Rep. Gosar anime video highlights ties to the online right

Paul Gosar, a Republican congressman from Arizona, caused national outrage this week when he tweeted a video in which he was portrayed as an anime character and killed other prominent lawmakers. While Democrats now call for his expulsion and the banning of his accounts, this incident has brought attention to Gosar’s long association with far right meme culture.
Gosar posted the controversial video parodying the opening credits to the anime series "Attack on Titan", on Sunday. The caption, "Any anime lovers out there?" - shows Gosar as one the main characters in the show killing Democratic politicians such as Rep. Alexandria OcasioCortez or President Joe Biden by superimposing other characters' faces on them.

Ocasio-Cortez responded to Monday's video by tweeting that "a creepy member of my staff who funds for Neo-Nazi organizations shared a fantasy clip of him killing me," probably referring to a summer fundraising event linked to Nicholas Fuentes, a far-right influencer. She said, "He won't face any consequences" because Kevin McCarthy (D-CA), House Minority Leader, "cheers him along with no excuses."

The video was uploaded to Gosar's official congressional twitter account. It was viewed more than 3 million times before being removed. It is not clear if Twitter or Gosar removed the video from their site. Twitter placed a "public notice" on Monday regarding the tweet. It stated that the tweet violated its policies against hateful conduct. Instagram posted a "sensitive material" warning to the video on Monday. It was also posted on Gosar’s official Instagram account.

Gosar's video shows a long-standing interest and fascination with meme culture, which is popular in far-right online communities.

Democratic lawmakers have already demanded that Gosar be punished for the video. Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker (D-CA), called for McCarthy to "join us in condemning this horrible video and calling on the Ethics Committee to investigate." In a Tuesday tweet

Karine Jean-Pierre, spokesperson for the White House, stated Tuesday at a press conference that "This shouldn't be happening and we should be condemning."

Pelosi's statements and those from the White House were not addressed by McCarthy as of Wednesday afternoon. His office didn't immediately respond to The Verge's requests for comment on the video or Gosar’s future standing within the Republican caucus.

Gosar's video shows a long-standing interest and fascination with meme culture, which is popular in far-right image boards and internet communities.

Gosar posted a now-delete meme video in October depicting the "Doomer Guy", a sad-looking cartoon illustration of a man standing in front of several articles about transgender people. The "America First" logo appears over Gosar's head at the end of the video. This is a reference to the popular white nationalist movement.

He tweeted an August image of himself standing in front of cacti. The photo was edited with green lines and a reference to a pro-masculinity red pill meme. Gosar's account in 2019 tweeted a thread that said "Epstein didn’t kill himself" using the first two letters of a series 22 tweets.

Experts say this type of content uses a form of rhetoric that is more common in image boards than in the halls of Congress. Jamie Cohen, Queens College assistant professor of media studies, said that this is an incredibly deliberate work. This is intentional, and it's internet fluency. It is not the typical internet fluency you would expect from a member or Congress. Because he is a public figure, this is far-right influence being broadcast.

"He's improving his ability to expand the borderlands."

Gosar's office didn't immediately respond to a request to comment on who made the videos that were posted on his Twitter account. Gosar, however, thanked his team for their creative work in editing the video in a now-delete quote-tweet.

Jessica Lycos (Gosar's digital director), responded to the backlash by releasing a statement Monday. Lycos stated, "We made an animation video." Lycos added, "Everyone should relax." The left doesn't understand meme culture. They lack joy. They do not have the future. It's a cartoon.

Gosar's office issued a long statement Tuesday night in which he called the backlash "gross mischaracterization" and a symbol of a symbolic "battled to the soul of America" when Congress votes on Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion spending bill. It also stated that "I don't espouse violence or harm to any member of Congress or Mr. Biden."

Experts argue that Gosar's embrace of right-wing meme culture is still dangerous, as it normalizes extreme content while keeping within acceptable limits. Cohen stated that when we accept this media type, we allow for the outside edges of what can be displayed online. Cohen stated, "If he isn't held accountable, the next thing edgier will become acceptable."

Cohen stated that Cohen is improving his ability to expand the borderlands.