. Here is a bizarre image of a monkey dressed up like Samuel L. Jackson's character for Pulp Fiction. "Love this," Schilling wrote.

Curt Schilling Facebook

Other issues important to Schilling are veterans, the supposed war against Christian values, the corruption of the government, the media's liberal bias and, of course, how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are pure evil. On Saturday, he compared Clinton to Casey Anthony.

Curt Schilling Facebook

If Schilling's Facebook beliefs sound familiar, it's because they are the core pillars of Donald Trump's campaign. The former World Series champion represents the dead center of the Republican nominee's target demographic. Like Trump, he thinks that if people will believe it, it's good enough, and if something is making the rounds on the internet, people are believing it. In July, Schilling posted a bogus article about how France has decided to start using the guillotine to execute terrorists. Is it true? No. Does it matter? Also, no.

The free exchange of memes on Facebook is as much to blame for Trump's rise as Fox News or the rest of the media tripping over themselves to cover his every move. His message is perfectly tailored to go viral online. It is simple. Anyone can understand it. It fits conveniently in block text on a square image. It also encourages the basest homogenization of ideas possible. Everyone begins to think the same thing because everyone is sharing the same images that distill complex issues into sentence fragments.

Trump's statements seem perfectly designed to exploit the dynamics of social media, rigging Facebook's News Feed algorithms in his favor. They demand a reaction. When they show up in our feeds in any form, none of us can help but to comment or click "share." Hopefully this November, and when—God forbid—Curt Schilling runs for office, Americans will be able to show more restraint when asked deciding which ballot to punch.