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The Trump Administration Doesn't Understand Memes

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Screenshot: Nick Jr. | YouTube (Other)

During a press conference Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany decried the supposed canceling of Nickelodeon’s popular kids show PAW Patrol and, in doing so, proved why outrage over so-called cancel culture is usually nothing more than deflective bullshit.

She also proved that the Trump administration is clueless when it comes to internet culture, but we already had a hunch about that after last month’s massive covert troll effort to sabotage the president’s rally.

On Friday the press secretary said that President Donald Trump is “appalled by cancel culture, and cancel culture specifically as it pertains to cops.”


“We saw a few weeks ago ‘Paw Patrol,’ a cartoon show about cops was canceled, the show ‘Cops’ was canceled, ‘Live PD’ was canceled, Lego halted the sales of their Lego city police station, it’s really unfortunate,” she continued.

As has come to be expected with any news coming out of the White House these days, that statement isn’t entirely true. Not only is Paw Patrol still airing on Nickelodeon, but there also was never any serious campaign to pull it off the air to begin with. It was all a meme sparked by the cancelation of several series that depict police violence, including Cops and Live PD (McEnany got that right at least) in the wake of international protests and calls for police reform after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May.


After Paw Patrol, a children’s cartoon about animated pups performing public services, posted a milquetoast public statement that called for “Black voices to be heard” on Twitter in June, dragging the show’s police dog character quickly became the internet’s new favorite hobby. (Look, months stuck in the fishbowl of quarantine have left some folks with a lot of free time, ok?)

“Euthanize the police dog,” one user wrote. Another said, “All dogs go to heaven, except the class traitors in the Paw Patrol.” Calls to “defund the Paw patrol” started going viral, along with a slew of similar posts echoing that same hyperbolic response to a cartoon about puppies.


For anyone fluent in the particular brand of sarcasm that the Always Online crowd uses, these posts clearly read as a goof in the same vein as “Eat the rich” or “Die cis scum.” Unfortunately, many people, particularly conservatives, failed to pick up on the joke. The president’s son, Eric Trump, along with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, several right-wing news anchors, and their entourage of quick-to-anger supporters went on Twitter to rage over these supposed calls for the show’s cancellation, which only made trolls double-down and further commit to the meme.


After McEnany parroted these baseless concerns on Friday, the show’s official Twitter had to weigh in with a statement confirming that PAW Patrol is NOT canceled. The police pup lives to see another day (for now...)

The press secretary’s statement about Lego was similarly fearmongering nonsense: The company didn’t pull its police-related Lego sets off store shelves, it issued a moratorium on marketing for items in its “City Police” toy set in response to ongoing racial justice protests.


A Lego spokesperson confirmed this Friday, saying in a statement to CNN, “We did not halt sales of any LEGO sets, and any reports otherwise are false.”

Don’t get me wrong, cancel culture isn’t without its drawbacks. Important nuances often get lost when you’re limited to 280 characters, and online hate bandwagons aren’t always proportional to the severity of the actions that spawned them. However, nine times out of 10 the loudest critics of cancel culture are either: a) bigots throwing a tantrum at being held responsible for their awful behavior for once; or b) folks pissed at so-called “political correctness” that are looking for the next issue to rage over, no matter if it’s real or imagined.