Henry Kissinger turns 100. An internet meme eagerly awaits his death.

Henry Kissinger, who served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, will be turning 100 on May 27, and to mark the occasion, he recently sat down for an interview with CBS “Sunday Morning” senior staffer Ted Koppel. segment was largely amicable, save for an awkward exchange midway through. “There are people on our broadcast who question the legitimacy of even doing an interview with you,” Koppel said. “They have such strong opinions about what they think , I’ll say it in the language they would use, your crime.”

“That’s a reflection of their ignorance,” Kissinger replied. Koppel brought up Kissinger’s role in the US bombing campaign in Cambodia, which ran from 1969 to 1973, which killed perhaps 150,000 civilians and precipitated the genocidal Khmer Rouge’s overthrow of the Cambodian government. After some back and forth, Kissinger said, “This is a show you’re doing because I’m turning 100 years old.” And you pick a subject from something that happened 60 years ago. You should know it was a necessary step. Now the younger generation feels that if they can stir up their emotions, they don’t have to think. When they think, they don’t ask that question.”

Kissinger’s centenary has been greeted with laudatory op-eds that an elder statesman might expect – his biographer Niall Ferguson claims that “events of the past decade … have brought us back to Kissinger’s world with a series of sobering shocks.” But the younger generation — or at least the left-wing among them — does indeed let its own thoughts (and yes, emotions) be known on the Internet. There, it’s been a popular meme for years to make light of Kissinger’s eventual death — and remarkable longevity.

There are several new Twitter accounts that provide updates about whether Kissinger is still breathing, and the death of a major public figure often causes Kissinger’s name to become popular on the platform. The general sentiment – why not Kissinger? – is perhaps best captured in a visual meme depicting the Grim Reaper bragging a person in an arcade claw machine; an iteration is titled “Queen Elizabeth II?! Is Henry Kissinger Even in This Thing?

The passage from the 2001 book “A Cook’s Tour” by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, that begins “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never want to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands again,” is also often shared on Twitter and other social networks. (Additionally, Kissinger has been accused — perhaps most famously in the fiery 2001 book “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” by the late Christopher Hitchens — of war crimes in Vietnam, East Timor and elsewhere.)

When a Vox writer tweeted at the Economic Club of New York’s celebration of Kissinger’s 100th birthday on Tuesday, with the question “What would you ask Dr. Kissinger?”, the responses were scathing. “Can he feel the flames of hell gently tickling his toes yet?” read one. On Thursday, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) agreed with “Which war crime weighs more on your conscience?” (The Wiley Agency, the literary company representing Kissinger, did not respond emails asking for comments on the meme.)

And then there’s the Kissinger Death Tontine, an online charity pool devised by a group of Bay Area socialists over drinks in 2018, the prize of which is a “selection of spirits from countries where Kissinger toppled the democratically elected leader.”

Shanti Singh, a 32-year-old San Francisco tenant organizer who was unashamedly involved in the creation of Kissinger Death Tontine, has some theories about why Kissinger remains the object of such intense fascination on the left. “He is one of the most decorated war criminals in 20th century history,” she said, referring to his 1973 Nobel Peace Prize victory. “I think he captures the imagination because there were absolutely no consequences for him. If anything, he is raised by both parties. We saw in the 2016 Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton said, ‘He’s a really good friend of mine,’ and Bernie Sanders said, ‘Are you sure you want to brag about that?’”

Alex Turvy, a Tulane University doctoral student who researches memes, said the dark jokes have a strong emotional component. “Kissinger’s resolute refusal to die represents something bigger for people, like there are evil forces greater than you that you have no power over,” Turvy said. “And the memes are a way to release some of that pent up energy.”

He explained that highly online Gen Zers and millennials, who hadn’t even been born during the Nixon administration, “take great comfort in irreverence and making fun of someone’s death that doesn’t play very well offline. You know, if you repeat some of these jokes to your mother, whether she likes Kissinger or not, it won’t come across as funny.’

Millennial conservative commentator Ben Shapiro once tweeted that those who wish Kissinger dead are “just a mob looking for a victim”. But even among young progressives, not everyone is comfortable with the fixation on Kissinger’s demise. Take Sam Weinberg, the 22-year-old executive director of the DC-based Path to Progress, a Gen Z-focused think tank. “Henry Kissinger is not someone whose legacy is admirable — far from it,” Weinberg said. “But at the same time, I feel that as progressives and leftists we are supposed to be compassionate and loving. We are supposed to be tolerant and support restorative justice and oppose the death penalty. So when I see people online spending so much time wishing one person dead, it’s odd, it’s off-putting, it’s kind of gross.

Discourse Blog editor Jack Mirkinson, a 35-year-old New Yorker who writes the occasional series of obituaries titled “Henry Kissinger Is Right There,” dismissed the notion that his work is offensive given the amount of “blood on (Kissingers ) hands’. .” He added: “I’d find the things he’s done and the crimes he’s been guilty of somewhat more distasteful than people making fun of him and the end of his life.”

The 26-year-old Peruvian law student (who spoke on condition of anonymity) behind the small Twitter account Is Henry Kissinger dead? was even more blunt: “I think Americans in particular are very susceptible to this very stupid idea that is bad to celebrate the death of a bad person,” he wrote in a direct message to Twitter.

One thing these observers agree on is that when Kissinger dies, it will be a rough day on Twitter for his detractors. Miles Klee, a 38-year-old Los Angeles culture writer for Rolling Stone who has written about why Kissinger is always trending on Twitter, expect “a bunch of memes and dunks and funny Photoshops,” even if “it won’t be.” something very joyful, for he lived to be a hundred years old.

Klee sees the inevitable Twitter reaction to Kissinger’s death as something of a counterprogramming to predictably impartial obituaries in the mainstream media. Greg Grandin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor at Yale University and the author of 2015’s “Kissinger’s Shadow,” agreed. Kissinger’s actions, he said, “will be dismissed as controversial, but you know, he will be regarded as a great statesman.” You can already (predict) the New York Times obituary.”

When the big day finally arrives, the creator of Is Henry Kissinger Dead? said he would just tweet “Yes” and “enjoy the jubilation.” He also noted that Kissinger had survived several other Twitter accounts reporting on the current state of his existence.

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