By BEN R. WILLIAMS
For several years now, I’ve been a member of the website Reddit.
For those unfamiliar, Reddit, according to Wikipedia, “is an American social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website.” Basically that means it’s a big internet forum where people post everything from news stories to videos of cats, and other people can upvote or downvote this content and comment on it.
Ah, but Reddit is so much more than that! Content on Reddit is broken down into “subreddits,” which are basically smaller forums that focus on just one topic. Do you have a favorite TV show you want to discuss with fellow fans? There’s a subreddit for that! Do you love old Pontiacs? There’s a subreddit for that! Are you a Nazi? There are, unfortunately, multiple subreddits for that, which is the main reason Reddit makes the news these days. I suppose it’s hard to run a sprawling internet forum without drawing out some of the worst people in the world.
However, if you know where to look, there’s some great stuff on Reddit. I’m subscribed to a number of subreddits. Some of them just focus on funny content, others focus on news, others focus on my various nerdly interests, and others just focus on animals being cute. We need that more than ever right now.
Recently, however, I subscribed to a new subreddit. It’s called “HermanCainAward.”
For those who don’t remember, Herman Cain was a businessman who famously saved the Godfather’s Pizza franchise. He also famously ran for president in 2000 and 2012, ran for Senate in 2004, and was responsible for one of my favorite campaign ads of all time in which his mustachioed campaign manager talked about how Herman Cain was going to save America and then casually smoked a cigarette right during the middle of the commercial. It’s great, look it up on YouTube.
Herman Cain, a cancer survivor, also famously opposed the use of face masks during the pandemic. On June 20, 2020, he attended a Trump rally in Tulsa and was photographed without a face mask, surrounded by others without masks. On June 29, he tested positive for COVID. On July 30, he died of COVID after four weeks in the hospital.
So what, then, is the Herman Cain Award? It’s a fictitious prize, awarded posthumously, to people who denied the dangers of the Coronavirus pandemic and then died of COVID.
If you get on Reddit and check out the Herman Cain Award subreddit, you’ll find plenty of threads detailing winners of the Herman Cain Award. Each one is different, but they’re all fundamentally the same, virtually all of them stitched together from screenshots of the winner’s Facebook account, usually 10-15 images.
Here’s how the images break down:
-The bulk of the Facebook screenshots are images of anti-vax memes, anti-Fauci memes, and posts about conspiracy theories. You’ll see a photo of Dr. Anthony Fauci with text superimposed over his face reading, “This is what a lying dog-faced pony soldier looks like.” You’ll see a photo of actor Sam Elliot in “The Big Lebowski,” a man and a movie that truly don’t deserve this shabby treatment, with text saying something like, “Tell me again why I should be afraid of a virus that’s so deadly that you have to be tested to find out if you’ve got it?” There will probably be a photo of some roaring lions with text indicating that the poster of the image is a lion and all these lily-livered vaxxed-up mask-wearers are sheep. There will also be posts about how the person isn’t going to live their life in fear, they don’t need a vaccine because they have a working immune system, no one has the right to tell them what to put in their body, and so forth and so on.
-Usually, the next Facebook screenshot will be the person saying they’re not feeling well. This is known as “foreshadowing.”
-The next screenshot will be an image of the person in the hospital, usually with a nasal cannula giving them oxygen. Often they’ll say something about how “COVID is no joke, go get vaccinated.” Other people double down and complain that the hospital isn’t treating them right by refusing to give them the snake oil and livestock dewormer that they steadfastly believe will save their life.
-The following screenshot is someone close to the person, usually a spouse or a child, announcing on the person’s Facebook page that they’ve been put on a ventilator and prayer warriors are needed.
-A few days to a week later, that same spouse or child will announce that the person died of COVID. About half the time, this post will also announce a GoFundMe page for medical and funeral expenses.
I’ve read dozens upon dozens of these threads. Probably well over a hundred, if I’m being honest. But here’s the thing you need to understand about the Herman Cain Awards:
I’ve barely scratched the surface.
There are hundreds of these threads. Thousands. And they’re all virtually indistinguishable from one another. New threads are posted every few minutes. These are thousands of people whose lives ended identically: they denied that COVID was dangerous, they repeated all the same tired talking points, and then they caught COVID and died.
You might think it’s morbid to read these threads, and I can’t deny that. But I wish every anti-vaxxer would read them. I wish they would scan through dozens of Herman Cain Award winners, see the exact same talking points they themselves parrot back, and then see the end result repeated ad infinitum: a pointless, avoidable, inglorious death, experienced alone.
Because let me tell you, I’ve been seeing a whole lot of very promising candidates for the Herman Cain Award on Facebook just recently.