It’s important to pause sometimes and remember to smell the roses, or admire the head-shaking idiocy of a social network’s ignorance.
The latter is on the menu thanks to Gab, the embattled and recently hacked Twitter-alike that’s favored by the far-right. On Saturday morning, the network’s Twitter account posted an image that was perhaps meant as some sort of anti-gun control commentary.
The image features a Norman Rockwell-esque painted scene in which a family gathers around the backyard grill in anticipation of their meal. Notably, everyone in the scene — including the two kids and, hilariously, the family dog — is armed with guns. Gab’s tweet caption reads: “Our way of life must be preserved.”
There’s a few problems here, but let’s start with the biggest one: The image is pulled directly from the cover of a virtual reality video game called The American Dream, from the developer Samurai Punk. The developer describes the game as “a satirical virtual reality trip through a 1950’s world’s fair where you learn to live your life with guns.”
Here’s a telling review quote featured on the game’s official website: “With a message that is guaranteed to piss off half of the American populous in a hilariously vicious way, The American Dream is one of the most entertaining games in the virtual reality space.” It’s a game that makes fun of U.S. gun culture by putting players through a gauntlet of everyday activities and forcing them to gun their way through each one.
Let’s step back for a minute and consider the big picture. Gab put this up on Twitter for a purpose. There’s every reason to assume, given the far-right’s rich history of bad faith con games, it was done with full awareness of the image’s origins. But whoever posted it also knows that engagement on Twitter raises Gab’s visibility, and also potentially brings in new visitors.
So why should we play into the game? Well for one, a good number of people are talking about it now. Better to give you context in that case. You’ll notice we hid Gab’s Twitter handle and used a screenshot rather than an embed to deprive the tweet of the engagement it’s apparently seeking.
But that’s not the only reason to talk about this. It’s also just… a really dumb thing to post. This image from a video game satire that pokes fun at U.S. gun culture is of course rife with behavior that would horrify legitimately responsible gun owners.
The father and son both have zero trigger discipline, meaning they have their fingers actually resting on the trigger instead of riding along on the outside of the trigger guard, as you’re supposed to do when you’re holding but not wielding a gun. There’s also the fact that two small children are armed, as well as a dog. (In my own headcanon, the dog armed herself because she wants to be free of this meshugganah family.)
The choice of image speaks to the community Gab is seemingly trying to foster. This isn’t an attempt to attract responsible gun owners. As someone who owns a gun myself (and also an advocate for stronger gun control in the U.S.), I look at this image, which Gab shared without criticism, as a setback for the pro-Second Amendment crowd. There’s nothing responsible or fundamentally sane about the “way of life” pictured here.
That probably wasn’t the point though, let’s be real. This is really just a rather obvious attempt to “own the libs,” both in terms of the image chosen and the platform it was shared on. But this time, the joke’s on Gab. People very quickly caught on to the image’s origins, and turned the decision to share it into the butt of a joke.
So yeah, I’m laughing at Gab. Whoever runs its Twitter account shared an image that completely undermines the politics of many of the site’s supporters. And in the end, Gab was robbed of any “own the libs” satisfaction as the people of Twitter turned the situation around into a big, dumb joke.
Mashable reached out to Samurai Punk for the studio’s thoughts on the use of this image. We’ll update this story accordingly if/when we hear back.