Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Texts (and Tweets) from Hillary: Meta-Meming and Postfeminist Political Culture

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Texts (and Tweets) from Hillary: Meta-Meming and Postfeminist Political Culture

Article excerpt

On June 10, 2013, Hillary Clinton took to the Twitterverse. Her inaugural tweet addressed Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe, the Washington, DC, public relations professionals who launched the short-lived but enormously popular Tumblr "Texts from Hillary," in which Secretary of State Clinton was pictured engaging in fictional text exchanges with politicians, leaders, and celebrities (Smith and Lambe 2012). Clinton's tweet read, "Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe--I'll take it from here ... #tweetsfromhillary" (@HillaryClinton 2013).

Journalists and eager supporters searched for clues about Clinton's political future in her Twitter bio, which described Clinton as a "wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD...." Some speculated about whether or not the "TBD" was meant to suggest a future presidential bid. Washington Post columnist Philip Rucker (2013) noted that Clinton's Twitter profile was an attempt to define herself "not as a staid politician but as a witty, self-effacing and almost hip netizen." The Washington Post's Jena McGregor (2013) argued that unlike other potential 2016 presidential candidates, Clinton used her Twitter bio to capitalize on the opportunity to be "personable, even vulnerable," stating that Clinton "gets that many women define themselves not only by their professional role, but by their passions, their families, and the chapters in their lives--making her Twitter debut not only a play for young voters, potentially, but for female ones, too." Clinton tempered the feminine feel of her bio with her Twitter avatar--the famous "photograph of steely, globe-trotting Hillary on a military plane wearing dark sunglasses and reading her BlackBerry" popularized on Tumblr's "Texts from Hillary" (Rucker 2013). The timing of Clinton's inaugural tweet also was notable, as it followed congressional hearings on the State Department's handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. After testifying to Congress in May of 2013, Clinton's unfavorability rating climbed to 39 percent--the highest it had been since 2009 (Weiner 2013).

Although social media provide political figures like Clinton the opportunity to communicate directly with citizens outside of filtered news sites, it was not Twitter's open conduit that made it a particularly useful communicative mode for Clinton in the summer of 2013- Instead, Twitter's unique format allowed Clinton to revise and strategically deploy the favorable "Texts from Hillary" meme, capitalizing on positive momentum created by the 2012 Tumblr sensation. Of particular importance was Clinton's attempt to create a new meme using an existing one. Her tweet united the popular "Texts from Hillary" photograph with the new "#tweetsfromhillary" hashtag. Rather than addressing the concerns of her critics through a speech, press conference, or e-mail message, Clinton sidestepped the criticism entirely, reminding her audience of what Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin (2012) called her "own brand of badass cool." Consequently, Clinton's Twitter debut illustrates a new type of strategic image management: a political meme mash-up in which politicians attempt to capitalize on existing memes that originate from outside the sphere of information elites.

In this article, we examine the political "meta-meme" as deployed by Hillary Clinton in 2012 and 2013, arguing that the interplay between elite and quotidian discourses illustrates the ways in which U.S. presidentiality is shaped by rhetorics of postfeminism. In postmodern political culture, candidate image is a hyperreal amalgamation of image fragments generated by the individual politician, her/his campaign communication, news framing, and political pop culture. In the Internet age, a politician's image also can be shaped by non-elite discourses on sites such as Twitter and Tumblr. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.