Odd Miliband and the meme-ification of the British election.

“Odd Miliband” and the Meme-ification of the British Election

“Odd Miliband” and the Meme-ification of the British Election

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The Slatest
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May 7 2015 5:14 PM

What’s So Odd About Ed?

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Labour leader Ed Miliband doing his Ed Miliband thing at the Muni Theatre on May 6, 2015, in Colne, England.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As we wait for British election results to come in, you could find worse ways to pass your time than with the twitter account “Odd Miliband,” which, as the name would suggest, posts nothing but photos of Labour Party leader Ed Miliband looking odd. Taken together, the account gives the impression that the possibly soon-to-be prime minister’s campaign has a Dukakis on a tank/Kerry on a kitesurfer-level awkward photo op basically every day.

The most infamous awkward Miliband photo, and what will surely be the defining meme of an election that included an outbreak of Hitler moustaches and a cameo by Russell Brand, is this photo of him, as the Independent put it, failing to “look normal while eating a bacon sandwich” in March, 2014:

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The “bacon butty” incident, and the implication being that the geeky candidate was uncomforatble eating a hearty working-class meal, has dogged Miliband throughout the campaign, leading up to this pun-laden Sun cover from earlier this week, which could be reasonably considered the glorious culmination of Rupert Murdoch’s entire career in media:

The cover has provoked a backlash, including a #JeSuisEd hashtag campaign in which supporters photograph themselves awkwardly eating various sandwiches. Some have also suggested that the continuous harping on the self-described “Jewish atheist” politician’s bacon troubles is an anti-Semitic dog-whistle. As Liam Hoare notes in the Forward, much of the coverage has emphasized the "strangeness of Miliband’s upbringing and his father, a noted Marxist academic and Holocaust refugee, or to readers of the Daily Mail, a “man who hated Britain.”

But it’s also quite possible that most of this focus is just garden variety anti-intellectualism and partisan politics combined with the fact that Miliband does, genuinely, look very weird in many photo ops. The reverse caricature, of Miliband’s opponent David Cameron, is that he’s a heartless out-of-touch plutocrat. To see how that’s done, watch this well-executed Eminem parody.

And in a few hours, we’ll see how much any of this mattered.    

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Countries.