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Ocasio-Cortez’s strategy for Twitter trolls? Don’t get mad, get laughs

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saves her anger for where it’s most useful and brushes off her attackers with grace and wit.

Ocasio-Cortez’s strategy for Twitter trolls? Don’t get mad, get laughs
[Photo: courtesy of Corey Torpie/Ocasio2018]

Because there’s no trace of financial hypocrisy in the administration that ran on populism and passed a tax cut for billionaires, conservative pundits have turned their attention to freshperson congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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The democratic socialist ran on a platform of economic and social reform, and won in part because her would-be constituents recognized someone fluent in their own financial struggle. Since winning, Ocasio-Cortez has proven even more relatable, admitting that she currently can’t afford to move to D.C. because her government salary won’t kick in for months. Somehow, this is the comment that reporters from Fox News, who appear to accept every Trump quote as gospel, are hell-bent on poking holes in.

“Ocasio-Cortez claims she can’t afford D.C. apartment, but records show she has at least $15,000 in savings,” screamed one Fox News headline. It’s supposed to be a gotcha moment, but it actually serves to make Ocasio-Cortez look more credible. (She only has $15,000. The moving costs only could easily wipe out 1/5 of her savings in one go.) I’d assumed Fox News paid its employees exceptionally well–I mean, something has to help them sleep at night–but apparently it’s the channel’s official position that $15,000 is a literal embarrassment of riches. How dare she pretend she can’t afford to move just yet when she has almost enough money in the bank to buy a Toyota Tercel!

Even more offending than this Fox News headline is what Twitter-sleuthing Eddie Scarry posted on Thursday. The Washington Examiner reporter tweeted a picture of Ocasio-Cortez taken from behind, with the following caption: “Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I’ll tell you something: That jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.”

Obviously, the only struggle here is Eddie Scarry and his ilk struggling to find a way to turn Ocasio-Cortez into a boogeywoman. This isn’t scrutiny; it’s stalking, and it’s creepy. Before he deleted the tweet, and followed it up with a pitiful backpedal, Scarry found himself elevated to the upper tier of the Ratio pantheon–with thousands more Twitterers digitally yelling at him than liking or retweeting him.

One person who wasn’t yelling at Scarry, though, was Ocasio-Cortez.

The congressperson-elect appears to conserve her anger for the issues she’s most passionate about–taking Amazon to task for its plan to disrupt New York City with HQ2, for instance, or pressuring Nancy Pelosi to act on climate change. These are causes that require her full attention and earnest outrage.

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When it comes to Twitter trolls trying to take her down a peg, though, she brushes them off with an easy grace and wit that recalls Don Draper’s famous “I don’t think about you at all” line on Mad Men, letting fans get mad on her behalf.

This past summer, when Pinocchio-if-the-Koch-brothers-were-Geppetto Ben Shapiro kept insisting on Twitter that Ocasio-Cortez debate him, she didn’t capitulate or get mad. Instead, she compared his pestering to catcalling and moved on with her life. Earlier this week, when Fox News tried to scare its viewers about Ocasio-Cortez’s positions, with a graphic citing her desire for free healthcare and tuition, she turned it back around on them. And then there’s her response to this latest attack.

First she tweeted about why the Scarry tweet existed in the first place and chided him for deleting it without apologizing, then she offered a response that was savvy, casually hilarious, and seemed to be tossed off effortlessly. It’s this one that proved most instructive.

By early evening on Thursday, Scarry’s tweet had achieved low-key meme status, with Twitterers posting images of famous coats alongside his original caption. One of these apparently caught Ocasio-Cortez’s attention, and she sent the quote-tweet featured below.

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Usually when politicians attempt humor, they are so out of touch and unfunny that it comes off as grotesque. Whether you find Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet funny is subjective, but it’s undeniably plugged into the culture. It reveals a firm grasp on insta-meme culture, and a familiarity with the Seinfeld Current Day account (which is a parody of the more popular, but now defunct Modern Seinfeld account.)


Related: Trump has Twitter. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is winning Instagram


Ocasio-Cortez’s trolls may be beneath her contempt, but that won’t stop her from briefly dunking on them before moving on to what really matters.

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